The walking this day is easy, albeit not exciting, but after a day of interminable forest, trackless dunes, and penitential shingle, not exciting is good.
Out of you cross back across the suspension bridge that you crossed 130 miles earlier. Parway across a withered bunch of flowers is tied to the railings, a poignant marker; given its location I assume a memorial after a suicide rather than accidental drowning.
The path drops down towards the waterside through the. I loved the labels in the gardens; instead of the normal metal or plastic labels, the specimen trees have a half log of wood in front with the names carved into the cut face.
At thethe path comes up and turns inland to follow a cycle path beside the main – road. While the suspension bridge is , this bridge is . The original ‘tubular’ bridge carried the – railway through two rectangular tunnels; a section of the tunnels is preserved partway up the track as you climb from below the bridge. It is well labelled, but would be easy to miss, as it lies in a rough area that looks like a lorry turning circle, but the lady with the black spaniel the day before had warned me to look out for it. The quality of ‘s engineering was such that the original supports could be adapted so that it now takes not only modern trains, but also a roadway above as a double-decker construction.
For a few miles the path stays close to the A road, passing an interestingcafé on one roundabout, but sadly a little soon after breakfast to stop. After a while it drops along an old railway line following the existing , on the whole clear to follow, but at one point branching with an upper and lower path. The upper well-metalled path is well signposted as a cycle route, but the lower, unsigned, more tree-sheltered one is the footpath route. However, both run close together with steps between halfway to recover if you take the wrong one and both will get you in to at different points.
The lower route comes out at the , where a lovely swing bridge crosses the old docks. Coming to the promenade, small dinghies were meandering in the sunshine and a family of cygnets paddled in a puddle while their parents looked on. I had passed the on the way down, which I assume was half way between and on the old turnpike, but did stop for lunch at the , which, I was later told, used to be the haunt of "just a few heavy drinkers", but is now serving the more prosperous marina folk, but without feeling gentrified. I had the soup of the day, chicken soup.
After cutting round the small industrial area at the west end of, the path follows along a well-made and wheelchair-friendly route along further old railway tracks to . At one point there is a large abandoned house up to the left and towards the shore what at first appears to be a line of small lived-in cottages until I realise that they too have gaps in their slates. Given their location I am amazed that they have not been snapped up by a developer, but perhaps access is difficult.
At around the same point is another abandoned dwelling, but this time a simple railway worker’s shelter, maybe for a pointsman, or simply where maintenance workers would shelter. A solid construction of vertical sleepers that will not decay easily, the smell of creosote still strong after a hundred years. I imagine a group of two or threeworkers huddled around the small fireplace while the rain falls outside.
The path enterspast a new waterside apartment complex, , the ‘ ‘ shopping complex, the and old docks, now a yacht-filled marina. On the dockside a series of ceramic mosaics celebrate the ‘ ‘, each contributed by a different local school, , (in lettering), , and more.
At the end of the docks old anchors and ships’ metalwork are gathered outside a small shed-like building, which, I am told, was once the . Now, from the side door I see the arm of a scarecrow; drawing closer, through the open door I see a giant . At first I take this to be something to do with children’s play, but then a man comes out to work on the scarecrow and he explains that he is a prop maker. His workshop includes a large green-screen area for photographing the props. The scarecrow, its siblings and what appears to be a plastic lamb, which are scattered around the workshop, are part of a popular farm game show.
is famous for the extensive where was invested as in . The title is problematic. It is now given to the heir to the throne, a tradition starting when , after a bloody campaign in , said to the people gathered, "do you want a ", "yes" they answered, thinking of a prince in the line of , but instead said, "I give you a ", and held up his new baby son. So from being a title representing the independence of a nation, it became a symbol of oppression.
Maybe‘s time serving on and warming the hearts of the people may make him a more acceptable when eventually becomes king, and he inherits the title, and maybe, he or his child, will be constitutional prince of a once more independent .
Around the castle is a walled town, although the main shopping area is in the square (which is roughly triangular) in front of the castle gates.
I see the back of a solid building, now decaying slightly with foliage sprouting from its upper brickwork, and a for sale notice. It is the.
