Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Floating upon a silken sea

Floating upon a silken sea
I must confess that it was way back in the depths of Winter that I last wrote a blog. It is now a month past the longest day & we are still waiting for Summer to properly arrive. Summer this year has been bitty, ragged, unclear of itself, almost as if its lost its confidence as to what its supposed to do. Before we know it, Autumn, that wonderful golden, fungal fruited time of year will be upon us but hopefully a little of Summers warm bright charm will pay a visit before the first Conkers fall from the trees.

In June 2006 my mate Andy & myself went on an overnight Kayaking & camping adventure in an impossibly beautiful part of Pembrokeshire. We've been on others but this one really sticks in the memory as one of the best. Its pouring with rain outside, the sky sodden & grey, it is cold & i've just put the heating on in July. I'm going to transport myself back to a coast of sunshine, cliff tops full of wild flowers & the tranquil turquoise sea of Pembrokeshire. If you want to come along too then please read on.

After part dragging, part carrying our two giant banana like kayaks to the beach, a distance of several hundred yards, we were already knackered. It was hot, the sky was cloudless & serene. Sitting upon the warm pebbles we rested & spied a small wildflower encrusted cliff top peninsula which to our eyes looked like a piece of Heaven had fallen from the sky. It is here that we set up camp.

Cliff tops crowded with flowers.

The view from our camp for the night.

The wild cliff top flowers were growing in such profusion that it was difficult to find a place for our tents but eventually we did. Like two beached Whales our kayaks we left at the back of the beach until the morning. The evening was glorious, the sun golden orange & red as it sank into the sea to meet itself & the promise of tomorrow & pushing off from the shore in our kayaks was all we could talk about. The rocky shoreline & stunning Pembrokeshire cliffs glowed in the radiance of the lowering sun, salmon pinks & shades of coral & the sea, slightly rippled & Turquoise.    


We toasted the sun with a beer & drifted to sleep listening to the gentle caress of the wavelets upon the shore & the distant cries of gulls.

We woke to another stunning day. It was early & already the day was full of sunshine & promise. After a wander over the cliff tops to snap a few pics of our campsite breakfast was cooked, devoured & cleared away. There cannot be a more pleasant experience than cooking in the outdoors, especially on a cliff in Pembrokeshire when you are about to explore the coast in your kayak. The excitement was building & I felt as if I was going to burst.


Our campsite cleared, the only clue to us having been there, some slightly flattened grass that was already springing back to point to the sky once more. We retrieved our kayaks, dragged them down the beach & pointed them at the sea. There is nothing like sitting in a kayak & with a little bit of forward momentum pushing yourself out onto the water. That exact moment that you are no longer in contact with the land but floating for the first time is absolute magic & you feel incredibly free & calm, unless of course you are heading out into the teeth of a force 10 gale. I don't suppose that would feel particularly calm or freeing. On this particular morning the sea was flat calm, the flattest & calmest i've ever seen it. It really was like a mill pond, a mirrored surface made of silk, rich in ozone saltiness & the aroma of hot barnacle encrusted rocks & dried seaweed.

We paddled up the coast exploring the tiny bays & inlets, sea caves & arches. Every couple of minutes wed catch up with each other & just break into smiles as broad as the Kelp that was gently swaying beneath us. The sea was crystal clear, the rocks sank into the depths kissed with emerald & turquoise & scattered with the dancing ragged sunbeams upon their rough Barnacle inhabited surfaces. Below, Wrasse would dart out of the forests of Kelp looking like they had ventured out forgetting they were still wearing their pyjamas & just as quick dart back in, curiosity satisfied. I did that once, went out to the local supermarket in my pyjamas. I only realised when I was getting out of the car so I carried on anyway. I don't think anyone noticed but I guess thats just the kind of town I live in.

Rafts of Razorbills swam & dived around us, their cackling calls echoing off the rocky cliffs & bays. As we rounded rocks, groups of them sat chatting in the bright morning sun, their bellies glowing from the reflected light & the Barnacles, shut as tight as can be hoping to survive until covered once more by the life sustaining sea. Wildlife never seems scared of you if you're in a kayak, it will let you get close. Maybe it doesn't recognise us as Humans, not seeing our usual upright stance but instead only seeing us from the waist up & with the addiction of a kayak skirt maybe its disguise enough.

Grey seals are great fun while exploring in a kayak. They do seem to recognise us as Humans but are still curious. They are sneaky though & will often pop up behind you so its tricky to see them but they can see you. Andy & I discovered a way to combat this. We just paddle backwards & it tricks the Seals into thinking that you are facing the other way. They pop up right in front of you so you can get a good look before they realise they have been fooled & dive back into the depths looking decidedly embarrassed. Luckily we saw Seals on this adventure, great flabby Seals basking in the sun upon bleached rocks looking like Jabba the Hutt but with Labrador faces. Such endearing mammals.

The sea cliffs on that morning in June were magnificent, ethereal & grand, bathed in beautiful morning light, dazzling & bright & to be beneath them on the surface of the sea I will never forget. Looking up into their craggy wildness & tracing them down into the emerald depths disappearing far down where its cool, dark & mysterious.

Paddling back the way we had come some more sea caves were explored, Razorbills passed & still chatting, probably about us & Grey Seals perched upon rocks like those ornaments that you can often buy at the seaside. With paddles sitting horizontally across our kayaks, gently cutting through the silky surface like a knife through butter ( salted of course ) & our hands trailing through the cool salt water we were happy. It had been a wonderful experience & for me personally all the better for sharing it with my mate. Its like watching a sunset. They are always beautiful to watch but to have someone with you to turn to & say "wow! look at that, " makes it even more enjoyable.

I managed to get some great reference for paintings during this short trip but to date I think i've only painted two inspired from it. One of Razorbills sat upon the rocks bathed in light & one of the cliffs with Andy in his kayak, tiny & floating beneath them. This one now hangs on his wall. I'll leave you with those two paintings. We really must get down to the coast again soon & do it all again.

1 comment:

john said...

Great photos, great paintings, and a great story. Thank you for posting it.