Some days you go to the sea and there is nothing there, mist hangs along the promenade and covers everything with a cold sweat. The sun doesn’t even bother to try, just drips light slowly into the grey.
Other days, the cold wind sweeps everyone along yet the wide horizon can stop you in its tracks as the sun dips below the horizon, clouds bubble across to add depth while the colours range far and wide through the spectrum of visibility. Despite the cold there are many of us who stand and watch, trying to catch the changing image in our mind.
When the tide goes out here, the sea leaves the country, Weston-super-Mare has one of the highest tidal ranges in the world. The open expanse draws you out towards the edge, not really the sea perhaps, who knows where the Severn river ends and Atlantic begins. You could almost walk to sunset, get pulled over the horizon like the colours and the light. But be wary, the mud is deep and unforgiving.
Who You Are.
It’s about your eyes,
the smile that lingers long after the moment,
I carry each one with me.
You could walk all the way out from here,
let the tide take you,
but don’t chase the sunset, always one step away.
This morning the Cherry tree broke out in white blossom, we’ve been watching it, waiting for the buds to break, yet they still catch us out and arrive en mass, snow blossom in the rain this morning. In the hills and valleys, covering damp verges, the Snowdrops are out. Soon other flowers will follow the blossom and the Snowdrops, go out and look for them, lift your spirits with the return of long days and wild flowers.
I’m back with the Raven again, thought I’d shaken him but he keeps stealing into my ideas
The Raven On The Beach.
The Raven turns away, disinterested dark black
on the roof of the beach stall with its red paint
scarred from overwintering on the beach.
For the moment he has replaced the buckets,
spades, balls and chairs. Now he eyes the empty
chip bag wrappers, gauging the weight
for the possibility of food. Otherwise it is the tide
line again. Salted bait and seaweed dragged
back and forth over the sands. The prom
is a better option, but the cold keeps the families away.
No, there is nothing to see here.
Walking casually along the frames of the building,
head weaving in the wind, he watches the sea, patiently
waiting for summer and the children.
Norfolk and flat, the two words are inextricably linked for me. I spent the first six years of my Working life on the flatlands of the English East coast. What it does have in its defence is a big sky and some wide open views, and lots of Square towered churches to help out with the navigating. At this point I’ll admit to a little obsession of mine, maps. Whenever we go anywhere, I buy a map. The thought of not having a map of where we are is a bit of a problem for me, I have maps at home from everywhere, Hungary, Miami, Scotland, Wales, France, because of course, like books, I keep them all. My mementoes of walks, cities and countries. It was no surprise then that I have a new shiny map of the Norfolk Coast East. 1:25 000. It is one of my pleasures to browse the map for days before going out for a walk using the aforementioned purchase, to choose the route, to imagine what I am going to find. Good spots for pictures. The landscape I might find, all this from a piece of paper available in good bookshops.
Anyway, maps and Norfolk, I found a suitable route to follow, changed it to take in some scenery (no big hills to climb here) and set off into the North Sea winds the morning forecast had predicted. From Cromer, roughly South to Felbrigg, then West and North to hit the coast and return along the cliffs to the start.
Norfolk as a rule is not flat, not as Flat as Lincolnshire can be, it is still fairly pedestrian in its hill aspirations. It is rippled though, contours mimicking the sandy ripples of the beach nearby, just on an over-sized scale. This I thought would offer up views as we rose and fell gently passing the big fields and small villages of the area. I had not planned for the deep lanes, these are not marked on a map, many possibly splendid outlooks are marred by the need to leap up above the surrounding bushes.
The walk was a very pleasant amble through a very easy part of the country, passing Felbrigg Hall I avoided the tourists and chose to head for the Church, a spot out of the wind and somewhere for lunch. The hedgerows, fields and woodlands provide a changing backdrop for the passage of time, and I was happy to dawdle taking pictures and watching the birds on the rivers and small ponds I passed.
This area has been created by a glacier pushing its way to the sea, the cliffs formed by the moraine at the leading edge, and it has left this distinctive landscape, the high crumbling cliffs and the wide windswept spaces. The wind can rattle across the countryside, and the trees help break that up. It is a fertile plain, farms abound, and this means walking is around these open spaces or through the copses that dot the spaces. I feel they have been put there sometimes just to add scale to the vista.
Any day out in the countryside lets the mundane drift away for me, watching for signs of animals, for the work of man. Old and new provides interest on even short trips. A walk to the shops can show you the life of your neighbourhood if you keep your head up and let your eyes wander. The sky, the people and the world provide sustenance and art if you open your mind to the possibilities. I like the ideas that can wander on the quiet times of a walk, in our modern world we rarely stop to look about us, to see who and what we are sharing our lives with, and it is often a pleasant surprise to choose a moment and look with a strangers vision at our small part of the world. Everywhere is somewhere else for someone.
