Saturday, 12 February 2011


Last Wednesday I went for a midnight walk along the shingle beaches of the Estuary. It had been a beastly day, cold, cloudy, damp, but the night was warm and pleasant. Everywhere there was cloud except over the Estuary. Even out at sea it was cloudy but over the Estuary there was a circle of clear sky. Above Exeter was low cloud and the lights of the city were reflected by the cloud bank which glowed golden. In the circle of light over the river the stars shone brightly. Orion dominated. There was a moon, at its first quarter. There was a planet, Jupiter?, to the South. Orion was not lying up and down the Estuary as in my scurrilous verses. He was lying aslant, across the water, his head towards the East.

This clear sky over the Estuary is such a regular phenomenon there must be some reason for it. Day and night it occurs and sometimes the pattern of cloud and clear seems to mirror the geography of the coastline. For this reason the Estuary is often a grand place from which to gaze at stars. For another reason too! There is a lot written these days about light pollution. There is too much light and we do not see the stars. The Estuary, however, a mile wide and many miles long bestows a dark sky to all who care to look. The stars shine brighter . The moon and the planets shine brighter. One is never nearer the night sky than when one is in a small boat, without lights, in the middle of the Estuary.

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