Mattiscombe and Start Point
It’s the first of July, which seems rather unsettling in itself. Summer still feels relatively young, although settled and secure. Perhaps this is an adolescence, the exuberance of Spring replaced by the occasional sullenness but mostly bright warmth of the early teen years. We are having summer. This is exciting and exhilarating simply because we have not really had one for at least three years. Not even the occasional burst last year – I don’t remember any warmth at all between April and September, and the Met Office recently bore this out by calling last summer the worst for fifty years.
So the sea at Mattiscombe looked Mediterranean and warm, of course was a lie, but a lie worth perpetrating, or at least worth being taken in by. The surf lapped the shore with a little excitement caused by the ruffling of a stiffening easterly wind. We spent a luxurious morning here, completely alone. Monday morning, it seems, does not favour beach dwellers at this time of year, despite the inviting weather. When we arrived at the Start Point car park we were the first – before even the car park attendant had appeared – even though it was not really that early. I carried all my kit down to the sea, casually stared at by the Ruby Red Devons and the Angus (or are they Galloways? we never have quite decided) who were watching over their slumbering young. Flat baby cows everywhere, enjoying the warmth and lazy days of their first summer.
After spending a couple of hours recording (listen to the podcast here), we headed off back towards home. Rather than head straight up the hill however, we took the Coast Path towards Start Point, cresting the ridge about half way down the path to the light. The breeze had stiffened by this time so that the surface of the sea was being whipped into whitecaps, the breezes causing the surface to quiver and shake rather than roll. The summer grasses along the path danced, seeming to be enjoying their play rather then feeling battered and abused by what sometimes must feel like an incessant blow.
How glorious these colours are looking already, with golds beginning to emerge.
The Coast Path suffered a great deal this winter, with falls all along it, particularly in this part of the world. A Defra Minister was just the other bemoaning the ‘terrible legacy’ of cost incurred by the Labour Government and preventing this one from moving anything forward. A common refrain, but in this case rather astoundingly he seemed to be referring to the Coast Access Act which enshrined in law our right of access to the shore, and the perpetual maintenance of the coastal path all the way around Britain. It is one of the most enjoyed free places to be, filled as it is with so many life-enhancement. There was a clear sense from this Minister, who was after all appointed to look after our natural heritage, that such access merely represents a huge burden on the state rather than a precious and much-loved amenity. No doubt it should all be sold off and access granted only to those who can pay? Piffle and another reason to curse this most accursed of governments.
As we crested the ridge line the most extraordinary view of Start Bay emerged. Shielded by the point from the westerlies, the surface of the water was much calmer here, showing just how protected this Bay is (mostly!). It doesn’t stop this from being one of the most dangerous coastlines in the UK, and probably anywhere in the world. There are more shipwrecks here, they say, than in any other place.
As we walked up the path back towards the car park, the sides were filled with stands of foxgloves, and one solitary bumblebee. Oh where have all the bees gone?
One last thing to do before we headed home was a trip to the Post Office. The little village car park at Torcross was full (it’s the only bit of free parking where most of the car parks for the popular Slapton Sands are quite expensive) so I parked a bit further down. As I walked past the Ley I noticed a dazzling patch of colour at the water’s edge. Red poppies, enjoying our new glorious summer, exalting in their freedom and peaking for their short period of bloom. It seemed a fitting end to a day of sensory overload.