Friday, 6 January 2017

Napoleonic Wars

We often walk down to Brandy Cove, especially in summer, when the sheltered lane can sometimes be alive with butterflies and flowers; in winter it’s very different.  There’s no dappled shade and the fields and hedgerows are mostly devoid of life.  At Hareslade Farm I’m escorted by the sheepdog, he’s friendly enough, just making sure I don’t intrude into his territory.  It’s cold, the open field below the farm is white with early morning frost, but none reached this sunken path deep down in the slade.

At the bottom of the valley, the woodland ends.  I stand on the cliff edge overlooking Brandy Cove and imagine smugglers here during the Napoleonic Wars two centuries ago.  The origin of Hareslade is not clear and may have a connection to hares, but I’m told that the old name for the inlet was Hareslade even before these smuggling days.

The beach is deserted; just a few pipits exploit the wrack of kelp along the high water mark.  It’s low tide; un-trodden golden sand reaches to the water’s edge and all I hear is the cry of gulls and the gentle surf.  I turn west along the cliff path, in places treacherous from years of walking boots polishing the now wet rocks.  A few mid-winter gorse flowers decorate the cliffs, but apart from the ever-present golden lichen, there’s little colour.  There must be seven slades leading down to the rocky shore at Seven Slades, but I’ve never really worked this out.  I head on, conscious that the cold morning may thwart my attempt to reach Pwll Du Bay.  At the eastern end of the bay, a biting wind picks up, I decide against another stretch of slippery rocks and return to find the sun has almost melted the frost and the fields in Hareslade are greening once again.

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