Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Smell of Salt

In lovely morning light, I set out early to walk the cliff path from Southgate to Three Cliffs Bay. It’s not a long walk, and at this time of day, there are few people about. A small group of ponies loaf about on the top of the cliffs; some lay flat on the ground, which I assume are fast asleep. Just a few sheep graze the steep slopes down towards the sea. There are scrapes on the short turf from last night’s rabbits, and badgers have been here too. In a couple of places along the path, the pungent scent of foxes cuts through the pure air, mixing in the still morning air with occasional delicate whiffs of coconut from the gorse that covers the cliff top. But it’s the smell of salt that overpowers the senses. Landwards, the hedgerows bordering the fields are bursting with green life and it’s hard to remember now their struggle to emerge during the recent long, cold spring.

I sit looking down to the sea. A fulmar glides close by, turns back for another look, before gracefully disappearing round the headland. I’m surrounded by flowers; bird’s foot trefoil, one clump decorated by the deep red and black of a burnet moth, rockroses, thrift, daisies, sea campion, kidney vetch and much more. A few viper’s bugloss stand proud in the warming sunshine, and in years after the cliffs have been burned, these magnificent flowers can sometimes cover the ground.

I pause at the bench on the edge of the cliff facing west over Pobbles and Three Cliffs Bay; the beautiful sandy beach below is almost empty. A few distant hardy souls brave the water, still cold at this time of year, but there are some locals who bathe here every day. It’s an easy clamber down to the beach at Pobbles Bay. I round the rocks, cross the shallow water that was once the Ilston Stream, but the tide catches me out and I’ve no time to get past Tor Point into Oxwich Bay.

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