With only three days left of my four-week West Country holiday, and a long trip to Padstow next day, I wanted to go somewhere fairly local in North Devon (where I now am).
Why not Mortehoe and Morte Point, I said to myself. Why not indeed? Especially Morte Point, which I visited with M--- in 1995, and again in 2006, but not since. It's a lovely place, with fabulous panoramas along the coast both ways, and out to sea where the island of Lundy is an elongated presence on the horizon.
The weather was perfect: sunny, blue sky, and just a little breeze. To begin with, that breeze had an edge to it, so I had my green Seasalt raincoat on. Hopefully it would be dry underfoot (and it was). Nevertheless, I knew from my previous visits that the terrain on Morte Point could be steep and rocky if one wanted to climb up any of the craggy bits for a view. I could have got away with ordinary shoes - it was hardly two miles to the Point and back - but proper boots seemed called for. So having parked at Mortehoe, I put my Alt-Berg walking boots on.
After inspecting Mortehoe church, which was open, I set off along the track that led past the cemetery, thinking yet again that this was a cemetery with one of the finest views in the country.
Then I was out on the main green path that led to the Point. It was exhilarating.
Lucky sheep, wouldn't you say, to have this kind of view to enjoy. But I don't suppose a sheep's brain is wired up to notice it.
The trick was to keep to the higher paths. All the main paths were very easy to walk on: you could have pushed a buggy along most of them. It got more difficult if you ventured off-piste, and you might have to step with care. On the upward final approach to my chosen outcrop I actually came upon a grass snake coiled up on the path, in a narrow section between gorse and heather. It gave me a sour look and slithered away into the heather, probably muttering 'Can't a snake bask in peace?' I knew it was a grass snake because it was green. I've seen adders, which are dark, and it wasn't one of those. Adders are poisonous, and though shy they can be a hazard if you're not wearing heavy footwear.
My approach was going well. The path was grassy again. Suddenly I was only fifty yards away. Just a slight scramble up a rocky bit, and I'd be there.
Then I was. Hurrah! I felt elated.
And what a feast for the eyes!
It was time to go. I didn't want to carry my raincoat while climbing down, so I put it back on. Descending from my high vantage-point, I recognised a view I'd shot in 1995. Then:
Not quite the same shot, but close enough to believe that Woolacombe had not changed one bit in twenty-five years. I had notions of driving back that way, and could stop off if I could find a parking spot. But the next event thwarted that.
My attention was now on the path, which seemed rougher going downhill than it had been when coming up. Hmm, this will need care! I put my camera away, in order to have both hands free. I was very careful how I stepped. And then I stumbled, overbalanced, and took a header into a clump of gorse, thumping my face on the way down.
I came to rest on my back. I wasn't dazed or winded, and nothing seemed broken. But my hands, shins, and face all hurt. I was surrounded by prickly gorse, and felt that I'd taken more punctures than Julius Caesar. My face was bleeding, and blood dripped onto my hand. Fortunately I had tissues in my bag, and I wiped the worst away. I must have at least one cut on my face. The quilted Seasalt raincoat had been my salvation. It had cushioned my fall, and was now protecting me from the worst of the gorse prickles I was lying on. I still felt lacerated, but it was all superficial.
Even so, I had better get up and without delay return to the car, and thence to the caravan, before any after-effects set in. Not so easy! My head was lower than my feet, so I couldn't just sit up and walk away. I'd have to grasp something - one of those prickly gorse stems - and haul myself into a position to stand up. Thankfully, I remembered that my leather gloves were in one of my raincoat pockets - put there with cold and rainy weather in mind. I put those on, and managed to twist myself around, and then up. Back on the path I surveyed the grim scene. I was still bleeding.
I'd been lucky not to brain myself on those rocks. My face had brushed the ground left-centre, and I had fallen into the gorse top left.
And look - here's a shot I've now found when processing other shots taken here on the day. It was taken on the way up to that rocky outcrop with the great view. I'm pretty sure that the stones set in the ground in the picture just above - the stones right and top right - are the stones in the bottom left of this view. And that the thorny gorse bush, bottom centre and bottom right, is the very one I toppled into:
Back to the moments after extricating myself from my painful accident scene. I was now on my feet. I checked my main bag. Nothing had fallen out: all present and correct. Nothing inside the bag had been damaged, nor my camera. All rather remarkable, as I thought I'd landed on top of them.
As for myself, I looked dishevelled and a trifle woebegone.
What have I learned?
That going downhill over rocks in clumpy walking boots, even if concentrating and taking care, is a risky business. A stick might have helped. It serves as a 'third leg' and a firm prop when stepping down. I won't neglect to take it along next time.
I think this also confirms that my sense of balance really is far from good. Somebody with better balance wouldn't have pitched into the gorse. So, for the future, no more clambering about on rocks - not on seashores (I fell backwards on seashore rocks in 2016, bumping my head: see Two near disasters while on holiday, a post published on 2nd May 2016) nor on hills. I'm just not surefooted enough.
And to people in general: please never, never, never suggest that I should abandon a stable four-wheeled car for a wobbly two-wheeled bicycle. I will just hurt myself.