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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘beach

Walking The Dog 12

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We returned to lashings of ginger beer and a plateful of scrumptious ham sandwiches.  That’s not the actual menu but as we had been struggling in Kimmeridge clay all morning, the Famous Five comparison felt right, particularly as we’d just had a huge adventure, even bigger than we’d expected!

It wasn’t the Famous Five that set off from Ringstead that morning but the Intrepid Three: Carla, Capone and me.  We were set on continuing our Jurassic Coast walk and so drove to the end of the last episode – and the beginning of the next!

The White Nothe

The White Nothe

We were heading for the White Nothe headland.  It’s the tallest and furthest headland you can see from the top of our mountain above Sutton Poyntz.

We left Ringstead Bay but then cut back towards the beach and descended using the sort of steps that are just pegged shuttering into which the hill slides.  Onto the beach and the dogs wanted to swim but there was no time for that.  I planned to keep along the beach as far as possible and then climb up the fallen clay cliff before we reached the towering chalk cliffs of the the White Nothe itself.

burnwavSo, at what seemed a sensible point, I turned away from the sea and started to pick my way up through the clumps of clay, each surmounted with a brush of coarse grass.  Climb up further and there are vicious gorse bushes and and little trees with thorns like hardened steel.  In some areas a raw wound of open clay has appeared where a minor landslip has taken place.  This was almost real climbing, all the weight on the feet but still reaching up at head height and above for support.

The Burning Cliff

The Burning Cliff

This, in fact, is the Burning Cliff.  In 1826 a landslide uncovered deposits of gas and oil which caught fire and famously smouldered for about three years.

At last, at the very top, the thickest brush of all so, heroically, I rolled into it with my back and the dogs slipped through underneath me.  Then a semi-tropical glade, completely enclosed by thorn and flower.  A strange, even light and ferns of all sorts rooting in the carpet of leaves.  We were trapped.  The way back out was prickly and difficult. In every direction was more thorn and bramble.  I swung at some branches to clear a path and I was cruelly shot in the eye by a sloe berry hurtling back towards me, an eclipse of the sun seared in my eyeball and I actually felt dizzy and slightly feint.  Had she been there, George would have immediately volunteered to go for help.

No such rescue was open to us though.  Forcing our way back out through the thorns I picked, slipped and slid a perilous path back to the beach.   No option for it but to go back up the way we had come down.  That was hard work too.  We wearily resumed the footpath but when I saw that we had made exactly half a mile’s progress from our start, discretion proved the better part of valour and and we returned to the car.

Undaunted, undefeated and determined to reach our goal we returned this morning.  Avoiding the pull of the sea and the beach itself we stuck to the path winding upwards through an area that reminds me of Fern Gully, near Ocho Rios in Jamaica where are there is supposed to be a greater variety of ferns than anywhere else on the planet.  Here, now safely above the Burning Cliff, this area has a similar ambience.

Finally up onto moorland then close to the edge of some truly scary cliffs.  This was “Vertigo City” for me and I was filled with that priomordial fear that at any moment I might flip, run and throw myself headlong into space.  Concerned only as to who would look after the dogs, I restrained myself and we made the summit.  There we sat and communed with nature until that intense moment of peace arrived.  It comes very easily.  You just sit, look around you and wait.  The very moment you forget yourself it arrives.

So Carla and Capone scampered down the hillside with me in close pursuit.  Another thrilling and exciting adventure completed!  I wonder what will happen on our next visit!famous-five1

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Walking The Dog 11

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The lights on Portland are warming up orange in the distance. Everywhere there’s a gunmetal grey murk with a few billowing black threats. It is cold, chilling cold and the wind is biting and penetrating.  This is the very nub of dusk and here we are back on the beach after a break of over a week.

It’s been a tough week, travelling everywhere, bad news about my Dad, a disastrous episode with my car.  Saturday morning in the valley was a welcome relief.  The ground was very very wet but the sun shone strong and as we hit the toughest part of the trek up the mountain a ginger blur up the near-vertical slope, the dogs in pursuit, the healthiest, most muscly fox I’ve ever seen.  And on top, two bobbing, weaving white backsides of deer escaping towards Dorchester.

I’m in the little red Citroen loan car from The Cartshed, generously offered as “you’re welcome to put your dogs in there” and I knew I had an appropriate stick stored in the garden.  Now I’m slipping and sliding down the grass bank to the beach while Capone and Carla tumble, fight and slither through the shingle to the water.

