Friday, September 17, 2010

Take This, Big Sur

Today's starring attraction was the Bedruthian Steps, a series of jagged rocks rising out off the surf on a sandy beach beneath a 200-foot high headland.  The beach is reached down a vertiginous series of near vertical steps (but with handrails, unlike less celebrated steps on the Path).  The Steps (the rocks) are owned by the "Caranton Estate," the property of some local nobility; the steps (way down) were originally built as a Victorian tourist attraction after the railroad reached the area in 1875.

In any case, the Bedruthian Steps are the first thing I've seen on the Cornwall Coast that can give the Big Sur a match for photo opportunities.  They are quite entrancing, and I could prowl around the cove for days taking pictures in different ways in different light.  But these will have to do:

After I reluctantly (and slowly, and carefully) climbed the steps back to the Coast Path, the rest of the march to Newquay was a series of Cornish surfing beaches.  Once again, the surfers were out waiting vainly for ridable waves.  But what waves there were came rolling in with a stately regularity.

These wonderful wave sets must be the product of a long, gently-sloping beach, which in turn is the product of the fact that Cornish beaches are all in coves, closed in by headlands on either end and usually with a small stream entering from a narrow valley in the center.  As a consequence, the sand stays in one place, and over the years builds up an even, gently deepening bottom.  This is in sharp contrast, of course, to the long, unbroken beaches along much of the Eastern United States, which allow the sand to be carried away down (or up) the coast in storms.  Lucky devils, these Cornish surfers.  Presumably, there are more respectable waves at other times, hopefully when the weather is not too much worse than the last few days (temperatures in the range of 60 degrees, with water temperatures apparently in the mid-50's, according to one surfer).