United Kingdom | England | Bristol and Wessex
March 26, 2009
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2008, Wednesday 10 September: Lyme Regis, Dorset

Cobb harbour wall, Lyme Regis

I took this photo braced against an unseasonable biting wind, both feet planted in puddles of spume. Although it was only early September, the weather belonged to late autumn and was already hinting winter. Heavy skies and serpentine contours brought out the rocky, enduring toughness and immutable solidity of Lyme Regis' stubby harbour wall. Its rough-set courses of local Portland stone stood out, dimpled and pitted, from abrasion and brine; a sheen of sea-spray made the masonry native and organic, seemingly grown not built.

This wall is a place I've returned to many times, usually years apart. Typically wave-lashed (as on this occasion), it has always repaid my visits with a comforting sense of danger and exposure met steadfastly and without turning aside.

Anciently and mysteriously, it is named the Cobb, and its stone has defied squalls and storms for almost 800 years. Barnacle-like, it has clung on to become a touchstone for Dorset's maritime tradition - not least after appearing as the pin-up poster for the film of John Fowles ‘’French Lieutenant's Woman’’, graced by Meryl Streep's hooded figure. For me it also marks the point where the softness and - frankly speaking - safe suburbanity of much of South East England's Channel coast finally starts to give way to the wilder more oceanic Celtic west.

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