© Noel Harrower 2018
Noel harrower
The Exmouth Shoreline.  Dancing the Dream                         Noel Harrower From Orcombe Point to Exmouth Quay two miles of shoreline reach an ever shifting seascape, where islands re-emerge and sails and kites and jet-skis dance, where tides and currents surge. By green-fringed cliffs, red rocks are washed and lawns of seaweed gather and when the tide withdraws again the shell-strewn beach is scoured. Then toes are dipped, tails are wagged and hot dogs are devoured. Walk on – past empty bathing huts and people snoring in their cars. Four silken banners taunt the wind flaunting their ammonites, shells and stones - Triassic tales and secrets locked at Orcombe heights. Sandhills shield the bathers’ beach where schoolgirls strut their bright bikinis and youngsters play on plastic floats and brothers sail their rubber boats and fathers dig their castle moats while mothers meditate. And then, the sports beach live with kites ballooning to aspiring heights, caught by the wind, hit by the spray. Jet skis roar across the bay! Proceed along the promenade - ice-cream vendors by the yard – “Fish for mackerel.” “Ride a donkey!” Children’s playground – “Swim with swans!” paddle-power, then roundabout, swinging low and swinging high - lifeboat men are standing by! Exotic flowers by the Pavilion, striped umbrellas at the tables, motor cyclists riding pillion, clock tower, then the esplanade - Victorian homes with white facade. Mind the slipway, pass the pub, here’s the quay where fishboats land their haddock, sea bass, dabs and bream. Stuart’s cruises - “£6 for a Jurassic Tour - roundtrip to Sidmouth - back by 4” - and water taxis ply their trade –  to Starcross or to Dawlish Warren.   Pass the swing bridge at the harbour, once alive with cargoed ships, then a desolate muddy patch, now a playground for the rich. Through the boatyard to the meadow, take the path beside the Exe, retreat of turnstone, redshank, dunlin, Canada goose and avocet.   Vistas widen on the headland where currents are sucked into sea and bare masts tilt and tip and                         dream of voyages to be.                                ---------------------------------------------                                                2

OUR OLDEST RESIDENT                                          

by NOEL HARROWER

Of all the birds upon the shore I am the smartest one – the neatest preened, the primmest, the one that’s never gone. The Fulmars fly the Arctic, the Egrets came from Spain, the Falcons leave for Grecian Isles, but I stay – just the same. I’m the Common Exmouth Herring Gull. No Kittiwake am I: with yellow beak and reddish shanks I swoop down from the sky to gobble everything in sight as fast as I can try. Herring was my first delight but now my diet is wide: fried cod and chips, kebabs, ice cream - oh, everything’s been tried. But Exmouth mussels are the best on all the beaches in the west. Seize it - and then fly up to drop it on a rocky spit to split and then devour it. Oh, Exmouth mussels are the best on all the beaches in the west. Each winter twitchers come in flocks to film the birds upon the Exe: they drive down here from Birmingham or coach from Middlesex. They’re only migrants on the move, they never will be still. but I’m an old Exmouthian, have been and always will. I’m Exmouth hatched and Exmouth bred, I own the seaside bars; and every day, I strut the Strand and decorate the cars. I follow fishing boats to sea, ride currents in the air, but I fly back here every night for Exmouth mussels are the best on all the beaches in the west!                  

                                           

THE EXMOUTH ROVERS

Tell a tale of travellers, arriving from afar home bound from the Indies, crossing Exmouth bar. So came Fairfax Moresby, an Admiral of the fleet who fought to end the slave trade and never owned defeat. And home from Carolina, Sir John Colleton of Rill now tends his tropic seedlings with gentleness and skill, Magnolia and Trumpet Tree, and Artichokes (all new to Devon and to England) and Serpentine Euthorium, resembling scaly snakes Anemone and Tulip Tree - fresh scent and vivid hue. Eighty years on, the garden bloomed alive again when Conrad Martens came to stay. He’d sailed with Darwin, seeking plants throughout the southern wild and naming them and sketching them and  now he was beguiled to find his etchings live again, where English skies are mild. These roving men had anchored here and found a resting place where others ploughed the local seas for mackerel and for bream and trawler-men dropped deep their nets and some sneaked forth in darkest night to land the brandy casks. Abe Mutter led his donkey train across the Maer and down the muffled lane, with hooves cloth bound and ne’er a sound when riding men drew reign. And there were bold men too - who knew the fear of rising waves but ran to join the life-boat crew, when rockets shocked the dark. They’d row with blistered hands to crest the waves and drag a drowning man aboard. Home bound they came, with pride and prize on wild and stormy nights to tell their tale and down their glass and drown the nightmare fright. Fishers and rovers, crewmen and captains – all sailed the surging seas and some were bold and some were sly and some were quick to please with racy and unlikely tales – and all the while – the fisher girls waited and watched the waves searching the sunshine – searching the gales – seeking to glimpse those long known sails  ------------------------------------------------------------------------------  upon the shore. Here gannets fly, and kittiwakes and guillemots find room to roost amongst the rocks. But here we’ll leave the coastal path – to return another day and walk towards Cretaceous times, just several million years away when dinosaurs had died. Then other creatures followed them in ebb and flow of tides. “And are these birds descended from those reptiles long ago?” A question we still ask ourselves and never really know!                                                                                                           ----------------------end----------------------  
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