Large passenger ships are visible cruising along the Solent eastward to port in Southampton and west bound for destinations unknown to me. I did not recognise the ship in the early hours of May 2nd, but Oceania headed past on May 5th at 17.07. My own ship came in when I began living in the Egg eleven months ago. Stephen Payne, designer of the Queen Mary 2, also calculated the displacement of the Exbury Egg; so he is responsible for the world’s largest liner as well as having a hand in its largest floating Egg.
Land argues with the risen tide all about its borders. Delicate sea pink threatened by the advances of grey brine on a cold May day.
Soon after dawn the rising tide crept in and lifted the Egg from its muddy berth. Overhead the sky had a wet greyness that soon began to splash light rain onto the water surface and disturbed the reflected blackthorn, bare on branch. On these changing marshy margins, the birds of both land and sea began to call and sing. From the threshold of the Egg’s eastern facing door, I grasped a fleeting two minutes and forty seven seconds of the mise-en-scène.
There are a few great spotted woodpeckers at work in the vicinity of the Egg. They seek out suitable hollowed trees to use as sound posts to mark out their territory. My own efforts are at about half speed and a bit low in tone to pose much of a threat to the locals.
The northern edges of the sinewy outer bank I call Snake Island, were rich in strands of unravelled polyester rope of many bright colours, twisted around the branches of tamarisk bushes and out across the river bed; little reminders of our poor and tangled relationship with all things natural. All being well, the pink flush of the tamarisk blossom will add its own distinctive hue to the scene in just a few weeks time.
The moon became full at midnight last night as the Environment Agency issued 24 severe flood warnings across the country. A high tide of 3.5m was predicted for 22.30 (it stays high for about three hours here). However, river levels were much higher because of the continuing heavy rain and a 50mph gale from the south west. The embankment to which the Egg is moored submerged and the outer bank was well underwater. The whole scene would have inspired my namesake JMW Turner to tie himself to the WIFI arial to better observe the power of nature.
Three States of the Flood Tide. Individual frames from time-lapse monitor ‘Beadle2’ 14.2.14
On January 23rd, I glimpsed Orion in the southern sky above the Isle of Wight, maybe hunting with an owl who was calling from somewhere close by. Since then however, he has mostly been hidden from sight above a succession of storms driven in off the Atlantic.
Orion’s mother was a great Queen of the Amazons, but he was a son of Neptune too, who reputedly walked on water and built up the sea defences of Sicily against an encroaching sea. I wonder about his perspective on our own rising waters and on going recent floods.
I am living on the edge of an eighteenth century salt making landscape. Its many parallel banks and channels are like the teeth of a marshy comb, protected by the curving contours of the Outer Bank which was raised by hand to help retain sun reduced brine, before it was drawn off for boiling into salt. Sluice gate timbers at either end, completely refurbished in 1815, now stand rotten and ruined.
In homage to this land use of yesterday, I made salt by boiling ten litres of Beaulieu River water until it began to form crystals and placed the concentrated solution in an oven for 72 hours at 11o degrees, until salt formed. My 251 gms of yellowish crystals would have originally been whitened by adding egg white, alum, white lead, wheaten flour, butter and orrisroot* to the boiling process.
*The fragrant rootstock of the Iris Germanica. I will keep an eye out for the flowers this summer in case they still appear near the river, as living evidence of past industry.
- The former salt making landscape of Exbury Farm and Stephen Turner’s ‘personal parish’.