The area within the walls is still called ‘‘, although nowadays many of the shops, like the decaying , are shut down. But ahead, on the corner, is a white-painted welcoming shop front, and through the door, in large letters I see:
Are they are talking about walking?
It is a small gallery, and looks empty as I wander in, rich purple fabric ruffling across the wall. I approach the desk where leaflets are spread, intending to take one and depart, in true guerrilla tourist fashion. I start to reach and then, like a scene from , a face pops up, jack-in-the-box-like. is a graphic designer and one of the directors of , the gallery I was in. is not tall and sitting behind the podium desk was completely invisible, as I guess I was, until she stood.
has taken the theme in a different direction, where multiple white threads, inspired by wool-wisps on barbed wire, stretch almost invisibly across the room, stretched tight in semi-geometric curves and lines, the ends scattered carelessly like wind-blown wool on the ground. Slight shadows play across the window light, making fresh lines on the wall.invites me to look around the second room of the gallery, where
The idea of the walk as a thread has been a recurring image, but whereas the lines of path and road are clear and permanent, the lines of the walker are ephemeral and passing like the shadows that play and fade. For a while the foot-trodden grass or sandy footprint lies testament to the steps, yet is soon blown in the wind or washed with the tide, leaving only half-remembered shapes in the mind.
talks of the walk like thread connecting the land, and the manipulated fabric both reminds me of the rugged tectonic-plate crumpled and ice-scoured that rises behind , but also of the way the threads of road and railway change the nature of distance in the land, just as the threads bring fabric closer. Once was an island, now sewn to the land through and ‘s bridges.
Latersays, "I can get to in four and half hours and in two, but it takes me five and half hours to get to , the same as ". The fast and the to shrink distance, crumpling the , yet limited eventually by the physical limitations of land, like fabric, although maybe also the political and economic limitations that say movement to is more important than movement within .
The mountain-fragmented topography of is the reason it took the so long to defeat, and never fully subjugate, the land, but also, together with the naturally fractious character of the , why it was so hard to unite the against the and invaders. The former is still evident today, no longer in terms of swords and horsemen, but in the permeation of and , where the mountain-backed fringes have been where and were preserved. The latter, the fragmentation of the , is still also sadly a problem, with the folk hardly, and often not, restraining their distrust of central administration in .
takes me for a tour of , which is still ‘under construction’, half-painted stairways and boxes of sound insulation foam. It was formed in in the cellar of an estate agent, a space to nurture young artists who often feel isolated and far from the centres of culture. As recession hit, the estate agent needed the space, and so they found the current premises and are in the processes of making a space that includes exhibition space, an incubation area for graphic designers, a music practice, recording and media-editing suite, and a large space for workshops and additional exhibitions.
When we finish the tourintroduces me to , another friend of , and , who is a computer/technology person and, happily, knows and who I am visiting. I say ‘happily’, as my main contact with has been through and I find my phone number for him is wrong. marks on the map, and also gives me directions, which, like all directions in my head, instantly vaporise. After returning to once flummoxed, I eventually find , not helped by (i) my inability to recall directions, (ii) the versions of street names on the map are not the same as the ones used on street signs, and (iii) ‘s office does not say ‘ ‘, but simply ‘6’ (the number in the street) on frosted glass, "we don’t expect passing trade,”" explains.
create map-based tourist trails and other geographic systems, but most critically have created an infrastructure for the creation of these. In other words, this is a start-up with a big idea and real technology " and not based in a silicon cwm near the centres of power in , but in the forgotten corners of the .
divides his time between project management, chasing up potential customers, and smooching with the big-wigs of government in , but still does hands-on prototype tweaking and is clearly the core information architect. His house is largely his own design and his initial training was in urban planning; it is interesting how good design skills seem to be common whether technological or material.
And yet, with all this busyness, he is one of the most friendly and hospitable people I have ever met. We knew each other only throughcontact and when came to find me to chat in , and yet he invited me to stay at his house, fed me (very well, he is a great cook), helped me plan my onward journey, and on the day I left even made me sandwiches to help me on my way.
The day ended at 2am, afterand I had each nursed three glasses of and talked about everything from walking/cycling abrasion injuries to the local government that can afford to subsidise daily flights to , used mainly by political functionaries, but is closing village schools willy-nilly.