Friday, September 25, 2009

braunton burrows

Due to various timetable complications the journey to Braunton Burrows is a phenomenally windy day sandwiched nicely by two calm sunny days, such are the vagaries of the british summer. Braunton Burrows is one the largest systems of dunes in europe and contains many rare and unusual plants, not many of which I can recognise. Over 400 species of plants have been recorded here including Sea Stock, Sand Toadflax and Water Germander. The area is also a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, whatever that is. I became interested in the place again after seeing the dunes in the film 'The Shout' which reminded me what a great place it was and how I hadn't been there in years.

Pathways disappear and the walker is soon plunged into heavy going waist high growth. Climbing the massive dunes one after the other soon turns into a fairly clammy experience for an August afternoon, even with the cooling strong wind. Due to the scale of the place I haven't really got the time to explore the beach side of the dunes and resolve to come back at another date, properly prepared to stay for a longer look.

This area of north devon has a reputation for surfing and has always been a major tourist destination in the summer, so the roads all around the place are an absolute nightmare to negotiate at this time of year. An interesting landscape though and I would like to spend more time here to see it in other lights. For an easier walk I would recommend following the beach side of the dunes around from the car park at the main road, from where you could dip into the dunes wherever you wanted to.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

after the rain

After the rain there is another hot summer day so I can get up Salcombe Hill and walk for a while.

I have a map of the area and noticed that there is an interesting looking footpath that I haven't walked up yet, so locating the road on the other side of Salcombe I walk up what appears to be a small private track that leads to a farm. As I get closer I begin to get the impression that the place is a bit run down as there are abandoned cars scattered around. The farm turns out to be a cabin near a large chicken shed. I am expecting that at any moment a dog will start barking but all is deserted. The lane should turn into a footpath somewhere. I walk around the perimeter of a long electrified fence but cannot find any trace of the footpath; every direction leads to a dead end and I am starting to wonder if the path is obstructed, but eventually I notice what looks like a good footpath on the other side of an electric fence and a hedge. I can't get to the path without damaging the fence and it begins to dawn on me that I have misread the map and I am in fact in completely the wrong place. I scurry myself back out again slightly thankful that it was deserted. A good lousy piece of map reading on my part.

I get around the corner, closer now to the edge of the cliff which has good views back towards Sidmouth and eastwards up the coast towards Beer, (it being the last white cliff in the photo's)This is the quietest place that I have been for a while.
There are no roads within hearing distance, and I can hear nothing mechanical of any sort, in fact I can't really hear anything apart from the sound of the wind blowing through the grass. Farther along there are some birds and then a few sheep, pottering away in the late afternoon, but the silence here is striking.

When I first came to Devon as a child one of the first things that I noticed were the unusual bright red puddles in the red earth. Back home, earth was usually a dark brown colour, or could sometimes be a bright rusty orange clay. The red surprised me and it took a few years to properly appreciate these alarming red puddles.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Way Back

Somewhere along these tracks and pathways I took an inconsequential turning and somehow found myself on the road to Wigan Pier, actually there isn't much mining going on around here but there has been trouble at'mill. Anyway it's lovely out here and there's nothing to do but walk all the way back, which should take about three hours, even if I am having trouble with my tenses. It could be done a lot quicker but I like to meander and sidetrack, plus there is the stopping to take photo's. Although over this side of the hills I can hear the constant noise of the distant airport, it is quiet in other ways. I only meet three people the whole time I am out and the space and air has a nice proper emptiness undisturbed by people.

There are plenty of good gates out here which I like; I have a thing about gates and so collect some more photo's. There is also plenty of insect life out here and the butterflies are particularly out in force on this walk. Since the recent disappearance of the blackbird couple there are no garden birds of any sort with us at the moment which does seem strange, but there are plenty of birds out here. Little paths with lots of corners that don't really go anywhere. I get the impression of many places that are not visited very often.

I have enjoyed finding an odd few houses tucked away down these old dirt tracks, I like the fact that even now such a thing is possible in our uptight and fussy country which prefers its land manicured or covered over with tarmac. I know that I am getting near a proper road as the litter starts to become visible again, always a sign of nearing civilisation.

I have to climb up over the hills and as I do the path vanishes from beneath my feet so I have to make one up, never finding the proper path. Near the top of the hill I get a view of the landscape in the summer heat that I have just walked across. The summer has faded now. These photo's were taken in July but the sun is lower again and the nights longer and colder. Wood supplies must be organised soon. I go up and over the hills and then back down slowly through the woods.