The CoastlineCategory: Land + People
By Malcolm Saville
The British Isles, although so small, boast the most varied and romantic coastline of any islands in the world, and almost every mile of it would be suitable for some sort of holiday. There is something for everybody — big resorts with piers and bands and gleaming promenades, great ports with ships waiting in the docks, little fishing villages, ugly bungalow towns, and cliffs and sands and beaches of many kinds and colours.
Imagine that we board a vessel at Dover below the great white cliffs which are so often the first glimpse of England seen by the traveller coming home. Dover is not attractive but remember that it is probably the oldest gateway to England. In the last war it was shelled and bombed by the enemy and most of the population slept at night in deep caves in the cliffs.
As we sail west, we pass Folkestone. This is a big seaside resort built mainly on the top of the cliffs. Next Hythe, now a sleepy little town just inland, and if you ever go there, you will find it specially interesting. It is the end of the Royal Military Canal which was built to make things difficult for Napoleon, if his armies ever landed on the flat coast hereabouts. You can take a rowing-boat out on this canal, remembering, that, although often expected, no invading armies have ever landed here.
The country inland between Hythe and Rye is called Romney Marsh — a strange green and white land given over to the rearing of a famous breed of sheep, which have been sent out to many parts of the world.
Between Lyme and the little Devon town of Seaton is an unusual stretch of wild country where there was a landslip over a hundred years ago. Then part of the cliffs slid down towards the sea and settled at a lower level, sq making a mysterious “secret kingdom” ready for you to explore one day.
Drake and Raleigh and many other British seamen- adventurers sailed out from Devon, and her red cliffs are famed throughout the world. This beautiful county has two sea-boards — one to the north and one to the south. I must remind you of Plymouth in the south, but I have only been there when I was staying on Dartmoor. Those who live in Devon claim that Plymouth harbour is the finest and most beautiful in Britain and so I think it is. From here Sir Frances Drake sailed out with his tiny navy to beat the Spanish Armada for Plymouth was the chief naval base of the .first Queen Elisabeth. It seems fitting that the little wooded island you will see at the entrance to the harbour should be called Drake’s Island.
I wish I knew Cornwall better for both the north and south coasts are magnificent. For centuries the granite cliffs have been pounded by the rollers of the Atlantic and here are exciting little coves, beaches of gleaming sand and caves.
You’ll be enchanted by the north coast of Cornwall for it is romantic. Perhaps there is no place in England so rich in history as Tintagel, away to the north of Newquay. This really is one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen, for the massive ruin of the castle stands on a great hill joined to the mainland by a narrow tongue of rock. Here, tradition says, was the home of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. But the facts seem to be that the castle itself is a twelfth-century fortress and therefore King Arthur could not possibly have lived in it.
From Seaside Book, Lnd, 1962.