Kilfarrasy is along the coast west of Tramore and Garrarus. It’s a beach of jagged rocks and multi-coloured cliffs. At low tide it’s possible to walk over stony beaches kept secret by the tide past fantastic steep islands and rocks as far as Garrarus.
I have the beach to myself this morning. It is bright and blustery with a delicious chill in the air, cold and sharp like a knife held against a warm cheek focusses the mind.
A flock of Oystercatchers takes off as I walk and hop down the concrete ramp which has been broken to pieces by the sea. These beaches belong to the birds: the Herons that flap lazily over the rock pools, the Cormorants and Shags bobbing and diving on the choppy seas, the Whimbrels and the Oystercatchers nervously poking along a shoreline stitched by Sandpipers.
Even when they have taken flight, the sand is engraved with the prints of myriad bird feet, big and small. The Choughs ride the currents along the yellow cliffs, raucous as they roll their wings to dip and dive while the ravens play it cool and stay out of the way.
I want to lie down and take it in but I know I will get too cold to swim so I slip off my clothes to my swimsuit underneath and run down over the stones to the edge. The tide is on the way in. It is choppy but not as cold as the air would have you think. It takes a while to get down and I peer at my feet thinking of the weaver fish who have stung two people along the coast recently. It delivers an extremely painful sting only eased by boiling water. Ouch.
When the tide is this far out I know there are things down there moving around. Occasionally there are puffs of sand in the gold flecked water as some sea creature revs up and takes off in fright but nothing bites. The slapping waves elicit screeches worthy of an opera singer before I eventually get down. I stay in for a hundred strokes and then some. I get slapped around by the frisky waves before I bodysurf in, no longer cold.
I get dressed quickly and stay for a while. The hump of Burkes Island is still in shadow as are the rocks to the east, pointed and black like a row of rotten teeth. To the west green fields climb from the shore, bright in the sun. Two horses graze, their backs burnished umber.
The cliffs along the beach are bright yellow where they are clay, red, blue, orange and rust where the ferrous rock is visible. There have been rock falls after the wet summer and metallic looking slates, vicious and sharp, lie in piles at the base of the cliffs.
The dry sand has blown into heaps against the detritus of the tide:twists of black and crispy bladderwrack, kelp like strips of dried skin. Feathers stick out of the sand, a pink crabs leg, two limpets look like they could be the nipples of buried mermaids. All along the tide line thick sinuous cords of kelp topped with streamers lie discarded like rah-rah sticks after an undewater rock concert.
Sandflies hover, their numbers doubled by their shadows and the sand is pock-marked with tiny insect holes. Everywhere are arrangements of stones and feathers, fragments of wood worn silver by the sea even a curl of electrical cord.
I pick up the crumpled heap of my towel and swimsuit and walk back up to the car park jeered by the Choughs. I see a familiar footprint in the sand pointed towards me. It is my own footprint from an hour earlier. A younger me, a different me, a me now gone. Strange. Strange to be alive at all.