So back to the wreck of the Teignmouth Coal Boat – our shore journey in verse begins from that wreck off Hopes Nose. How will we return to Teignmouth? We’ll walk ….. yet another of the fine features of Teignmouth is that it lies on the South West Coast path.
This National Trail is rated as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world by Lonely Planet and voted Britain’s best walking route by the readers of Walk magazine.
It was originally a means for the coastguard to track and pursue smugglers and continues to provide access to 630 miles of stunning coastal scenery from Minehead to Poole.
Early in September I met a woman, Sam Allen, with a 40lb pack and three dogs who was walking the whole length of the trail for charity – Macmillan Cancer Support and the Dogs Trust.
That was a catalyst for this poem which gives a different take on the South West Coast Path.
You peer from the eyrie of the Ness
through gauzy mist
that warps and drifts from sea to shore.
In sinuous hush between the river banks
it veils the distant flanking hills,
the guardians of the Teign.
Maybe you rest on the salt-stained bench,
shrugging off your pack of life
to ease the tension coursing from your shoulder blades
down the knobbled pennines of your back.
You reflect you’ve travelled so far
from your Minehead birth
when you crawled and skipped and slid and ran
your youth and teens along the northern coast
gyring at the end of land, finisterre,
from where you shed the hinterland of youth,
grew up and garbed the journey of your stride
treading on the edge of life.
To your left the safety of the land,
to your right the cliffs
and risk of slip to pitbull rocks below.
The path’s not easy on the coastal clefts,
chasms carved by wind and brook,
smoothed by toughened hands of time.
You brace yourself for each descent
and feel the lactic pain
of every tortured step you climb.
Babbacombe, Watcombe, Maidencombe –
the deceptive wombs of comfort
that lead you to that Shaldon Ness.
Teignmouth lies below,
a flat oasis, a musing ground
in your autumnal haven years.
But you’re just passing through.
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