Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a little night music

I have always enjoyed going for walks at night. For some people this might seem a bit strange and it is true that you do not meet a lot of people walking at night but I recently discovered that Coleridge and Wordsworth and their friends would often go for long walks at night, so it seems that this has been happening for quite some time and I am in good company after all.

One of the things that I like about walking at night is the lack of people and traffic, so it is nice and peaceful and it seems that you have most places to yourself. People have asked me whether I am worried that I might meet somebody frightening out walking at night but I point out that I am usually the scariest looking person out and about then, so I don't really have anything much to fear though I can fully understand why women might not feel safe out walking at night.

I had a small insight into this when I threw my back out one time and I had to go out. I realised that if anyone wanted to have a pop at me there was nothing that I could do to defend myself and I thought that this is a sense of vulnerability that women or elderly people might feel all the time, not a pleasant experience. Many years ago I was mugged at knifepoint by three men and since then I have been much more aware of what goes on around me, behind me and so on.

I like to try and take photos at night and although I have been doing this on and off for quite a while I am still learning here so it is always an experiment for me. Here is a small selection of some of my night photographs which I hope you will enjoy.

I had a lot of fun one night trying to photograph an electrical storm. Standing under slight cover for about three hours I managed to get one photograph that actually had some lightning in it (above) a meagre reward photographically but an interesting evening for me all the same. Unfortunately there are not very many of these storms around here which is a shame for me as I find them excellent entertainment and also an interesting photographic subject.

There is also a dusk photo, dusk being one of my favourite times to be out walking and lastly a descending sun picture that I took a while ago which I think is rather pretty, so that goes in here too, seeing as it's the end of the year and just past the solstice. Good luck to you all for next year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Passed Over and Pissed On

A nice Sunday walk in October above Dunscombe to pick sloes on the cliff hedgerows. My two friends manage to pick three pounds of sloes in about an hour as I arse about taking photos. As sloes are not particularly pleasant to eat these have been earmarked for the production of Sloe Gin by a local chef. Haws were eaten in Neolithic times and according to fairy lore sloes should be picked until the eve of November, after which they become the property of the fairys who have passed over them. Blackberries are said locally to be pissed on by the devil at about the same time.

The berries shown on the trees in the later photos are on the Hawthorn trees and are known unsurprisingly as Haws. They are edible and used to make jellies, syrups, sauces and liqueurs, in the same method as Sloe Gin and a wine can also be made as well as adding them to brandy. Drinking is quite big at this time of year.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

And Onwards Into The Woods

Once upon the path between Axmouth and Lyme Regis there are only two choices, unless I've missed the others, and that is forwards or backwards. Unlike most walks there are no other alternative paths or routes out and in many places it is impossible to even step off the path. It is difficult to even find a spot to sit and rest for a bit unless you sit on the path.

The walking here is dense and difficult with plenty of opportunity to slip or twist an ankle and in some parts it would be very dangerous indeed to come off the path as you can disappear completely down a dark fissure in the rocks which have unknown depth.

In many places you can only see a short distance in front before the path turns again to twist downwards or round or over rocks and under overhanging trees. One of effects of this is to lead the walker onwards and deeper into the woods, as you always want to see whats round that next corner so you forget the time and the amount of time that it will take to get yourself back out again. All too soon the sun is lowering and the shadows are lengthening and the noon has quickly become late afternoon. This is not a place that you want to find yourself trying to get out of at night.

On a sunny day the flickering of the sunlight through the trees has a hypnotic effect which adds to the sense of disorientation similar to the one you get when driving through a road lined with trees with a low sun, a trancelike state is induced like the one that you get walking the green lanes.

The path is very narrow in places and weaves its way tacked lightly onto the side of the hill. The sense of green becomes overpowering and the mind attempts and fails to make sense of what it is looking at. Is that shape an overgrown tree or an overgrown rock? It is not always possible to tell and it is soon gone only to be quickly replaced by another visual conundrum. Occasional vistas open up and the sea can be glimpsed briefly here and there. Along the cliffs falcons can be seen, one of which is the dark speck in the photo of the blue sky above the Bindon landslip cliffs.

