The Unattended Moment

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The Bay from Castlebarrow, late evening.

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Millennium Bridge over The Lune, Lancaster.

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

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Daffodils at Far Arnside.

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High water in the bay again.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land’s edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale’s backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.

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The view from Park Point. With added whitecaps.

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Looking to Grange-Over-Sands.

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Looking south along the coast.

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River Kent from Arnside Knott. Lake district hills lost in cloud.

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River Lune. Ruskin’s view.

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St. Mary’s Kirkby Lonsdale.

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The Bay from Castlebarrow.

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Arnside Tower.

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Whitbarrow from Arnside Knott.

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The River Kent from Arnside Knott again.

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The bay and Humphrey Head from Arnside Knott.

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.

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Looking south along the coast.

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Sunset from Emesgate Lane.

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These last two images are actually videos. I don’t think they’ll work, because I’m too tight to fork out for a premium account. But click on the pictures and that should take you to the relevant flickr page where you can hear the sound of the wind and the breaking waves, some of the many voices of the sea, should you wish.

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The photos here are mostly from the ‘leap day’ weekend at the end of February and the start of March, except for the first which is from earlier that week.

The quotations are all from ‘The Dry Salvages’, which is the third of T.S.Elliot’s Four Quartets. To be honest, I stumbled across it when looking for something about the sea – or so I thought. It turns out, what I was really looking for was that passage about ‘the distraction fit’, ‘the unattended moment’. I’m sure I’ve read the poem before, but I’ve never been struck so forcibly by this section as I was on this occasion.

I remember trying to capture something like this idea in a post way back in the early days of the blog. Perhaps, in some ways, it’s always the ‘unattended moment’ I’m writing about, or seeking when I go out for yet another walk, or crawl around taking yet more photographs of orchids, or of leaves, waves, clouds etc when I have thousands of images of exactly those things already.

It seems entirely appropriate to me that Elliot’s examples of ‘distractions’ should end with music – anyone who’s been to a gig, or clubbing, with me and watched me throwing my ample, uncoordinated frame around, grinning like a loon, might have caught me in one of those moments, if they weren’t too lost in the music and the moment themselves. But equally, they might have shared a moment like that during a wild day in the hills, when, despite, or perhaps because of, adverse conditions, our enthusiasm bubbled over into unexplained laughter and broad smiles; equally I think of a few ‘wild’ swims which sparked the same kind of happy absorption, or quiet moments around a beach bonfire. I’m heaping up examples because I can’t really put my finger on what I’m driving at, but I know it when I feel it.

Usually happens when the horns come in during this tune, for example.

The Unattended Moment

Notes from a Small Island

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The end of October half-term, and B and I were away on a tour with his rugby team in the North-East of England. When the tour was arranged, I don’t think anybody realised that England would be playing New Zealand in a World Cup semi-final that weekend. In order to see the whole match, we had to set-off uncomfortably early, but Billingham rugby club were very welcoming, opening their club house for us, providing us all with bacon butties and, in many cases, turning out to watch the match with us.

The boys match preceded a first team game, so in all I watched a lot of rugby that day. The boys won, but the first team were trounced.

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We stayed overnight in the youth hostel near Osmotherley. It had been so wet during the previous week that the stream which runs past this old mill was flowing over as well as under the bridge by the entrance.

The next day, the boys won again, this time in Redcar, which is where the two photos above were taken. I’m reasonably familiar with the Northumberland coastline, and have holidayed in the past in Scarborough, Whitby and Filey down in Yorkshire, but the stretch of coast between those two is a bit of a mystery to me. Looks like it’s worth investigating though!

Later, after the long drive home, I was out for a late local wander, so that I managed to photograph both the East and the West coasts in one day. This really is a small island.

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The boys were due to tour again in a few weeks time, but obviously, that tour is one of the many casualties of the current lockdown. A has been saving hard and fund-raising to pay for a jamboree in Poland this summer, S has spent two years learning Mandarin in after-school classes with the prospect of a heavily subsidised trip to China at the end of it. Both now cancelled. Personally, I’m quite happy pottering about in the garden, doing a bit of cooking and baking, catching up on the blog, reading, playing games and watching films with the kids and taking my one walk a day, but I feel for the kids, who are missing out on opportunities which may not come around again. Still, I dare say, other folk have it worse elsewhere, and the kids seem to have adjusted pretty well.

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In terms of the blog, that’s October dispensed with, and we’re rattling towards 2020!

Notes from a Small Island

Scarborough’s North Bay

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A fortnight ago now. B’s rugby team had a tour to Scarborough.

We stayed at Scarborough YHA, which was terrific, very comfortable and welcoming. What’s more, I survived Friday night’s drinking games relatively unscathed.

