I walked the quiet streets as slowly people stirred from the comfort of their homes and warm, wind free beds. Ropes clanged against tall masts in the marina. I sat opposite the large bronze statue of the ‘ancient mariner’ it was near here that Samuel Coleridge was inspired to write the poem ‘the rhyme of the Ancient mariner’ Coleridge lived on the Quantocks and it was a walk in his name that gave me a taste of walking long distance walks.
The dark statue stood proud against the morning sky, the slain Albatross draped around his neck. Nearby was another statue of ‘Yankee Jack’ research this I sat here for a while, listening, watching and waiting for Watchet to wake up.
During this time, I again heard the sound of a distant helicopter, my thoughts briefly returned to the wonder of who was missing and should I be helping look for them, or was it me they were looking for? Surely not yet.....
I had money in my pocket and a day of ahead of me, I knew that I’d be walking along the coast to Minehead, so finding out the tide times as important as I didn’t want to be trapped and drown, I wanted breakfast and I wished to go back to the pub and once more offer to help out with lunch time, that one would have to wait though.
The first place that appeared to open was the marina shop, so I went in, just to look around, a drinks machine was there so I got a cuppa as that has always been the way to start a day. I found out the tide would go out at midday, so a couple more hours would need to be lost. I had a small breakfast in a cafe then inquired in the pub about lunch time help. The owner hadn’t had enough bookings to give me things to do, so offered my five pounds, thanking me for the offer, my spirits were lifted once more after the night of little sleep, and I was keen to get moving on and reaching the official start/finish of the South West Coast Path.
At 11:30 I knew the tide would soon be turning it was time to get on it. I picked up from the point I’d slept near, down the slipway and onto the beach. Cliff walls and their layers split off by time and weather, the ravages of sea eroding the lands natural defence. Chunks of cliff that had fell to the beach, stood upright like giant pillars, the layers now vertical, pink lines streaking up to the clear blue skies. Such a contrast to the horizontal hail I’d been in 24hrs ago.
In the distance I see a land slip, as I near it I know it’s a great opportunity to look for fossils, the rock here is soft, rain and the sea doesn’t wait for anyone and the signs of life from 65million years ago, turn to sand or silt.
I find parts of ammonites in their matrix of stone, a section of sea bed with many bivalves, gastropods, layer upon on layer as they got covered by the tides and slowly compressed. I look at these and know I’m the first human to have set eyes on them, I then touch them and try to feel the age, I close my eyes and imagined back to when they made their last living movement, I then saw the waves, the sand slowly covering them and as time passed by, layer upon layer which compressed together, fused and formed into rock, then hidden for so long, just waiting. Waiting for time, then time came then it. I too found a small rock, it glittered in the sun, like metallic diamonds, as I tilted it, the sun reflected on the many different sections, I thought of all those years of its creation, the chemical reaction, the process, the patience of time to create perfection. Why do we live in such an inpatient time? We want things now and expect them to be perfect. Yet only nature knows how, it is the master.
I carried these pieces of ancient history and wondered just why I had chosen to. The answer immediately entered my head; I was to give them away, an act of kindness to a stranger. Out there somewhere is someone who deserves it, a child, a luck less fossil hunter, somebody...
At the end of this piece of land slip, I heard from the policeman it was over an acre of farm land, stood a tree. It had slid down of the top of the cliff and somehow stayed upright, even more remarkably, it had soil around its root ball and had nestled into a place and appeared to have taken root again. I looked at it in wonder and couldn’t work out if it really had landed that way or someone had assisted it.
Blue anchor was my next sight, a place close to my heart, as a child I’d come here with my father to fish, he had a small boat moored up here on the pebbled beach ULA was its name, a simple craft, open with a token mast, a seagull engine would propel it out to sea. I have fond memories of those days, the lost days.
I headed out to the groins where the dark sand provided easier walking, a steam train passed by again, its tracks running alongside the beach. Nearing Dunster a small bridge was crossed and for a moment I stopped and looked down into the river, rocks still in my hand. A couple nearby asked if I’d walked far. So my tale was told, the look on their inspired faces made me happy and then saw i had rocks. The lady looked at them in amazement as I told her what they were, how they were formed and how she was only the second person to have ever seen them. She wouldn’t accept it as a gift, however she did give me £2 for the rock, “a drink”, she said. The conversation continued for a while, I was in no hurry, with no real agenda; I wasn’t going to dash off from the company of good people. It dawned on me just how much we miss out on whilst rushing through our lives. The couple however did have somewhere else to be so we said our goodbyes, I a further thank you and we went our separate ways. I passed a row of beach chalets at Dunster then to Minehead the start of the SWCP.
The wind blew sand from the beach and it gently stung me face, I joined the pavement, made my way through the Bank Holiday visitors to the large metal structure marking the start. A pair of large hands held open a partially unfolded map, the key box up in the left hand corner, the sea, coast line and lines showing the northing’s and easting’s, I waited not and looked for the first of the acorn signs. These would be my guides for the next few months, they maybe etched out of wooden posts, carved into rock, some would be metal and some will be missing, if in doubt keep the wet stuff to my right and I can’t go wrong...