an easier day, along a coast like a half-eaten sandwich, green and black beetles, the last invasion of, and the final voyage of the
22nd June 2013
miles completed: 717
miles to go: 341
Based on the official mileage tables, 1, today, or even maybe yesterday I pass another milestone.is exactly 704 miles, and two-thirds the total distance is 705 miles, so, depending on exactly where they count as ‘ ‘
I had originally thought of setting off early and walking to and then getting the bus back to . However, I had been warned the night before that to was sufficient for one day, so instead I had a more relaxed morning and long breakfast at the beside the campsite. It is obviously catering slightly more upmarket with wicker chairs and breakfast at £8.75 (tea/coffee extra), as opposed to the the day before at £6.75 (tea/coffee included).
The path south ofis nothing like the – stretch. I think this is partly because it is close to multiple access points and therefore more heavily trodden. Also the fact that it is used more will undoubtedly lead to higher investment; certainly there are places where steps have been cut here that would have been left as a muddy slope on the more remote stretch.
In one place, I note that the path below my feet has been cut flat from solid rock, not unlike the, except using more modern machinery. I recall the small bulldozer I was told about, but here there was obviously some heavy rock cutting also. In another place the cliff had eroded, leaving the path literally clinging to the remaining rock, but it was diverted. A few yards inland, a small section was taken and re-fenced from the farmer’s field. These are a reminder of both the initial cost and ongoing maintenance cost of the as a whole.
In some places, especially around, the cliff is as precipitous as the day before; indeed I was told that has the highest cliffs on the . However, here the path is trodden wider, and where the grass and bracken might have threatened, they have been strimmed back.
I realise that the strimming may well be partly why the path is wider; if the grass is strimmed, walkers may walk on the short-cropped grass, wearing the path more evenly. Of course, on the– section, maintenance would involve at least a three-mile journey with a strimmer, and the more inaccessible parts may well breach health and safety rules.
I wonder about letting a herd of feral goats loose on the cliff side of the field fences to keep the grass cropped, as it was in the pony section, but then imagine meeting a feral goat on one of the narrow path sections … well, may not be my best idea.
A green iridescent beetle basks on a stone, and a bit further on a large black beetle trundles across the dusty path. Its deep black shows up clearly against the fawn earth and I realise that it is in danger crossing this open ground, just like a soldier in crossing a sniper’s kill zone.
In some ways the thick carapaced beetle is more like a tank, so maybe in the open it is more like thecolumn, withdrawing from in line with , then massacred from the skies, tanks torn apart like sardine cans in a rubbish tip. This brings to mind also the retreating column of soldiers, fleeing during the , tens of thousands shot in the back as they ran. It is no new thing to slaughter a defeated army; a dead enemy cannot fight again. It is the same perverted logic as . Maybe the solution was more humane, simply cut off the bow finger.
I am not regularly hearing or reading news while walking, but when I do, the events inform a backdrop. The earlier war in has exacerbated things there so much: first, for a crucial year, taking attention away from a real crushing of dissent; second, telling dictatorial powers that there is no room for compromise or diplomacy, and so giving hard-liners the upper hand; and finally, by twisting a resolution for humanitarian protection into a pretext for regime change, making future humanitarian resolutions far more difficult.
(valley of the church) nestles on the protected east side of . Of the church, there is but one end wall remaining, its empty doorway looking out to sea amongst the graves. This sounds vaguely , but in fact, on a sunny day, is more picturesque, and I take quite a few photographs. A man comes into the churchyard and approaches.
"Do you want me to take one with you in?", he asks, "thought you might."
This is their first time at. They sail and have spotted it from the sea and wanted to take a closer look. We talk about the coast. I realised yesterday that the coast there was only visible when walking or from the sea, no quick bus trip to a viewpoint.
As I mentioned, I was told thatis the highest point of the , and from the map the at the peak is at ( ). The views there are spectacular, thirty miles of coast open out in either direction.
