those who sail, or walk along, our coast presents three phases: the
cliff, the seaside moor, and the links.
The moor differs from the links, in that it usually has a
considerable proportion of some darker deposit among the blown sand.
Those with which I am best acquainted are near the mouths of rivers,
and may have been formed of the mud brought down by the current,
when the volume was much larger.
The three bear quite distinct wild flowers. Though directly facing
the rude sea, the cliffs have still many ledges; and niches so
cunningly placed as to be shut in from almost every wind. There they
gather a comparatively rich soil out of their own decay, on to which
seeds fall. In this way are formed little gardens, often of rare
forms, worth risking one’s neck to see.
The moor is open from end to end to every wind that blows. There are
no corners formed by jutting points, where delicate wild flowers can
hide. So much is included in the very conception of a moor—not in
the sportsman sense of a shooting ground, but in that of a flat
expanse, laid down under such conditions as to make it interesting
to the artist, the naturalist, and the wild bird.
Still, by reason of the darker deposit among the sand, it not only
affords richer food, but also retains more moisture. And there are
generally marshy spots to add to the interest, and still further to
vary its plant as well as its animal life.
Examples occur, all in a row,—a somewhat unusual sequence,—on the
East Coast, south of Lunan Bay. Cliffs run along almost to Arbroath,
and the mouth of the Tay. And such cliffs 4 Sheer down to the water
below, or ploughed into gorges by some stream; or picturesque by
reason of the outliers, cut off by the water in their retreat.
Cliffs—not stupendous, but breezy and exhilarating, and with every
element of natural interest.
From the Tay to the Eden, filling up the whole space between the
estuaries, and possibly partly formed by the silting process
referred to, lies Tents Muir. Beyond the Eden run the two miles of
golf links, the length of St. Andrews.
Anyone who wishes to see what the three phases of our coast have to
show—where each is of considerably more than local interest—could
not do better than spend three summer days between Red Head and St.
Andrews. I have spent, in each of the three, many days I am not
likely to forget, and feel in a position to advise.
Unlike the cliffs, the links have no sheltered niches. Unlike the
moor, they have no dark deposit. They are made up of pure blown
sand. Therein consists their excellence for golfing uses; seeing
that the rain so rapidly runs away; those who play on inland courses
will understand what I mean. But as life-supporting areas or wild
gardens, they demand, on the part of the plants, that they be easily
satisfied, and able to make the most of what there is.
On the sea side of the links, shutting out a view of the water from
the players, is a row of the most picturesque sand-dunes imaginable.
Beginning as round mounds, these have been worn into various shapes;
and, in certain conditions of the atmosphere, present very weird
breezy day must be chosen for watching the growth of the young
sand-dunes; and a very curious study it is. Seated on the leeside of
some maturer pile, exposed to the attentions of late-building
coast-birds, the situation has a certain rude charm. Borne on the
wind, the blown sand eddies or swirls round the infant mounds,
before it comes to rest on their flanks or summits.. With every
gale, the process is renewed, swelling the bulk and height of the
mound. After a while, when the pile is about on a level with the
rest, and may be said to be finished, the busy winds begin
Then the great lime-grass and rushy wheat-grass take possession, and
net-work it with their hidden stems, until the surface of light
blown sand becomes almost as hard as inland turf. This is the
beginning—the babyhood, if we may apply the term to anything so rude
— of the life of the links.
Thus, these compact dunes, besides presenting a miniature mountain
chain to that exceptional golfer who has an eye for anything but his
ball, serve the more practical purposes of preventing drifting over
the links, and farther inland, to the detriment alike of golf and
agriculture; they also prepare the way for the richer turf behind.
It is interesting to notice how many flowers can grow on pure sand.
No doubt, after a while, the roots of the grasses form a certain
superficial soil, varying in depth as one proceeds from the sea
margin to the fence which marks off the links from the fields.
Imperceptible in the dunes, where the lime-grass seems to find
sufficient in the sand for its broad brittle leaves and long stout
stems, it appears just beyond as a thin streak, and deepens, it may
be, to an inch in the older parts of the links. In replacing turf,
the course-keepers sprinkle soil underneath; thus artificially
increasing the depth.
But the layer is never very deep, and nowhere gets beyond the tawny
hue, mingled of yellow and brown. The main condition of these links
wild flowers growing; is that the sands cease the restless motions
of the open sea-coast, and be brought to anchor by the stolons of
have already spoken of the whins, which burn with their yellow
flames, through so many of the earlier months. Some of them rise
into bushes, branching out above several feet of bare stem; while,
on the ruder parts of the links, others are contented to lie along
the ground. Ought I to speak of two species ?
