Around The Coast

I live on an island, a rather large island, I must admit, with a coastline that stretches for approx 11,073 miles (17,820 kms). With such a large coastline it’s no surprise that people are attracted to the sea. Who knows why? Maybe it’s because of the myths and legends about fantastic sea creatures or perhaps the chance of finding washed-up treasure. One thing I do know. For the last 14 years I have been fortunate to live very close to parts of that coastline, which has presented me with some wonderful photo opportunities over the years.

In those years I have taken hundreds, probably thousands of photographs and I’d like to share some of them with you.

Right, let’s get started…..

1/1,500 sec, f/8, ISO 100, Compensation: -2

I’d thought I’d start with this image of two men digging for lug worms on Prestatyn Beach. The worms are found on most sandy beaches just below the high water mark. The diggers look for the “blow hole” or cast which identifies the area to dig. Lug worms are used as bait by rod fishermen. It brings back memories for me. When I was younger I used to fish off Southsea pier using lug worms which we used to buy by the bucket from the local bait shop. They might be worms but the have a nasty bite which I can testify to.

Our beaches and coastal areas are always great places of adventure for kids. Sometimes though you see kids playing and you really worry. Look at this image taken near Birnbeck Island, Weston-super-Mare. You wouldn’t believe there’s a good 30ft drop on to the rocks below and yet these kids show no fear.

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I’ve never had a fear of heights but I’d think twice before getting up to what these kids are doing. Maybe it’s a sense of my own mortality. What about you?

Would you clamber over rocks, knowing there’s a drop that could cause you serious damage?

On that rather serious note let’s move on. Here in the UK our beaches and coastal areas are used for all sorts of activities. It’s not just building sand castles and donkey rides. My next image was taken at the annual Sandocross event on Weston-super-Mare beach. Although I had lived in Weston-super-Mare for 11 years I had never seen this event. I was lucky to be able to position myself close to a bend and with a 500mm lens attached get some good photographs.

Auto exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/180 sec, f/11, ISO 200

So what exactly is Sandocross?  Well, it’s a variation of Autocross and is unique to Weston-super-Mare Motor Club as they are the only club running this type of event on the mainland of the UK. Because of its unique style, Sandocross is very popular with competitors in the South West and whilst it gives competitors the chance of experiencing speed, it does require a slightly different approach when driving on wet sand which can be quite unforgiving. It still requires good driving skill as well as the ability to ’read’ the surface of the sand in order to achieve maximum traction and the best time. many of the photographs I took at this event  I donated to the drivers in return for them making a donation to the Air Ambulance

As well as using the beaches event organisers are happy to use inshore waters for various events like this one called Zapcats

Auto exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/350 sec, f/8, ISO 200

A Zapcat is an inflatable powerboat built for high-speed. Zapcats have a twin hull ‘catamaran’ design which gives the boat stability when at rest but makes them highly manoeuvrable and safe in both still and choppy waters. Fitted with 50 horse power engines a Zapcats power to weight ratio rivals a Ferrari sports car. The picture above shows a Zapcat jumping the wake our large RIB boat with he two-man crew balancing the boat. I took lots of photographs when Zapcats came to Prestatyn but this one I particularly like because it shows the boat out of the water.

One of the great things about living at the coast is the sunsets, especially if like me you live on the West Coast. The next image was an after-thought. I had gone to photograph something else on the sea-front at Weston-super-Mare, turned round and saw this sunset with the beach cafe.

Auto bracket exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 2 sec, f/11, ISO 100, Compensation: -1

Here at Prestatyn we have the danger of flooding if there happens to be a high tide and the wind is in the right direction. Fortunately my house is high enough up the hill not to be overly bothered about it. However those in low-lying areas could have problems. To counter this the sea defences have been beefed up a fair bit, including large rock formations as breakwaters jutting out into the bay. As they are covered at high tide and could be a danger to in-shore shipping marker buoys are situated as visual warnings.

Auto bracket exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/10 sec, f/13, ISO 100

This image is one of my favourites, the stream of water running across from side to side serves to highlight the sunset in my opinion. Of course you might think differently from me?

Like all sea-side towns the beaches are deserted in the winter. Sometimes you can go down to the beach and not see anyone. When this next image was taken, there was just my wife and the dogs….and of course me.

Auto exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/1,136 sec, f/3.7, ISO 80

I particularly like this one because of the way the sun is shining on the water lying on the beach.

Who mentioned dogs? This one is for the Awwwwww factor. Go on admit it. You think he’s beautiful, that is, unless you are a cat lover. This is Amantra Prince Rupert (Kennel Club Name) aka Deefer. Do I have to spell it out? Don’t you get it? Dee fer Dog…simple really. He’s an 8-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, loves people and is ever so friendly, and he’s mine.

