The famous line from John Masefield's poem was ringing in my ears as with my good friend Clackers I navigated the faithful Black Audi through the maelstrom of the M25 rush hour traffic and onwards to the southeast.
We were on our way to Dungeness in Kent that unique area of desolate land that juts out into the English Channel.
My plan was to see an immature Glaucous Gull that has been lingering at Dungeness around the shingle beached fishing boats by the sea. I love the inherent sense of abandonment that you feel here. It is the end of the land and beyond lies the sea and the imagined excitements of Europe and lands even further from home. Hopelessly romantic I know but go there, if you have not already, and you too will feel the strange enchantment that this area leaves on your being. It is indefinable but there comes a sense of infinite space and time amongst the abandoned boats resting at haphazard angles on the stony shore, some seaworthy and others that will never again feel the sea surge and lift their keels as they sink imperceptibly into the shingle to slowly rot away.
Today the sunlight was being reflected off the sea, creating that sealight that is almost incandescent and brings a strange and romantic white light to the sky.
It was a beautiful day, sunbright and blue amongst scattered, billowing white clouds but with a cold northerly wind numbing our ears as we walked out across the shingle wastes to find the Glaucous Gull. Other large gulls had formed a small group and rested in their normal way on their usual grassy areas inland from the seashore but the Glaucous Gull was not among them.
We wandered on, entirely alone, towards the boats and the associated tangle and jumble of bits of machinery, ropes, sheds and old containers, their haphazard assembly an almost artistic still life as we walked through them to the shore.
The Glaucous Gull did not take much finding. It stood proud, heavy bodied and obvious on the top of a bank of shingle by the shore, dwarfing a nearby Herring Gull.
Its sheer bulk and a substantial black tipped pink bill giving it a brutish appearance. Not to be messed with and very self contained. I walked closer and it became alert and wary but soon accepted I was meaning it no harm and relaxed again, its faded white plumage bright against the blue grey sea.
A small huddle of Turnstones busied themselves along the immediate shoreline, fussy and talkative as they probed under the wet stones, the latter being constantly washed so their harlequin colours were made bright by the lapping waves of the incoming tide.
I turned my back on the land and sat alone but not lonely amongst the millions, billions, trillions of stones, bleached and rounded by the incessant attentions of wave, wind and sun and looked out to sea and another horizon.