Solstice skies

Within two days of this blog post being published, the year will have turned. The hours of daylight will have reached their nadir, and begun to lengthen once again; the start of the long, slow ascent to the summit of midsummer 2022. Quite a thought when we find ourselves shivering in the pre-dawn twilight of a frosty December morning.

A Sand Loch dawn – frost and pastel shades

It’s been said in the past, and rightly so, that some of the real pleasures of this time of year are the sunrises and sunsets. While we may bemoan the brevity of the daylight hours, the up-side is that sunrise and sunset each occur at ‘sensible’ times of the day; in order to witness them, you don’t have to be out of bed especially early, or stay out late into the evening.

What better time to be out and about?

Add to this our topography. I always feel that in terms of aesthetic merits, the east coast tends to get sniffed at a bit. You want nice landscapes, you go to the west coast, or to the central Highlands, right? Certainly these are lovely locations, but to ignore what we have right here on our doorstep is a careless oversight. The east coast landscape, of course, tends to be lower and more undulating, rather than high and craggy like the mountainous regions further west. And that means we do skyscapes as well as anywhere in the UK.

Sky and dunes: pearl and ebony
Where does land stop and sky begin?
The moon and the dune
The cool fire of a Forvie dusk
Ablaze with colours

Having spent some very enjoyable past times living and working in East Anglia, it’s surprising how much common ground is shared between that particular region and north-east Scotland. Both are to some degree misunderstood, with the people of both areas often accused of being dour, and the landscapes dismissed as flat and uninteresting. Each of these is well wide of the mark: east-coast folk tend to be understated yet possessed of a wickedly dry humour, and the landscapes are desolate yet hauntingly beautiful, stretching away to a distant horizon under endless skies. And what better time to appreciate the latter than at either end of a short, sharp winter’s day?

Rose-gold evening sunshine
A spectacular cloudscape
A timeless scene

Witnessing sunrise or sunset in Forvie’s dunescape is a unique experience. If you choose your location carefully, there’s no indication that you’re actually in the 21st Century. This timeless quality provides welcome relief from the relentless pace and pressure of the era in which we live. I have spoken before on these pages of the powerful effect of being immersed in the natural world, and its benefits to mental as well as physical wellbeing. I for one would certainly be a sorry case without it.

Sunset over the Ythan Estuary

Solstice sunrises and sunsets are often sought out by photographers, as well as folk perhaps wishing to connect with something more spiritual. For these would have been important events in the calendar during prehistoric times – indeed, before there were actual calendars – and even today some people like to retain that connection with their ancient ancestors. It’s likely that long before Christmas existed in its current form, there would always have been some sort of midwinter feast or festival to celebrate the turning of the year.

Sun rising out of the North Sea at Collieston

This seems, therefore, an opportune moment to wish all our readers the very best for Christmas 2021. From all the staff and volunteers here on the Forvie team, we wish you a restful break, and a happy and wildlife-filled new year to follow – and we’ll see you out and about on the Reserve as the days begin to lengthen once again.