Sunday, 22 February 2015

River Walks - Sunshine and Snow


I took a bus to Coldstream. Just beyond it is the bridge over the Tweed, that marks the boundary between Scotland and England.


I remember cycling on the bridges over the Rhine, the river forming the border between France and Germany. (I wrote about this in The Winter King on the German Border )

There was the main road bridge, Le Pont de L'Europe,


and the passerelle, for foot passengers and cyclists.


This rather modest bridge, and the river Tweed which it crosses are somewhat less dramatic than those other bridges and the river Rhine, though there is a common theme, a recurring one for me, that of finding good coffee. The coffee shop in this small town has a name like Stanwins, and there is something of winning about it, in its bright interior, (it's on the sunny side of the street) and inside everything is off-white,  walls, tables, chairs, counter, and one woman sitting by the window, reading a paper, and the sunlight illuminates the interior like a painting, like Woman in the Morning Café. She steps out of the frame, still carrying the sun with her, welcoming, cheerful. We're very quiet today she says, as she puts down her paper, goes behind the counter.  I bet you're busy in summer I say, lots of tourists. Oh yes – locals too, they're very supportive.

As she makes the coffee I ask her if there are river walks around here. She tells me there's one which goes from one end of the town to the other.


I'd been thinking of something longer, a path that followed the river for some way but the one she mentioned took me almost to the boundary bridge. I cross it, into England.


On the other side a small wooden signpost announces a path to a destination ten miles away. I know I won't go that far, but it's the kind of trail I'd been hoping to find. For a while it skirts the river then goes uphill through the wood.


On the top of the ridge, a clear path, sunshine, and that lifting of the heart.


The river curved away. The path continued at the side of fields with stiles over fences. Flat landscape. The path came out onto a road and that's where I lost it. I walked towards a signposted village then followed another wooden signpost to St Cuthbert's, but it led to the river then petered out. From the river I had to climb up a steep and muddy bank to get back onto high ground. Thorny brambles clawed at me.  I tried to investigate what might have been another trail, which might lead to what was marked on the map as a dismantled railway. But the undergrowth was too dense. So it was back to the path and the signpost, the road, and the path to the bridge and the border.



As I was looking at the pictures to put up on this post, I was listening to a programme on the BBC World Service, about Martha Gellhorn, one of the very first women war correspondents, (she started in the Spanish Civil War) an intrepid travel writer, whose writing I admire very much.


And I thought about how, as well as physical trails and paths, there are literary trails, to do with writers, their writing and their books, the places they have visited or lived in, the places they write about, the places where you read them, and how these can all become intertwined, and how discovering a book by Martha Gellhorn, which I'd long wanted to read, and one by Ella Maillart, who I had not then heard of, set me off on a path of discovery which continues, as there are still books by Martha Gellhorn, Ella Maillart and Annemarie Schwarzenbach which I haven't read yet. I wrote about that initial discovery in this blog post

The sunlight glitters on the snow and flakes fall, half melted, from the branches.

The water is the colour of melted snow. Greenish-grey.


The Solitary Walker said...

Ah, yes, finding good coffee. Essential!

Thorny plants — and borders (liminal again!) - two of your constant themes...

I have got to read Ella Maillart. Thanks for the pointer, Morelle.

dritanje said...

The book I came across was Maillart's The Cruel Way, when she travelled overland with Annemarie Schwarzenbach to Afghanistan in 1939. Then I read Annemarie's book of the same journey - Ou est la Terre des Promesses, now published in English I believe as All the Roads are Open. But Maillart has also written about her journeys in Chinese Turkestan and other far flung exotic places.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Snow! I'd almost forgotten it's still winter outside the city! Lovely photos,especially the last two.

I was interested in your comment about nature reflecting art,funnily I was thinking the same thing as I arranged the photos. Something is afoot but right now I no not what!


dritanje said...

Ruby - most of the snow disappeared and then today there were snow flurries or showers which would then disappear and the sun came out again.
Glad you are also thinking of nature and art and the way they mimic and reflect and affect each other...
M xx

Vagabonde said...

I enjoyed your post and the beautiful photos. I hope this bridge won’t get tourists’ love locks as so many other bridges have suffered. I looked in my library and I have two books by Martha Gellhorn: “The novellas of Martha Gellhorn” and “The Weather in Africa.” I have not read the first one and obtained the second one in London in 1985 I think but never finished it … I will go back to them. I was going to say that I don’t know the other writer, but no, in my library is “The Cruel Way” by Ella K. Maillart, so another one to check. As you notice, we like to follow some of the trails of our favorite writers – and sometime they take us on long journeys. I know I have gone to many places because of books I have read. It also was fun discovering new images through your post.

dritanje said...

Yes Vagabonde, it's really something to go to places a favourite writer has been to, and think - they were here, maybe they touched this stone, they saw this view, what were they thinking then, and - is something of them still here? I tend to think there is and that it links us in some magical way.