Friday, 19 September 2014

A Storm Tossed Coast

This week we decided to drive down to the coast. Two reasons: Marcia has been making a few tiny changes to the book in production (that is the one that will be published in 2015) and wanted to check to make sure that these were right and I needed a couple of photographs for this seemingly never ending saga on books about Marcia's books. It seemed logical to combine these two requirements and so we set off for Dartmouth and across to Torcross in order to meet the first part of the job and then on to Lannacombe just the other side of Start Point so that I could do my bit.

Even now, after all these years, I am astonished at how thorough Marcia is: in the past I have said that if she records that such-and-such a flower is out on such-and-such a day at such-and-such it is because she has been there and seen it with her own eyes. Well, here she was being thorough once again – not that she needed to bother as her memory had proved to be absolutely spot on.

In so far as any of Marcia's books are set in a given time (and most of them are although there is no direct reference to exact dates), this book is set in the autumn of 2013 – and finishes just before Christmas. Then, in the following February, storms hit the south coast and caused a great deal of damage not only to property but to many businesses in the area.

This was the first time we had come down to the coast since those storms (to Dartmouth, yes, but not along the coast) and there is still ample evidence of those 'extreme weather events' as our politically correct weather forecasters insist on describing them – a very bad habit that has been taken up by the media generally. A gale is a gale, a storm is a storm, the tail end of a hurricane is the tail end of a hurricane and heavy rain is, well, heavy rain. Still . . .

We stopped briefly in the car park in Torcross line where we, too, enjoyed ice creams. It is interesting to remember that when I started driving the road was slightly to the seaward side of this car park and had to be realigned inland after heavy storms in 2001 undermined the road's foundations. Well, the same thing happened again but this time, fortunately, it was only the car park that suffered. Last year the cars nearest the sea would have been parked facing the beach. Now the authorities have had to lay temporary wooden barriers to keep vehicles away from the edge, parking parallel to it. This problem is not going to go away and we can expect further damage to this shingle bank (for that is what it is) until, one day, it allows the sea to break through into the Ley behind it. This is not a question of “if” but of “when” and the best estimates are all placed in this century.

Then we passed The Boathouse. You may remember that I mentioned this place in my last blog of 2013 and showed you some pictures of it and the people who work in there.

Well, this is how it looks today. Having been battered by the waves – all the windows were broken and the seas surged into the building – a week or so later there was a devastating fire which left the property a total wreck. As you can see, it remains shrouded in scaffolding and canvas. It is hoped that they will be able to open in time for the 2015 season.

Much the same happened back in the 1970's when almost all the properties facing the sea in Torcross had to be rebuilt and a new sea wall was constructed which, or so it was thought at the time, would make sure the same thing never happened again.

And so to Lannacombe which has also changed completely. This was the cove that inspired “the cove” in Second Time Around. Here we have Marcia standing by the stream that runs down over the beach – a stream in which she played as a small child. So far so good.

Here we see that tons of large boulders have been piled at the top of the beach in the hope that they will take most of the power out of the waves. If this fails the house and, of course, the business operated from it which includes bed & breakfast and a camp site, will have to be relocated.

Meanwhile this photograph shows where the sea ripped away part of the cliff – where you can see the unweathered red sandstone. The South Coast Footpath runs just above it and it would not take more than another small cliff fall for that to become unsafe. Clearly the path could be rerouted but it would be a very expensive operation. My guess is that if there is further damage, the path between here and Start Point will be closed and people will have to walk inland which will be a long and rather boring detour.

However, despite all we had a very happy time revisiting these old haunts: haunts much alive with a number of Marcia's characters. Perhaps one day she will revisit the cove and find out what happened to the people living down there during the storms of February 2014.

Meet Martha – sometimes called Martha Tydfil – who also answers to the name of Monkey (that best describing her character).