Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Pier and the Cricket Pitch

When I was a child in Oklahoma City I loved secret hideaway places, many of them probably quite unsafe: up in the huge elm trees in our back yard; the funny little shack next to Grandmother’s house, behind the dry cleaners, probably full of carcinogens; the 3’ tall storm drainage tunnels, with only a trickle at the time, but I couldn’t always see the other end when I entered.

My best friend and I would explore endlessly, even trespassing at times. I remember a tree that bridged a small stream on the grounds of the posh private Casady School.  We had to dodge the gaggle of guard geese to get there, though adults who saw us never said anything.

There was also a cracked old swimming pool full of tadpoles and frogs alongside a quartz cave at the back of a big estate somewhere in Nichols Hills. We walked on the railway tracks for miles, skittering up the embankment when we heard a train coming. Looking back now, I’m horrified at the dangerous situations we put ourselves in, but it was all so very interesting, these places.

I still have that sense of wonder now, when we walk the trails and alleyways around here. The whole area (the whole country) is criss-crossed with public footpaths, bridle paths and cycle routes.

Trespass is prevented with tall iron gates, or stone walls sometimes topped with broken glass. In any case at 55 I’m much less likely to crawl through a gap in a fence than I was at 10. The great thing is that I don’t need to.

There are sheltered little paths like this one that lead along great stone walls and bring one out next to a cricket pitch.

Out the little wooden gate are endless narrow streets and alleys and tall old houses with fire escapes and tiny balconies or yards.

There are plenty of railways, but the tracks are made fairly inaccessible and the speed of passenger trains doesn’t bear thinking about even it if did still seem attractive.

Instead we can walk the mile length of a pier that takes us nearly out to sea.  We can see the priory and the beach from a different angle and appreciate why the small houses behind the cove called Priors Haven are on a road called the Spanish Battery.  

Bill says there used to be cannons on the cliff before there were piers, when discouraging invaders was more important than guiding ships into the mouth of the River Tyne.

We got to pondering how many different ways people find to enjoy the water: fishing, swimming, surfing, jet skiing, sailing, rowing, photographing...

It really was a gloriously sunny and, with barely any breeze, it was almost warm. In spite of having done a six-mile race in the morning, Bill let me walk him around another 4-5 miles in the afternoon.


BigLittleWolf said...

These photos are beautiful. From where I sit at the moment, this sort of view you're showing seems like another planet. But quite a lovely one!

The English Organizer said...

Great pier! So many of the wooden ones seem to have fallen into disrepair - yours looks much more sturdy.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

wow. i am just catching up on your posts today. i must have read at least 7. you have these great walks, shelley, and thank you (to bill also) for snapping these photos to accompany your snappy prose. one book i loved in college (well, the trilogy set) was part of c.s. lewis's space trilogy. the specific book was "out of the silent planet," and in it the title character "ransom" goes on a walking tour before he's kidnapped to another planet. very fun read.

great posts! i liked your story of walking on a felled tree to cross the stream to a private school. ever read "a separate peace" by knowles?

Shelley said...

Snappy prose, eh? I'd call it soppy, but never mind. Pleased you like it. We do have great walks. I write about them to express my gratitude for being able to live in an interesting place. I've never encountered the C.S.Lewis space trilogy. Nor A Separate Peace. Must check those out. I spent today in York with an old friend from Oklahoma who hasn't encountered Bill Bryson...there are a lot of things in the world and I suppose we can't meet them all or even the things we meet, we can't absorb them all. Glad you came back for a visit, Jg. We inhabit very different worlds, but it's nice to say hello now and then.