Menu Close

The Lookout – Sarah-Clare Conlon

The Dee spills out, all salty silt and sandbanks. The sudden tilt is disconcerting; the jib collapses, flapping uselessly, like a fulmar with a broken wing. A change in wind direction above and water currents below disrupt the boat’s flow, but a few turns of the winch and we’re back on course, crossing from Wales to England. Grabbing the binoculars, I check our position against the nearest landmark, the haunted lighthouse at Talacre. Visibility remains good.

Dead ahead three tidal islands squat at the estuary entrance. If I could come to a standstill, I would. I would down tools, stop all the clocks, silence the pianos, sling the hook, clamber over the side, shimmy down the anchor chain and wade through spume and mudflats and rockpools, then crest the sandstone outcrop and lie down in the thrift and bracken, vetch and campions, the only mammal other than the breeding field voles, and the fallow deer that swam the river to Hilbre. Visibility remains good.

Instead, the wrecks on the chart holler stark reminders that tide tables and almanacs have their place, so I make headway: observing offshore rigs and windfarms, observing rough water shrouding rocks north of the Wirral archipelago, observing the collection of cottages homing the Bird Observatory, where you spent your life waiting, watching, recording, tagging – observing. On high spring tides in storm conditions, the peninsula’s teardrops overflow with knot, dunlin, redshank, turnstone, sanderling, oystercatcher and purple sandpiper, your favourite. I wave, wipe my eyes. Visibility remains good.