At high tide a three foot windblown chop is breaking 20 yards out but the undertow is ready to pull Capone capwav2right back under the next one.  Once, twice, three times he is wiped out, thumped in the face and chest with icy white water.  He ploughs on like a Chieftan tank, shaken but not stirred and reaches the stick at the very crest.

Around he comes, half drowned, half propelled by another wave, he disappears underneath a crashing cauldron of surf and then he’s back, Carla already grabbing the stick from him.  His fierce but playful growl penetrates all of nature’s noise.  They scamper away up the beach carrying the stick together and turn to the most satisfying tussle and chew while I give them a few moments to rest.

Carla is no fool and although I throw her a little twig while Capone is busy she frolicks into the shallowest surf but thinks better of it and turns back.  It’s much more fun to wait for Capone to go in, do the work and intercept him on the way back.

Man Of The Match - Andy Powell

Man Of The Match - Andy Powell

What more perfect end to a day when Wales have almost beaten the South Africans in Cardiff and shown enormous promise, invention and the usual courage.

In these conditions I have to be careful how much I push him because he would try and try, keep going back, ignoring the cold and the shortness of breath and the sucking, churning, remorseless waves.  He tackles the surf like a second row forward and nothing stands in his way.capwav11

He wants nothing more than another chance.  He would die for me in that seething, heaving water.

This connection with my animals, my countryside, my sea, my sky, my wind is my salvation.  When we understand what matters, who matters, whatever happens, then contentment comes a little easier.

Life makes a little more sense.

capwav32

Walking The Dog 4

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Walking The Dog 4

 

Oh joy! Some real weather returns to crown the long bank holiday weekend and end the tedious republic of sunshine.  Capone has to be dragged from the house because although he will plunge into an icy sea in the depths of winter, a little gentle drizzle is enough to deter him from leaving his lap of luxury inside.

 

So the riot act is read.  The beast is told that there is no room for runts in this regiment and with hanging head and screwed up eyes we venture into the rain.  Our normal cut through to the foreshore, where we usually hop over a gently dribbling stream, is transformed into a four foot deep raging torrent so we have to turn and take the long way round.  The lead has to be reapplied twice before he finally takes the hint and then the full glory of Chichester harbour opens up in front of us.

 

The rain doesn’t just come down in sheets. It is like unravelling great bales of sailmaker’s cloth.  The wind takes it and flaunts it and slaps you in the face. Already my trousers are soaking to the knees but now Capone’s tail is up.  There’s a job to be done.  The fat, snotty-nosed kids and their even fatter mothers have gone from the beach.  The inflatable kayaks are back in the garage and high water beckons for the boards with their storm sails and the bold knights of the sea who will skim the waves and charge the surf.  This is the glory of battle with the elements.  Courage and determination and persistence and rain and wind, even if, alas, no sleet and snow.

 

Summer has some advantages for only in full leaf can the trees deposit an extra six or seven gallons with each gust.  The gulls soar. The rooks rise and fall and the odd saturated pigeon flutters from the branches.

 

There is not another soul to be seen until out of the woods comes a solitary figure in wellies and a barbour but still in his summer shorts.  Behind him plods his aging, morose labrador not yet encouraged to arms, still believing in the misinformation that it is calm and sun and quiet that leads to happiness.

 

Across the fields the barley shoots that have been reaching for the sun droop and sag under the weight of water but you can almost hear their roots sucking the moisture, preparing themselves with the energy to burst upwards once again when the skies clear.  Nature has its own intelligence, far cleverer than the sophistication of man, far smarter than our short term, pleasure seeking easy lives.  The true hedonism is in contrast and struggle.  Only in the darkest hour is the brightest light.  The arid desert is drenched in life-giving rain and inspiration comes when the gloom closes in tightest and grips hardest.


 

The beast understands nothing of this but he knows it all.  At last, puddles are no longer avoided but splashed through.  The spring returns to his step and the tail is held high and proud and wags uncontrollably as the sticks are found and thrown and retrieved.

 

Our route is not cut short by the weather.  In fact, it is extended and though we meet one bedraggled runner and chance upon just one more of the regular dog walkers, this is the best walk in a month.  Returning home for a vigorous towelling and a couple of quadruple espressos puts the seal on the bank holiday.  This is how Mondays were meant to be.

 

Peter Reynolds 26-05-08