The colourscape is changing. The colourscape is changing rapidly, in defiance of the general weather which seems to be changing little. We continue to be stuck with the jet stream in the wrong place and even though winds have shifted to their ‘proper’ prevailing south and southwest, temperatures remain cold and uncomfortable. There was some real hint of summer last week when the sun came out (unusually, over the bank holiday weekend) but we have reverted back to the very low teens or even the tweens with stiff winds bordering on gale force at times. Nature doesn’t seem to care and was in fact delighted with the significant but not overwhelming rain we had early in the week. It’s supposed to be raining now according to the weather forecast, but it’s not.
Went out to Beesands this morning, reasonably early (but not unreasonably, when the sun was in fact out). Ran into our friend J, who had already been swimming at around 6am. N in the end didn’t swim as by the time we’d strolled the beach for a while it was cold and felt like January. So it’s odd to look across the Ley and see summer in the field. The rape has come into full bloom, and the hedgerows are full of blue bells and wild garlic. Wonderful smells waft in from the wild garlic, as though borne on warm air. Even the sea thought it was summer, although there were precious few boats to be seen on the horizon.
The mackerel fishermen were out, sheltering in their winter clothes and windbreak mini-tents. As this is a part of the world where cyclists abound – ever more so, it seems – I’m always struck by the amount of kit involved in hobbies now, as though capitalism dictates that fun cannot be had without spending vast amounts of money, even when the fun is self-generated and ‘free’. So, some of the fishermen were fully kitted up, although some of the stalwarts were there too, in their ancient vans and just good basic kit but without he fripperies.
Against the odds, this little place is still an active fishing port, and it’s quite typical to see eviscerated conger eels hanging out to dry. Crab, it seems, like their bait to appear fresh, even when it’s long dead, and hanging out the eels dries them in the wind without making the flesh smell decomposed. Even though the majority of the small cottages along the sea front are now holiday cottages for rent, there is still a small crew of fishermen who go out for lobster and crab – high value catch that is hard to farm and factory fish.
It’s possible to see the effects of the extraordinary wet winter in the landscape as it begins to ripen the crops planted during that time. Farmers had little choice but to plant, otherwise they would have had no crops at all now. Many livestock farmers are suffering because the cold, dry spring (and the continuing cold in the early summer) means that pastures simply haven’t grown. Cows stayed in the barns much longer than usual because of the cold, so farmers were already completely running out of fodder, and now many of the fields (particularly those already grazed by the sheep who are out all winter) can barely sustain the influx of the cows’ return to the outdoors. In this field of rape you can see how spotty the grows is around the edges – these are field that were flooded or whose topsoil was simply blasted away by the heavy rains earlier in the year in the record-breaking December deluge. Now an exceptionally dry and cold spring hasn’t helped.
Another result of this amazing winter was the collapse of the carpark at Beesands, which I talked about back in mid-March. In these cash-starved times little has happened other than the council putting up florescent storm fencing, much of which is barely holding on. In many ways the extent of the damage has become clearer, and it feels safer now to wander amongst it (although it’s probably not as nothing has been done to stabilise the edge of the road). N and I noticed the other day at Torcross just how much the beach at Slapton has risen – at least six feet in recent weeks, and much more over the winter as a whole. Steps that used to end in mid-air are now buried by pebbles and sand. Along the Salcombe Estuary, I was told by J, new beaches have appeared where there were none before. So too, here at Beesands, the single continues to rise.
Where caged pebbles and massive boulders once protected the car park and the edge of the beach, there is now just wreckage. Even some of the massive boulders were washed away in the March storm, weakened by a winter of intense wind and rain. The cages are now reminders of how impossible it is to contain the sea.
It’s starting to rain now.