The open spaces and sea views from the top of a tall cliff make for a good combination, walking into Cromer, to the pier for coffee and a walk around the narrow streets of the old fishing town has a simple and pleasing and welcoming feel. Yet, you need only walk half a mile in either direction to reach the bleak open salt marshes where Samphire is harvested and you are reminded of the stories like Great Expectations.
They still use tractors to launch small fishing boats from the shingle beach, the North Sea is still one of the most inhospitable places to work, with the added difficulties of international quotas and windfarms it is not getting any easier. I had coffee on the pier, watching visitors struggle against the wind blowing along the coast. Hardy souls determined to be out and seeing the sites.
Having the time to poke into corners and with no set route to follow in the town, no shopping to do or people to see means you can wander aimlessly and let the town build around you. Find the snugs where pubs huddle into corners and locals go to eat their fish and chips.
How long before this piece of shoreline changes beyond recognition? Like all coastal regions there are many contrasts, head inland and you soon forget the this is a land of longshore drift where a constant battle is being waged against the sea.
I still think that Norfolk is not a place I would want to call home again. But the memories and the land made a pleasant weeks break from normal routine. There is a chance we will visit again, and I will sample the delights of other different walks. this one had enough variety to hold the interest, even if the big views remained stubbornly hidden. The inward detail I found held for me the idea of looking for things closer to the present, a fine lesson to take from any trip.
Last weekend it was time for a stroll and to walk from sea to summit was the plan. A combination of the Somerset Levels, the Mendips, and fair weather made for a fine Sunday walk with blue sky and wide views.
Heading along the beach away from the town I walked towards Uphill to climb up by the church. Passing above the old quarry. I love the views from here and the quiet sense of time you get from layered rocks and by passing through the small graveyard. The church stands lonely on the hill, despite the village below, looking out across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
After the short climb to the church, a drop back down to the levels. I followed the River Axe inland cutting across country where needed to reach Bleadon Village. It was a pleasant if malicious surprise to see the road nice and busy as I walked on without a care in the world, wildflowers, the River Axe, Swans floating serenely by, nothing more needed.
The Somerset highs next and up the side of Shiplate Slait, an area of Special Scientific Interest. Passing through some Somerset Apple Orchards, probably destined for proper Somerset Cider a refreshing taste after a walk on these hills. Up to Bleadon Hill, to pick up the West Mendip Way and the turn back towards the sea.
This was a day of changes, the wind bringing the smell of the sea back as you climb the Mendips, the calm of the River Axe, late summer flowers and some quiet tracks. Arriving back on Weston beach to find it full of sail and kite carts. Families strolling along the prom, enjoying the sand and fun of the seaside, a pleasure to end here and turn for home, glad I have the best of the beach and the countryside so close.
This weekend has been a busy one, My wife has gone into hospital to have a hip replacement. So Saturday was spent there waiting for things to happen, followed by waiting for things to finish. A long day but it seems to have gone well. Visiting times are in the afternoons so, to distract myself I took a trip to Weston-super-Mare, a seaside town on the west coast of England. It is mostly Victorian in origin, although its history does stretch back to the Iron Age with the hill fort on top of Worlebury hill.
This is part of a group based on the low summits around Somerset.
I started out on the promenade, walking with the sea (or Bristol Channel to be correct) on one side and the Victorian mansions on the other. There have been many changes over the years, and these houses have withstood the elements for over one hundred years in many cases. The seafront area however has recently been renovated. Although many of the Victorian shelters are still standing.
The Tropicana, Weston’s seafront Lido has, unfortunately, been left to rot by successive councils who seem unable to make any sort of sensible decision about what to do with the old place. Such a fantastic piece of architecture, and all that seems to be done is to knock bits down because they have become unsafe. Such a shame for an interesting old building.
The rest of the seafront some two miles of sandy beach stretches away dotted with huts and interesting spots and dots.
Weston has one of the largest tidal ranges in the world, and due to its position at the mouth of the River Severn, is well-known for the mud and sinking sand exposed at low tide.
As with any beach there are always things of interest, and places to go, come rain or shine. It is always a pleasure to stroll along, watching for the small details that we generally walk past without seeing. The patterns created by posts on the beach. The sea wall erosion that has made wonderful textured rocks that nobody can resist dragging a hand along as they walk. All part of the meeting of man and sea. The craftsmanship in the small details of the beach-front buildings is so clever, we would struggle to recreate it today.
But when we do attempt to produce our own interpretation of those details, craftsmen can come up with some special results. As on one of the main flood barriers on the front.
The Arch is designed to draw the eye out across the bay and onto Brean Down, the last landfall of the Mendip hills. It also frames the landward woods of Worlebury if you look back from the sea.
Even these studs put in to mark the pelican crossing add something to the scheme. A crossing of lines that draws the eye as the sunlight catches them at certain times of the day and like the sun drifting over the wet sands, marking out the patterns on the beach, it adds to the magic of the promenade.
Next post I will continue my walk around the coast and up into the woods overlooking Weston Bay and the land around. Before dropping down into the town itself.