Posts Tagged ‘Portland’
I’ve lived in Sutton Poyntz for six months now. A mile to the south is the sea. A mile to the east is Osmington and half a mile to the north but up a very steep hill is the “top of my mountain”. Walking my dogs around this wonderful area has fulfilled every dream that I dared hope for when I first arrived.
We have perhaps half a dozen standard walks that we’ve learned, each one of which can be varied with diversions, extensions or shortcuts. Usually we walk for about and hour and a half. The one delight that is always there is a succession of dramatic and quite beautiful views. I never tire of these wonderful vistas across the valley, to the sea, the Isle of Portland and beyond.
I believe that being able to see some distance is fundamentally good for your psyche. Even in the midst of our ghastly capital city on the 12th floor of a vile 1970s tower block there was some consolation to be gained from
the view. In Paradise Valley the views move me every day as they change and develop with the seasons. Quite why just looking can make me well up and seems to touch my soul, I do not know but it fascinates me that the dogs will do the same thing. We reach the peak of a hill or come round a corner and they will stand on a wall or look over a hedge – and just look.
After one false start, spring is here. In the great national blizzard we got off lightly with merely an inch or so. A fortnight later though and we had our own intense Dorset storm and we woke up to four inches and twelve hours without power.
Another fortnight on and the daffodils and crocuses are out. There is already some intensity in the warmth of the sun and all around gardeners are beginning to dig and to sow, to dream of runner beans and strawberries. Up on the hill they were burning the gorse. Quite why I’m not sure. Then this week they brought in a formidable machine which seemed to crawl up and down the sides of the mountain completely demolishing the gorse bushes and leaving an apparently smooth and fresh sward of pasture.
This required immediate investigation and so the dogs and I struck out for the top. Up closer we discovered a compact bulldozer on caterpillar tracks with a vicious flail mounted on front. The driver told me that it weighs six tons and guiding it across the slope sometimes it would slip and slide and nearly give him a heart attack. He explained that the gorse needs to be cut back simply to keep it under control. He’s a braver man than me. Perhaps he doesn’t know that others deliberately throw themselves off the mountain underneath paragliders.
So in a deepening wamth, for the first time since winter took hold, I find time to sit. With the absence of movement, without having to worry about negotiating the hills and the fields, with time just to sit and contemplate, the valley bursts into life. It’s like sitting in a huge and magnificent amphitheatre but there’s not just the single focus of a sport or contest. Every single part of the valley throbs with activity. A family of deer watch the dogs in trepidation. Countless beautiful, big, brown buzzards soar and swoop. A pair of kestrels hover over the gorse bushes. The biggest rabbit warren I have ever seen, a city full of bunnies, teems with bobbing white tails. The trees are developing that slightly misty look as millions of buds begin to swell and fill. The insect population is burgeoning and heading towards a total that must surely be in the billions, surely exceeding even the number of humans across the whole of our world.
Paradise Valley is blossoming and as it blooms with it will come ever more intense beauty and experience. This, surely, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I live right here. For me it truly is paradise.
My first few weeks in Weymouth are brim full of experiences, pleasures, delights and precious few disappointments.
Here I am, nestled away in the delightful village of Sutton Poyntz in a deep cleft in the chalk hills in the biblically named valley of the River Jordan. Behind me, to the north (for an old sea dog always looks towards the water!) is my mountain. In fact, my recent purchase of an Ordnance Survey map has revealed that it achieves only one quarter of the height needed to qualify as such. Believe me, when you climb it, as I do most mornings, it seems plenty high enough. I used to think the miles that I walked with Capone and Carla around Chichester Harbour meant I was fit but in Dorset there are hills!
To the south is the most stupendous view across Weymouth Bay to Portland. The Jurassic Coast tumbles away towards Lulworth. The monstrous cliffs of Portland join the town’s Esplanade along the great shingle isthmus that is Chesil Beach and the sky, usually blue, reminds me every minute that I must be close to paradise.
It is not always a peaceful scene and I look forward eagerly to some vicious winter storms. Last weekend, Portland was hosting its speed trials and, sure enough, a 40 knot wind was blowing across Chesil Beach. The wind and kite surfers sailing parallel to the road were clearly outstripping the cars and the breeze was very much more than brisk.
I parked up, released the beasts and we set off to walk west over the shingle spine. The wind was as fierce as any I have known. Carla whimpered. Capone struck on. I struggled. Chesil shingle is large pebbles, difficult to walk through and with the blast in our faces almost impossible. As my head peeped over the crest I remembered what real wind means. Reaching the top I could lean my whole weight into it and riding the gusts, stand like Kate Winslet at the sharp end of Titanic, supported on air, resplendent in space.
We stumbled down the far side, an awe inspiring sight before us. Eight foot monsters pounding down. Spray flying thirty feet high. The majesty of the ocean before us. The huge, roaring, raging, thundering of the shingle dragged back in the undertow. A lump in my throat, my tears mixing with the stinging spray. The overwhelming, compulsive, massive power of it. I am part of an island race. The salt must run in my veins because this is being alive. Nothing can be more complete, more absolute, more real. Time stands still while the incomparable terror and beauty of nature displays itself.
The walk back is much easier with a helping hand up the hill and in the lee of the shingle mountain the wind now feels gentle and modest. This is why I came to the ocean. This is what feeds my soul.
I remember more than 20 years ago standing on the north coast of the island of Iona with my four month old son in my arms and being similarly overcome. If this is what Weymouth offers me in the first month then i am here for life.
Today, it was blissfully calm. The sea at Bowleaze Cove was as flat as the millpond at Emsworth. Above a million feathers of high cirrus cloud, slightly below, scudding cotton wool puffs, dark at the edges, a Dali-esque caricature of a sky but real not surreal. This is my new home and I love it!