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By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Virtually every day I go for a stroll alongside the River Ribble or the shore around some part of the Fylde and inevitably gaze at the water or more likely the sand and usually without thinking about it note the height of the tide. Until the other day when someone asked me when the next high tide was and I had no idea.
So, what causes a tide? Most of us know it is something to do with the moon’s gravitational pull. In fact it is to do with the actions of the moon, sun and rotation of the earth working together to cause sea levels to rise and fall. The UK has semi-diurnal tides, meaning there are two high tides and two low tides twice a day (some parts of the world have diurnal tides meaning there is only one high tide and one low tide each day). This is the same for every location in the UK, although the exact amount of time will differ from place to place. In some locations the time of tides moves along by well over an hour every day, whereas in others the tides may take place only a short time later every day.
Spring tides are the biggest tides, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon being particularly strong. During a spring tide the water level will rise to its highest possible point at high tide, and at low tide the level will be at the lowest possible point. The tidal flow during a spring tide will be very strong due to the large amount of water flowing. Spring tides happen every two weeks during the time of a full moon. Neap tides also happen every two weeks during the period of the first and third quarter of the moon (in the weeks between spring tides). During a neap tide the high tide will not come up particularly high, and the low tide will not be particularly low, and the strength of the tide is likely to be fairly weak.
So, what does that mean for us? I’m writing this on the 9th March and according to the Tide Tables ( which are available on line or can be purchased from shops for as little as a pound ) low tides at Blackpool are at 0510 and 1740 hrs whilst high Tides are at 1037 and 2305 hrs. In a week’s time they will have moved on to low tides at 1019 and 2255 and highs at 0335 and 1605 hrs. Thus during a week the times of the high tide have changed by about six hours. This tidal action, by the way, extends up to Fishwick Bottoms on the Ribble which is 11 miles from the sea.
Okay, so you’ve figured out the times when the sea is in or out but what sort of seashore do you want? Sandy beaches or rocky pools? Shallow water or sea immediately up to your waist? A small café just over there in your secluded bay with tea and a piece of fruit cake (yes, please). A bustling throng of folk on deck chairs and Punch and Judy.
I’m sorry Blackpool and St Annes, but the best seashore in the world is around a tiny island off the coast of Guernsey. It has everything I want in one and a half miles by half a mile. Every sort of seashore from beach to cliff with a secluded bay thrown in for good measure. It is called Herm Island or as I know it - Paradise Island. It is also ferociously expensive to stay on. It’s only hotel refuses to have clocks so you don’t know what time or day it is. And oddly enough when I first stayed there a couple of years ago the person running the little beach hut café (with fruit cake) used to live on the Garstang Road.
Incidentally, going back to the tide tables. I found a must have gadget when looking into this subject and it is a digital tide wrist watch. I have no idea how I have managed to get through my life without one.
The place I describe in my poem below is not on Herm Island - and I’m not telling you where it is!
Joe’s Café
Is on a secret beach,
don’t tell,
the sort of beach
the Famous Five found
while searching for clues
on a hot day in June
when they desperately needed
shade and lashings of ginger beer
all thoughts of adventure
cool on the  terrace of Joe’s Café.

But don’t tell,
Mum’s the word
and Dad’s the word
and children are shrieks of water
splashing on treasure in boxes
left by pirates
or the girls at Joe’s Café

Don’t tell friends
or your neighbor flying to Greece
that some things change
and some things don’t,
that the hard white paths
high on Ballard Down
will still be contrails
when all that’s left
is blue sky or dark rain
and that’s all
and it won’t matter
not when there’s organic
or non-organic
ginger beer or croissants
and hanging out at Joe’s Café.

First published in Dawntreader in May 2011
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