Current Essays

Current sid 259 begin resume beginnxt resumenxt
Walk Awhile On:2005-08-24 05:08:00

I suppose you'll say it's just typical of me, but my favourite walk doesn't exist.

Back in my distant past, when cars were much less common and aggressive and anyway we could hear them coming a mile away, and our parents would, therefore, not need to agonize about letting us travel the countryside on our own all day, Mike and I and sometimes Peter would ride our bikes the few miles down to the North Sea coast at Covehithe; then we would either hide our bikes behind the tiny church that hid in its turn within the ruins of a much bigger and older one; or we would lug, rather than wheel, them along the sandy cliffs and the soft sands of the beach as we walked to Pakefield before riding home (or before remembering that we had to do the whole bloody thing in reverse and much faster to retrieve our bikes before it got dark).
The walk, whether bike encumbered or not, would take several hours.
We would start up on top of the cliff at Covehithe where vast concrete emplacements for WWII guns still stood guard (having never, apparently, been informed of the end of the war) and with them, dark pillboxes, smelling sour and ammoniacal from those before us who had found relief there, that could be climbed onto so we could survey the absolute flat of the sea's horizon or, turning, the almost equally flat of the land and the sharp discontinuity of those sandy cliffs between them. Then, in the walk proper, we would either follow the top of the cliffs until in about half a mile they gradually descended to meet the beach for a while, or we would ignore the, to us obviously foolish, warning signs about how dangerously unstable the cliffs were and how inadvisable what we were about to do was, and scramble down them amid the usually minor avalanches and join the beach right there.
Away from the broken jumble at the foot of the cliffs was a low smooth sandy beach then a sort of shingly hump before the slope down to the sea.
At almost any time of year and in almost any weather we would pass a few (and odd) highly territorial fishermen widely spaced and glowering from their little temporary encampments on the beach and radiating by every natural or supernatural means their hostility and deep desire for everyone to just keep walking, preferably in that straight line that brings the passerby nowhere near them---it's not for nothing that the traditional English valedictory "Cheerio" has moved to the moment of meeting in this part of the world.
About a mile from this start, our walk takes us past a stretch where the hump of shingle cuts off the little, shallow, slightly salty lake of Benacre Broad a place that feels so timeless and so ancient that one hardly even notices the absence of pterodactyls over those prehistoric-looking trees nor misses the head of a diplodocus poking out of the water.
As the walk continues, the land on our left goes up and down, past more or less built up Kessingland and on to Pakefield.
Now if you look at a map of our coast you will see that it is almost a compass smooth curve all the way down to Essex where it becomes all crinkly: the currents and the storms having gradually worn our little bit smooth and eaten it away, a few feet or yards each year, and the cliffs have become the sands of the beach, and the sands of the beach have made their own slow walk down the coast, and anything built along the coast eventually ends up joining the famous bells of the Dunwich churches ringing under the sea.
Now it's thirty-five or forty years since I last made my favourite walk and the coast is now quite a bit closer to my home and the gun emplacements and the pillboxes have broken and crumbled and followed the sand and with each winter storm the church gets closer to following them and the access to the cliffs and beach is now much more formal and half a mile away to the south and no one would dream of leaving their bike with the expectation of finding it when they got back. So although there is still a walk along the shore, it's changed and is isn't my walk, and I can't put my feet where I did and its sights are only generically my sights.
Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

<-- Go Back

Home | Essays | Notes | Gallery | Miscellany | Contact

ÐISCLAIMER - I claim ðis!

All contents including writing, cartooning, music, and photography unless otherwise specified are
copyright © 1965-2023 and Richard Howland-Bolton. All Rights Reserved.
All logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.
Web work* by
*as distinct from Wetwork