Both just completed the CLIC Sargent charity swim on choppy sea.
Cooden Beach, which amusingly auto spells as Wooden Beach.
Storm Angus batters the South Coast
Last night I stood on the seafront leaning hard into the wind. It was foolhardy, an amber weather warning was in force. The sea was pitch black and I was leaning, almost falling into a windy abyss. The wind roared about my head in the darkness. The pebbles were being raked violently down the beach sounding like a thousand snakes. There was risk of being hit by then as the waves smashed them onto the shore and they ricochet alarmingly. The wind was forcing down so hard that the waves, vicious as they were, had no height, they were simply slim rinds of white foam slithering in one after the other like a cooling lava flow.
My first thought this morning: ‘Is the pier still there?’ Irrational, but giving cause to be inquisitive, I venture out.
The sea can be described as a bit ‘grumpy’ today. 106mph winds are recorded in Margate and over 80mph around this bit of East Sussex. The beach pebbles strewn across the lower promenade, making for a bit of clamber to pass.
Of course, I’m there with camera and the only one on the lower level. People wrapped in bobble hats and scarves and big coats look down from the Battenberg (the top level of Bottle Alley has pink and yellow check tiles. I described it as this to a friend, not knowing it’s real name and I’m pleased to say, the nickname is catching on) at me with concern and bemusement. The beach, as far as I can see is all mine alone, bar the ubiquitous gulls, who just don’t give a shit about the weather, flying forward, or being blown backwards, and the occasional Turnstone, feathers being blown backward, anxiously scavenging the seemingly rich pickings between thick foamy waves.
The waves come in sets. It’s hard to count, but it’s about 24, in sets of 2, then two huge super waves of crazy horses will rumble in, smash the pier, seething spray and chase me up the beach, rolling in a full five metres further than the other waves.
The pier feels solid despite the angry sounds below it. It feels safe. The amber warning is lifted, but it is still quite parky. The plastic lid flies off my paper cup and I chase it across the expanse of decking.
There’s a couple dancing in each other’s arms. It’s infectious and two other couples break into dance too. A Spaniel joins in.
Dancing to the roar of the sea
I love living at the seaside.
Will is training for an epic 10 mile swim from the Royal Sovereign Lighthouse back to St Leonards. The swim is to help raise money for Sea View Project
A MASSIVE thanks to Calypso Kayaks (@calypsokayak) for generously lending Ben and I a kayak to document the training today.
Weather permitting, the big swim will be either 24th, or 26th of September. We are looking to get a bit of a welcoming party of a human powered flotilla near Azur for his return.
You can see all the pictures here.
Will’s Royal Sovereign Lighthouse Charity Swim donate page:
More about Sea View Project:
Go hire a kayak at Calypso!
Bleak day in East Sussex. These two sat on a dank bench in deep conversation. I didn’t want to intrude, but I wanted to record the absurdity. For all the cosy cafés nearby, choosing to sit out in the damp sea air staring at the nothing. The older lady was in a flow of words and the younger woman listening intently. Some special knowledge being passed down.
She said, “You must do the ride to Bexhill; Giant Sea Cabbages, Colossal Daisies. Kingdom of Beach Huts and Overgrown Cliffs.”
It was an intriguing introduction.
The ride does not disappoint. It is perfectly magical. You come off the normal path onto dusty gravel, which then turns into a kind of chain mail behind kaleidoscopic beach huts zig zagging drunkenly as far as the eye can see. Mammoth boulders breakwater the sea further up. Behind them is a metal road of drainage covers. Cycling on them makes a rhythmic bad clunking xylophone sound. The metal is so hot, my tyres are hissing on it. I don’t touch it, but I think it is egg frying temperature.
The sea cabbages are GIGANTIC. They litter the beach like big crumpled tissues discarded by the BFG*.
The sea is on one side, a train track just the other, and all the while cycling on chain mail. It feels like one is in a model town, waiting for a giant hand to come down to adjust a piece of scenery. All the scale is out and discombobulating.
Arriving at Bexhill-on-Sea does not bring a sense of normality at all. The seafront, with its Georgian balustrade and the striking Grade I listed Modernist De La Warr Pavillion only further compounds the ethereal feeling of the ride.
* Roald Dahl!
Charlie, the Ancient Mariner. Wanders the streets of Oban mumbling in tongues. He was on the CalMac ferry back from Mull. Everyone shifted subtly away from him and I sat listening to his words cupping a hot chocolate. The only thing I could understand was” “I come from Iona”. I asked boat staff about this, but he didn’t seem convinced.
Charlie insisted on being the last person of the boat and was ordering me to leave.
There’s a few lovely little nuggets related to this picture and area. The Lismore lighthouse itself was built by Robert Stevenson (Grandfather to Robert Louis Stevenson) in 1833. The lighthouse island is called Eilean Musdile. It’s actually two islands and there is a handsome bridge joining them. The bridge has probably only been used by a handful of people. There seems to be two walled fields on the island, maybe for livestock in the old days. There are two cottages on the island. Near it is a skerry, a tiny rock that is submerged at high tide. It now has a funny looking beacon/lighthouse on it. It’s called Lady’s Rock.
In 1527, Lachlan Maclean of Duart (Duart’s Castle is nearby on Mull – which I visited – and met the fine fellow in the picture below) wanted to murder his wife, Lady Catherine Campbell (for reasons I have yet discern). He rowed her out to the rock and left her on it – expecting her to drown at high tide. She was saved after some yelling, that nearby fishermen heard. She retreated to her family home to recover from the ordeal.
Meanwhile, Maclean looked out to the rock and seeing no-one on it, sent a missive to her family offering condolences for her demise. In turn, they invited him to dinner in her honour. He turned up with a coffin. When he entered the hall, to his horror, she was sat at the head of the table. He survived the meal, but some time later her brother killed him.