Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The Needle's Eye

In Berwick-on-Tweed, England's north-east coast. 

I head for the caravan park where the map says the Coastal Path ends or begins and I find the path along the cliff top. It skirts the caravan site and there are a few other people, walking dogs. After the caravans end, the path divides, one leads back in the direction of the town, the other continues along the cliff-tops and the signpost is marked 'Marshall Meadows' and not Coastal Path, but it clearly is. After this junction I don't meet any other walkers.


It had been cloudy but now the sun has come out and it's warm. The views of the breaking waves, greenish-blue, are tremendous. Coming into sight of one cove, there are deep caves in the red rock. They have a look of being man made, arches of rock over the cave entrances. They can't be though, they just look that way.

Here, there is some distance between the ragged coastline on my right and the railway on my left. Two fields width. In the first field, nearest the path, there is a solitary human being, walking slowly through the field, with some device strapped on his shoulder. It doesn't make any noise, perhaps he is watering the ground. There's a faint green haze on the tilled earth, so something is growing. And this man, alone in the landscape of fields and clifftops, of views out over the sea, with the white ragged pathways of breaking waves, ending in the straight blue line of the horizon, is tending a patch of pale green.

Two fields stretch beyond him. Then there's the railway track, though it's screened by bushes and small trees and general foliage and you wouldn't know it was a train track, except that I saw one train passing. And beyond that, the square blocks of buildings, the industrial site, form the other horizon. And somewhere after that is the road, but it's too far away to hear anything.

Further on, in the next cove, it's Seagull City, crowded with the birds, especially on one lone pinnacle of rock which as far as I can see is separate from the cliff, a red stone sliver of an island. 

But I'm not entirely sure if it's an island, if the sea pours between it and the promontory of cliff because, to see the bottom, where rock meets sea I would have to go too close to the cliff edge and when I get too close to an edge, unless there is something to hold on to, I begin to wobble like a spinning top that's slowing down. It's odd maybe how an absence of level ground in front of me means I need to hold onto something, but that's how it is. 

According to the map, this is called Needle's Eye and I wonder if the long thin rock is the needle (because of its long thin shape) or it's the eye, with the promontory of cliff being the needle and the rock the dot that forms the eye. I would have asked the solitary equivalent of Vincent's The Sower in the patch of field but he had been focussed on what he was doing and did not look up as I passed. And, by the time I reached the Needle's Eye, and looked back, he was a small point in the landscape and
himself a bit like an eye in the needle of path worn in the cliffside turf that fell away into the blue ocean below.

The path follows the curve around the cove of Seagull City, goes inland and is now very close to the train track, which lies between the sea and the main road. The map's dotted line suggests a path across the track, but I am doubtful. And then – there it is! Another path heads to the railway, there's a stile over the fence, with a sign warning pedestrians to take care before crossing, and sleepers laid between the train tracks. I cross with a feeling of jubilation.

On the other side of the track the path goes along the edge of a field then crosses another and comes out into a large industrial area. It is deserted. An occasional car passes. It's like a city that's been abandoned. Full of implied industry and commerce, but there is no-one around, no human being to be seen, no-one walking even from car park to building. So there is something of a stage set about it, almost eerie, almost menacing. 

There is however, a narrow lane, presumably for the few mad or lost pedestrians like me, and it leads to the main road which I would rather walk beside than continue through this ghost town. So I walk along the lane through the building complex, which is three streets wide. Once I reach the path beside the road I feel as though I'm almost back in the human world. And it's not far before I'm in the outskirts of the town, and walk through its streets back to the train and bus station.


am said...

Thank you for sharing this lovely walk. Your post moves me in so many ways with its numerous synchronicities for me in this moment. Van Gogh's Sower plays a dramatic and emotional part in an ongoing conversation with a friend I walked with last Sunday on the lakeside trail at the bottom of a rugged forested mountain with massive rock outcroppings, all along the border of the 14-mile long lake that extends far beyond our city limits. The sea stack looks very much like the one visible from the last house where my parents lived in the southwestern corner of Mendocino County near the Gualala River in Northern California. I just re-watched a movie of fierce grace (Dream With The Fishes) which features the San Mateo County coastline (4 hours south of the Gualala River). So much like your beautiful northeast coast.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Stunning blue sea.....lovely photos!

dritanje said...

Thanks Amanda it's good when synchronicities appear isn't it. And I can't help wondering about your conversation re The Sower. Your lakeside trail sounds amazing and much longer than the one I did, part of the difficulty is that the buses are few and if I miss the early one which often happens the time for walking is limited.

And thanks Ruby glad you liked the photos. I have a whole new crop of sea photos but I will have to wait till I'm home to download and write about them. Right now I'm in Manchester waiting for the night bus
M xx