Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sydling St Nicholas, day five

It was time to abandon monument and speak to the English countryside. But the timing wasn't great because we all felt inexplicably exhausted (lead in the legs so to speak). But we are nothing if not dogged. In addition, we had lost the map that the nice lady from Axminster had given us. We drove back to Axminster to find that the information booth was closed. Myles decided that he could remember both what the nice lady said, and what the map promised. And this meant Seaton.
Seaton, to my inexpert eye, is the retirement capital of the South West of England. The South West is aged generally, but this went beyond all imaginings. And there were retirement villages all over the shop. (As well as a house owned by Lady Ashbury - I think - on the cliff top. It was pink and she was some kind of arts patron. Robert Browning and the pre-Raphaelists all stayed there. So Seaton was once a hub ...)
You walk from Seaton to Beer. Beer here is a seaside village rather than a drink. Though I would have been grateful for the drink. The weather was icy and the hills steep. We were passed on more than one occasion by elderly types with ski poles who were making good time over the cliffs. Clearly you go to Seaton to live forever. I was wearing new boots (what was I thinking?) It wasn't pretty.
After a two mile slog, and curing the English countryside a blue streak, we arrived in Beer. Beer is quite charming, as everything here is. It is a little fishing village with lots of boats drawn up on the beach, and seagulls circling eagerly, and signs like 'Mackerel fishing; one hour' and 'Charlie's Park - for all the fishermen who have fished here' (this is where we ate our lunch. We felt at one with the fishermen ...).
The English are strict with their times and no lunch is served anywhere in the place until the clock strikes twelve. But we were hungry Australians who had just climbed clifftops and were not in the mood to wait. Happily, there was a bakery. I ate a flapjack. I'm still not sure exactly what it was.
Then the fish and chip shop opened and in we went. We could have ordered deep fried black pudding, or mushy peas, but we went with what we knew. Cod and chips.
I was all for catching the local bus back to Seaton. The tiniest bus with a chipper driver and lots of barking mad locals having animated conversations about who can say. But no. We must climb the mountain once more. And so we did. Though this time, we we reach the Seaton side, we decided to walk along the beach. Hmmm. Can you feel this going wrong?
The beach is (perhaps ... of course?) pebbles. And masses of stinking seaweed. And angry grey waves and not too much margin for error. I waited for the waves to receed and then a took a run to the next rock. With the sinister chat of a thousand pebbles rolling back into the sea, and the kids cheering me on, I ran awkwardly in my clown boots along the shifting stones only to be beaten by a large wave. Everyone else had made it safely onto the rocks. And to give them credit; they didn't laugh at me. Well, not out loud anyway.
We continued to stagger along the shore until we came to the boardwalk. But this time, my pants were freezing against my legs and I couldn't get to the car quick enough. But there was a toilet break of course and a few other things that needed to be done first.
The English countryside (by the sea); we salute you.
We returned to our lovely village. I took photos in the late sunshine (the boys were sword fighting in the back yard in tee shirts. Seriously). And then, a final florish. We went to our local pub (it feels like ours now. Is that wrong?) and had a final few pints and chatted to the publican. The pub was booked out for dinner so we sat at the bar. (I love that this out, out, out of the way village and pub is as popular as anything. Apparently, it is the best pub in South West England. And we can walk to it. Smug.) Sadly, there were no dogs this time. I drank a pint of stout and then one of local beer. It made me merry. We said goodbye with some regret to the publican who has been a chum. He enquired about our jet lag and the kids. He told us to come back soon. We agreed.

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