Flash non-fiction: a tale of surf war

I’ve just found an old bit of writing, it’s a sort of flash non-fiction piece and I thought I may as well share. It’s quite airy-fairy and no jokes, I must have been having a grown-up week. I’m really busy at the moment so finding it hard to blog, there could well be more of these. Feel free to let me know what you think, even if you think it’s crap. I’d also welcome ideas for a slightly catchier title.

Beach, a tale of surf war

west dale

There’s no one on West Dale Beach.

The bay scoops into the land like a bite stolen from a giant biscuit and I’m standing where the gap in the front teeth would be. Rocks crumb into the steely water which stretches back, merging with the autumn sky. All that lingers between is a distant dark island, I don’t know its name. Anna does. She says only puffins and guillemots live there.

Standing on the cliffs, I can see rocks below, pebbles too, sand, sea, but no people. Then Anna comes into view. She’s reached the beach and is clomping across reddy-pink stones, hair flapping, heading for the sea.

“If she could keep going,” Amy, our mentor, tells me, “the next stop would be Venezuela.”

As I watch, Anna reaches the lip of the sand, where the band of loose stones – they’re the colour of watered down Merlot – gives way to a paler and softer sort of beach. She mars the sand’s smooth surface with the first satisfying footprint. I want to shout to her, to tell her to stop and wait for me, but it’s too windy: cold air rushes at my face with force enough to muffle any sound.

Instead, my feet begin to shuffle. I run.

Carefully, I leap gnarled wooden steps, two at a time, down the sandstone cliffs. At the bottom, there’s a clatter as I hit the pebbles, keeping my arms out for balance. Then a dull doof… doof... as I thud over the sand.

Anna’s not far ahead now. If I’m really quick, I think, I might feel the sea wash over my feet before she does. My cumbersome wellies slip off with a wriggle and a flick as I run, lightening the load. I hurry, now with bare feet pummelling the cold wet ground. But she still beats me to the shoreline.

A tall frothing wave crashes, swells and swallows her feet up to the ankles.

I walk the edge of the bay kicking worm castings and water. Anna stays where I left her, flicking her primrose hair and paddling.

A week in Pembrokeshire

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A week in Pembrokeshire

I just wanted to share a few pictures from my MA residential a few weeks ago in Pembrokeshire.

The first footprints on West Dale beach

The first footprints

I’ve just started an MA in nature and travel writing – I never thought I’d be back at Bath Spa university – and to kick start the course we spent a week at Dale Fort field studies center. It was a wonderful location, perched on the top of a rocky outcrop in deepest south Wales. We spent the days taking walks along the coast and discussing travel writers, photographers, landscape painters, ecology, ecocriticism, you name it, till late in the evenings before grabbing a cheeky red wine in the bar. It was pretty intense and there was a lot to take in, but it was one of those weeks where you come home feeling like a different person.

Dale Fort - teacher son the beach

Tutors – Paul and Joe discuss world domination

It was a bizarre place to stay – at meal times we ate sponge-based pizza and lumpy custard with rows of giggling children, tucked away in a small underground wine-cellar type room. On a couple of occasions we needed a break, when it began to get a bit too much like a trip to a 1950s boarding school we snuck off for some pub grub and a bit of respite. But on the whole it was a really great way to get to know everyone and stuck out there in the wilderness (if you’re a Londoner, Dale is pretty wild, OK) we really got our teeth stuck into things.

Common Toad (but don’t say that to his face)

The centre is surrounded by dramatic coastline, stunning beaches and we were lucky with the weather – the rain even cleared up for twenty or thirty whole seconds over the course of the week. I’ve written a piece about the experience, and just as soon as I find out that is hasn’t won the Guardian travel writing competition, I’ll post it up here.

(My computer has become too old to run PhotoShop, so the photo’s haven’t been straightened or tidied up. Sorry about that)

West Dale Beach

West Dale Beach – my favourite

Birds in stormy sky

bath spa travel writers

We all listen very carefully to Paul

Beauty and the beast

Dale castle, the village and more cows

Dale castle, the village and cows (that’s my class being intelligent in the distance)

sea and sky

Anna Is Eating on West Dale beach (not eating)