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Before Saturday’s match we had an hour to spare, so took a short trip down to Scalby Mills. The hostel is tucked away on the banks of Scalby Beck and this is where the beck emerges into the sea.

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After some team photos the boys all darted off to charge around on the beach. B managed to fall over and get plastered in mud. Also, when we rinsed away the mud it was to reveal some nasty scratches on his shines from the rocks he’d fallen on.

There was some speculation amongst the adult members of the party about how far it would be to walk around to the Castle on the far side of the bay. Perhaps that set some cogs whirring in my head.

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The facilities and pitch at Scarborough RUFC were amazing and the boys really enjoyed their game.

In the afternoon, we went to a water park with a wave pool and lots of slides for the kids and open-air heated pools and lager for the dads. The sun was shining, but the wind was artic, so this was a very odd experience. I could see that a second beer was likely to follow hard on the heels of the first, and knowing that mid-afternoon drinking would wipe me out, I decided to leave B with his friends and in the capable hands of the other dads and have a bit of a wander.

I first returned to the hostel, where one of the wardens recommended a path which follows the beck to meet the cliff-path, the Cleveland Way no-less, just north of Long Nab. I was pleased to see a hedge of Blackthorn decked in white blossom, a spring event which I always look forward to, but which I seem to have missed this year at home.

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Scalby Beck.

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My first thought when I reached the cliffs was that I must walk the Cleveland Way some time. It’s an idea I’ve often entertained.

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North Bay.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Alexanders…

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…growing abundantly in several places on my walk. They’re unmistakable, even though it’s eight years since I last saw them, when we were down in Cornwall.

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My walk took me along the sea-front, which was being splashed by waves.

And then up to the grand houses of Queen’s Parade.

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North Bay from Queen’s Parade.

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Scarborough Castle.

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South Bay from near the Castle.

 

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The Castle was just closing as I arrived, not that I had time for a visit. Another time.

I dropped down through a park, full of Alexanders, called The Holms and then back along the sea-front to the hostel.

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‘Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers.’ by Ray Lonsdale.

“The sculpture is based on a retired miner Ray became friends with who turned out to also be one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II.

This piece of art is not just about Freddie Gilroy but represents all the normal people that were pulled out of an ordinary life and forced into a very extraordinary and dangerous one during the World Wars.”

The statue is huge, perhaps twice life-size and very striking.

All-told the walk was almost exactly 5 miles, so I had an answer for those who had been wondering in the morning.

The following day we were in York for another match. Then last weekend, Little S was away on his team’s tour, this time to Dublin (accompanied by TBH). Both tours were superbly organised and very friendly, and great experiences for the boys. What’s more, I enjoyed myself too.

 

 

Scarborough’s North Bay

Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

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With high-tide generally falling around the middle of the day and therefore not much beach on offer at that time, we did a tiny bit more exploring than we sometimes do when we are on the Llyn, which is to say: some. We have once before been down to the end of the peninsula, but that was 7 years ago, and at that time the Llyn coastal path hadn’t been opened, so today’s walk wouldn’t have been possible.

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Bardsey Island.

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Former Coastguard lookout station on Mynydd Mawr.

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The coastal heath on Mynydd Mawr, with its patchwork of purple heather and low-growing, yellow gorse looked wonderful, and the sea, a fairly mundane blue in my photos, was a scintillating, almost unreal seeming, glittering turquoise in the flesh.

It was also breathtakingly clear – this was the day, my kids have reminded me, when TJF correctly picked out the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, whilst his Dad and I poured scorn on the idea, trying to persuade him that it was Anglesea he was looking at. In our defence, he had first tentatively suggested that those distant hills were in Pembrokeshire, which was patently ridiculous. So honours even then. Sort of.

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Two views of Mynydd Anelog.

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I suspect, but can’t recall, that this walk was Andy’s suggestion. Certainly he, and some of the others, have done it before, but for us it was a revelation. I took many, many pictures of the view along the coast and fell steadily further behind the group.

Then, with distractions closer to hand as well, the situation only got worse…

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Having been wrong about this before, I hesitate to offer a definitive opinion here, but I’m pretty sure that this is a male Linnet and not a Red-poll, the grey head and black tail-feathers being the deciding features.

I think that these gregarious black caterpillars are almost certainly destined one day, hopefully, to be Peacock butterflies.

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I’ve been a bit worried about Peacock butterflies. They are generally very common close to home and probably the most regular visitors to the Buddleia bushes in our garden. But until recently I’ve hardly seen any this year, and none in the garden. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so thorough when I pulled out all of the nettles I found in our flower beds a while back, since this is the caterpillars food-plant.