A difficult but excellent walk which should not be hurried, take your time and be careful of where you place your feet, it is a beautiful and rewarding place unlike anywhere else that I know of.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seaton to Lyme Regis and the Bindon Landslip

Howling gales and torrential rain here at the moment but on a sunny day in October I went to Seaton to walk into the middle of the woods between Axmouth and Lyme Regis. I usually miss out the photographs of the early part of the walk, but for a bit of a change I have put up some of these and I will be back soon to put up the photos of the woods proper and talk about the walk a bit more. In the meantime here is a little bit of the historical record of the event which began on a stark and dormy night just before Christmas in 1839...

The History of the study of Landforms Or the development of Geomorphology edited by T. P. Burt, R. J. Chorley, D. Bunsden and others.

One of the earliest examples was presented by William Cronybeare (1840) the vicar of Axminster and William Buckland, professor of geology at Oxford, reporting changes produced on the coast of east devon between Axmouth and Lyme Regis by the subsidence of a chasm 200 m wide, 30 m deep and 1.5 km long as a piece of land, known as Goat Island, moved seaward. Of its time, the Bindon event is the most widely documented mass movement in the British Isles. The fortuitous presence in the area of two of the leading catastrophist geologists of the day, Cronybeare and Buckland, meant that Bindon is the first landslide event ever recorded with a full scientific memoir of the Geological Survey.

From Cronybeare

A week or two before Christmas and on the 23rd of December, one of the cottages in the undercliff below began to show signs of subsidence, though not sufficient to create alarm.
At about 4.00 a.m. there came a 'wonderful crack' followed by movements in absolute silence and without vibration. The occupier of the house was only able to open the door with considerable difficulty and wagons brought to remove the household effects only just returned on the path. The journey was described as 'perilous'. Two coastgaurds saw the ground cracking and heard a sound like 'the rending of cloth'. There was a 'heaving and disturbance of the beach, the sea being violently agitated while a dark ridge rose in the water'. There was a 'deafening crashing of falling rocks', 'flashes of fire' and 'a strong smell of sulphur'. So much alarm was generated by the reports that many people were discouraged from visiting the slip. Those who did venture out were 'breathless and bewildered at the sight' and one person was 'led back to a sick bed at Honiton' from which ' he with difficulty recovered'.

From Wanderings in Devon by W. H. Hamilton Rogers MDCCCLXIX

The exact period of the descent, was on the night succeeding Christmas Day, 1839, and it continued gradually sinking or subsiding during the whole of the next day. There was no noise of any kind except from portions of the detached soil falling down. An eye witness who was present on the morning following the descent, and while the mass was still settling, describes the scene as being of a very awful description; to see the vast and apparently bottomless cracks extending, and the mass of land moving, while as if to shroud this vast convulsion in still further mystery, there was a dense fog setting in from the sea, enveloping everything.

About forty five acres of fields growing wheat and turnips were dislodged when a great chasm was formed more than 300 feet (91 m) across, 160 feet (49 m) deep and three quarters of a mile long. The crops remained intact on the top of what became known as "Goat Island" among the newly formed gullies. On February 3 1840, 5 weeks later, there was a second landslip nearby but much smaller than the former. This strange phenomenon attracted many visitors, and the canny farmers charged sixpence for entrance and held a grand reaping party when the wheat ripened.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Woods at Broadhembury

A day spent putting succulents to bed for the winter and then the following afternoon I finally find my way into Jeremy's woods, which turns out to be a lovely little wildwood. Long wellington boots are essential in here due to the large amount of water which underlies pretty much everything. Even with these on the wood still needs negotiating with care, so as not to end up getting very wet.

This is a small, friendly seeming wood, tucked away up many lanes near Broadhembury. I get the sensation that people do not enter into these woods very often. I leave huge galumphing footprints in the deep moss behind me which I hope will spring back after I leave. It is almost like walking on a floating green river of plants and moss. Nothing is certain here; what appears to be solid ground quite often isn't. Trees cannot be relied upon to bear weight if you lean against them. Apparently solid branches are actually soft and can just collapse with the slightest touch. Trees fall over and then they regrow themselves from the disintegrating horizontal trunks.