Stripped Naked For All to See

avatarWe’re blessed with almost too many great beaches here in Jersey, several of them in easy walking distance. Consequently, we know some of them really well, and others less so.

But they’ve all taken on an unfamiliar appearance in the last week, with the tremendous storms and high tides stripping some of them of nearly all their soft golden sand and exposing all manner of things not seen for decades or even centuries.

This afternoon we popped across to the five-mile, near the site of my near-drowning a few days ago, to see some of the after effects. We’d been told about the remains of a slipway, partly dismantled by the Germans in the
early 40s and not seen since, and some rarely exposed clay beds that were said to be rich in fossils.

The clay beds had been covered by about a metre of fresh seaweed by the morning high tide but the slipway was there, as clear as day, stripped of a metre of more of sand and looking more like a new construction than
anything historic.

But if seventy years or so under the sand is historic, how do we describe a paleolithic forest? Yes, we saw that too. Stripped naked, for all to see, and just a few hundred yards from the slipway, is an area of ancient forest floor, now usually buried beneath the beach and seen only twice since 1902. It’s about twenty metres square and currently stands around a metre above the surrounding gravel and rocks. Again, it’s the sand that has gone.

The forest floor is maybe twenty centimetres of a a hard, carboniferous substance, somewhere between peat and soft coal, with tree roots still embedded in it from many thousands of years ago. Below that is a slightly
softer sandy soil bound together by a dense mat of smaller root fibres.

The whole thing forms a table, black and rippled on top, that slopes towards the sea. It’s astonishing, and was last seen in 1962. It stands so high above the surroundings now that I think it could be some time before it gets covered again. Let’s hope it survives the exposure.

Meanwhile, it’s lying there, stripped naked for all to see.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible that there could be such marked changes, so quickly. But then our whole environment is constantly changing and it’s always a challenge to keep up.

We certainly have to be on our toes, expect the unexpected and make sure we’re always flexible enough to survive. It’s the most adaptable who keep going. Those who are willing to learn, to do or try something new and
to understand that what was true yesterday isn’t necessarily the case today.

Let alone tomorrow.