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As we dropped down into the gap between Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog we were sheltered from the wind and there were lots of butterflies about. This…

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…Wall Brown can stand in for them all. It’s not a species I see at home, although apparently it is present in the area.

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Common Fleabane.

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Looking back to Mynydd Mawr.

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Carn Fadryn see through intervening rain, the Rivals just about visible on the left.

We had a few spots of rain as we left the top of Mynydd Anelog (after our customary summit sit-down rest), but then the weather held off long enough for most of the party to have made it back to the cars, or near enough. Most of the party: TBH and Little S and I had been dawdling on the minor lane – I was introducing Little S to the delights of foraged Sorrel from the road verge – so that we were caught in the next fierce shower, which was first hail and then a really drenching rain. It wasn’t sufficient to put a dampener on a really excellent walk however.

Mynydd Mawr and Mynydd Anelog

Turnstones on Roa Island

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Male Eider.

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Turnstone (non-breeding plumage).

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Edible Crab.

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Sea Spider.

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Butterfish.

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Broad-clawed Porcelain Crab.

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Chiton (possibly Lepidochitona cinerea).

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Starfish…

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…walking.

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Snot?

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Herring Gull.

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Juvenile Herring Gull (probably).

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Roa Island just keeps on giving and giving. Every visit throws up something new. This time both the wind and the water were perishingly cold and we didn’t find quite the same abundance as usual. Apart, that is, from B, who has an eagle eye for these things. Sea Spiders and Chitons are both new to me. Sea Spiders aren’t actually spiders, but do have an extraordinary resemblance, whilst Chitons are molluscs with eight overlapping plates. A found the Chiton – when she pointed it out in a shallow pool I assumed that what she’d seen was just a fragment of a seashell.

Whilst the others retired to the shelter of the car to eat their packed tea, I wandered back down to the end of the jetty and tried to capture images of flying gulls. Slightly quixotic behaviour, since the light was fading, and the gulls raced past downwind, but they were relatively stately when they flew back upwind so it wasn’t impossible.

Many of the stones we overturned were covered in eggs (or roe) of some kind. The roe, in turn, was often covered in Whelks. I couldn’t decided whether the Whelks were laying eggs or eating them. Several stones also had blobs of creamy white or emerald green…well, we’ve christened it ‘snot’, for want of any more accurate knowledge.

No doubt, we’ll be back again sometime this summer.

Turnstones on Roa Island

Jersey – The Channel Island Way V

Coastal path

Less to report about our final afternoon’s walk – which is slightly odd because the north coast (where we was!)  – less populous, higher and craggier then the other coasts – is the part of the path which appeals to me most and which I would really like to go back and explore further.

It was a short walk with a modicum of up and down.

North coast

This is the closest part of the coast to the other islands…

Sark 

…particularly Sark. Which brings me to an aspect of the Channel Island Way which I haven’t touched on yet: the other islands! Whilst Alan and I only experienced a flavour of what Jersey has to offer, the Channel Island Way has sections on Guernsey, Sark, Alderney and Herm too. Usually on a long distance footpath you might expect to start at point A and progress to Z via B, C, D etc. or possibly begin at A and eventually return to A, but the CIW is a little more complex. I suppose, on the downside, that this might add to the cost somewhat and necessitate a little extra logistical effort, but I can’t help thinking that the opportunity to indulge in a little island hopping would only add to the charm of the whole enterprise.

La Tete de Plemont

 La Tete de Plemont

Fumitory 

Another plant I don’t usually see – a fumitory. I don’t know which, probably common fumitory.

Steps 

We finished our walk with a descent to a cafe (just for a tea – more grub would have to wait a while, on the subject of which, Alan has now posted a photo of his epic lunch. And if you think that’s big – you should see what he ordered for dinner. It was a burger, but of Cow Pie proportions. I kid you not, the waiter was sniggering when he brought it, and practically weeping when he had to get the block and tackle out again to get most of it back to the kitchen).

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Alan’s evening meal.

Anyway, I digress, the cafe was perched just above what I suspect would have been another fine beach, but the tide was in. The was just enough time, before the limo arrived, to pop down to the water’s edge and get splashed by the incoming waves.

Waves - La Greve au Lanchon 

They weren’t huge.

More waves 

But big enough to provide a little sport…

Aussie lifeguard surfing 

…for the local lifeguard…

More surfing action

….although I believe that Jersey’s lifeguards aren’t local at all, but are shipped in from Australia. Why? Because that’s were the the best trained lifeguards are found. Which is a neat little metaphor for what Jersey has to offer – a little bit of the best of everything!

