Country diary: watching a still from a gargantuan motion picture


Eigg, West Highlands: The view beneath my feet, of paper-thin exoskeletons of a type of sea urchin, is also captivating

At Laig beach on the island of Eigg, the tide has withdrawn to reveal a vast intertidal zone where black basalt and white shell sands plait together, weaving and interweaving to produce a neat and monochrome twill.

Here and there, the delicate, skull-like structures of sea potatoes protrude through this smooth and glossed surface; pierced through with tiny holes tracing a star-shaped pattern, they are the paper-thin exoskeletons of a type of sea urchin. Some still bear what looks like ruffled clumps of taupe-white fur: tiny spines, not yet fallen away.

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