There’s something visceral about the land in this part of the world. The iron oxide in the sandstone and the Triassic mudstone, these are the ingredients which colour the soil and rock like blood. The winter sea churns up the carmine sand, spewing rubicund foam onto the shore, as if from the mouth of a carnivorous beast.
But it is not unsettling or frightening to feel myself in the midst of these viscera, even when the sea is rough and fierce. It is elemental and timeless. It is astonishing to see the earth laid bare like this. When I look at the strata in the cliffs above the beaches, and see Time laid out before me like a map, it is like experiencing the history of our physical world. Here is the time when dinosaurs lived. Here is the time before any life forms ventured out onto the land from their watery home. And there, high up, there is the time when humans arrived.
Wandering along the beach at Sidmouth is like exploring a foreign or alien world. Surely this can’t be Devon?! Surely this is Monument Valley? It could be the Grand Canyon! This must be Mars! The waves and the wind have wrought strange and fascinating shapes amongst the rocks. The pebbles have been ground smooth by millennia of breakers. It’s an adventure to walk along this shoreline, not least because you have to keep an eye on the tide, or you’ll be cut off from the steps back up to safety, and you too will be beaten and shaped by the rushing sea.
Miniature Monument Valley
Busloads of geology students arrive, hard hats on and their trowels and picks at the ready, eager to fill their find bags with rocks and pebbles. Fossil hunters come in droves, to collect ammonites and belemnites, to find brachiopods and bivalves, to add to their collections.
I come to take photographs; to try to capture the feeling of the raw elements at work.
All the Elements Needed for a Photographic Adventure
I love Devon in the summer; who wouldn’t? When it’s warm and bright, and the combes and rolling fields are lush, and the sea sparkles like jewels, or glows rose and gold and burnt orange in the sunsets. But I love it when it’s a little bit wilder, when the waves throw their spindrift in the air, and brooding clouds part to illuminate a mercurial sea in shafts of sunlight.
Brave Surfers under Brooding Skies
If you would like to see more of the shots from our recent trip to East Devon, please feel free to browse my album on Flickr.