My last full day in Cornwall. Less clement weather as you can see, but all the same, I’d rather have had this than the heavy snow which has hit further north: I’m quite happy to be away from that, thank you very much. A definite ‘sea/beach’ theme has developed, with this being the fifth in a row to feature one or both, but down here, where the island ends, it’s hard to be unaware of the ocean.
A trip out to the furthest south-western extremity of the British Isles (assuming we treat Ireland as separate) — namely the Isles of Scilly, a hundred or so lumps of granite stuck thirty miles off Land’s End, of which five are inhabited. The ‘capital’, Hugh Town, is located on St Mary’s island, and built on a narrow isthmus, which is apparent here thanks to the houses having blue sea behind them as well as in front, which is why I chose this picture — that, and the profusion of coloured things (buoys?) in the sea.
That’s one of the harder-to-reach County Tops bagged as well. There were lots of photos from the day I could have chosen to give an impression of this distant part of my country, but see the other blog for more.
I said yesterday that Penzance, or more generally this part of the world, has not always been peripheral. On this beach at the tip of Britain, the main trans-Atlantic and international telegraph and, later, telephone cables came on shore, from 1870 onwards. That fact explains why I am here — thanks to the Cable & Wireless training centre (for telegraph operators) being built around this vital connection in the country’s communications network, buildings that nowadays house the archive that I have come down to Cornwall to consult.
Either way, Porthcurno has a damn fine beach, one that you would never know was such a strategically important spot. This is the southernmost shot I’ve yet taken in England, and as there is only a tiny portion of the country further south than here (just the Lizard peninsula), this sets a record that I may never beat.
Tried to resist the temptation to put up another shot taken while flying over Namibia, and failed. The Namib Desert is apparently the world’s oldest, and runs straight down to the sea, making it look like a gargantuan beach, stretching hundreds of miles in every direction. You wouldn’t want to come here for a holiday however. No water anywhere, and combined with thick sea fogs and strong currents which can make it impossible to launch again, this is probably the most dangerous coast in the world for seafarers. Little wonder it has been termed the ‘Skeleton Coast’. Personally I think it appears as Mars might. Perhaps contrarily (but I’m like that), I find myself now quite wanting to visit this country properly. Maybe next year.
Random African country, 2/2, although unlike Ethiopia, this one — Namibia — was on the original schedule. Walvis Bay is where the Johannesburg to St Helena flight stops to refuel. On the approach, over miles of utterly barren desert, it is inconceivable that there could, or should, be a town of over 60,000 people here, but it seems that Walvis Bay is the one natural harbour for hundreds of miles in either direction, and so is the principal port for the whole country, not to mention handling traffic for landlocked Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. What the construction visible on this shot is, I have no idea for sure, but it might be the top of an artesian well, as almost all the water supply for the town comes from underground.
That’s it for my 3-day perambulation around two continents, and six airports (Manchester, Geneva, Addis Ababa, Johannesburg, Walvis Bay and St Helena). Two weeks on St Helena will now follow.
Today I, and around 250 other people, walked from Arnside to Grange-over-Sands — an easy, flat walk of about 5.5 miles. The complication is that between these two places lies the northern reach of Morecambe Bay, the largest expanse of intertidal land in Great Britain. But in that also lay the fun of the day — the chance to (safely) get a couple of miles away from permanently dry land, into a space that is neither one thing nor the other, a limbo state between land and sea — with a healthy dose of sky, too.
I deliberately cranked up the contrast on this shot because I like the way that all the people look like dashes of paint descending from a horizon that is insubstantial but definitely there. As if we are trapped within a sheet of glass, aware of the heavens above us but unable to reach them.
The flight home. The Sahara looked astonishing: this was a day when I wish I could break my own rules and post more than one photo. The River Niger certainly was worth seeing, a braid of blue and green running through a sandy wasteland. We must have crossed that somewhere in Mali.
But instead I will go with this shot; for much of the three hours it took to cross the desert I was thinking, hmmm, well it’s certainly barren, but more rocky than sandy. But then came this sea, this ocean of dunes, tinged by the setting sun. This must be far enough north to be somewhere in Algeria. Not that national boundaries really mean a lot here. If anything this is Arrakis. Had a gigantic sandworm crested out of this stuff with Fremen on its back, I would not have been surprised.
Out in the harsh desert wastes of the Karakatarmakadam Mountains, the stark grey stonework of the Fortress of Rodblok stands astride the gravel flats, beside the dried-up river valley. Abandoned for centuries, the winter winds are now all that move through its lonely halls. No longer do pilgrims visit to pay homage to the great Red Icon embedded in its highest reaches.
Or, possibly, it’s a plastic object of some sort lying around in that roadbuilders’ yard on the way to Mytholmroyd. See it how you like.
Ainsdale Beach is a voluminous expanse of golden sand: so voluminous, in fact, that like many other places on the same coast, north of Liverpool (see our trip to Crosby last November), the nearby land is gradually being taken over. The buildings you see here are derelict, not (this time) because of the Great Fear, but because of the encroachment of these dunes. This is an attractive place, but a melancholy one.
As good an illustration of the encroachment of sand dunes as you could show to a geography class. That sign is of current design and cannot have been there all that long, but of the ‘shared path’ which it once indicated, there is now no other evidence at all.
The docks are those of Liverpool, by the way. Did I stay at home today? Nope.