Mrs ND&B and I are on a short break in a part of the world that we both love - the Devon/Dorset border. Even though we are here sans children (well they are 25 and 20!) we still find ourselves visiting places that we took them to all of those years ago, such as the Donkey Sanctuary east of Sidmouth. After stroking several of the sanctuaries inmates we then took the coastal path to Weston Mouth. This had nothing to do with the presence of a screaming botanical rarity, Purple Gromwell. It is not in flower at this time of year, but there was plenty to be found in fruit. A nice little sideline this botanical lark...
It has been a holiday without me nipping off with binoculars, although, as illustrated above, it is hard not to take notice of the natural history - 4 Greenshank were on the beach at Charmouth on Tuesday, several Peregrines have shown up between Sidmouth and Golden Cap and whilst sitting in a posh Lyme Regis hotel garden, eating a cream tea, a couple of Fulmar were messing around overhead with the Cobb as a stunning backdrop. Nice.
Before these stiff-winged tubenoses appeared, we went on a hike along the under cliff footpath between Lyme Regis and Seaton. This whole area is a part of a world heritage site, bestowed thanks to the terrific geology and fossil record. It is also unstable, with land slippage still a regular feature. The footpath runs between the true sea cliff and another several hundred yards inland, formed when a massive slump occurred in the early 19th century.
The path meanders through broken ground, a grotto of dense woodland, shattered slopes and fern-filled gullies. It is Tolkienesque. I thought I saw a Hobbit in the distance, but may have been mistaken! However, the sensation of place, light and sound in such a dreamlike habitat is heady indeed. Tree roots slither across the paths, plunging into gullies damp with stream and pool. Old abandoned farm buildings betray an almost hidden past. There are ghosts and spirits and sprites around every tree trunk. Noise is concentrated here, clearer and closer than it really is. A Common Buzzard mewing high above, or a boats engine chugging way below are both on your shoulder.
Leaves overlap leaves, ferns drown the earth, smothering flowers that try to reach up to the sun that cannot penetrate the terraced forest. Here there is no room for species - they are just part of a living whole, too big and awesome to be broken into piffling components. Time to dispense with the chore of naming - it is time to accept the 'whole' without question, with no need to list, open notebooks or to name the parts.