While others stayed tucked up in their homes as winter gales and rain battered the coast of Kent, my hardy gang of volunteers were litter picking the beaches along the Swale nature reserve near Seasalter and strangely finding the whole thing rather therapeutic.
Unlike lots of conservation work which seems to involve cutting down trees and bushes as often as planting them, litter picking is obviously 100% a good thing. removing all those bottle tops and crisp packets and helium balloons from beaches stops them tangling round birds legs, or ending up in the stomachs of porpoises or floating out to sea to end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area of floating plastic estimated to be as much as 15 million square kilometres which is out beautiful 20th century legacy to the future.
Also, despite the windy weather, the beach was bleakly beautiful, parties of knot and dunlin scurrying along the shore, skeins of brent geese overhead, the vast mud flats and the distant stick figures of bait diggers out by the tide line. My eyes, when I closed them, still swimming with the pebbledash patterns of cockles shells and tellin shells and creamy belied oysters.
I walked along the beach with Marshall, putting the world to rights, working our way along the tide line like the dunlins, eyes down, focusing on the unnatural dashes of red and blue among the fluffy mosses and seaweed forest debris, turning aside whelk egg cases and mermaid purses. We joined the others sheltering in the sea wall and ate our sandwiches, the rain came across from Sheppey, hanging in grey drapes across the bay.
Back across the beach we hurried to shelter in the lea of a beach hut, then a final dash to the mini bus for hot tea and shortbread as the rain came battering down.