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:


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog is sheer delight for me! Thank you!
This one reminded me of home: I grew up on the coast of Ipswich Bay (Massachusetts/New Hampshire) where such storms each winter would tear up the coastal roads and sometimes... an especial Nor'easter... would wipe out the gardens/lawns of homes ... After it all died down and the road was opened again, our delight was to 'treasure hunt' on the beach...

It all keeps one in touch with our place. many thanks for your expeditions AND your knitting .. Elizabeth A