High Water

The winter of 2020/21 felt much longer and darker than usual. The world was still in the grip of the global pandemic, and in England we were once more limited by lockdown restrictions. I live a hundred yards from the sea and walk the wide, open sands of the Dee Estuary and North Wirral foreshore daily – a routine that I was fortunate to be able to continue during the long months of lockdown. While human movements across the planet were brought almost to a standstill, the tides of course reassuringly continued their twice daily ebb and flow, spring tides following neap tides, week upon week.

This collection of original cyanotype prints has been a way of marking the passage of time whilst we were all ‘marking time’, and was created over a six month period between the autumn 2020 and spring 2021 equinoctial high tides.

One print was created each week. Light sensitive papers were taken to the tideline and exposed to seawater at the precise moment of high tide. An imprint was made during the two highest tides of the month (spring tides) and at the two lowest high tides of the month (neap tides). Spring tides come at full and new moon. Neap tides come at first and third quarter moons. The height of each tide is directly influenced by the phases of the moon.

Along the North Wirral coastline, the beaches shelve very gently towards the sea and, at low tide, the tide retreats at least a mile from the foreshore. Spring tides reach almost to the promenade and are at their highest daytime height during late morning and early afternoon. The lower neap tides reach their peak either early morning or late afternoon, and much further out from shore, often fifteen minutes walk or more. On the shortest winter days, I walked to the tideline using torchlight. During these tides, the seawater left its mark on the papers in semi-darkness. These partly washed prints were left on the beach to expose once daylight returned. Large pieces of driftwood placed upright served as markers enabling me to retrieve them hours later