Monday 26 October 2009

Sands of Time ...

Would you buy a golden sandy beach, without any rights other than ownership, except perhaps to raise income by authorising donkey rides, or sell ice-cream from a van? Thirty hectares of English property, consisting of 71 acres of sands and 5 acres of dunes, has recently been sold for £80,000.

This beautiful area of beach is where, as children ,we used to picnic and play in the sand-dunes, the rock-pools, jumping across the rocks at low tide, splashing as kids will in the surf (surfing was not an option then). Those days of freedom with the amazing views across to St Ives, and the other beaches we used to frequent dependent on the weather and winds; or we would drive south across the Peninsula to more sheltered coves in the vicinity of Penzance.

Godrevy Lighthouse has become synonymous with Virginia Woolf’s book “To the Lighthouse”; as it is believed, that although the novel is set in the Hebrides in Scotland, the lighthouse described is based on Godrevy, seen from across the bay when she was holidaying in St Ives as a child, or latterly with other members and artists of the Bloomsbury Group.

The colours would have been more amazing at Upton Towans, the beach sold, in the early part of the 20th century, before the cleanup of the mines started to take place. The little Red River runs out here, and when we used to visit there were still shells on the beach and in the water, the sea ran red, with the shells having taken on some of the colour (rather like the autumn leaves I described in the previous post).

Someone with Cornish connections is the purchaser, who is obviously philanthropic as the beach must remain open to the public, so those literary pilgrims may wander imbibing Woolf’s depictions, together with beach lovers there for the surf, that special light of the bay and the magical atmosphere that comes with being by the sea.

The shifting sands of time – the area was settled in medieval times, then tin mining and copper mining were possible in the early industrial days, before the revolution and its new developments took over, leaving numerous tiny backwaters of life around the country – however the sand dunes (known as ‘towans’) claimed a once prominent village – now buried and lost until the dunes move on and release their secret treasures.

Time moves on and as we learn more and more – we are able to find hidden ancient treasures beneath the rising seas (estimated 7.5” (190mm) per 100 years), to bring new knowledge of our world 2,000, 10,000 or more years ago .. so the creeping sands release their artefacts, the cliffs crumble spilling their fossil skeletal and shell remains out for us to find.

Will Gwithian beach be here in 1,000 years .. as Canterbury Cathedral withstands that test of time. The limestone used in its creation was brought over from Caen in northern France by the Norman craftsmen, who understood their stone and the need for longevity. The sedimentation process occurred millennia ago, compacting down to form various types of stone used by man as building materials, once they acquired the tools to work this earth.

Sand from Pismo Beach, California. Components are primarily quartz, chert, igneous rock and shell fragments. Scale bar is 1.0 mm.

The Norman craftsmen were renowned for their magnificent Abbey and Monastic buildings, so when the Saxon cathedral at Canterbury burnt down in 1070, William the Conqueror, as King of England, put their skills to good use to rebuild the Cathedral as a testament to one of the great holy places in Christendom, as well as cementing this first place of pilgrimage for those arriving in England from the continent.

The Caen stone, these craftsmen had used and loved for its ease of working, which over time hardens with its exposure to the air. The grain is fine, it is what is called ‘a live stone’, which means it can be sawn, or squared up in any direction – the crystal structure does not restrict the directions in which it can be worked: making it ideal for the intricate stone carvings that surround the structural elements.

Canterbury Cathedral from the city entrance

The missionary Augustine was sent over to England in 597 AD from Rome to found a place of worship, which is now encompassed beneath the current nave, but which would become the stunning Norman Cathedral that stands today, exuding wealth and splendour to all who have visited over the past one thousand years.

Repairs in the 20th century have been urgently required due to the erosion caused by the atmosphere and acid rains; much has been learnt however by the stonemasons of recent times. Relatively cheap stone was used, until it was realised that it stained too easily, and it did not weather well, as repairs made in the earlier years of the 20th century are now already shown to be disintegrating.

Église Saint-Pierre, Caen. The restoration of the 'chevet' shows the real colour of the stone.

So once again a similar limestone is being imported in massive blocks, weighing about two tons, to be worked on in the stonemasons’ yards before being assembled within the Cathedral structure to stand against the elements for another millennium.

This land of ours offers so much that perhaps we do not realise, the common sedimentary rock, cut and worked, still standing proud above the earth, once man realised its benefits, while nature’s sea sands erode and mould our coastline, laying down new layers for future generations to find.

Dear Mr Postman – I see your strike goes on .. but I’m pleased you’re able to deliver my letters; my mother has been asleep a lot recently, chatty and cheerful with the staff – as she says a laugh makes everyone happy – but then very sleepy when I’ve been around.

Perhaps the effects of my uncle’s death have yet to seep through, though Janice, our healing touch therapist – who is more!) talks to Mum about Derek, as do I when the occasion arises, and I asked the vicar to spend a little extra time with us immediately after Derek’s death – these things all help I think.

However apart from remarking on my cold hands – unusual for me – ‘don’t put them near me’!, she’s always asking about the blog! We have yet to ‘do’ all her birthday letters and cards properly – but she will have another period of wakefulness soon I expect.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Robin Easton said...

You are a walking powerhouse of knowledge, and so beautifully written. I found this not only fascinating but in many ways poignant. I've always been intrigued not only by the "layers" laid down but the remains that get laid down with them. They are literally like pages of a book for generations to come.

Thank you Hillary.
Beautiful job.

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

So many things this earth provides for us and our benefit. What beauty can be made and last the test of time. Are we not blessed with the beauty of the earth and what we can make ourselves. How it can stand together in harmony with each other. One adding to the beauty of the other.

