Saturday, 6 June 2009

Shakespeare is full of surprises

Shakespeare Cliff rears up on the west side of Dover, and is not often walked as it is largely cut off by the new A20 dual carriageway and the Aycliff estate.
The first sight of the channel for travellers through Dover is from that road, over the cliff to France. They are welcomed to Dover by a large smiley face painted on one of the ventilation shaft chimneys from the railway line below.

Named Shakespeare Cliff after its mention in King Lear, it could also be one of the many claimants on the name of Dickens, as it is thought that Betsy Trottwood's house in David Copperfield was sited here.
The grass is rather too long for a good show of downland plants, but I was pleased to find one of my favourites, Nottingham catchfly, which I've previously found on the other side of the town.
In both sites, the plant clings onto the very edge of the cliff, and either shuns or is pushed out of more comfortable places.
Glaucous sedge

The new road cut through a swathe of downland, but as I commute along it daily I have to admit to getting the benefit of it - I also commuted on the old roads before it was built, and accept that the vast increase in European freight traffic over the past decade would not have been possible without it. Sometimes the volume of traffic is delayed by weather conditions, French fishermen or some other event, so I frequently have the opportunity of studying the roadside vegetation from the traffic jam.

There is a small patch of meadow towards the town that is full of flowers...common spotted orchids, yellow rattle, hawkbits, clovers and soon-to-emerge poppies.
Also a few spindly stalks of pale flax.

Below the cliffs runs one of the most expensive railway lines in the country - as well as the Eurostar Channel Tunnel rail-link. This one is constantly subject to cliff-falls and other hazards, and must be a nightmare to keep going.
The footpath down to the beach brings a smile to the face, as the walls are covered with rock samphire, alexanders and sea kale - all freely available to be harvested by the locals, but ignored because they are not available shrink-wrapped in the supermarkets.

We're a long way from Shakespeare's time, when Edgar looks down from the top of the cliff and says
How fearful and dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low.
The crows and coughs that wing the midway air show scarce so gross as beetles.

Half-way down hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!

Now the stuff is growing on the path, ignored by potential samphire-gatherers (except me, and very tasty it was too, in an omelette for lunch).
A final surprise - Nottingham catchfly also growing among the litter on this little-used path to the beach.

7 comments:

Rambling Rob said...

Large patches of Nottingham Catchfly grow on Culver Cliff - as you say, right on the edge - I must get up there soon and have a look. A plant which looks dull at a distance but quite exotic close up, I think.
The Samphire omelette sounds tasty.

JJ Beattie said...

Fabulous post as always. How homesick it makes me feel...

Warren Baker said...

Interesting how nature clings on to the extremities of our concrete world.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
Really enjoyed your ramble over the cliffs .
I knew that book was going to come in handy .

DOT said...

I love your blog. But just one question: did your eye surgeon accidentally graft a camera instead of a new cornea?

abbey meadows said...

Interesting post...nice shots.

Kingsdowner said...

Rob,
It seems to have a particular fascination - don't know why.
JJ,
hope you're not suffering too much in the sunshine!
Dot,
how did you know I've got blurred vision?