memories of a British coastal landscape

Before my impending departure to the States I’ve been out and about visiting a few places that I won’t see for a while. This week, I took my Grandmother back to the town where she grew up on the English south coast – Lyme Regis in Dorset. I’d never been and she hadn’t been back for a while so it was a trip down both new and old memory lanes.

And what steep lanes. Apparently they used drag cargo up Cobb Road from ships docked in ‘the Cobb’. They realised it was a bit much like hard work up these steepled slopes and stopped a fair while ago. But there were other war-time stories about the inclines; run-away trucks with failed breaks, careening down narrow lanes toward the sea-front, their landings cushioned not by a sandy beach but by the solid walls of the old coal merchants (it seems it’s still happening these days too). Line upon line of American soldiers snaking up and down Broad Street outside the old Regent Cinema (then The New Thing In town). Apparently it remains quintessentially British today – tea and biscuits from a china cups and saucers before taking your seats (aside the fact it shows the latest Hollywood block-busters of course).

The vertiginous topography has not only caused rapid runaway of trucks, but also the rapid (and creeping) runaway of the soil. Efforts to manage and reduce land slippage are being undertaken in parallel with a £17 million coastal defence and harbour improvement scheme. Whilst understanding that it is necessary if they want to save their sea-front industry (which has changed from sea-trading and fishing to sea-swimming and tourism), locals aren’t happy about the large new shingle banks that provide the needed protection. Sand has accumulated in the harbour over recent years and has now been joined by a nice sandy beach imported from France.

Alongside visiting the sea-side we had tea and cake at some old friend’s house – all in all a good day stocking up on memories of the British coastal landscape before I jet off across the pond.

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