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Symbolic Forest

A homage to loading screens.

Blog : Posts tagged with ‘river’

On Cleethorpes Beach (part one)

Or, some walks in the early morning

Since changing jobs, I’ve been going for early morning walks most workdays. For about an hour or so, I’ve been walking up to the woods overlooking the village, or following the riverbank and canalbank, or walking across the fields to the next village and back. It’s a really good way to start the day. When I go to visit The Mother, though: well, there aren’t really any interesting places to walk and back in an hour. There aren’t actually very many public footpaths outside the village itself; there’s no river, and the woods are too far away. I was at a bit of a loss.

“Why don’t you drive down to the beach and go for a walk there?” suggested one of the regular correspondants. It made complete sense. The beach is only 15 minutes drive away from The Mother’s house; I could easily stretch my morning walk to be 90 minutes without really having to rush. So, since starting the new job, when I’ve been at The Mother’s every morning I have gone down to the beach for a walk on the sand.

The beach just after dawn

Cleethorpes Prom is your fairly standard seaside prom: pier, arcades, amusement rides and chip shops. All the signs of seaside civilisation, with the sand raked daily and the high concrete wall of the prom separating town and sea. If you head a couple of miles south, though, down past the leisure centre and the miniature railway to where the holiday parks start, then things feel much more remote. A broad band of salt marsh separates the dry land from the open water, and you can wander along the tideline or through the marshes feeling completely apart from the world, feeling as if it is some ancient unpopulated coastline. Look the other way, though, and behind the freewheeling seabirds, you can see the lighthouse on the far side of the river mouth, and always ship after ship standing at anchor and waiting for their upstream pilot.

Rippled sand

At low tide, there is a vast expanse of rippled sand and mud, cut across by channels and with endless slight variations in height. When I was a kid, the dangers of the beach were always drummed into me heavily. Never go out too far. Never cross one of the channels. You’ll get cut off. The Mother would tell me lurid stories from her days as a 999 operator, of people finding bodies washed up on the shore after going out at low tide and getting confused by fast-descending fog. “The most dangerous beach in the country,” she’d said, which I’m not sure is the truth. Nevertheless, you have to be careful going down to the low tide line, always sure all the water you see is flowing out, not back behind you. If you do go all the way, you find the remains of shipwrecks, the gaunt ribcages of old wooden ships sticking stumpily out of the sand.

Two shipwrecks

Navigating all the way along the tideline, without heading back to the nearest concrete path, can be tricky. The outflow of one of the local becks cuts across the sand, in a surprisingly deep channel. At low tide it can be crossed with care, if you can find a shallow spot, if you don’t mind getting your feet a little wet and having to jump over the deeper parts. At higher tides, you have no chance, and have to find a way to cut back through the marshes, themselves riddled with deep, steep-sided channels of water with thick mud at the bottom. It’s far too easy to slip over at their edge and end up with a very wet and muddy arse. I hate to think what the marshes are like to navigate at the very highest tides: I suspect I’d have to sit on the thin line of dunes at the seaward edge of the marsh and wait the tide out a few hours. It wouldn’t be much of a hardship.

The beck at low tide

I could keep on here posting photos of the wilder parts of the beach, much as I could sit for hours on the dunes listening to the waves breaking. I’m going to pause this post here, though, before coming back again soon with more pictures and more to say. Think of it as the tide going out and returning again.

Paddleboarders

The colour of water

Or, the mountains and the lowlands

When I was younger, when most of the books I had were ones The Mother had bought from the local library’s “Withdrawn Stock” pile, one book she bought me was a 1960s beginners guide to going camping. I probably still have it, somewhere, although I’m not sure exactly where. It didn’t assume you would be going purely for the sort of camping we did, where you stayed on nice regular smooth green pitches, oh no. It covered the whole gamut from that sort of camping to wild camping, cycle touring, canoe camping, mountaineering, any sort of camping you might imagine. From it, I learned tips I’ve never come near to trying in real life, such as how to light a petrol stove,* or how to cook meat by strapping it to your car’s engine. I learned that in Scotland, you may have to sign the Poisons Register at your local chemists in order to buy meths, and that if you’re worried about camping near wild animals you can buy a tent to pitch on top of your car’s roof. One factoid from this book has stuck in my mind ever since, because of its gnomic inscrutability.

Do not drink Alpine river water—it contains powdered granite.

What effect does powdered granite have on the body? Why is it so dangerous? As there was no explanation at all, I have been left wondering ever since. As a child, I even wondered if maybe it would somehow turn you into stone, your skin going grey and hardening as the powdered granite flooded your arteries. I’ve still never been to the Alps—although I have camped along parts of the Rhine, which I suppose is still Alpine river water in a certain sense even when you’re a long long way downstream—but if I do, I’m sure subconsciously I’ll be treating the river water as if the slightest amount ingested could be fatal.

I’ve been thinking about that when going out for walks around the local area. When I lived in Bristol the local river was generally quite murky, full of silt and algae. The slightest rain and it would be a turbid brown colour. The river here is crystal-clear, and if you can’t see the bottom it’s a deep sea-green.

River

It always flows dangerously fast. If it rains, it rises, and going by the rubbish in the trees it can easily rise ten feet above its regular level. As soon as the rain stops, it only takes a day or two to start falling and for the water to clear again. Within a week there are gravelly banks and shallows, although with the strong currents always there a few feet away.

