Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Autumn on the land - so in the sea, it seems. Around this time each year, the sea gathers armfuls of seaweed and eel grass and places it on the beach. In other years, I might have said 'thrown' but, as with finding lots of red admirals on the ivy - much depends on the day, the moment you look.

On 15th October, the sea was gentle. Great lumps of seaweed and eel grass were bobbing about in the shallows. I don't know whether you are familiar with carding wool (this is not a digression) but before wool can be spun, the strands have to be pulled straight. To do this by hand, you spread threads from the fleece over a grid of pins which stick out from a rectangular piece of wood which has a handle. Then you pull a matching 'carder' across it, over and over, till the 'grain', as it were, is smooth and straight. A deft realignment of the carders lifts the wool from the pins. As it comes away, it is rolled into a sort of tube called a rolag. A fleece, when it comes from the sheep is oily and smelly and, most likely, has bits and bobs of debris - straw and the like in it. Getting it ready for spinning is hard work on the arms but gentle on the wool. Mid October - and the sea wasn't hurling weed onto the shore, it was carding it - gently disentangling the threads, laying them out on the beach and rolling them (or, perhaps, nudging them, there are no exact parallels) into piles.

The short video below shows it happening.

Some of the seaweed clumps waiting to land are still attached to their 'holdfasts'. (A holdfast is a sort of foot which keeps the plant anchored to its rock.) These, in my mind, are the seaweed equivalents of 'staples'. Sheep's wool grows in clumps - staples. The length of the wool in the staple is one of the factors which determines the quality of the yarn made from it and, hence, the cloth. Mixed with these, and in different states between whole and broken, are strands from other plants. It's a right tangle. A tangle waiting to be 'carded'.

Watch the gap between the piles of weed on the shore. First one thread is drawn from the sea and straightened. The next wavelet pushes it a little further out of the water and attaches another strand to it. You'll get the idea. (Watching full screen helps.)

And here . . . in stills . . .

Blackened pieces of eel grass being washed up onto sandy beach
15th October 2012
This is dried and broken eel grass being sifted out of the sea.

Wrack and eel grass being pushed out of the sea by the edge of the tide
15th October 2012

With each wavelet, other seaweeds are nudged against it, then pulled straight as the sea sucks out.

Seaweeds being rolled into bundles by the in and out action of the water
15th October 2012

As the sea brings more, it pushes what's already there into piles.

The sea gradually retreats, leaving bundles of seaweed in its wake
15th October 2012

More and more variety, in various stages of a seaweed 'autumn'

Pile of seaweed drying on the beach.
15th October 2012

Until everything that will come ashore with that tide is drying above the water line.

Then . . . well . . . then there are so many piles along the beach they join in an ugly, decaying ridge. Then it all gets sucked back out again. We'll ignore that for the moment and enjoy it in its fresh colour.

* * *

It's raining. I can't update the view I'm following while it rains so here's one from the first of November.

View of Sandsfoot Castle, Dorset, November 1st 2012
November 1st 2012

I began following this view on 21st September.
To see what it looked like then see the post
'Following Trees and Views and Willow Herb'
* * *
P.S. I've not yet put links with this post. So far, the demonstrations of carding I've found seem to have been made using clean and fluffy pre-carded wool and internet explanations about the word 'carding' seem, to my un-botanical mind, to be muddling teasels with thistles. However . . . if I can find links to clear and relevant information which doesn't confuse me - I'll add them here.


Mark Willis said...

Reminds me of my Dad driving down to the beach and bringing home sacks full of seaweed to use as fertiliser on his garden. You don't see people doing that any more.

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

well I knew about carding wool but was not aware of how the sea waves treated seaweed in a similar way.

Κωστής Τζαγκαράκης said...

I really enjoyed the photographs and the narrative Lucy.

Mark and Gaz said...

I could almost smell the seaside and the seaweeds just looking at your photos! Lovely!

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

carding the seaweed, what a wonderful image. I shall look out for that, one day. Our washed-up seaweed tends to be trucked away from public beaches. People complain, about the smell. Must be clean and tidy.

Toffeeapple said...

I have done carding, it was a deeply satisfying occupation. I like your analogy to the seaweed and the sea.

Dimple said...

I like your analogy, also. I have seen videos of carding on occasion, and your description of the sea carding the weeds fits perfectly.

The view is lovely!

Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams said...

What a great analogy, it is like carding wool, the sea is very resolute in it's duty.

Some of your shots had a real tapestry feel to them, as if the sea had already woven it's creations.


Donna said...

Great post and I enjoyed the photos of the sea being carded...the seaweed and other plant debris looks like a fabric with many different colors of wool.

Hollis said...

I had the same reaction as Mark and Gaz -- could almost smell the seashore! It's so nice to listen to the waves, watch the water and seaweeds.

Catherine Drea said...

I love how you explore ideas both visually and internally. Loved this post Lucy:~)

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Hi Lucy, I've been trying to catch up with you for ages, not enough time in the day sometimes.. I've just had a very enjoyable time reading and looking at your last posts, I'm a huge fan of flora and fauna in any form. Who could resist a blog called 'Loose and Leafy', looking forward to catching up a bit more often.

Down by the sea said...

Hi Lucy,
I love your video and lovely pictures of the seaweed. Isn't it amazing what nature can do?
Sarah x

colleen said...

I so enjoyed this post. Such an interesting comprison between wool and (sea) weed, and beautiful pictures. Thank you.

G. W. Bill Miller said...

People who can keep several blogs going are like jugglers. You do it without dropping a ball. As time permits I will wander through your posts and enjoy them at leisure. Don't be surprised to find posts on long ago posts.

Your photographs are lovely. The soft moist pastels in many are very pleasing. You have a gift for homing in on the thing you want is to see.

Your narrative is apt and interesting - like a conversation as we walk together. The landscape is landlocked Oklahoma is very different from those you share. We are warm (hot) and dry, you are cool and moist, and you paint from a different palette.