The far side ofis , where there is a beach, a car park and a small restaurant, and I was told was a good place to stop for a beer. Behind is a shallow-bottomed valley-like area with steep slopes towards land on the south and towards on the north. However, this is no simple stream making its escape: rather than rising up to the hills, at the other end of the ‘valley’ is . Indeed whilst is attached to the mainland, the connecting land is barely above sea level. So maybe it once was an island and then the channel between it and the mainland gradually filled with the remains of crumbling cliffs or choked with tide-driven sand until it is the land we see today.
Fromthe coastline towards looked like a discarded half-eaten sandwich, each cove a tooth mark. However, up close it is the rocks that are the teeth. The vertical strata are cut and cross-cut by fissures and fault lines, so that battered by wave and rain, they shard and stand from the sea like filed incisors or a scene from , dragon teeth gnashing rabid, but ineffectual, against wave and air.
It is less well trodden than the stretch betweenand or around , and not without precipitous cliffs, but still nothing like the – stretch.
The landscape is lovely, but I find it a little monotonous, into one cove, round it, round the next little headland, into the next cove. Each one is lovely, and yet I found myself counting down the miles.
On the final headland before turning in towards, a small gun battery sits on a rocky outcrop where four cannons point to sea. I don’t know when these were installed, but they certainly act as a reminder that was the site of the .
It is one of those things I feel I should have learnt about in school, especially in, but is largely forgotten. I first learnt the story when my own children were little and we were touring in the , probably the same year we first visited . had heard about a tapestry at , produced on the , and we went to see it.
Ina force of 1,400 soldiers were landed on the coast near . Their intention was to initially take itself and then move on to . In times past the and the had taken common cause against the , so it may be that the hoped that they might find sympathisers when they landed, but this was not the case, and widespread looting did not help.
In the end the somewhat shambolic, many drunk on wine looted from farms (it was evidently still difficult to get good food and wine in in those days as well as today), surrendered to a force of local militia a fraction of their size.
Amongst many small skirmishes with locals, a group ofled by , a cobbler, and armed only with pitchforks had already captured a dozen . They set out again looking for more, dressed in the traditional dress of a tall black hat and red dress that you still see in picture postcards.
The story is that themistook them for approaching red coats, hence contributing to the surrender. However, I think it more likely that they were recognised for what they were and the laid down their arms in fear. No man, whether , , or for that matter, can stand up to a when her anger is raised.
This lesson was not forgotten during the, one of the earliest examples of grassroots social unrest in (well, excepted). In order to attack the hated , the men dressed as women, it is said to protect their identities, but I think because they were more frightening that way.
The tolls were charged on lime, the essential fertiliser on the acid soils of, and on cattle being driven to market, a double whammy. They underline that, whether in in the distant past, or more recently in the or , it tends to be economic, not ideological, reasons that bring people to the streets in popular uprisings. These can be uprisings towards greater freedom and democracy, or towards more authoritarian and repressive regimes that promise certainty in times of trouble. The latter is especially important to remember as some of the historically most volatile parts of are mired in the deepest economic recession since the war.
Thegoes through the little village of , once a bustling herring port, then skirts to the headland on which is built; I only see later from the bus. I had decided to go on to , the port a mile or so on from , but if I had decided otherwise, I would have been stuck, as it is not clear when and where to branch off the path to get to the bus stops. Looking at the , I think it’s probably best to follow the main road up the hill out of , but, as elsewhere along the path, the signage offers no help.
is a large port from which ferries go to the , but in its heyday, in the early years of the , it was a main port for transatlantic ferries, the and forming a regular service to the . However, after the shifted its main operations to , leaving only the run. The last transatlantic sailing to leave from was the ill-fated a few months before it was sunk by torpedoes.
And so, back on the bus tofor the night; I am the only person on the bus and the bus driver tells me things have been very quiet. I ask him if things get busier once the school holidays start.
"They used to," he said, "but not in the last couple of years, people can’t afford holidays."
Once in, I carry a takeaway from the back down the hill to the campsite, and get an early night.
- Strictly, the path actually misses back] itself, but goes through , but the two run into one another.[