Shingle is constantly moving. On the eastern Channel coasts, this movement – called longshore drift – is generally eastwards. However, some parts of the shingle beach beyond the inter-tidal zone can become fairly stable, and areas may develop where plants grow. These shingle plants have adapted to cope with little fresh water and few nutrients, fierce winds and the salt spray of the wind and waves.
These pioneer communities consist of individual plants, widely spaced. They typically consist of sea kale, yellow horned poppy and sea pea. By autumn the remaining vegetation is very sparse and are patches of plant debris.
As part of my long-term interest in the groyne fields of Bexhill beach, I recently spent the day with an Art and Environment Study Group on a roaming workshop, led by artist Sean Roy Parker. We cycled and stopped to sketch the vegetation that grows above the high water mark on the coastline between Bexhill and Bulverhythe Fishing Yard.
I collected samples of seeds and brown, desiccated plant stems that I photographed and sketched. When I returned to the studio I photographed them again and then digitally draughted the resulting images combining my sketches with the digital photographs.
I shared my illustration of the shingle vegetation on Twitter using #intervention. However, the identification of what I collected proved more difficult. I may need to do some research…