Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Sailor's Way

 Elizabeth A, I can't tell you how it gladdened my heart to read your comment.  Thank you.  I began this blog because I have enjoyed the blogs of others over the year - notably that of Jean Miles  -  Jean's Knitting.  However, I also find it therapeutic to count a few of our blessings from time to time, and to share them in the form of the images.  "Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery..." as Jane Austen wrote...

For stay at homes like us, a sudden flurry of activity.  Some time ago we booked the RSPB concert at Snape, remembering the very civilised evening we had enjoyed last year at the same event.  It followed that we would rent a cottage in Aldeburgh for a few days and do some bird-watching on the Suffolk Coast.  Our chosen cottage was even closer to the sea than last time - lovely to be able to wander out in the early morning and walk along the shingle beach. 

Recently someone published a "bucket-list" which had "Eat fish and chips on Aldeburgh beach" very near the top.  On a drizzly evening, we preferred to eat in their cafe.   It is refreshing to be able to pass on the chips and order a side salad instead.

The next day we organised ourselves to take the bus to Snape Maltings.  From there, a path has been established - the Sailor's Way - back to Aldeburgh, across reed-beds and through woodland.  It was not great weather, but we enjoyed the variety of the terrain.  In the woodland we crossed paths with a hearty lone female walker.  She was on a training walk, she told us, preparing to walk the cliff-path from Minehead to Barnstaple, as her great-aunt had done in the nineteenth century.  To be authentic, she proposed wearing full Victorian kit - long skirt and petticoats.  We were amazed.  She told us that she was in her late seventies but we still spent some time working out how the dates stacked up.

As we approached Aldeburgh, it became clear that the last two miles of the walk were through housing.  We took the detour to the left across the golf-course, leading us in front of the house where Britten and Peter Pears lived.  On the gate, notices in many languages about "Chiens Mechants."  Considering that there was no particular fence around the garden at this point, we did not loiter. 
We turned towards the town, up the path from Thorpeness, walking into a stiff wind and rain.  We were glad to see the little cottage again.

It is some time since I bought an object, largely because we have more than enough already.  However, I couldn't resist this one.  It bears no marks and is probably amateur work, but it does have the look of  Arts and Crafts metalwork produced in Keswick, at the School of Industrial Arts. 

Several hours of serious polishing later and it emerges like this.  It will sit comfortably on our Arts and Crafts dresser which bears no marks but has the look of Liberty's about it.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Solway News

I think I may have said before that one of my all-time favourite novels is E. Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News".  It is set far out on the coast of Newfoundland, where  Quoyle, the main character, is sent to report on ships using the local harbour. The climate is very harsh, to the extent that the family home is swept away during a storm, even though it was lashed down with steel hawsers.  (Yes, I realise it is symbolic)  The writer does a great job of making the location seem impossibly claustrophobic but also irresistible.  If it actually existed, one would like to  visit.

I'd never made the connection between that book and the Solway Coast until this last visit, when poor weather prompted us to do some more exploring.  On our first evening, we drove up the coast to eat a  picnic supper while watching the sun set.  We have always used a pull-off near the Crosscanonby mile-fortlet.   This time, however, there were bollards across the entrance, and why?

Because it was simply not there.  The whole parking place - grassy bank, tarmaced road and all - had been washed away.  All along the coast, great bites had been taken out of the dunes, displacing the gabions meant to protect the coastline.

Piles of debris had been deposited, including this large stanchion, encrusted with barnacles and much repaired, which must have been ripped from some quayside and washed up here.

We chanced to pick up a copy of the local free newspaper, "The Solway Buzz."  The content is no different to that of similar papers distributed here in Essex, except for the Shipping News.  The paper includes a report on all the ships coming into Silloth harbour, their cargoes and their onward destinations, usually "in Ballast".  They will arrive carrying grain or molasses or fertiliser and move on empty to another UK port. So much busy trade, virtually invisible to us all.

In the book, the community make their own entertainment.  Here, we went to a concert in one of the tiny villages, attended by fewer than forty people.  Arts Out West were sponsoring a tour by two Scottish lasses, one on the accordion and Highland pipes and the other on guitar and banjo.  They had a lively style and we enjoyed the performance.  Their tour dates were a catalogue of little community halls all along the coast.

This fine church is at the next tiny settlement inland: Holm St Cuthbert.

We were hoping to make use of the wonderful new cycle path from Maryport to Allonby, but, although it faired up considerably, there was a relentless stiff breeze which has caught us out before, when we tried to cycle back down the coast.  However, we did manage some fine evenings: