Hazy sunlight, scents of earth and leaf – the air around me is mild, warm and damp and a few birds are twittering quietly. I can hear traffic noise as always from across the river. And as always I make the conscious effort to tune this out of my awareness. I switch my inner hearing from silence to noise, silence to noise, playing with it – as I pause to watch a small spider busily spinning silky threads in the brambles and then pause.
It is quiet. The children have all gone back to school after the summer holidays and there is no sound from gulls or crows.
Sun is warming my cheek and ear. There is a little rush of wind up above and the high leaves tremble.
A few bees and flying insects buzz between the remaining blackberry blossoms. There are plenty of blackberries, but they are unripe and shrivelled because of the cold rainy summer just passed. This is the second day of sunshine in a row – remarkable! Until recently I’d have taken this weather for granted, but not now.
On a little patch of open grassland, there are masses of wildflowers still in bloom, with crowds of flying insects swarming all over them: dragonflies, butterflies, little black jobs and little stripey hovery things, to name but a few (?!)
Sitting on the bench looking out over the river (the one where people leave wild bird seed and a little hollow has been beak-pecked into one end) I notice there is an awful lot of noise going on, most of it human: the relentless tractor on the opposite bank baling hay, the incessant traffic, and more distantly , engine sounds, boats and machinery from upriver.
So I wander off down through the trees to the water’s edge. The trees muffle the noises. It is cool and sheltered by the water, and I decide to sit down again – this time by the stream running down to the estuary through the steep wooded combe. I listen to it rushing through the trees, and watch the sparkling movement at my feet.
I am actually sitting on part of the South West Coast path here. Two or three times a solitary walker passes by with purposeful intent, backpack, strong legs and boots…. These are obviously long distance walkers- not like me who has good intentions, but is endlessly distracted and never gets very far….
The north coast of Devon is nationally and internationally renowned for its beauty and important ecological qualities. Like much of what is vital to human life, it is under continual threat from overly aggressive commercial interests.
The place where I was sitting is near Northam, and owned by the National Trust.
The South West Coast Path is just what it says: a 630 mile National walking trail around the south west coastal landscape of England.