15 January 2013

arthur's beach

this poem was hidden in a little alcove at arthur's for years until it disappeared in 2012

a gloriously sunny january day.... i wander along the road past a young cormorant drying his out-stretched wings in the morning sun and head onto the coast path. it's wet and incredibly muddy, slippy and slidey, and although i hadn't planned to go swimming the sun feels strong and the sea is calling. i decide to head down to falmouth bay through the tangled network of little paths above arthur's beach. being winter and less overgrown it's actually possible to follow the tracks, although there are many  branches tempting me in other directions. i follow my instinct and arrive at a sudden slope downwards. there are three ropes tied to the base of trees that you hold onto as if abseiling. when one runs out you pick up the next and then when that runs out there is another. seeing that they're well secured gives me the confidence to lean far back and swing down. it's incredibly fun and conjures up feelings and memories of my rock climbing adventures from way back. when i'm at the bottom i immediately want to do it again and again just for the experience.

this route brings me out onto arthur's beach and from there i clamber across the rocks to falmouth bay. it's bathed in a golden light, completely deserted and i take off my clothes. i'm just about to run into the sea when a man appears in the distance. i hesitate, then run, thinking i can be swimming before he gets any closer.... and his nearing presence is the motivation i need for a quick entry. it's cold but not unbearable and i swim as fast as i can out to a solitary rock only visible in this very low tide. i think the man might pass but he doesn't. he places his bag down quite a distance away and gets undressed. he wanders in up to his knees, seems to have a change of heart and then returns to the warmth of his woolly jumper. by now i'm a tad chilly and he's busy dressing so i seize the moment and run lightening fast to my scarf, which, today doubles as a towel. i wander around in my vest top and pants for quite a while as i dry off in the sun. i'm fully dressed and balance on one leg to dust the clinging sand off the sole of my other foot with the outside of my sock. the man approaches. he must be in his late seventies or eighties and he looks at me shaking his head, "that's a messy way of doin' it" he says in a strong cornish accent. with his stick he points out a flat rock with a little pool conveniently in front of it and explains that you can sit down, swish the sand off your feet in the water and do it that way. i'm not one who likes to be told how to do something so i continue as i am, swaying precariously on one leg whilst trying to keep up the conversation. he seems puzzled that i'm not acting on his advice so i tell him that i'll do this foot my way and the other foot his. immediately he gathers up my bag, my coat and the buoys i found earlier and walks them one by one and places them on his flat rock.  i have to say- it's brilliant! it's comfy and you can have all your things next to you and the sand falls away effortlessly into the water and before you can blink the sun had dried your foot (well, not quite!) ....and you can leisurely pull your sock on and have a conversation at the same time, no problem. he looks like a man who's lived and learnt a bit. 

he asks me if i'm an art student, "cos a lot come down 'ere," he says "but none as brave as you". i'm flattered and we get chatting. he's lived here all his life and between himself and two friends they regularly cut back the network of paths. i'd always wondered who tended to them and replaced the  ropes when they became worn and frayed. he's a bit grumpy but he likes talking about his paths and takes me on a little tour of the ones that he proudly introduces as his own. we climb up above falmouth bay, his physical frailty and lack of breath become apparent but he mutters and swipes his stick at brambles with gusto. i gaze down on the rock i swam to and he waves his stick at things as if it were an extension of his pointing finger. he shows me where toads breed in the spring, we find a lone violet and he tells of his discovery of a rare orchid near where we are. he shows me a vast area of bracken and gorse and paints a picture of how it used to be when it was a luscious green field. there was once a big ramp for launching fishing boats which were towed down the paths by horses.

he mentions arthur and i ask if he means arthur as in arthur's beach. there is a big rock on the beach with 'arthur's beach' scrawled in yellow paint. it's been there for a long time gradually wearing away with every tide. "oh, yes", he says, "that's arthur for you. 'e daubed thaddon there". arthur is now in his seventies and isn't able to make it down to his beach as often as he used to. apparently he is known for saying to people, "had a good afternoon on ARTHUR'S beach have you?" and wandering off leaving  them a bit perplexed. i imagine he's a bit of a character. i ask this man why arthur named the beach and he says loudly, "egotism" and then mutters, "all 'e's got goin' for 'im". so he's obviously not a big fan of the man! he looks at his watch and tells me it's 2pm and he'd like to go further but he has to get back home for his cup of tea. and without much of a goodbye he wanders off in the opposite direction, stick in the air, bashing brambles on either side as he goes.

gull over swanpool

padlock round tree at the foot of the ropes to arthur's beach

getting ready for a swim

contemplating the sea

the moment before

going for it!

buoys found on arthur's

looking down at the solitary rock i swam to

being shown things with a stick

walking on past maenporth

detail of face of landslide at prisk- beautiful texture almost like a wasps nest

exposed roots from landslide- red as rust

old glass bottles uncovered in landslides

roots of an uprooted tree grow through the neck of a bottle

a mysterious rusty container on prisk

i found 44 cowrie shells at dusk- some with a head torch after dark!


  1. I enjoyed reading this and looking at your photos last night, whilst eating a bowl of yumptious chocolate and also licorice ice cream. Lovely to imagine the feelings of being in those situations...more vividly as it is places I know and love. Quite a character you met too. Very interesting to hear of he and his friends path maintenance role. Makes me want to share some photos from a February morning adventure I had, from Falmouth, all the way along to Trebah...back in 2008, when I was living by myself for a few months after Silje Camilla had gone back to Norway. Will see if I can find the photos and email them to you.

  2. Posted the photos here instead: http://takemetotheriver.posterous.com/a-walk-i-took-nearly-five-years-ago I remember waking up really early and feeling very excited about what was in store.