We checked the book of tide timetables yesterday evening and found to our delight that it was an especially low spring tide around 7:45pm, and this meant that we could walk out to the fort at St. Helens beach. Normally the walk across the shingle up to the fort is only possible around twice a year. It’s a big event in August when hundreds of people do the walk all at the same time. There are police and coastguards about just in case, and normally all the local roads are coned off.

However, it’s only May now. After dinner we set out around 7:00 pm to get to the fort before the tide started to come back in. Nobody else was about, but it didn’t bother us. It’s quite an arduous round trek of about an hour over stones and rocks, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment at the end of it. Sam and I had double checked when the tide was due to start coming in, and when we got half way we were pleased to find that even the lowest point of the stony path was almost clear of water when we got to it. We arrived at the fort after about 30 minutes:

Normally it’s good luck to traipse anti-clockwise around the narrow ledge that goes around the lower part of the fort, but we’d already done that before on previous occasions and didn’t feel it necessary to repeat the circumnavigation (the ledge is only marginally wider than my shoe).

We stood there and took a few photos, and then it was time to go back. When I turned around I could see that the lowest point of the path had already started to fill up. The tide, by the way, doesn’t come in behind you, but laps over the stony path sideways until the path disappears and your feet get rather wet, and then the rest of you. I started to walk as quickly as I could over the shingle, and when I got to the lowest point I was rather dismayed as I could see the water would reach the middle of my calves. I turned to Sam…

“I thought you said the tide didn’t come in until quarter to eight. It’s only half past seven.”

Sam shrugged.

“It didn’t read the book. Put both arms round my neck and hold on.”


“Just do it.”

I put my arms around his neck then found myself lifted up into the the air. The whole experience was rather uncomfortable for my old bones. I floundered about a bit then started to slide in a downward direction until my trainers filled up with water.


I hoped nobody was on the shoreline with binoculars. Once we were past the lowest point we had more than enough time to reach the sandy beach. It’s just that lowest point is rather tricky; it’s the first to fill up and the last bit to empty out.

This morning Sam looked at the tides on his phone’s app, and every high and low tide was about a quarter of an hour before the one in the book. Moral of the story… don’t believe everything you read. Sometimes it’s better to look at your app!