Walking with the Ghosts

Culvercliffe is one of the local beauty spots where I like to walk the dog. It has great views across the Bristol Channel towards Wales, and the woods behind are full of wildlife. Sitting there the other day, I was struck by the odd mixture of sounds, with the waves crashing onto the pebbles accompanied by the birdsong. Not seagulls, you understand, proper birdsong.

Although I am not an expert, there was a blackbird and a robin that I could quite easily identify from their songs. Other birds were about, but I didn’t hear the blackcap singing – I am told they sing as beautifully as nightingales.

Walking along, I became fascinated by the little plaques on the benches, placed there in memory of loved ones, now departed. This is a place that is not only well-loved now, but has been beloved by the local population for many generations. There is not much space on one of those plaques after the name of the person, or people, to whom the bench is a memorial has been engraved. The plaques have just enough room for a short phrase, so it is interesting to read what people choose to put there; they have messages like, “He loved this place” or “This is not the end.” It reminded me of that little story about the waves crashing onto the beach.

This is the place that I come to recharge my batteries, so to speak. I don’t know if it is just my imagination at work, but when I look at the land, I think I can still discern the evidence of the medieval ridge and furrow ploughing pattern. But, in any case, cultivated or not, the Alexanders (also known as loveage) still grow profusely there in the clearing between the beach and the woods. It turns out they are a member of the carrot family that were imported by the Romans. They are edible and, who knows, perhaps I’ll give them a try one day.

My Jack Russell (Darcey) charges about trying to catch the rabbits but they are just too quick or too cunning. They have their escape routes pre-planned and seem to manage to get away quite easily. After our walk, as we make our way back to the car, the dog decides it is time to call in at the local pub (The Old Ship Aground). She drags me in there because she knows she can get a lot of fuss from the locals, she can always manage to pinch a few stray morsels from under the tables and she can get herself in front of the log fire. In addition, the landlady usually gives her one or two dog biscuits – no wonder it is one of my dog’s favourite haunts.

After a quick pint, we hang about outside to take in the view across the harbour. Then it’s time to make our way back home. There is something about this place that is good for me and for my thinking (and it’s not the beer – actually, that’s probably a little counterproductive). Right now, I feel relaxed, refreshed and energised and when I get back home, I know that I will be ready to write even if I don’t yet know what I will be writing about.

It’s strange how this communion with nature works. I remember Deepak Chopra saying how important regular interaction with a particular place – perhaps a river or a wood or the sea – is important for reflective thinking. Before we moved to Somerset, I used to visit the cathedral or walk along the river for the same purpose, but here walking with the ghosts at Culvercliffe, I know I have found the place where my writing will be inspired for many years to come.

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