Monday, September 11, 2006

Start Bay and Hope Cove

Friday, September 8th.
Bright and beautiful today. The weather forecast is for a fresh, easterly wind. Fresh means a stiff breeze I think. Every time BBC Devon describes it as a fresh wind, the leaves seem to be stripped off of the trees. It is really blowing today. Should make the flooding even more exciting. I'm going to the beach to see what I can see. I spend a leisurely morning studying the Ordinance Survey map, plotting my assault on the roads of southeast Devon. Ben comes in and has his tea break early. He must go and pick up the goat milk for the afternoon cheese. He goes off in the Tata. Nick and Liz join me in a few minutes. The phone keeps ringing. We can't speak a sentence without being interrupted. Call after call comes in. The phone rings again. In unison, Liz and Nick shout "Oh fuck off!" Nick then picks up the receiver and answers politely, "Ticklemore cheese…."

I'm going to Start Bay. The road goes right along the beach and the wind should make for some dramatic waves. But I'm torn. The area around Salacombe looks tempting, too. I decide to go to Start Bay and see what happens from there. I plot my course and off I go. The first part of the drive is easy. I'm on the A381, driving through Harbourton and Halwell. I turn off before I get to Dartmouth and head for a town called Strete. The lane is barely wider than my van. It is fairly straight, so oncoming traffic is easily avoided by using the occasional turnout and yielding. It is like a game. I go then he goes. If they have a turn out, they pull over and flash their lights, letting me know it is safe to proceed. If I have a good spot to pull over, I flash my lights and let them go. It is all very polite and orderly. Somehow it works.

I take the wrong tiny lane on the map. It goes through Blackawling, instead of next to Blackawling. I stop and redirect myself with my handy map. No problem. There is another tiny lane that will take me to the road to Strete. I find it and drive until I come upon a construction crew. The road is closed and they are digging it up. Somehow I missed the tiny sign back in town. I shoot the crew an evil look and turn around. Back into Blackawling, this time following signs that redirects me down yet another tiny lane. I get stuck behind a large tractor. It is so large, that he can barely squeeze down the lane. The large tractor tires chew the shrubs on either side of the lane. We plod along and eventually hit the road that is a straight shot to Strete. I can tell I'm getting closer to the sea. The land is more level. I hit Strete and decide to keep on going. I turn right onto the A379 and drive south towards Slapton and Torcross. As I leave Street, the road begins to descend towards the beach. The road curves and there before me is a stunning view of Slapton Ley, Torcross and a lighthouse off in the distance. Back home, if there was a view like this to be found, there would be a place to pull over and admire the view. The English value their land too much. No place to stop. I'll just have to drive down and see it up close. I drive down to Stretegate at the north end of Slapton Ley. Slapton Ley is a spit of land/sand that separates the English Channel from a fresh water lagoon. It is a couple of miles long and has a road built on top of it. The lagoon is a nature reserve, filled with lots of waterfowl. I drive down to the far end of the ley and stop at Torcross.

This is also the beach where American soldiers practiced for the D-Day assault. The locals were evacuated so that the military could take over and prepare for the crossing of the English Channel. Many soldiers died on this beach before they even went to Normandy. The Germans managed to get through the blockade and sink a boat. Forty years later, a Sherman tank was recovered from the boat that sank and now sits next to the lagoon at Torcross. The tank is the focal point of a poignant memorial to the American soldiers who died here. There was an old war veteran looking at the memorial with his wife. They were discussing Winston Churchill and what a great leader he was. "He was a wonderful man," the old gentleman said. There were lots of flowers set around various plaques. Moving tributes to lost loved ones who are still missed. I must admit, I was choked up a bit as I reflected on the great loss of life and the sacrifices that were made to end the war and the atrocities committed during that war. When I stand upon the soil that witnessed these events, it makes it more real for me. I cried at Dachau. I had nightmares for years after I visited Hiroshima.

Today Torcross is a clean little beachfront village that faces Start Bay. It is a pebble beach. The wind is whipping across the Channel and straight onto the beach. It's 12:30, time for lunch. I have a few options at Torcross, so I wander into the Start Bay Inn, a pub that features fresh, local seafood. I walk in and grab a seat. Everyone around me is ordering one thing: fish and chips. I close the menu. That was easy. I have my choice of cod, haddock or plaice. Haddock for me, thanks. I am the youngest patron in the Pub. Everyone is at least 70. Ben told me that after school starts, the tourism in the area switches from families to seniors. Well I found them. They're all having lunch at the Start Bay Inn. As I waited for my meal, the place filled up. My food arrived. Two good size pieces of meaty white fish, not too greasy, and a generous pile of chips. It was piping hot.l I have no idea how the rest of the menu is, they had monkfish, skatewing, and whole bass on the specials board. No one was ordering it.

I finished my meal and walked outside. I sat on a rock on the beach for a few minutes. I hopped across the road and walked around part of the estuary. The fresh water lagoon has a healthy reed bed and lots of birds. People were feeding the ducks and swans. The trail wasn't well developed and it was still windy, so I walked back to the van and drove half an hour over to Hope Cove.

There are two tiny villages that I were my destination. Inner Hope and Outer Hope. A skinny lane leads off of the A381 to these miniscule towns. I almost lost hope, as I took a wrong turn due to the lack of signage once I got off of the main road. I eventually found Hope Cove but got quite angry over the astronomical parking fee they charge. Three quid just to park my car, no matter how long you're there. Sod off! I parked anyway and walked over to take pictures of the pretty rock formations. There was a nice rock shelf full of tidepools. I didn't linger because I wanted to head for home. I was tired of driving along these skinny roads.

I got home at 4:30. Enough time to clean up and go into the Dairy to say hello to the newly made cheese. Gave 'em all a flip and headed back into the kitchen to make supper. On tonight's menu: fresh fish that Nick got from his "fish guy." Pollack and guernot. Nick gave me a recipe for Thai fishcakes. Pretty easy, once I filleted the fish. I sort of hacked up the fish. I can filet trout and cod pretty well. Fish that have a round shape like Pollack pose a problem for me. Since the pieces were going into the food processor, I didn't care that they weren't pretty. In the end, I was very pleased with the results. Pollack makes great fishcakes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wonderful writing, as usual...Ian will read tonight and I'm sure he will tear up even more than you did...the journey is so evocative, the moments so poignant...thank you for being there. Love, Mom
and yes, I can taste the fish and, crispy...