Wednesday, 29 May 2013


Daily visitors along the tideline below the Beach House, we see them walk purposefully to and fro from dawn to dusk checking what the tide’s brought in. Cleaning up carrion, they also search for slugs, insects, worms, fruits and seeds. In spring they are known for taking eggs and small birds. Their diet is 85% carnivorous.

Here in the open sweep of Morecambe Bay we feel at home and we think our three crows do too. We’re not sure where they nest, but they invariably emerge from the wooded bank further along the shore, within watchful distance of the rookery in Sea Wood. 

On Friday one of the crows was shot by a marksman* as it flew up from the beach, heading inland. A single shot to the temple; sudden, immediate death as it plunged down into the meadow. 

I hold it by the tail and wing tips. Well over half a kilo. Total blackness of eye, talons, beak, feathers, legs. 

It’s half term and the grandchildren are sleeping over for a few days. On Monday morning we choose a spot near the bank, alongside a young sycamore. Reuben digs the grave, Rosa creates a ceremonial path leading towards it, edged with stones, floored with transverse sticks. 

Back at the Beach House we are ready to begin the ceremony. Rosa lays the bird on a flat willow basket, places sea glass, shells and rosemary around, then covers him with a new yellow cockling bag for the funeral cortege. It is a drizzly day. We are alone as we process along the beach. 

Reuben's iPad drawing

Removing the cover, Rosa gently lies him in the grave, head facing towards the west. We place the grave goods around. Reuben speaks about the nature of the death and how crow would not have suffered as the shot was so accurate. Rosa thanks crow for choosing to nest here, becoming part of our daily landscape. Nana reminds us that crows like him have been around on similar shorelines since ancient times. Mezolithic children living in caves and huts had crows living around them. John reads a poem written that morning and our ceremony ends with planting forget-me-not seeds around the grave, in sunshine and partial shade. This part of our land will be known as Crow Country.   

Reuben walks to the water's edge and asks the incoming tide to bring strong winds to blow crow's spirit around the trees again. 

* The marksman appears in the fields behind the Beach House from time to time with rifle and full combat camouflage gear. He has shooting rights across the farmer's land, to hunt foxes and other vermin. It appears crows are not welcome as they dig up the potatoes.

Monday, 20 May 2013


At an unusual local auction sale of 30 acres of Morecambe Bay Foreshore and woodland, we managed to acquire a handkerchief sized plot of 2 acres running north from the Beach House. Labelled 'Manorial Waste' its ownership goes back in time to the middle ages and currently the Crown Estates wish to sell the lot. A sure sign of the times ... 

So we have a patch of scrubland on an embankment of loose boulder clay, countless neglected small trees, loads of brambles and the foreshore up to the mean high tidemark. A public right of way - the   Cumbria Coastal Way footpath runs along the tideline. 

The strip contains a variety of trees: wild cherry, willow, ash, elder, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, alder, young sycamore and a couple of small oaks. In consultation with Natural England, Greg Thompson, our local tree expert, began work - before the nesting season -  on pruning some of the trees. A few, their canopies heavily weighted with ivy, were leaning towards the beach and with their  roots  loosened  were in danger of collapse in the 'sail' effect of  high winds . Some brambles are also being cleared to open up glades, others are being left as good cover for small mammals and birds. 

Now having legitimate access to more beach space we can plan installations, arts and environment workshops and gatherings for the summer months. Working title for the project is 'Wildernest'.