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The Perimeter

Teignmouth & The Ness, Devon. Teignmouth & The Ness, Devon.

The wind feels cold against the sweat of my back when I take the pack off to reach for the camera. I’m becoming a connoisseur of mud – today it’s redder, stickier and less slippery than previously.

Coast path above Ness Cove, Devon. Coast path above Ness Cove, Devon.

Seascape, Ness Cove, Devon. Seascape, Ness Cove, Devon.

Shelter on Walls Hill, Babbacombe, Devon. Shelter on Walls Hill, Babbacombe, Devon.

Bench, Babbacombe, Devon. Bench, Babbacombe, Devon.

I’m tired today and I groan and curse in relief to find a bench to sit down on. I look up surprised to see the only person I’ve seen for hours just coming around the corner. She must have heard me clearly but we both great each other with polite helloes.

Free Candy, Babbacombe, Devon. Free Candy, Babbacombe, Devon.

Wild Garlic, Babbacombe, Devon. Wild Garlic, Babbacombe, Devon.

Wild garlic scents the path – a few are even in bloom now in January. “Two bags of 10mm aggregate, one bag of 50/50” a contractor standing in a half built driveway…

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The Perimeter

M5 Exe Viaduct I, Devon. M5 Viaduct I, Devon.

The fragility of the frosty reed beds by the Exe contrast with the monumentality of the concrete motorway viaduct. Incredibly the river Exe starts just a few kilometres from the north coast of Somerset in Exmoor but perversely chooses to run south right across the country to get to the sea here.

Exe Reedbeds Nature Reserve, Devon. Exe Reedbeds Nature Reserve, Devon.

M5 Exe Viaduct & Exe Reedbeds Nature Reserve, Devon. M5 Exe Viaduct & Exe Reedbeds Nature Reserve, Devon.

Morning Pylon, Tumbling Hills, Devon. Morning Pylon, Tumbling Hills, Devon.

Exminster Marshes Nature Reserve, Devon. Exminster Marshes Nature Reserve, Devon.

I’m surprised that Powderham Castle and estate is actually lived in today by the Earl of Devon rather than surviving as a conference centre or National Trust enterprise. I can’t decide wether I think this is a good thing or not. I’m sitting below the incongruous burgundy powderham.co.uk sign applying blister plasters to my heels when a woman exclaims ”Oh dear!” in a Scottish accent with a smile as she…

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The Perimeter

Toffee Nosed, Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Toffee Nosed, Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

‘Snow on Dartmoor, Sledges in Shop’ a chalk sign proclaims in Budleigh. There’s no snow here but plenty of mud on the winding path up and down the red cliffs. “It’s like skiing isn’t it!” I say to a fellow slip and slider “It’s like glissading” he corrects me.

Benches, Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Benches, Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

East Devon Golf Club, Budleigh Salterton, Devon. East Devon Golf Club, Budleigh Salterton, Devon.

Scarecrow, West Down Farm, Devon. Scarecrow, West Down Farm, Devon.

Devon Cliffs Holiday Park. Devon Cliffs Holiday Park.

On passing a notice welcoming me to the ‘East Devon Area of Natural Beauty’ a hail of gun fire patters urgently from Straight Point range. This must make a strange sonic accompaniment for the holidaymakers in the vast Holiday Park.

The Floors, Devon. The Floors, Devon.

The Geoneedle at Orcombe Point by Michael Fairfax, Exmouth, Devon. The Geoneedle at Orcombe Point by Michael Fairfax, Exmouth, Devon.

The rock here is the oldest part of the Jurassic Coast, 250 million years before the dinosaurs. This epic journey through time…

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The Perimeter

The Pinnacles, Hooken Cliff, Branscombe, Devon. The Pinnacles, Hooken Cliff, Branscombe, Devon.

Above the pre-dawn landscape of Hooken undercliff the wind whistles over the cliffs forcing me to stagger like a drunk – seems appropriate for a place called Beer Head. Birds glide effortlessly overhead unaffected by the gusts. Peering into the hidden world of the undercliff with its forest canopy punctuated with pinnacles of rock and exotic bird calls I’m momentarily transported to the epic tone of the New Zealand landscape.

Beach hut, Hooken Cliffs, Devon. Beach hut, Hooken Cliffs, Devon.

This is the eastern most chalk on the English coast that I’d first encountered far to the east in Kent. I relish the last view of this iconic milky rock that has been my companion for the previous few months. The path through the undercliff leads to an appealingly maverick collection of beach huts perched on the steep slope.

Weston Ebb, Devon Weston Ebb, Devon

After Branscombe beach the landscape replaces white with…

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The Perimeter

Sunrise at Bar Ledges, Charmouth, Dorset. Sunrise at Bar Ledges, Charmouth, Dorset.

