Sea Fever and Steam Trains

I don’t think I get the dreaded writer’s block, but sometimes I feel that I have so much to say I don’t really know where to begin, call it muddled thoughts if you like!

The Dookes life is remaining busy, perhaps sometimes I should just say “no” when I get asked to do things, but hey busy is good cos you’re a log time in your wooden box! As a result though “thinking time” is a rare commodity just at the moment. I was like that today and really needed some space to think; what better than a spell sitting on a Cornish clifftop overlooking the Ocean?

There’s something about the sea that clears the old Dookes head. It’s a combination of the smells, the sound of the waves, the motion of the water and … well, just about everything! It’s a real tonic for the senses.

It wasn’t the sunniest of mornings, but the air was clear and sharp with the tang of sea salt. A hundred feet below me the lazy waves of the approaching high tide sighed as they lapped at was left of the small sheltered beach.
The famous poem “Sea Fever” by John Masefield came to mind. It’s one of those lovely pieces of literature that over the years have inspired me and if I’m honest been a comfort at times too.

I believe that the power of good literature in any language is a wonderful thing. For me it doesn’t have to be a long monologue from Shakespeare, it can be something quite brief, but it has to hit that nerve that causes an emotional response.

You see, I told you that the sea clears my mind and a free mind is able to wander…

Last week I had the pleasure of a very enjoyable motorbike ride with my leukaemia battling mate G. Great fun and brilliant to be out with my friend again. G is hanging in there, his aggressive treatment continues, but when he’s good he does OK and riding motorbikes is one of the best treatments he can have. For my part, seeing him comfortably flicking his Yamaha through the bends as I followed on ‘Harls’ lifted my spirits too. There have been dark days in hospital for G over the last months and to get out and ride together again was fantastic!

We took a long looping ride from the historic city of Exeter, Northwards tracing the valley of the River Exe towards its source high on Exmoor. Swinging West and passing through Barnstaple, Torrington and Holsworthy we certainly covered the miles, well over 250 in fact!

Northern Exmoor

Northern Exmoor

On the high Northern edge of Exmoor we stopped at the delightfully named Woody Bay station where the resurrecting narrow gauge Lynton and Barnstaple Railway can be found. As its name suggests, the railway once stretched from the port of Barnstaple across a meandering route to the small town of Lynton, a distance of 19 miles. The single track line opened in 1898, but by 1923 ownership passed to the Southern Railway who operated mainline trains and were not really in the business of rural narrow gauge railways. In 1935 the L&B was closed after a scandalously short operating life of just 37 years.

Woody Bay Station

Woody Bay Station

Interestingly, this beloved narrow gauge railway has gained more fame and interest in the time since it’s closure than it ever achieved when open. Today a group of dedicated enthusiasts have begun to rebuild the line and Woody Bay station is the main centre of activity. Brightly painted green steam locomotives are once again chugging along part of the old route, with plans afoot for further extension back towards Barnstaple. I can’t wait!

Living Steam on the L&B.

Living Steam on the L&B.

When the line closed a wreath was found on the buffer stops at Barnstaple with the message, “Perchance it is not dead, but sleepeth.” imageIt looks to me like it is now very much awake again!

Funny thing the sea, just like a motorcycle it takes you to such wonderful places……image

….and then the sun came out!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Sea Fever
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
John Masefield. 1878-1967.

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16 thoughts on “Sea Fever and Steam Trains

  1. Totally understand about the sea. It’s one of the main things I miss about living here.
    I’m glad you got some peaceful contemplating done with your riding and sea gazing.

  2. Thanks for sharing the “unmuddling” of your mind Dookes and Sea Fever! I loved hearing about the mind clearing process as you watched the sea… And glad to hear that G was able to get out and about with you! Great news!

    • Thank you AGMA. I find sitting by the sea to be very therapeutic and am very lucky that it’s only about fifteen minutes away from Dookes H.Q.
      G has good times and then not so good, but when he’s good it’s time to ride!

  3. So glad G was able to go for a ride. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about literature. It seems fewer and fewer people really understand the power of a good poem, story or book.

  4. An evocative journey in my favourite county with the added bonus of a steam train. Hope it lifted your spirits and thanks for sharing with us

      • Yes! I trained as a guard in the 1970’s. Trying to work out your identity if we know each other? I ran into John Smallwood a couple of years ago at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway

      • I’ll email you, but yes we used to know each other both on the TR and later occasionally on the Big Railway.
        As a clue; when you passed out as a Guard on the TR I gave you your badge then promptly got off the train at Pendre and left yo to it! Remember?

      • that’s amazing! still not sure who you really are though so I await your email 🙂

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