While on holiday recently, I visited Exmouth, and in particular the far south-eastern beach which is called Maer Beach. The Jurassic Coast begins here, and there are many notices and plaques to tell you all about it, and encourage you to walk the cliffs all the way to the Isle of Purbeck far to the east.
You climb up from Maer Beach onto a headland called the High Land of Orcombe.
It is owned by the National Trust, and it's a fine place, with wide views eastward along Sandy Bay...
...and back towards Exmouth, and the mouth of the River Exe:
Ah, those red sandstone cliffs! It's so 'Devon'.
Now 'High Land of Orcombe' is a rather unusual type of name for anywhere in England. I'd say the 'X of Y' way of naming anything is in fact positively rare. Not so in Scotland. Looking at the map around Huntly in Aberdeenshire (where I shall be in early June), there are many place names on the 'X of Y' pattern, such as:
Boghead of Cobairdy
Mains of Collithie
Greens of Glenbeg
Daugh of Cairnborrow
Hillhead of Avochie
Moss Side of Monellie
Skirts of Foudland
Water of Bogie
When I go up to Shetland in 2017, I'll encounter an even more exotic collection of 'X of Y' place names - such as these, as you travel south from Lerwick:
Dykes of Fladdabister
Taing of Helliness
Grey Stane of Bonxa
Tromba of Griskerry
Haa of Stova
I've seriously digressed here, but I do find strange-sounding place names rather fascinating!
Back to Exmouth, and the High Land of Orcombe. Set on the cliffs is a curious feature. An elongated stone pyramid, so tall that it looks more like a needle than a pyramid. It's called the Geoneedle:
There are metal plates to tell you what the needle is there for, who unveiled it, when, and what the various layers of this 'scupture' represent:
Well, I'd come up to this spot especially to see the Geoneedle, and having digested the information on these plates, and admired the wide views, there seemed little else to do - unless I was going to foot it along the Coastal Path (well, no to that). But wait. What, I asked myself, would happen if I stood next to the Geoneedle? Ever curious, you see. I leaned back against it.
The wind whipped my hair all over the place. Then it was like no wind I'd ever known. The needle hummed and throbbed, and the sky darkened.
Then a wave of blinding light washed over me.
I seemed to be transported - don't ask how - to a distant galaxy.
I floated, face down, over strange worlds.
Some time later I awoke in a Sidmouth coffee shop. As if still in a dream, I studied the menu. I ordered a cream tea, specifying ultra-healthy wholemeal scones. It was the mother of all cream teas that ever have been, or ever will be.
It was too much. I couldn't finish it, as this next shot proves:
I haven't been back to the Geoneedle since.