As we stepped from the car, the tang of sea and seaweed hit us — a smell that always floods my mind with memories of times lived and spent by the sea. It’s a smell that is both distinctive and evocative.
The afternoon had turned out better than forecast so we had jumped in the car and headed shoreward. It was mild for late October, with no wind, so we scrunched along the burgundy coloured stones of the beach and took photos of rocks, cliffs, seabirds, waves, and seaweed.
St Abbs — a small fishing village with a rich heritage — tumbles down the rocky landscape to the harbour on the Berwickshire coast in the Scottish Borders. Today fishing is mostly confined to laying pots for shellfish. Helping fill the void left by the decline in fishing has been the growth of the village as a diving centre.
The cliffs snuggling the village rise in places to around 100m high. They also extend down to another 30m below the sea where shape and form can be extraordinarily dramatic. This is a dangerous coast where, over the centuries, many vessels have foundered.
Around the coast of St Abbs a Voluntary Marine Reserve has been established in which seabed-scouring trawling is not undertaken and the seabed has been left to regenerate. Its geographic position lets it benefit from the flow of Atlantic water that enters the North Sea at the northern tip of Scotland, and also from a cooler Arctic influence. This results in a diversity of marine species to be discovered and appreciated in waters where visibility is extremely good.
A number of wrecks provide opportunities for exploration. The Alfred Erlandsen was a steamship that ran onto rocks in fog in 1907. Nearby is the wreck of a fishing trawler the Vigilant which ploughed into the rocks and sank in the early 1980s. In 1912 the steamship Glanmire struck rocks and went down, while the Odense — often referred to as the Peanut Boat because of its main cargo — was sunk by a U-Boat in 1917.
Divers now come to St Abbs from around the UK and from mainland Europe to enjoy the spectacular wildlife habitats beneath the waters off its coast. But on our trips there we just enjoy the sea air, the opportunities for photographs and the inspiration carried on the foam of the waves. So perhaps unsurprisingly this coast provides one of the locations for my next book, at present being edited.
Further information on the village and diving can be found at http://www.stabbs.org