Postcard from Tollesbury

Tollesbury sits near the mouth of the Blackwater estuary and is famed for producing great sailors during the golden age of the America’s Cup, reputedly because the testing onshore winds and biting cold made for the right stuff. The dilapidated, wooden granary at the edge of Woodrolfe Creek is a tangible reminder of a time when the port was busy with trade, yacht building and fishing for oysters; today the only inhabitants are swallows and pied wagtails. At dawn, low tide leaves the shallow channels empty of water. The cries and shouts of oystercatchers, redshanks and black-headed gulls travel far on the still air.

‘Estelle’ is a old Hastings lugger looking permanently moored in a narrow creek; a sketch by Turner offers an interesting comparison.

The great saltmarshes stretch east; dead trees tell of a time when sea walls pushed the farmland further out. The footpath on the current sea wall is bright with salsify, the purple flowers attract bees and other pollen-hunting insects. The freshwater ditches and scrubby margins are filled with the songs of whitethroats, reed warblers, Cetti’s warblers, yellowhammers, reed buntings and yellow wagtails. Cuckoos call but turtle doves, which hang on here in small numbers, remain elusive.

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