Rockham Bay: artwalking

I could hardly see through the rain and mist as I was driving along, or perhaps it was a heavy layer of cloud that had descended. It was one of those grey sunless days when cold and dampness seep into the skin into the body, chilling the bones. Not very conducive to sitting around sketching the landscape, I thought – or lying in the grass admiring the sky – however, there are three good pubs in the village of Mortehoe where we were meeting, so I was not too worried!

I had never been to Rockham Bay before. I was excited in a subdued grown-up sort of way. I was the first to arrive, and as I wandered around getting a sense of the place, I could feel that it was slowly becoming warmer and lighter. Not much wind and I could begin to feel the sun on my face.
Through the green steep-sided valley, we could see the sea straight ahead. We could feel spring in the air – birds were singing and wild snowdrops lined the narrow muddy track as we clambered down. We passed through twisted and dwarfed trees, thick with lichen and moss, distorted and deformed by the Atlantic wind. But today there was no wind. The mist was dispersing and it was growing gradually warmer.

We came steeply down to a small secluded bay – all around were grey slatey cliffs, dramatic with fractured vertical fissures. Formed around 30 million years ago apparently, at a time when the tectonic plates of the Earth were shifting, and forcing the rock under intense pressure to fold and concertina tight so that the normally horizontal layers were tipped up and became vertical.


Scattered jagged rocks were strewn under the cliffs, and beyond the rocks, an expanse of pristine sand and the distant sea.

Amongst the rocks we found the remains of a shipwreck, sunk into the ground, fused into the rocks so it was almost indistinguishable from them.

The sun came through as each in our own reverie enjoyed the fresh air, the peace and tranquility and the slow rhythm of the sea.

Rockham Bay is owned by the National Trust. Looking on their website afterwards, I read that this area :

 “… has a rich history of smuggling and wrecking; the wreckers of Mortehoe were greatly feared by sailors [… ]. The locally found Morte Slates produce distinctive rock with razor edges. The currents here are treacherous and have caused a great many ships to be wrecked on the jagged rocks”.

A stage set for human drama.

About throughstones

I am primarily a visual artist, living on the North Devon coast, a beautiful semi-rural area in South West England. I am interested in full engagement with 'place' and the eternal movement of life - particularly as it relates to what we call 'the natural environment'.
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