September 11th sees Newport’s highest tide of 2022, at a height of 13.7 metres at 9pm. 

The lowest tide that day at around 3am will be an incredible 0.04 metres – the water barely there at all, the space across the estuary seeming to form one flat plain, before it refills to become a vast shining sea again in less than 6 hours.

How does such a volume of water move in such a short space of time? Transforming land into sea and back to land again in an endless cycle of shift and change, a cycle that we too are part of, as we navigate how we can continue to live on this fragile landscape and we question what the future holds. 

The sea is comfortable with change; each day a different light, a different height, a different shape.  What can we learn from this? How can we embrace this cycle, not to “use” it, but to exist better within it? 

We might start by observing.

Throughout the past year, it’s been wonderful to notice the changes in the landscape as we have journeyed together to the edges of where sea meets land – a slightly different point each time we’ve made the trip. We began in heavy boots, wrapped up against the cold and ready for mud and flooded lanes. Our last trip was in sandals, foraging for berries, apples, plums, and samphire as we made a rare foray onto the foreshore to take advantage of the low summer tides and dryness underfoot. The samphire is a special treasure brought by salt marsh, a luxury for us and available only to intrepid foragers who know the tides, it was common food for our ancestors.

It feels fitting that the lowest tide of the year will be in secret, under cover of darkness, the revelations made by the retreating waters known only to night wading birds as we lie in our beds. We would have to make a great effort to witness it, but, if you cannot sleep that night it may be possible, under the light of the waning full moon, to view the expanse of shining mud from the safety of the sea wall and to witness the reappearance of land that has not seen the sky for a long time.

 

The highest tide, too, tries to hide from us, occurring after sunset, nipping close to the top of the seawall when no one is looking, and if there is a little wind, even peering over it, looking for opportunities to reclaim the land given up to us many centuries ago.

Perhaps, over this weekend of the full moon, try to venture down the estuary, to the sea wall. Find your own route, choose your own adventure, use the map below if you like. Notice the height of the water, the shape of the land – is it different from the last time you visited? What has the sea revealed or hidden today? Do share what you discover with us on our collaborative pages for Magor and for Newport