It was new years day a year ago when we took to the Rough Firth on the Solway coast on a bitingly cold day. The searing cold seemed to start at the bones and eat its way outwards. Photography wasn’t a priority on days like these, so the camera was in the car.
Along the beach front at Kippford, a few folk passed by, muffled in clothes. Neoprene and thick, three-ply Goretex had no defence against this kind of cold. On the water, a new icy freshness was in the air and the stillness was such a presence.
Just south of Kippford in the mouth of the estuary is the Rough Isle. It’s not remote, and if you want to, you can walk to it at low tide. Other than sharp and beautiful white and blue shell beaches, it’s an unassuming little place. But that New Year’s day, it came alive.
Nearing the northern shore, we could see hundreds of birds standing on the beach. In an instant they were airborne, in a big cloud around us, and piping their metallic alarm calls. To be in a kayak, on the water, swept up in oystercatchers was an amazing feeling, and in a sense I’d always been pleased not to have taken any photos. There is something in the act of photography that can take you away from the moment, even though you are immersed in it.
Ever since then, I’d been carrying around the memories of those birds swirling in the still, icy air. Last weekend, though, I got a second chance.