© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

I’ve enjoyed a wonderful trip back to my hometown of Skegness. The first place I visited on arrival was, of course, the beach. Black-headed gulls wheeled, and along with black-backed and herring gulls, and the odd kittiwake. There seemed to be no sign of the dunlins I see over-wintering; they must already have moved on, sadly. But the seagulls were having a great time feasting on starfish they were picking up from the shallow sandpools. That’s unusual for Skegness beach, because starfish are not a particularly common sight there.

I was actually visiting because I was doing research for my latest crime novel – and I was able to get lots of inspiration whilst watching. Nature is influencing this book much more than my last novel, Invisible (which was a Top Ten Bestseller). I’m really enjoying bringing two separate passions of mine together. It wasn’t possible in Invisible, as it didn’t fit the style of book or the lead character, but this time I’m really able to bring nature and the passing of the seasons into this crime story.

Having watched the slowly dipping sun bathe the seagulls wing tips and breast in orange, and set fire to waves’ crests, it was time to head indoors. As I drove past fields in the twilight, a large white shape rose up alongside me, and kept pace with the car for several seconds. A barn owl! There was mistaking that distinctive bird: the large wing span, the flat face and wedge-shaped body. Beautiful – and so exciting, as I don’t see many barn owls these days.

The next day I went for a walk in the fields, and along the river. It was still too early for the Great-Crested Grebe I had been hoping to spot doing their mating dance. But for other birds there was an early feast on offer: gnats galore. They were out in far more force than I’ve seen so far this year, and there were literally hundreds dancing in the gentle warmth of the late winter sun, hovering over the ploughed earth, and mole hills. I must also mention that on this visit I’ve seen more mole hills than I have in many, many years; decades even.

All in all, it was a wonderful visit to my favourite seaside resort: my old hometown.