Jersey – The Channel Island Way V

Jersey – The Channel Island Way IV

La Corbiere lighthouse

Our second day’s walking started at the south-west corner of the island overlooking ‘the iconic’ La Corbiere lighthouse. And right beside this radio tower

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…a remnant of the wartime occupation and another of the buildings available as a holiday let from Jersey Heritage. In fact, we later met a man who was staying there with his family – I gather that the view from the top – come rain, shine, fog or storm, is stunning. From this vantage there’s a good view of Guernsey, Sark and Herm, but not Alderney which is much further north.

We saw….

Wheatear 

….wheatears regularly on our walk. I associate them with hill country, but they like beaches and coastal heath too.

Hottentot fig 

Hottentot fig is a very invasive introduced species, from South Africa like the Jersey lily, which has colonised large areas of the coastal cliffs and hillsides.

Pink hottentot fig flower 

I believe that, understandably, attempts have been made to remove it.

Yellow hottentot fig 

It does look very cheery though.

At the start of our walk, we had seen the catamaran leaving St. Peter Port on Guernsey heading this way. As we descended to this stony cove….

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…we first heard (almost felt) and then saw it pass…

Jersey catamaran

We’d come this way to investigate this cave, …

Smugglers' Cave 

…which even Arthur had never explored before.

Kestrel 

 Another Kestrel.

Grayling 

Throughout our walks we saw quite a number of butterflies – the previous morning it had been mostly speckled woods. This morning I wasn’t sure what we were seeing – they would flutter past and then apparently disappear. You can perhaps see why! I think this master of disguise is a grayling. (But as ever I stand ready to be corrected.)

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A little like I had in France in the preceding weeks, I felt slightly lost looking at exotic flowers, which as far as I know don’t occur on my home stretch of the Lancashire coast, and wondering whether they were native species or garden escapees.

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I think that this might be purple viper’s-bugloss, but as you might gather, I’m not remotely confident about that.

We had climbed away from the sea a little to look at the reservoir for Jersey’s desalination plant – an old quarry full of green seawater, and also the building which had housed the winding gear for the quarry. There were many butterflies here: more graylings (I think), a gatekeeper, and this….

Wall brown - female 

..beauty, which I assumed must be a fritillary, but they don’t have eyes. it’s a female wall brown. 

Looking back to La Corbiere 

A view back along the coast – the squat ‘tower’ in the centre is the pump-house for the desalination plant.

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We saw many cormorants on both days – usually at some distance. This is not a great shot, but it gives me a chance to sneak in this description of cormorants…

…stood in groups upon the passing rocks like members of the clergy who have agreed, with bad grace, to differ.

…from Mr Pye by Mervyn Peake, which is set on Sark, the closest thing to Channel Island literature I could find on my bookshelves, and which I had reread on the flight over.

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 Path side artwork.

Blow hole 

We diverted slightly from the conventional route to take a look at this blowhole, which Arthur had heard is full of old cars – although we couldn’t get close enough to see whether that is true or not.

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More path side art.

Le Beau Port 

During our stay I didn’t swim in the sea at any point, although unbeknownst to Alan and Arthur, ever hopeful I carried Bermuda trunks and a towel in my rucksack the whole time. Isn’t that the advantage of coastal paths? Walk a bit, swim a bit? When I come back, I intend to swim at this beach, Le Beau Port – it’s the view above all others which will stick in my mind. Look at it. Don’t you want to dive in right now? (With a wintery storm raging outside I’d definitely swap here for there!)

Looking across le beau port

But for now I’ll have to make do with another view of a tres beau port. (Notice once again – almost empty!)

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A large clump of these cheery pink blooms graced the foot of a signpost nearby. It’s another plant I wasn’t familiar with. Trying to identify it, I got quite excited when I realised that Jersey has its very own pink, but the excitement was short-lived: this is not it. It was the leaves which gave the crucial clue…

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“They look a bit like wood-sorrel leaves,” I thought. So I looked up wood-sorrel, and there on the same page was pink-sorrel, another introduced species, this time from South America.

This is St. Brelade’s Church….

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…on the right, just out of shot, is…

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…which has 14th Century wall paintings which somehow survived the ravages of the reformation, and were rediscovered in 1918.

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 The chapel.

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 The annunciation.

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 King Herod.

From there it was a short stroll across St. Brelade’s beach to our lunch stop at ‘The Crab Shack’. Sadly Earl, Randy, Joy and Darnell were nowhere to be seen, but the plaice was every bit as good as I was coming to expect and Alan tucked into the biggest seafood platter I’ve ever seen.

But – that was the nature of our Jersey trip – walk a bit, eat a lot, walk a bit more, eat a lot more.

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 Black-backed gull. (Greater – perhaps)

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Herring gull.

Jersey – The Channel Island Way IV