I’d been put up the previous night by Mac Mackenney, a friend from the Royal Geographical Society who’s company Max Adventure, provides logistical support to Everest expeditions, Ranulph Fiennes’ exploits and far flung vehicle based TV shows. Tales of adventure flowed and it was some reluctance that I accepted the need to turn in. The morning is still night as he waves me off at Charmouth from one of his well travelled 4x4s.

River Char at Charmouth beach, Dorset. River Char at Charmouth beach, Dorset.

At the deserted beach in Charmouth waves break in quick succession, threatening and insistent. A red smear above the horizon hints at the dawn about to break, Golden Cap is shrouded in mist.

Golden Cap from Canary Ledges, Dorset. Golden Cap from Canary Ledges, Dorset.

The cliffs here are tiers of landslip and the whole thing looks like it may slide into the sea at any moment. In parts the mud oozes down the…

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The Perimeter

Golden Cap and East Ebb from Burton Bradstock, Dorset. Golden Cap and East Ebb from Burton Bradstock, Dorset.

A full moon guides my departure from Abbotsbury at 5.30am, thatched cottages and the ruined Abbey silhouetted against the bright night sky. The village doesn’t have street lights which adds to the Medieval atmosphere. Last night I’d eaten tripe and mash in the pub, the kind of place where everybody looks over when you walk in before being warmly greeted.

Breakers I, Burton Beach, Dorset. Breakers I, Burton Beach, Dorset.

Burton Beach, Dorset. Burton Beach, Dorset.

I’m reunited with Chesil Beach before hitting a tarmac road which feels like walking on a travelator after crunching along the tiny pebbles for a few kilometres. Imperceptibly the mighty Chesil melts into sand and low cliffs. A big mouthed dog runs over and bites at my trekking pole aggressively.

Alternating strata of Bridport Sands and Inferior Oolite, East Cliff, West Bay, Dorset. Alternating strata of Bridport Sands and Inferior Oolite, East Cliff, West Bay, Dorset.

Burton Cliff from West Bay, Dorset. Burton Cliff from West Bay, Dorset.

Breakers II, Burton Beach, Dorset. Breakers II, Burton Beach, Dorset.

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The Perimeter

Chesil Beach I, Dorset. Chesil Beach I, Dorset.

Power Lines, Wyke Regis, Dorset. Power Lines, Wyke Regis, Dorset.

Chesil Beach II, Fishing Hut, Dorset. Chesil Beach II, Fishing Hut, Dorset.

Pill Box Interior, Fleet, Dorset. Pill Box Interior, Fleet, Dorset.

Chesil Beach III, Dorset. Chesil Beach III, Dorset.

Burnt Gorse, Tidmoor Point, Dorset. Burnt Gorse, Tidmoor Point, Dorset.

Type 25 Pill Box, Chickerell Hive Point, Dorset. Type 25 Pill Box, Chickerell Hive Point, Dorset.

Moonfleet Manor, Dorset Moonfleet Manor, Dorset

Black Bryony berries, Mixen Plantation, Dorset. Black Bryony berries, Mixen Plantation, Dorset.

New Barn Road from Linton Hill, Dorset. New Barn Road from Linton Hill, Dorset.

Reeds, Linton Hill, Dorset. Reeds, Linton Hill, Dorset.

Chesters Hill, Dorset. Chesters Hill, Dorset.

Footpath to Abbotsbury, Dorset. Footpath to Abbotsbury, Dorset.

Ancient field boundaries by Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset. Ancient field boundaries by Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset.

St Catherine’s Chapel from Linton Hill, Abbotsbury, Dorset. St Catherine’s Chapel from Linton Hill, Abbotsbury, Dorset.

Last light, St Catherine’s Chapel, Abbotsbury, Dorset. Last light, St Catherine’s Chapel, Abbotsbury, Dorset.

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The Perimeter

Frigate HMS Monmouth passes Portland Harbour Breakwater, Dorset. Frigate HMS Monmouth passes Portland Harbour Breakwater, Dorset.

Working boats in Weymouth contrast charmingly with the elegant Georgian architecture. Riverboats Organic Farms are delivering veg boxes from their branded van.

Birdwatcher & flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Chisel Beach, Dorset. Birdwatcher & flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Chesil Beach, Dorset.

“You a birder?” asks a local man by the shore
“No” I reply
“We’ve had some owls just down there”
“Supertankers come in here to have their bottoms scanned and fuel changed to meet EU regulations.”
“See that ship over there, the Sir Tristram, it was a landing ship from the Falklands war. It’s a training ship now. Every now and again they come with a chinook and thunder flashes and all sorts – impressive sight”
I thank the man and head on down the disused rail line where an elderly lady hands me a ‘Living Library’ pamphlet with a smile. It takes me a moment to realise that…

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