Guest blog – The Magic of Spurn Point by Daphne Pleace

Daphneuptree2A child of nature going back to it in my dotage and, hopefully, becoming feral. Volunteer for a few conservation organisations; trying to find a ‘patch’ (can it be a sea wall, or a park?); writing a book about psychological benefits of being in nature; doing an MA in Nature Writing; maintaining a blog at http://daphnegoeswildindevon.blogspot.co.uk; and generally irritating friends and family with nature talk.

 

 

 

 

Reading Mark’s blog about Spurn Point reminded me of two recent visits. Spurn is a special place for me: first visited as a child on a school trip, and forever haunted by its wildness and beauty. I took my own children there a few times when we lived near Withernsea, and as a teacher at ‘With’ high school, I remember times when a few children could not get into school because the road at the narrowest part of the spit had been breached. Now, of course, no families live on the spit, and after the 2013 storm surges, only authorised off-road vehicles can use what’s left of the road.

A few years ago, when I was travelling about in a campervan on a pilgrimage to places in nature I remembered from childhood – and when you could still access the spit -I stayed overnight there, parked up next to the old lighthouse. You were not supposed to overnight on the reserve itself, and although hidden away behind bushes, I felt very nervous. I did not sleep at all and spent most of the balmy moonlit night sitting outside, not understanding at all (at the time – a little wiser now!) the huge amount of bird activity. I could hear and half-see what seemed like hundreds of small birds flying overhead and flitting around in the bushes. It was late April time, and I guessed birds would be busy nesting, but I expected them to be tucked up asleep and I knew little then about the extent of migration and the important part Spurn plays in that. Even back in the van, trying to get some sleep and with the door open, there was a constant symphony of bird noise. Sometimes, now, I wish I’d realised what I was in the midst of, yet I’m glad I had that experience as it was: at the time, I thought I was hallucinating from anxiety and lack of sleep!

Late last summer, I visited again, in van II. I was blogging for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust about visits to their reserves, and again it was a glorious afternoon. I had a wonderful walk – there were few people about (always a bonus for my misanthropic self!) and as ever, even in full sunshine, I experienced that mysterious wildness of the place: the bizarre juxtapositioning of ocean and river, silence and sound, sand and stone, war and peace.

I found two beautiful fossil stones – one on my desk now as I write – and I sat for a while watching a lone Avocet swishbilling its way through some brackish water. At the end of the afternoon I was lucky enough to get in on a Spurn Bird Observatory group doing some ringing of swifts which feed in large numbers on the spit. I was able to see a juvenile swift, very close up and personal when the ringer was handling it, and wonder yet again at the incredible fragility-with-strength of these tiny creatures in their daily struggles. My not knowing where I would sleep that night seemed minor in comparison.

Intellectually, I can appreciate the reasons for the future developments at Spurn Point, but I feel that for me, some of its eccentric wildness will be lost. We have so few of such places in Britain.

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6 Replies to “Guest blog – The Magic of Spurn Point by Daphne Pleace”

  1. Lovely piece, Daphne, which really gets the essence of what Spurn is about. I am part of a group called Keep Spurn Wild Action Group and we are trying to persuade the YWT to think again about their plans to put a large Visitor Centre on Triangle Meadow, near Canal Scrape. There are alternatives, but they refuse to consider them. We love Spurn and want people to enjoy it as we do, whilst retaining that very very special quality. Please visit my web site to find out how you might be able to help us persuade the Trust to be worthy of their ownership of this wonderful and unique place. Jan Crowther. Wilgilsland.co.uk

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    1. I wish you luck with your efforts, Jan. You may have better success with the local planning authority unless, of course, permission has already been granted. This sounds like yet another example of the 'touristification' of our remaining wild places, often by organisations which one would expect to know better! I find that our busy, national art galleries often offer better chances for quiet observation and contemplation than many popular nature reserves.

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      1. Sandra, it is due to go to planning imminently. I hope that it will be opposed by the Environment Agency and Natural England as it goes against all the protective measure set up to make sure this sort of thing does not happen. It is in close proximity to the precious Humber mud flats, a SSSI, a RAMSAR site, a SPA, part of a Heritage Coast. Surely a wildlife trust would be protecting and not developing such areas? If we cannot trust the wildlife trusts who can we trust? Or have they turned into tourism businesses?

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  2. Something of Spurn is to do with its 'end of the world' feel, or at least the end of the land - a jumping off point! The land narrows and the birds that move along it during migration are compelled to set off, so we see and sense it far more and that adds to the spirit of the place. As you progress along it there is less and less cover and comfort, more and more remoteness. We sense what birds must experience.

    I have been fortunate to visit Ottenby at the southern tip of Oland in the Swedish Baltic, another birding mecca, and every time it echoes that same Spurn spirit.

    I often feel that the more effort it takes to arrive somewhere the more we appreciate the experience, the less there is commercialism to detract from the raw nature. Make it too easy and commercial and as Edward Abbey once said, "those who go there in future, smooth, comfortable, quick and easy...will never be able to see what we saw. They will never feel what we felt. They will never know what we knew, or understand what we cannot forget."

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  3. I think it says agreat deal about the YWT proposals that it seems most of us that care about Spurn, its unique wildness and wildlife are totally opposed to them.
    For years YWT have treated Spurn as a cash cow, nothing more nothing less whilst others have put more in and their views are now being shunned by the "professionals" at YWT who claim to know best.
    They of course don't what is proposed is sadly not unique, its called corporate vandalism.

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  4. A petition was created to stop the development.
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/no-to-yorkshire-wildlife-trusts-spurn-visitor
    And a facebook page
    https://www.facebook.com/no2spurnvisitorcentre/
    And I presume it will be our money that pays for this development!

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