Eype Beach near Bridport, along the World Heritage Coast of Dorset and East Devon, is to be sold by West Dorset District Council. What follows is a brilliantly vivid account of a walk along Eype Beach, taken from a book about painting and the Dorset coast.
ON the way to the beach it starts to rain.
A soft, pearl-grey winter’s day, the mist forever coalescing into light rain, and dissolving back into mist. The narrow road cuts and twists between yellow sandstone banks; down, down to a tatty turning circle and the dip in the cliffs worn by the little stream’s slow seep into the beach: Eype’s Mouth.
Ignore the battlement of static caravans looming on the headland and plunge, not too literally, down shallow concrete steps, past signs which warn: “Rock falls: Cut off by tides: Mud flows” and: “These cliffs are dangerous and liable to fall at any time”.
Sea surges in, grey and foam-laced white. The heavy waves sigh and crash, turning and tumbling with deliberate, muscular strength. Their edges bubble and cream: wet whipped egg-white sizzling on shingle. Here, near the shore, the water is the colour of putty, but far out the bowed horizon is pure celadon.
Let’s walk. Underfoot the scrunchy pea gravel scrapes and squeaks. Sudden patches of sand give relief to legs already wearied by trudging on banked and sliding stones. Look closer underfoot – individual pebbles lucent with seawater; yellow rock turns to amber, red rock – carnelian, black rock – obsidian.
Saturn-ringed and Jupiter-blotched they lie like drifts of miniature planets, or glossy, marbled eggs; easy now to believe that they, like us, are made from the dust of stars.
Raise your eyes and the beach as a whole is patched red-roan with sand, boulders and stones.
As this is a Sunday, there are other walkers out in search of solitude, exercise and a breath of Nature. Two teenage girls with cameras seek to record the atmospherics via techniques of mechanical reproduction. You can gaze along the beach at the spumy, breaking waves and the top of Thorncombe Beacon disappearing into the sea-har and see the moody, picture-postcardish image they may have captured.
Single photographs, however good, will be unable to convey all of this; the sense of the damp wind blowing in your face, the sea noise, that kestrel who was suspended over the cliff edge, the sludgy heaps of carunculated, elephant-grey mud subsiding at the foot of the cliffs, the sharp, paper edges of the cliffs receding to Seatown, and the waves’ endless lift and tumble.
Extracted from Switch Off The Light And Let Me Try On Your Dress by Sara Hudston and John Skinner, published in a limited edition of 500 copies by Agre Books (2002).