Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Devon by Nightfall?

Living on the west coast in the direct line of the Gulf Stream, we get rain, lots of it.  An old university friend of mine, who came from Cork on the southwest coast of Ireland, loved it.  He often waxed lyrical about how he liked to walk the cliffs in fine, warm drizzle, and I never really believed him.  Now I do.  After living for four decades on the coast of Wales, rain is part of everyday life.  Although I try not to venture out when it's serious, it doesn’t really bother me at all.  We get all sorts of rain, from fine drizzle to severe gales, and it constantly changes the countryside.  It’s so unpredictable too, arriving suddenly only to cease in an instant.  Life goes on in spite of the weather; we just live around it.

On days like today, when there’s blanket of heavy rain from dawn to dusk, I can sit in the shelter of the car at the lighthouse and watch the rollers pass over the sandbank offshore.  There’s real drama out there.  Low cloud merges with sea and spray, all carried along by the strong westerly wind.  There's no horizon.  The few gulls dotted about in the surf don’t seem to be bothered at all by the wind, now blowing at gale force, and camouflaged oystercatchers seem to be unaware of the weather. This is not the first storm of the autumn, but heralds the arrival of many more to follow on this wild Atlantic coast.
Along the cliff path, the stiff wind has torn away leaves that promised a show of autumn colour. Coastal hawthorns, bent by generations of gales, lean landward, attracting loose flocks of starlings facing windward as they gobble up a few berries before quickly moving on.  Others join linnets and meadow pipits keeping low to the ground in the stubble of a neglected field.  Away from the cliffs, trees, more protected from the ravages of the wind, leaves hang on, but the trees are slowly beginning to show winter geometry. 

It’s getting late for autumn migrants now, and a lone swallow fighting against the wind will find it difficult to cross the channel to Devon before nightfall.

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