For the Love of the Sea

For the Love of the Sea

I love being in the forest. I really do. Particularly at dusk, as the Sun sets and the atmosphere changes. The air cools, things slow down as the night shift isn’t quite awake, and the day shift returns to roost. Then after sunset and into the night, the woodlands change once more. Trees cast unexpected shadows, foxes call like angry children, and owls echo amongst the trees. In a quiet Sacred Grove, a circle is cast and Magic moves in waves, touched by a Rowan Wand.

Yes. I love the forest.

Another place that touches my heart, possibly even more than the green of the woodlands, is the seashore. I was born in Cornwall but we moved to Sussex when I was very young. I think in my deepest memories I can still hear the clanging of rope on mast down in Falmouth Harbour, but that might also be an invading memory of the many family holidays we took in Cornwall. We moved to Haywards Heath and that is where I grew up, in Mid Sussex. The town was a lot smaller in the 70s and there were pockets of woodland and scrub left over from the war that have subsequently been built upon. They were wonderful places to inspire the imagination of a very young mind. My love of the woodland was planted in those now far-off days. It was a place of play and of escape. I realised very early that it was possible to disappear even in a small woodland as if I’d stepped across some invisible veil into an Other World.

Haywards Heath isn’t that far from the coast, but far enough to make it an outing. I don’t remember going to Brighton beach that much, but I do remember Shoreham and Lancing, and Climping in particular, along with the annual holidays to Cornwall and Pevensey. It seemed that to ‘get away from it all’ we went to the seaside.

I moved to the coast 35 years ago. I was always headed here really. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and it was always my dream to be able to look out of a window and see the sea. Sussex has three main areas – the Weald, the Downland, and the Coastal Plain. Three very different regions in quite a small area. I grew up in Mid Sussex, but my heart was always at the Coastal Plain.

What is it about the sea that is so inspiring? It overwhelms all of my senses. All at once. The smell of the sea air I find intoxicating; the sound of the waves is sometimes calming, sometimes invigorating; the changing colours of the water, and the waves as they fall upon the shore fill me up; and the changing weather and wind make me feel utterly alive.

Then there are the sea birds – I know gulls can get a bad rap, but I admire them. They are one of the ultimate survivors (although their chicks are sometimes too slow to learn that walking around in the middle of a seaside road is not a very good idea). I think if there was ever an apocalypse – along with the rats and the cockroaches, seagulls would somehow find a way to survive. It’s true though, don’t walk along Brighton’s seafront eating a bag of chips – the gulls are many, and they know what they are doing… That is mainly the Herring Gulls though. The smaller Black-headed Gulls, the Egrets, Cormorants – so many wonderful birds to just sit and watch as they play in the air. But of them all, I think I love gulls the most – when I hear their calls I know, deep down in my very soul, that I am home.

Then there are the legends of the sea. Of smugglers and pirates, sea monsters and mythical creatures. Of the Fabled Coast. As I sit at the shore, sometimes I imagine the build-up of coastal houses disappearing, the sound of the traffic on the coast road just fading away, and visualise what this part of the Sussex coast must have been like in the past. I know that Southwick had a big Roman Villa, and has also been lived upon since the Bronze Age, I know that Shoreham port once regularly saw Tall Ships, bringing goods from far away lands. I love the sight of a Tall Ship. Every now and then one will sail into the port and it’s an incredible thing. So it’s not just being at the shore that I love – it’s being out on the sea too. I’ve often wondered if I have some past life that was spent as part of the crew of a Tall Ship – that’s what it feels like, a memory that I can’t quite place.

So, yes, I love the forest, but my home is beside the sea.

“A drop of Nelsons blood, wouldn’t do us any harm,
A drop of Nelsons blood, wouldn’t do us any harm,
A drop of Nelsons blood, wouldn’t do us any harm,
An we’ll all hang on behind”

4 responses to “For the Love of the Sea”

  1. Oh, Damh, I do so feel exactly like you do. I come from a family of fisher folk from a small fishing village in North Yorkshire, on my Mother’s side. They moved a little inland but all the summer holidays were spent in this village.I have spent most of my life by the sea (lived in Brighton for a number of years) and when I was doing my OBOD training I was living in Crete so all my work, ceremonies, exercises were carried out on a small remote beach. And the rocks, oh, the rocks. Love sitting on them with huge waves crashing down. Of course, the beach and sea are lovely in the summer with sun shimmering on the sand and water but for me autumn, winter and spring are the best times. Live in Glastonbury now but the call of the sea is never far away. As the fisher folk say ‘the sea is in my blood’.

  2. I love the sea too. We live in the East Midlands so Norfolk is our closest seaside and I can’t count how many day trips and holidays we’ve had there over the years. A few weeks ago I almost physically dragged my family on a day trip to Brancaster, I needed to see the sea and felt so revived afterwards. If it was closer I’d be there every week I’m sure.

  3. Hi Damh….ah the sea, yes Linda and I have lived by the sea since retirement, first in Bridlington (East Yorkshire) and now Saltburn by the Sea (North Yorkshire). Each place is different, the geology is different, the industry is different and the spirit of the land is different. Bridlington was part of the homeland of the Parisi, whilst Saltburn came with the ambit of the Brigantes. The Saltburn coastline is actually north-facing and, in the summer months, the sun both rises and sets in the sea. The poem, Sea Fever, by John Masefield is one of my favourites. By the way Linda and I sing sea songs and Shanties at our local folk club and ‘A drop of Nelson’s Blood’ is one of our regular songs.

  4. I have always had that forest/ocean connection,must be my Capricorn heart. When you go into the forest to walk or sit in peace, I always feel like I’m in this giant, all-consuming hug that makes me feel whole again. And when I go to the ocean, it’s like being greeted by a friend I haven’t seen it ages. Every wave rolling on the shore feels like a gesture, inviting me in the cleansing salt water of Mama Earth. I always feel whole after spending time in these sacred places.

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