Monday, 17 February 2014

A Walk

Yesterday was the first really fine day for a walk.
The main path was at times impassable because of mud, but sidestepping it to dryer grass was not an option. I tried to do so, but the earth was sodden, and the grass underfoot was awash with water, giving a marshy feel. This is normally grass that soaks up the water, and is fairly solid soil beneath; but the weeks of rain had taken their toll.
I cannot begin to imagine what it is like in England, though, with houses and roads and fields flooded by the rising waters. Power is often cut off, making their plight even harder, and yet so many seem to muddle through, and just keep going. One of the saddest sights for me was the Dawlish line and sea wall, torn apart from the high tides. A beautiful seaside town, full of charm, I've been there both by car and by rail, and the train hugs the shore, giving spectacular views. Now it has been all wrecked.
Elsewhere on my walk, the fields were covered with plastic sheeting to protect the early new potatoes from the frost, although I suspect the main hazard this year will be water. In the days when there was a dedicated Agriculture and Fisheries committee, they used to issue warnings about potato blight, and I wondered if conditions of the sun on the sodden fields and the plastic sheeting might be conducive to this, or if the weather alone could just cause them to rot and not mature properly. Potato blight, incidentally, swept across the world from America to Europe in the 1840s, reaching Jersey in 1845.
A small herd of about half a dozen cows were grazing in the field beside the road to Beauport. I do love to see Jersey cows when out walking, and while a large herd is a stupendous sight, the small herd which grazes around the fields by Beauport is always good to see. St Brelade's is a much urbanised Parish, but it still has enclaves of dairy cows and sheep grazing, and the meadowland around Beauport is still unspoilt by houses. Houses are, for the most part, always in the distance, on the horizon, but for moments on the pathways, there are brief snatches of complete wilderness, with only a track, passing through the trees and no dwellings to be seen.
A couple of dog walkers took my photo above Beauport, and told me they were taking the slower path rather than the steep steps to the beach; I was in fact taking neither, I was going to the headland. On my way I passed another couple with their dog, sitting on a bench, and having a picnic; this was surely one of the first picnics of 2014, but the weather was warm and sunny, there was no appreciable wind, and I was fine myself with just a light jacket and jumper; I had left behind my heavier winter coat.
The tide was very low, and the central rock in Beauport was deserted by the sea. Elsewhere, across the bay, I could see very low rocks that are usually invisible, and a hazard to the unwary mariner. There were a number of walkers taking advantage of the finer weather, and a few out on the headland, where I paused to sit on a bench overlooking the bay. The sky was clear of clouds, apart from the criss-cross patterns of jets high in the stratosphere, and the sea was calm, although curiously bereft of boats or yachts.
I discovered by chance that if my camera is pointing to far sights before zooming, it moves to a high digital zoom, in excess of the zoom that it normally does. I took a few photos using this new facility; it is one of the problems of a second hand digital camera, that you don't have the manual, and I've always been too lazy to look it up online, preferring, as I suspect most people do with manuals, to just try things out and see what happens. I managed a quite nice close up of some of the usually unseen rocks, and turning the other way, got a shot of the air port control tower. This is so high that it is visible from many places, and is a handy reference point for locating where the airport is.
On my way back, I met a dog walker with two dogs, and we were discussing the problem of keeping a dog when working. Apparently, she and a number of other people in the estate employ an agency which takes the dogs out for walks in the day, has them socialise together, and feeds them as well when they are returned. I didn't quite have the cheek to ask how expensive that was, but on a daily basis, for five days a week, it must amount to quite a tidy sum. I don't think I could afford it! Still, it is a good idea for a niche market, and I'm glad that someone is doing it. I also saw another dog walker whose dog had hurt his eye, apparently (as he told me) for that breed, it is always a hazard with brambles and the like, and but he has Pet Plan insurance, so while inconvenient, it is not too costly.
As I left the grasslands, and headed back towards the houses, I noticed a few daffodils. They have not yet come out to bloom, but their green shoots are preparing to emerge. Despite all the terrible storms, there is spring waiting around the corner, and I hope that it brings better weather.

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