The Spring Tide and Neap Tide (or Autumn Tide) are when the sea reaches the highest and lowest water marks each year and always occur at around the time of the full moons close to the equinoxes.
Tomorrow, March 2, and on Wednesday, March 3, many beaches in the UK could have the lowest water levels for several years.
For beachcombers, it is the perfect opportunity to go scavanging. When the high waters recede, they leave behind all sorts of treasures from the sea. These can include driftwood, beautiful shells, seed pods from far-off lands, stones with holes in them and flotsam and jetsam marking all eras of human history.
Many of these things have undergone a sea change into items of beauty: rounded shards of coloured glass and pottery; rusted and twisted metal; old coins, ancient flint arrowheads and even pieces of modern plastics that have been bleached and transformed by the salt water. If you are very lucky, you might even find something valuable like a diamond ring thrown into the sea by a jilted lover.
Walking along a beach at low tide and finding these treasures can help us connect with nature and with our ancestors. They can be made into unusual recycled art or put on an altar for the Spring Equinox.
They can be studied for what they tell us about the past as they always have a story - though what that story is can sometimes only be imagined, as only the sea knows the truth and she is reticent about revealing all her secrets.
If you want to go beachcombing in the UK, the top 10 locations according to Qualitycoast.org are:
- Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire
- Newgale Beach, Pembrokeshire
- Westward Ho! Beach, Devon
- Cowes, Isle of Wight
- Camber, East Sussex
- Frinton on Sea, Frinton Beach, Essex
- Herne Bay, Kent
- Barmston, East Yorkshire
- Combe Martin Beach, Devon
- Cresswell Dunes & Foreshore, Northumberland
This week you can also take part an effort to clean up parts of the riverbed not normally exposed. Thames21, which runs clean-up and discovery events throughout the city, is organising groups of volunteers to pick up rubbish - and perhaps find some treasure - at four locations:
On Tuesday March 2 there will be a clean-up at Newcastle Draw Dock, off Saunders Ness Road Isle of Dogs, E14, from 8am - 10.30am. Then from 9.30am - 12.30pm there will be a clean-up at Bishop’s Park (gate entrance to foreshore), near Bishop’s Park Road, Fulham, SW6.
On Wednesday 3 March there will be a clean-up at Barge House Road, North Woolwich, Newham, E16, from 8.30am - 11am. The final event of the week is on the Thames Path, south side of Hammersmith Bridge, SW13, from at 11am - 1.30pm.
If you prefer to go on an organised walk, London Walks runs regular Thames beachcoming events. For more details visit http://www.walks.com/Homepage/Beachcombing_Walks/default.aspx
If you do go beachcombing, wear wellies or good walking boots and bring a bag to put your finds in. Visit the beach at around low tide and make sure you know what time the tide comes in. The best place to find things is at the high water mark.
Remember that beaches - especially on riverbanks - can be very dirty so wash your hands carefully before touching food or drink. Never disturb wildlife or wild plants.
If the thought of scrambling about on a beach in this cold spring weather isn't your idea of fun, then you could stay at home and try this Spring Equinox Visualisation, in which you imagine discovering treasures of the Spring Tide as a journey of self-discovery.