Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Clifftops and Cairns

Day 16 - our heroine climbs a cliff (note: no caterwauling was required)

The sun shone brightly as I walked through the Pembrokeshire village of Porthgain. The tide was out leaving the few fishing boats behind the harbour wall beached in the mud, the ropes which tied them to the harbour wall hung limp, garlanded with drying seaweed. The fishy scent of the empty crab pots was soon left behind as, with the gentle breeze whispering across my arms, the call of the larks enticed me up along the Pembroke Coastal Path. 

I soon gained height, the cornflake-crunch of my boots upon the gravel path giving warning of my approach to the insects and other creatures which were doubtless hiding amongst the undergrowth. My aim was to reach one of the two white-washed cliff top markers placed either side of the cove, designed to lead boats safely to the harbour.

Porthgain was once a busy port where slate from the nearby quarries was taken and broken down before being shipped out. Later the slate works gave way to brick making and after that rocks were broken down into rubble for road laying. The buildings which housed the industries are derelict now and covered over by brambles and other creepers as nature seeks to take back ownership of the land. 

The walk was a practical exercise in ‘writing the landscape’, which is the title of the workshop I am taking at the Fishguard Writers’ Holiday. I wrote notes at various points on my walk to record not just the sights but also the sounds, scents and textures I was experiencing. Occasionally I muttered to myself if I saw something worthy of note, but I did not shout out.

I say this because ‘Clifftop caterwauling’ is a trope used in fiction whereby the hero climbs to a height and screams with rage, despair or triumph. Think ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The Lion King’. 

Triumphant as I felt from my climb, I satisfied myself with quietly adding another stone to the cairn made by those who had walked the path before me, before I returned to the harbour and The Sloop Inn where I enjoyed a most welcome drink.

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