Country diary: an immense space studded with razor shells

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Holkham, Norfolk: It occurs to me that every shell is an exact analogue of its wider environment

The storms in September have dredged from the sea bottom and then flung millions of razor shells across the immense space of this beach. As I kneeled to examine a cluster, half-buried in sand by continued westerlies, I noticed that every shell was an exact analogue of its wider environment. Because each blade bore wavering bands of variant colour crosswise through its length.

The same pattern was manifest not only in the sand ribs that continued across these vast flats, it was there also at the tide edge, where a broad curve of foam, which was turned to tin by the dazzling light, was smeared inexorably eastwards in the breeze and the froth was itself banded into the same highly transient design.

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