Monday, 31 December 2007

Highs and Lows

We've been away for a few days. Last year, we spent a few nights in Watchet on the Somerset coast, where we walked up and down the nearby Blue Anchor Bay picking up pebbles containing fragments of bone, some even recognisable as small vertebrae of a crocodile-like reptile from the late Triassic.

This year we went to Sidmouth in Devon, since the cliffs west of Sidmouth are noted for producing interesting if rare Triassic fossils. Well, some aspects of the trip were very good, but some were very bad.

It went wrong even before we set off. Doing a clever reverse park into a rather small slot on Royston High Street, I smacked the nearside front wing into an invisible cast iron bollard. Great start! Then the traffic was awful going down the A1M and around the M25. As we neared Basingstoke on the M3 the radio informed us that our chosen route, the A303 had severe delays west of Andover, so Jenny had to plot a new route, and the end result was that the 4 hours we'd allowed for the 200 miles turned into 5 hours 30. Super job. Fortunately the hotel was nice, if rather pricey, so, rather worn out by the drive, we collapsed into the restaurant, rather than look for somewhere in town. The food was OK, but the Puilly-Fuissé was very special. Yum!

I've just noticed, checking the appearance after posting this, that the Westcliff Hotel, where we stayed, appears in the Google Ads at the top!

In the morning we could see, while eating breakfast, that the tide was in. We'd completely forgotten to check when we made the booking, which was pretty stupid, given we went there to walk along the foreshore. Oh well. We walked the town in search of Neil's fish restaurant, which had been recommended, with the intention of booking a table for that night. It was closed until 18th Jan. Better and better.

Then a good thing happened. There was a little shop full of African stuff, in which I found a wonderful caftan and had a really pleasant conversation with the proprietress, who I think was probably from Kenya. She said wearing the caftan was fine, since it was Unicef. She used the term several times, clearly meaning unisex!

Then it started to rain. And it got darker and windier, so we retired to the hotel for a bit, stopping on the way to pick up a few pebbles. The hotel manager was kind enough to arrange for me to use a workshop, and I spent a happy couple of hours carving a pebblehead while Jenny read in the lounge.

We emerged about 2.30 in the hope of some low tide, but it was just foul and we quickly gave up. I think you'll understand, looking at this photo, which is from the west end of the foreshore. Naturally, there were surfers surfing!

(I'm never clear how to lay the text and photos out, since on different monitors the layout seems to change, so I hope this looks OK to you!)

Saturday was beautiful, with clear skies and light winds, so we decided to walk west along the cliff top to Ladram Bay. The climb out of Sidmouth was steep and tough going, but eventually we got to the top. Jenny had tried to persuade me to go back and fetch the car, but I was very keen to walk and she did eventually agree it was the right decision.

Naturally, when we got to the exposed bit at the top, it rained and blew. Ladram Bay has been completely ruined by a vast and expanding caravan park. It's a complete eyesore and a real shame. And the tide was in, so there were no rocks to see. Oh yes, and my estimate from the map that it was only a mile or so was wildly wrong. We eventually came to a figure of 2 and a quarter miles.

Apart from the caravan park, there was nothing at Ladram Bay, so we then walked another .75 miles to Otterton where we found a nice pub that served us decent beer and lunch, after which we caught a bus back to Sidmouth. From the bus we saw 3 buzzards, one of which Jenny is pretty sure was a rough-legged buzzard, something of an erratic in Devon.

Back in Sidmouth she waited by the foreshore while I went up to the hotel to pick up my pebblehead. Returning down the hill I saw a tiny black bird. Intrigued, I watched it for perhaps 5 minutes. Black head, dark grey breast fading to silvery grey belly, black bill and legs, probably black back, but hard to tell, russet under the tail, small white wing flash. Back in Royston we identified it as a black redstart, of which I'd not previously heard.

I buried my head in the shingle (yeah, it's supposed to be some kind of a joke) in the hope it won't get found too soon. There's a long strip of shingle up against the cliffs, with sand and rocks on the seaward side, so hard to know where to leave it. Then we walked the foreshore and found nothing, but it was lovely.

In the morning we checked out, only to find some kind soul had thrown a rock at the car in the hotel car park, damaging both driver's side doors. Charming.

I opened the boot to fetch out the camera, and Jenny gashed her head on the catch. Fortunately the 3cm cut didn't bleed too badly and she refused medical aid. The camera batteries were flat, but the kind receptionist lent me 2 from her mouse so I could photograph the damage. The cops gave me a crime reference for me to tell the insurance company, but didn't insist on attending, so we got away OK.

And then there was no traffic to speak of on the way home, and we were home in 4 hours, which was perfect.

So I hope you all have a terrific New Year. Hope you like the pics.

And one final thought. The cops also said I'd be assigned a Victim Support Counsellor. I kid you not.


A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Wow, Rob, that was some trip. I hope you'all recover soon. The photos are really great - the perfect illustrations to your story. Happy New Year to you and Jenny. Margot xx

Rob Clack said...

Thanks Margot, and best wishes to you and yours, too. We seem to have survived the turn of the year relatively unscathed, somehow!

Interestingly, one couple we spent the evening with last night suffered similar car vandalism to ours the other night. Someone picked up a capping stone from a garden wall and hurled it at their car, resulting in a big dent in a door. They too have been assigned a Victim Support Counsellor!

DJ Kirkby said...

Been there, love it! Advance warning tha tyou will be tagged on my post tomorrow. Happy New Year to Jenny and you. xo

dulwichmum said...

I love the image of the waves hitting the path. Isn't nature powerful. I am terrified of the sea - it plays havoc with my hair!

Rob Clack said...

DJK thanks for the warning about the tagging. I've been really busy at work and well tied up in my spare time, so blogging has been somewhat intermittent. I'll take a look now.

DM I love the sea and regret not getting to it more often. Wild and windy is among my favourites! It was a pleasant surprise to find the waves battering that bit of sea defences and putting on a show for us.