River

Is this water clear because it’s falling off the South Wales mountains, down from the fringes of the Brecon Beacons southwards, rather than soaking through the Gloucestershire soil? Or it it irredeemably toxic? I wouldn’t have thought so, and I’m sure the water is a lot cleaner than it was one or two hundred years ago. Moreover, is this what Alpine river water looks like? As I walk along the riverbank can I fantasise that I am walking along some Swiss mountain stream packed to the gills with powdered granite that will strike me down at the slightest sip? It’s rather unlikely (and the geology here is probably very different), but it’s a nice thought. It is, at least, another reminder that I’ve moved from the lowlands and I’m now in the mountains, if only in their foothills.

Over the weir

Update, 15th June 2021: I’ve found the guide to camping I was talking about, and written about the exact quote.

Photo post of the week

More bits of countryside

The ongoing February, which feels as if it is the longest month of the past 12, is sapping my writing energy. Hopefully the oncoming spring will sort that out: today I saw my first queen bumblebee of the year flying purposefully around the neighbourhood looking for a spot to start her nest. This post is something of an appendix to the previous, with a few more photos. I’ve been repeating previous walks, but this time with the good camera.

Countryside

Countryside

Railway

I’ve been repeating previous walks, but this time with the good camera, which is why regular readers might spot some similarities. At some point I will tell you much, much more about the history of this particular railway, but not today.

Railway

It was built in the 1820s, as a plateway; I suspect that low wall on the right was put there in the 1890s when it was widened from single to double track.

Church

River

Hopefully as the weather warms and the seasons change, my writing energy will come back too.

Photo post of the week

Or, a change of scenery

Regular readers might have noticed that the site has been quiet since the weekend. It’s been quiet because I’ve been somewhat busy moving house: one of the most stressful things you can do in life, or so everyone always says. The previous post was written whilst I was surrounded by removal men trying to pack everything up into well-padded boxes. A strange experience, sitting in a corner of your front room trying to keep yourself occupied as all around you all your stuff is picked up and handled and wrapped and boxed away.

So now, the move is complete, the furniture is rearranged and at least some of the stuff is unpacked again. Everything is still a little bit topsy-turvy, though. Unpacking, I found books I thought I’d got rid of years ago; it turns out they were lurking in the cupboard under the stairs all along.

The full story of the move will have to wait until another day, partly because I have little energy at the moment for writing it down. Today, though, I did have enough energy to go for a wander in the new neighbourhood. It was pouring with rain, and after taking a few photos my phone screen became so wet it didn’t really respond to touches any more; but here are a few.

View from a hilltop

View from a hilltop

Level-ish crossing

Fast river

“1000 Tide”

In which we are briefly puzzled by some art

A few weeks ago, exploring the local area, we started walking up the Ashton-Pill path. It runs along the side of the railway up the south bank of the Avon, along the Avon Gorge and under the famous Suspension Bridge, downriver towards Pill.* We walked along it until we got bored and turned around.** En-route, though, we saw something slightly unusual. A big pile of plastic bottles, on the shore, below the path but above the tide line, corralled together.

Presumably, we thought, some sort of anti-littering campaign, fishing non-degradable bottles out of the river or out of the undergrowth. But then, the other day, we were up on the Downs on the far bank, and noticed the bottles—or, what we assume is those bottles—again. They’ve been arranged into words.

1000 Tide

We have no idea, though, what it is. An art project? An advertising slogan? An anti-littering project as we originally thought? The internet doesn’t seem to be helping – the only relevant search hit at the moment is, er, that photo. We’re puzzled.

UPDATE:, November 14th 2008: Thank you to a correspondant called Liz – who was also puzzled by it – for letting me know what it is. It is, indeed, an anti-littering art project; there are apparently 1000 plastic bottles washed up on every tide,*** hence the text. It does, though, change regularly, and eventually the artist, whose name is Pete Dolby, is going to make them all into a raft. So now we know.

* as you might expect, given its name

** after all, walking down towards Pill and back another way would have been a very long walk; and any other circular routes would have involved a stiff climb through the woods.

*** in the Avon Gorge, that is. I’m not sure what the number per mile of coastline is.

Water in pictures

In which we stand by the riverside

“Water” was the title of a photography series I did back at school, back when I was 17 and in the darkroom, wearing torn, fixer-stained jeans,* and getting my Art GCSE. I spent the February bank holiday travelling round the Pennines with the parents, taking photos of waterfalls; then augmented it with studio shots of dripping water against a dark background.

So, the other weekend, when the rain had been heavy and the rivers were expected to flood, I went into town with my camera to see just how high it was, and how it poured over the falls below the castle. I was slightly disappointed, in that there was no flooding at all; but we stood by the river as young boys threw stones and things in the water and watched the floating things race down over the falls.

Winter sunlight

River Swale

Waterfall

Boys throwing stones

* and with bleached-white patches from A-level chemistry spills, too. The Art GCSE was a sideline whilst doing my A-levels.

The returner (again)

In which we go to the seaside

And, I’m back, myself. From an Easter Weekend away. We went out on an excursion through the Wallasey tunnel,* to the seaside. Photos to come later in the week. H thought about walking out to sea,x to wade across to the Hilbre Islands, but the tide wasn’t quite right, and the water started creeping up to the knee.

Apart from that, we relaxed, unwound, wound up again, that sort of thing. And ate lots of chocolate, jelly and cake, of course, because it’s seasonal. Are there any festivals which aren’t used as an excuse to eat something, even if it’s something not very impressive?

* Fellow Sinister veterans will be pleased to know that I did hum Marx And Engels to myself as we drove.