Well… Today was supposed to be a walking day but it was not to be. Darkness has got the better of me; the day’s brightness faded while I busied myself with trivial day-to-day living! So, if one can’t get out and do what one loves then the next best thing is perhaps to write about it!
Recently, Storm Frank hit the Dawlish shoreline and created dramatic scenes as the waves literally crashed against my front room window… If you missed the short video, or indeed enjoyed watching/hearing me get soaked, feel free to watch my mini-video of wild waves on the doorstep, in the short clip below…
But that is not the topic of today’s blog. Today, although defeated by darkness I can look forward to the evenings drawing out again. Yes, we’ve flown past the shortest day and therefore, perhaps, it is time to think about the possibilities of good weather and long walks ahead in the Spring?! (Despite snow being forecast this week!)
So, here is a map of my locality and a walk that I take fairly regularly along the seawall, across the dunes of Dawlish Warren and down to the Exe estuary. I live just along from Dawlish train station (marked in red at the bottom on the map) so my walk takes me north east to the estuary and back along home again. All told it’s usually around 10km although it is possible to extend or shorten it depending upon time and tides… which really do “wait for no man”, so at times I have to break into a near-run to beat the rising water!
For those interested to know whereabouts Dawlish is in the UK, I have marked it in red on the partial UK map below (beneath Exeter).
I’m often asked whether I vary my routes whilst out and about. Indeed I do from time to time, but it has to be said that while I choose to retrace my own footsteps time and time again, the scenery is refreshed each time I walk along the sandy dunes and beaches around the South West of England. The weather, tides, time of year and breeding seasons (careful!!) all have a part to play in making each walk unique in its own way.
So, what about the occasional rambler? Is there owt for them to see and do…
This year we have seen, swept up on our shores, shoals of sea creatures that one wouldn’t expect to see outside films such as ‘Alien’! The Barrel Jellyfish (as seen below), unlike many other species of jellyfish, apparently do not simply roll with the currents yet motor along under their own steam (so to speak!). So, why oh why did I come across dozens of these on the shoreline? Tragic… what happened to them, I wonder? Methinks that will remain one of life’s little mysteries. Incidentally, the specimen below measured 2-3 feet in diameter…
Over and above the beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants is of course the land geology. Now, I am no geologist but am a great fan of pirates and smuggling movies! As such the cliffs and shores of Devon and Cornwall can send one’s imagination racing with ideas of how things were back in the days when the smugglers and pirates roamed the shoreline, looking for such inlets where they could attempt to land their booty away from the watchful eyes of the law. It was only the other day, whilst venturing around ‘Red Rock’, that I came across a small and well-hidden natural rock archway, bricked across between its high walls. Just the sort of place one could moor a boat hidden away from beach walkers! While the wall appeared fairly modern there appeared to be mooring chains and steps to the water on the other side of the wall… Old pirates! Perhaps even modern-day pirates… “I swear I was never there, I saw nothing!” Lol.
Of course there are the shells from the oyster beds; whelks, mussels, cockles, sea slugs and the like, and the birds that all of these attract… a veritable banquet indeed for the visible and winged predator. I have researched the likely origins of shells picked (by my own fair hands) from Dawlish beach to find they may have originated from as far away as Africa! Shells such as the one below, an example of the beauty held within the land on which we (more or less thoughtlessly) tread.
But what really excited me several weeks ago – as I wandered the Dawlish sealine, lost in thought, my eyes scanning the colour and texture of the beach – was a glimmer of something quite unusual embedded on a small rock. Now, a little way down from here is an area called the Jurassic Coast: 95 miles of truly stunning coastline running from East Devon to Dorset, its rocks holding an internal record of 185 million years of the Earth’s history. As a child I would be taken there on occasion, with the promise of finding a bit of ‘earth history’ in the form of a fossil. Perhaps the reason for never finding one was the fact I was more interested in ice-cream than history back then! So, imagine my delight and surprise in 2015 when, without even searching and whilst miles from the area, I found one at last! The picture below shows ‘the’ fossil found on Dawlish’s very own beach, (possibly an octopus pad?), of part of an animal that would have lived in the time of the dinosaurs! How cool is that…?
And here, at just about the furthest point of today’s ‘virtual’ walk, I will sign off for this time. It’s the mouth of the Exe Estuary, opposite the Dawlish Golf Club, looking across the water to Exmouth. I have always felt that half way around is a great place to stop, find a large piece of driftwood to sit on, and smoke my pipe whilst thinking of… absolutely nothing! *Bliss*.
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…