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.
Yet another storm from the south west appeared to be gathering from around eight this morning, but the Egg rides the waves well in its sheltered bay. High spring tides can almost clear the protecting embankment however (as can be seen from the layered flotsam close to its top) and the Egg is more exposed to wintry broadsides that etch its cedar walls.
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.
Whilst living alone for just over two years in a woodland cabin beside Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts in the 1840s, HD Thoreau always had three chairs ready for visiting friends. Callers to the Egg can’t be encouraged quite so much, since my own wilderness is a relatively small, protected wildlife sanctuary. However, it has felt right to welcome the occasional voyageur such as my long time supporter, the naturalist Ralfe Whistler. Inheriting his father’s box of dodo bones and shell led to a life long passion for this extinct creature* and I was greatly pleased when Ralfe, in turn, gifted me some small shell fragments as a reminder of his visit.
If the Exbury Egg symbolises fertility, birth and renewal, it is equally a reminder of our difficult relationship with nature and of the heavy footprints marking our path as we bestride the planet. Now hanging beside my bed, the dodo shell is an important reminder of human ignorance and indifference to the rest of existence except as some ‘thing’ to be made use of. After being first recorded on Mautitius in 1598, the dodo was extinct by 1681. Fiona Harvey’s story published in the Guardian last Summer raises questions about the threats to our own wild bird populations today…
The sovereignty of the stormy weather released its grip yesterday for a few hours of sunshine when I was free to inspect my watery bounds after a winter lashing which began on December 23rd. Winds and spring tides have returned today across the whole of southern England and beyond. The Outer Bank camera was knocked out when the sea really rose (on a high spring tide) to the challenge of breaching its water resistant casing. I hope the SanDisc SDHC* will still hold on to its memories after being dried out.
It has been an eventful time at the Egg since my last post. Solar power failed again and then when my batteries were finally recharged on a meagre diet of rare solar particles, storms knocked out electricity to the entire neighbourhood from about 11.30pm on December 23 until 8pm on Boxing Day, curtailing most activity and the reporting of it. Outdoor actions planned for New Years Day (the burning of a large blackthorn Egg) were also postponed by hail and a parallel failure of WIFI which lasted 48 hours. Backdated recollections and musings will be posted over the next few days. Happy New Year to everyone from the riverside at Exbury.
*SanDisk say they designed the card to be very resilient and durable. It is shock proof, X-Ray proof, temperature proof, magnet proof, vibration proof and reassuringly I have read – waterproof.
High water is due to top the predicted 3.9m tonight, due to the continuing southwesterly gales and the Environment Agency has issued a flood alert and indicative map. The inundation would be directly across the river as well as east toward Lepe, rather than across the somewhat higher marsh around my own protected nook.
During the build up to the invasion of Normandy in 1944, Nevil Shute spent a lot of time on and around the Beaulieu River at Exbury and the opening chapters of his book ‘Requiem for a Wren’ are based on this experience. Janet Prentice in Requiem is credited with shooting down a Junkers Ju 188 E-1 that in reality was brought down by gunners firing from the bofors gun position which still stands beside the Egg. The aircraft came down in the grounds of Exbury House (HMS Mastadon) and Shute was one of the first people on the scene. Many details of his experience of the house and its gardens as well as this Beadle’s watery parish are woven into the soul of the book.
‘Time is like a river of passing events, and its current is strong; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away’ Marcus Aurelius
Late on Sunday night the river surged in on a high spring tide made more potent by low pressure, heavy rain and strong southwesterly winds. Adjoining land was reduced to a mere two food wide strip around the small oak bush opposite my mooring. These feel like very powerful forces fingering the land. Next morning the tide mark clearly told the story of the night before.
PLEASE NOTE that this post was prepared on Monday 4.11.13 It could not be posted due to lack of power at the Egg. A backlog of posts will eventually be cleared .
Wind and the high spring tides around tonight’s full moon, combined to push the Egg toward the shore and my floating dock up and over a shrinking riverbank. The lower part of the door now catches on a stanchion and makes getting out a bit of a chore. At the next high water in about three hours time, I will try pushing the Egg toward its correct mooring… at least there should be good night light to work by. The action can always be observed 24/7 on two live webcams at www.exburyegg.org