Out walking the other day I noticed a skip outside one of the last little cottages in the area. It’s occupant had died the previous week after a long illness. Her good neighbours could be seen in recent times going in to visit, or out walking her dog. Now she is gone and there is the possibility of the cottage being sold, rented or kept empty as a holiday home. The whole thing made me melancholy, not only that this lovely lady who had lived with her husband in their unassuming cottage overlooking the sea had left, but also what their departure emphasised – the accelerating creep of suburbia. Most of the houses here now are relatively modern but are modest compared to some of the newer builds which have settled like rotten teeth in the lower jaw of the coastal loop. Inexplicably it seems easier to get planning for two-storied ugly things the closer you are to the sea.
The most recent cottage to receive a makeover around here now has a shiny new roof and modern window frames. Not bad you might say but far worse is the collection of tightly packed structures dropped, seemingly at random, into the small plot which was once a shady habitat behind the cottage. Now, with the hawthorn around it cut back, the slanting black planes, unbroken by windows, redact the skyline. It’s cramped, dark angles, senselessly crowded into the small space, induces claustrophobia even walking past. But change is inevitable and I suppose those that came before mourned the new bungalows and those living in ditches despised the cottages when they were first built.
There are still one or two old cottages left, some green spaces fiercely protected. If you concentrate on them, and on the rumpled fields and headlands, the reddish brown cliffs, the wheeling birds, you can, imagine it as it once was before blow-ins like me took root. The cottages low and drifting smoke on the chill evenings as figures crossed the blue fields behind their cows. The road, then just a track where people stopped to swap tales or along which they hurried to borrow milk or share a catch of mackerel, or visit a sick neighbour. Some things don’t change. As the night closes in and the owls and badgers and foxes start their shift, the warm lights in the windows dim and go out one by one and beyond, barely visible but constant to the ear, the heaving sea.
Last week I rock-pooled and as those in the know, know, rockpooling is like heroin – for anoraks like me anyway. So I was at it again this week. This time also saw some Snakelock Anemones, below. Those chaps can’t retract their tentacles. Awkward. The ones I didn’t name last week (even further below) are Dahlia Anenomes.