Auto exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/564 sec, f/3.6, ISO 80

Almost on the same spot where Deefer was standing I found this old bed end. So much gets washed up on our beaches. sometimes it’s interesting, sometimes not. I found the bed end exactly like this. The footprint isn’t mine so maybe someone moved it to take a photograph.

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I had gone down to the beach to photograph the stormy waters when I found this gentleman with his bagpipes. He comes to Prestatyn every year and I was lucky to find him as I normally go further up the beach nearer the breakwater. He was quite happy to let me photograph him which these days is very often not the case

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You must have heard of Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published in 1889. It’s a humorous account by of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.

The book was initially intended to be a serious travel guide, with accounts of local history along the route, but the humorous elements took over to the point where the serious and somewhat sentimental passages seem a distraction to the comic novel.

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Here’s my take on it. Taken in Rhyl Harbour, these three guys had just come back from a fishing trip. As soon as I saw them I thought of “Three Men in a Boat”. A dog would just have made this picture perfect for me.

Now when people go to see, sometimes they need rescuing. We are lucky that round our coastal waters we can call on the services of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. They provide a 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service around the coasts of the UK and Republic of Ireland, as well as seasonal lifeguard services on many of the busiest beaches in England and Wales.

In the image below you can see the “Lil Cunningham”, which is a Mersey class lifeboat based at Rhyl, taking part in a joint rescue exercise with a helicopter from 22 Squadron Royal Air Force based at RAF Valley on Anglesey.  The Sea King helicopter belongs to ‘C’ Flight of 22 Sqn and is used in the Search and Rescue role, rescuing people from ships in the Irish Sea, from the mountains of nearby Snowdonia and elsewhere. The mountain rescue work in Snowdonia is coordinated with Plas y Brenin, the Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation and the RAF Valley Moutain Rescue Teams.

Auto exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/350 sec, f/11, ISO 100

The Mersey class lifeboat was introduced in 1988 and was the RNLI’s first ‘fast’ carriage lifeboat. It was designed to be launched from a carriage but can also lie afloat or be launched from a slipway. Propellers are protected by partial tunnels and substantial bilge keels. The last Mersey was built in 1993.

Now I’d like to show you this image taken just as the sun was setting. It was taken on Knightstone Island, Weston-super-Mare and shows the causeway between Knightstone and the mainland. At low tide you can walk across the causeway.

Auto bracket exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 15 sec, f/8, ISO 100

In reality Knightstone isn’t an island but the causeway does get covered by the sea at high tides. In storms it gets battered by high waves and you just couldn’t imagine anyone walking over it now…..

Auto exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/45 sec, f/8, ISO 400

…..and yet they do. Maybe not in a storm, but I couldn’t believe it when I captured this woman walking over the causeway with the tide coming in. She was carrying a dog and had another on a lead. You can read what happened to her here

Pictured below is the “Nostag 10”. Currently employed laying cables between Wales and Ireland. You can clearly see the cables being laid from either side of the “Nostag 10”

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The Nostag 10 was anchored off Prestatyn’s Barkby Beach as it started to lay 180km of electricity cable that will connect Prestatyn to a coastal site near Dublin.

As it makes its way across the sea, the cable will be carefully lowered into the water and laid in a narrow trench which will be opened and closed by a remote-controlled vehicle operating on the sea bed. The cable laying work is expected to take approximately eight months to complete.

My final image is one from the destruction of the pier at Weston-super-Mare by fire. On that morning of the fire I woke early to see a dark plume of smoke rising into the sky. It was obvious that something big was on fire down at the sea-front.

Auto exposure, Aperture-priority AE, 1/90 sec, f/22, ISO 400

We’ve all heard of chip pan fires and I just thought it rather ironic that I took this photograph with a chip shop in the foreground

That about wraps it up for this article. I would like to finish by saying hello and to all those who have subscribed, in the last two weeks, to my blog here at WordPress. I hope that you will continue to like the articles I publish.

If you ever want to Guest Post or would like me to feature an article, drop me a line. I’m sure we can work something out

13 thoughts on “Around The Coast

  1. Up earlier than usual in a quiet house with time to stroll through your article and photos. OMG … so glad I found your blog, Mike!


  2. Those pictures were beyond words. From pure magic to suspense to calmness to “oh, wow, that’s beautiful!”
    You had my attention with the first photo, imagine my excitement when the rest unfolded. I’m in love with the sea and anything that surrounds it for as long as I can remember. My dad would walk me by the beach when I was small and I would try to recollect those memories when I stare at the sea and wait for the sunrise or sunset stir its spell on me…voluntarily. Cool post and amazing pictures. Thank you. Have a fun day….


  3. We made the decision years ago that no matter what we would live by the sea. It’s a decision I’m glad we made and it’s now been 14, nearly 15 years that we’ve lived very close to the sea.

    I like to walk early in the morning or just when the sun is setting. Now that the tourists have gone I sometimes get the beach to myself, well not quite, occasionally I see a seal and there’s always gulls and oyster-catchers on the shoreline.


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