Sunday, 22 May 2016


On Saturday I drive out to the coast.  Through West Newton where a stream runs parallel to the road and the houses have little bridges to link them to the village street.  Then on to Allonby where I park by the shore and look over to Criffel on the Dumfries side of the Solway - only it isn't there because the mist has obliterated it.  Charles Dickens walked to Allonby when he was staying in Wigton with Wilkie Collins (Collins was recuperating after twisting his ankle on an ascent of Carrock Fell).  Percy Kelly painted it (he lived here for 12 years).  Meg Peacocke wrote a poem about it.  She included the road sign which reads "Allonby Please d  i  e carefully).

The wind churns up the incoming tide.  Beige-coloured sea water heaves itself onto the sandy strip between beach and road.  Beery froth crests the waves.  The houses at Allonby hunker down, crowding together for shelter against the next storm.  A gaunt dark brick building keeps a lonely vigil by the shore.   It's been derelict for years but I'm pleased to see that at last the Old Reading Rooms are being renovated and converted into a house.

I continue north towards Mawbray.  Soon there's nothing but sea on the left side of the road.  At Dubmill Point the land thrusts out a defiant rocky fist against the tide.  A black and white bird with bright orange bill flies low across the road and over the fields near Salta - an oystercatcher.  At this time of year oystercatchers come inland to nest - not just in fields by the Solway but further eastward, even to the Eden Valley (see my post of 23 February 2016).

At Mawbray the weather is even wilder.  The wind blows rain (or is it salt spray?) in my face.  The white horses are jostling for position as they race towards the dunes where a single line of cottages wisely have their backs turned to the sea.  But the rest of Mawbray is in retreat from the coast.  The village street runs at right angles to the beach as if the houses are trying to escape from the Solway Firth.

I still can't see Scotland.

  there is nothing
  to show there's land
            across the sea"

Mavis Gulliver
from "Looking South from Islay"
(Envoi issue 156 June 2010)

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