A summer solstice bivouac amongst the dunes

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Last night, for the first time since 1967, the summer solstice coincided with the rising of the strawberry moon. The skies had cleared after rain earlier in the day, so I packed my rucksack and headed for one of Lincolnshire’s wildest places.

The sun was just beginning to set as I walked through the reserve. I passed a dog walker and nodded my hello; she asked where I was going, perhaps a little puzzled that I was heading out instead of back at that hour, but I just said ‘for a walk’. Around me, the air was absolutely calm and precisely the right temperature for comfortable walking in shorts and shirtsleeves. I heard the trilling of a skylark and the distant warbling of a curlew.

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There’s a long dyke, part of the local sea defences, and passing over it always feels like crossing a boundary between land and coast. The marshy scrub of the reserve gave way to the sweeping lines of beaches and inlets, estuary and mudflats.

I set up my tripod and waited for the astronomical spectacle to unfold.

The strawberry moon rises over the North Sea
The strawberry moon rises over the North Sea

The moon rose as a pale yellow orb over the North Sea at almost the same moment the sun dipped behind the horizon behind me. The rippling tide of the inlet changed to liquid mercury, backlit by flame. For a few minutes, that slice of beach between land and sea, the fulcrum between sun and moon, was painted with extraordinary watercolour shades: purples, reds, pinks, deep blues.

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The lights faded, the colours dimmed, and I wandered off to find somewhere to set down my bivy bag for the night.

Originally I’d planned just to bivy out, but my bivy bag is a superlight one and I decided I needed something to keep the dew out of my sleeping bag, so I pitched the poncho tarp in an open configuration above me. After setting my bag down on the grass, I walked back to the sea wall to look for twigs to fuel my wood stove.

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Soon I had a hearty blaze going, and boiled a pan of water to make a cup of tea. Then I just lay there and watched the moon climbing up through haze and shining down on my solitary nest amongst the dunes. My stove hissed and crackled before dying down to a handful of embers and ashes.

The heat of a bright new sun woke me just before six. Dew sparkled on the grass all around my bivy site, and I lay in my bag for a while longer, marvelling at the extraordinary warmth. Then I got up and walked back towards the world again.

Leave no trace
Leave no trace

All images © Alex Roddie 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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