the perpendicular by the shock; and ridges, banks, and shallows were heaved up along the shore by the tremendous pressure. Among these a safe little harbour was formed; but all has since been washed away by the action of the sea.

I returned to the spot where the field-path strikes the edge of the cliff, and descended by the rough, narrow cart-road, which from thence winds down to the bottom. Then on to the east, until the whole range as far as the break where I had struck inland was in view, so as to leave no part of the undercliff unseen, after which I turned


face once more to the west. The view of the great chasm from below was not less impressive than from above; and to wander about the confused masses at the extremity, to creep in and out of the caves, or climb to some of the little tables of turf on the tops of the pyramids, was by no means uninteresting exercise, especially as you may learn a lesson in geology at the same time. It is here, while looking up to the perpendicular walls, that you become aware of the tremendous nature of the subsidence; and you begin to fancy that perhaps it may be repeated before you can get away

One charm of all the undercliff is the total absence of guides and retailers of information. A guide, indeed, is not wanted; for while you have the sea on the right or left, according as you are journeying east or west, and the high cliffs on the other hand, you cannot fail of arriving in time at either extremity. At Dowlands, however, if you are seen, a sixpenny admissionfee will be sometimes demanded; but as no trespass is committed the reason why is not obvious. No one came near me in all my stay.

By a path which zigzags up the gravelly steep I got to the top of the cliff once more, made my way to the flagstaff in the rear of Culverhole Point, from whence there is a rapid descent over the hill to the valley of the Axe. You come out upon the road a few yards above the ferry, and may cross at once, unless you wish to go and look at the fantastic gurgoyles on the church at Axmouth, a small village about a mile higher up the river. At all events, it is worth while walking down to the little pier at the mouth of the stream for the fine view there obtained of the whole sweep of the bay, the variegated cliffs, and away up the valley. The narrow outfall of the Axe, encroached upon by the immense bed of shingle which stretches all across the bay, is often shifting; and after a strong gale the current flows through the obstruction with difficulty. Crossing the ferry, you land on the loose slope of shingle, and trudge across it to the beaten walk, which serves as a parade for the little village of Seaton, standing among the trees on the right. Most of the level land here at the mouth of the valley has been reclaimed from what was once the estuary of the Axe.

Axmouth is one of the stations of the survey made in 1837, by authority of the British Association, to determine the difference of level between the Bristol and the British channels; and with the further object of establishing a fixed mark by which any subsequent eleva

tion or depression of the land might be detected. The line runs from Bridgewater up the Parret to Ilminster, Teaching its highest point, 280 feet, at Chard, and passing from thence by Axminster, terminates at the mouth of the Axe. The mark is a copper bolt let into a block of granite, weighing more than a ton, and may be seen on the grounds of Mr. Hallett, who furnished the block at his own cost. Two other blocks were given by the corporation of Bridgewater, one of which is fixed on Wick Rocks, near that town, the other at East Quantocks Head. A copper bolt, as an additional mark, is inserted in the wall of Axmouth church, and a second in the wall of Uphill church, on the west of the Mendips; and in the whole number future geologists will have data for solving one of the most interesting problems their science affords.

Telford was once employed to make a survey nearly on the same line for a ship canal, by which vessels were to pass from one channel to the other safe from the tedious and dangerous navigation round the Land's End.

Right onward lies the road; but if you wish to keep the sea in view get over the stile on the left, when you come to White Cliff, and climb the path to its summit, where the chalk, for fifty feet or more downwards, is mantled with ivy, green and vigorous, though exposed to the spray and winds of the Channel. It is a sign of something genial in the Devonshire climate. About a mile farther the flinty path descends suddenly to Beer, a village nestled in the mouth of a glen, opening on a

[ocr errors]

little cove, with just room enough for a few fishing-boats to lie snugly at anchor. Behind, the road winds down the hill, and a stream that comes brawling through the glen shoots over into the waters of the cove with a noisy plunge; and altogether the place has enough of the romantic about it to make you pause more than once on the descent to look at it. The avocations of the inhabitants are of a very opposite nature, for while the men catch fish and perhaps smuggle a little--if true to what was their reputation—the women make lace. You may see the wives sitting on the door-steps with their pillows on their knees as you pass. The village was all astir as I walked through, in consequence of the “ Women's Club” celebrating their anniversary. Garlands were hung out at the windows, and the band of music which had paraded the narrow street was keeping up a storm of sound in a field behind the houses.

No sooner down than you have to mount again: Beer Head, with its two tower-like masses of chalk, is the next point—a grand companion to White Cliff; but not to be reached without some rough walking. From thence, looking westward, you see the range extending at the same height for miles beyond where the white bluffs come to an end, and are succeeded by others of a rich, dark red colour. And now you may proceed along the cliffs again, and above the undercliff at Southdown, till you descend once more by a slope so steep that steps are cut in the turf to Branscombe Mouth, a hollow about half a mile wide, where three valleys open to the

The beach is loose and pebbly, in keeping with the rest of the coast; but calcedonies are to be found on it by those who know how to seek them. I searched, but failed; most likely from want of the requisite knowledge. A small stream meanders from each valley through the hollow, and creeps across the sands to the sea, near the coast-guard station, under the opposite cliff. The village of Branscombe, which comprises a few scattered groups of houses, lies about a mile inland, and is encircled, as you will see while walking up the lane towards it, by a strange assemblage of hills. At the Masons' Arms, a public-house in the largest of these townlets, I found quarters for the night, comfortable enough, although the hostess thought fit to apologise for the rustic nature of the accommodation: people came there for refreshment during the day, but rarely stopped all night. The mutton-chops, however, and the bread and butter were excellent, the tea was refreshing, the bed scrupulously clean, and what more can wayfarer want? Then, you may have a talk with the host over a glass of cider, and hear all the gossip of the neighbourhood, and if you will, something about the redoubtable Jack Rattenbury, who was once chief of the smugglers at Beer.


About half-way between Branscombe and Beer is a remarkable quarry by the side of the road, where those who take pleasure in subterranean explorations may gratify their wishes. Having missed it by coming along the cliffs, I walked back to the place early the next morning. The nearest way, a little more than a mile, is by a path across the fields ; but if you wish to

« VorigeDoorgaan »