No whin grows on the coast-side of the dunes; nor on the dunes
themselves, so long as they are bare and exposed; nor anywhere, on
unanchored sand. But just within the shelter they thrive
marvellously. So far from being starved and dwarfish, they are
beyond the ordinary height and robustness. As in the case of the
almost bare rock, they feel along the surface for any soil there may
The unbroken sheet of daisies which puzzles the golfer, does not
spread so near the sea. It belongs to the older part of the links,
where the turf has been changed more than once. The wild flowers
proper of this scene must be sought for on the rougher belt between
the daisies and the sand-dunes, where there is less suspicion of
The links can be very attractive, on a July day. They are warm, but
not so hot as the sand; their green covering keeps them pleasantly
cool. No glare rests upon them. Mark out a little patch, and you
will see the reason why. Look at the countless lights and shadows,
due to the grass blades,—to every lit blade a shadow: the intenser
the light, so much sharper the contrast and darker the shadow.
With this miniature as guide, glance over the whole, and see how
mystic lovely it is. You hardly know whether to describe the effect
as shaded light or lit shadow. Under the mounds the shadows gather ;
toward their tops the light increases. From the woods to the links,
the change seems greater than it is. In the one the shadows are
massed, well marked, sometimes almost unbroken; here they are in
fairy lines and panicles.
Not only is there light, but colour as well. Now we have mass, more
than in the woods. The colour is inlaid on the green. From a little
distance it seems a glow rather than a growth, born of the air and
not of the earth—a reflection from above rather than a flower bank.
This is due to the shortness of the stem, scarcely sufficient to
raise the flower above the sand. Everything goes to colour.
It were hard to tell which flower forms the largest patches. The
light purple or pink of the thyme seems to be everywhere. Not a bank
on which it does not grow. What a wild natural smell it has ! Not a
namby-pamby garden smell— not a sweet sentimental odour.
There are none such, if we except the faint cocoa-nut of the whin by
the seaside—no perfume proper. Such would be out of place; the scene
is too rude. It would be like scent on a ship captain’s
handkerchief. It smells of the breeze. Imagine the salt breeze
scented—of the open—of the bank. Wilder still, only slightly
harsher, is the scent of the pink restharrow.
The lotus—children call it crowfoot, or craw’s taes—comes next. Not
tall as under the hedge, or medium - sized as by the roadside, but
with its crimson, buds and yellow flowers hugging the ground.
Near the lotus, and almost as common, is its purple cousin, with the
same butterfly - shaped flowers, the milk vetch. Whereas the lotus
is found everywhere, this is one of the forms which, after leaving
the coast, we shall not meet again all over the plain, and until we
have climbed a little way up the mountain slopes. Under the most
favourable conditions for growth, the flower is large in proportion
to the stem and leaf. Here it seems all flower together, quite
top-heavy with blossom. One must look carefully before he discovers
the delicate leafage.
The common bedstraw forms other large patches of yellow. I have
noticed that, when growing inland, and there is
110 commoner roadside
form, the flower has an extremely pleasant, if somewhat wild, odour.
There it shares with the white clover the function of scenting the
summer day. Here the sweetness has departed, while the wildness
remains, and is intensified.
It is not easy to explain this deficiency in seaside plants. Where
sight fails, scent is supposed to act as a second guide to the
insect in search of the j)lant. . It may be more needful, where the
luxuriant leafage of inland scenes hides away the colours, or where
the plant is playing bo-peep behind the hawthorn hedge, or has
retired several yards within the shadow of the wood, or is nestling
under the steep bank, than on a flat scene of bare vegetation and
profuse blossoming. No insect with half an eye could miss the glow
on the links, especially flying over it as they do.
There is also abundance of the delicate little white bedstraw, not
quite so self-assertive, but even pleasanter to look upon.
Harebells are, of course, abroad in their favourite
haunt—short-stemmed like the rest. Perhaps also a little paler in
shade. At the seaside there is a tendency to part with colour as
well as scent, partly from the bleaching influence of the air, and
partly because less will serve to attain the end in view.
Many other plants are there whose names it would be tedious to
mention. All that seems necessary is to point out the general
conditions of that scene, midway between the seaside moor and the
open coast, and to indicate those forms which, while they refuse to
grow among the restless sand, ask no more than that the sand shall
be moored by the grass roots, and so brought to rest.
Not the harebells themselves, not the scent of wild thyme, not the
many-shadowed links, not the salt breeze, nor the sea, nor the
whispering gush of water, is so delightful in these July days as the
blue seaside butterflies. They are the veritable Ariels of the
scene, appearing for a moment, then mingling with the blue of the
sea or vanishing into the blue of the sky—returning to light on the
grass blade, and straightway, by the simple closing of their wings,
becoming once more invisible.