Glad to hear about your mother. Give her a hug from her fans.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Robin .. thank you very much - these comments are extremely kind and very much appreciated. We are learning so much more about this earth, while, of course, over the years at the same time things get buried, or just lost before there was a larger population or the population was destroyed too. Exactly - as you say we can read life and now we can record that life, which can be added to with more knowledge.

So pleased you enjoyed it & I'm so grateful for your thoughts -
Many thanks for the hugs and compliments -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. Many thanks for your thoughts - so true: we add to the beauty around us and what earth and people offer us, which we can take in a positive light.

We all need to benefit each other, to hold true to our selves and give back all this goodness.

Yes - Mum had a good day yesterday .. and she had a hug, which she loves.

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Barbara Swafford said...

Hi Hilary,

The beach is so lovely. I can imagine walking barefoot along the water, letting the sand ooze between my toes.

I'm saddened by your uncle's passing, Hilary. Please know I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

(((Hugs to you and your mom)))

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. thank you - the beach has so many memories for me .. as you say playing in the sand, learning about the life forms in the rock pools, watching the tide come in between the rocks .. these pictures and stories bring back happy memories: which I'm sure my mother will enjoy, when I read it to her.

Derek my uncle always loved these stories and said they gave him something to live for - and he eagerly awaited the postman dropping another one off. So he will be hugely missed - a large void in our lives - he always had some interesting comment on life.

Thank you for the hugs - my Mum loves them and is always grateful to hear from friends.

Have a good day -Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Davina said...

Hi Hilary.
Also sending you hugs re your uncle's passing -- one of the facts of life that we can never seem to prepare for.

You have done a wonderful job with this post. As Robin has said... you're a wealth of knowledge.

I love the Earth... she continues to amaze me. We are blessed to live on this beautiful planet.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thank you Davina .. the hugs are very kind - Mum and I need these at the moment. As you say we're never quite prepared or quite finish our goodbyes - I certainly hadn't despite so much time with him. Time taken with relatives and friends - also time very well spent.

Thank you very much for your comemnts - just glad everyone enjoys reading the stories and seeing the photos - there's so much interesting ideas to tie in.

Yes - the earth is extraordinary and we are so lucky and blessed to be alive and here.

Thanks - great to see you -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tess said...

Yes yes I would buy it! The beach is one of my favorite places...and what a life selling ice cream and giving donkey rides to children;) It seems so stress free and peaceful oh and the kids would bring joy! Let me know when it's up for sale again!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tess .. me too .. I will let you know - perhaps we could have a consortium of blog buyers? .. and yes absolutely stress free - just gently stirring the rock pools with the sea anemones waving around .. bliss.

Thanks for coming across - your grandchildren would have a ball .. seals to see, and water blows to watch .. wonderful time!

All the best - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wilma Ham said...

Stunning pictures as usual. It always baffles me that people want to own places like beaches. To me it seems that ownership of such a vast place on the edge of such a vast ocean is wanting to control something that cannot be controlled.
So, I will not buy but enjoy it none the less.
Aren't those buildings something else as well, however I always thinnk about the job to clean and maintain them.
Love to you and your mother, Wilma

Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hello Hilary,

Sending you and Mum many warm hugs from across the ocean. We're here if you need anything at all.

Much Love and Blessings....

Roxanne and Hugo
Believe Achieve

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma - many thanks about the pictures. It appears it is to a 'trophy' purchase, but someone who loves Cornwall - which is important. But as you say the Oceans and seas cannot be controlled - as Canute found out.

So sorry you won't join us in the consortium?!

The Cathedrals and churches still stand proud and that workmanship is amazing - but cleaning as you say is a little tricky!

Thanks for the thoughts and love for us - Mum will be pleased -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Melton-Butcher

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Hugo and Roxanne - thanks for your thoughts and for the offer of a hug from across the Ocean. We're managing for now - and I hope will continue on.

Love to you too -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Your letters read as journal entries. This is like the epistolart style of book writing. Your vivid recollections and fascinating details invite readers to reflect on their own lives and rediscover new levels of significance in what they may not chose to be aware of before.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Thank you Liara .. I appreciate those thoughts and comments - they are helpful to me in redefining thoughts for future developments.

I sincerely hope I stir everyone's imaginations, reflections and memories as I write each story, post, journal or just post-it notes from the memory bank .. bringing things to the fore.

Many thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, your knowledge about history and countryside is truly quite remarkable. I trust you may use some of these fantastic posts as subjects of public talks. I wonder if you ever thought of organizing such a thing at local library, school, garden club or another group? You have a wealth of insight and wonderful humour that many others would appreciate outside the blogging world. We value you here as well! It is like a lecture of magical information. I reminisce about lighthouses and beaches along the Canadian Maritime coast as well. SOmething enchanting brings people back to visit these kinds of places again and again. Keep smiling!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. that's really kind of you - and yes I am working in that direction .. slowly with the things that are going on at the moment!

I'm not going away!! Time is being my challenge with two people to look after, now sadly one - and I hope to get some more "thought" time. I really appreciate your ideas and appreciation of the articles I write.

I must do something on Canada soon - my mother's cousin, 81, who was over recently went to Newfoundland and was amazed by it and so pleased she'd gone. Jenny is amazing her aunt was Emily Hobhouse - the anti concentration camp activist in the Boer War and first world ward and humanitarian, feminist, a pacifist and an internationalist. Gandhi asked for her help!

Not directly link as my grandfather and Sydney Harbour Bridge - but interesting to know about.