During one of our summer holidays to Cornwall, England my Dutch husband was astounded by the English coastline. The Cornish coastline may have been Mars as far as this Dutch man was concerned. The cliffs and rock pools were nothing but an alien landscape to him.
As we stood atop the cliffs at Land’s End, the sun beating down on us and a strong coastal breeze whipping the sea up against the rocks, he marvelled at the beauty of the seascape in front of him. The jagged rocks and the sea battled, the salty water forced upwards by the unforgiving hurdles in their path, an impressive sea spray spattering into the air.
I know that Cornwall’s coast is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I was a little taken aback by the level of my husband’s amazement.
I knew what to expect; I spent many a childhood holiday in south west England. My husband on the other hand had no idea what awaited him at Land’s End. He was awestruck by what he saw, mesmerised by nature’s offerings at the very tip of England. Watching him was like watching a child in a sweet shop for the first time – bright eyes, excitement, open mouth, noises of delight.
Initially confused by his reaction to Land’s End, in my eyes a fairly normal English coastal scene, I asked him what
his issue was he found so novel about the cliffs and rocks.
“We don’t have cliffs and rocks like this in the Netherlands,” he responded matter of factly “we have flat sandy beaches. Think about it, we have to make dunes to protect the country from flooding.”
And then the penny dropped. I realised I hadn’t seen a cliff or a cluster of rocks for some years myself. Rock pools and cliffs are not a part of Scheveningen or Noordwijk beach.
My childhood holidays along the Cornish and Devonshire coast had blinded me to the astounding magic of the English coastline. I took it all for granted and hadn’t stopped to breathe in its beauty: the majestic cliffs, the small and picturesque sandy coves and bays that litter the south of England, the numerous caves to explore and the abundance of wildlife taking shelter on the coast, and of course the magic of rock pools, especially when you are a child.
“This is so cool,” said my husband armed with a net and bucket, scurrying across the rocks with two excited boys, “I’ve never seen a rock pool before!”
My children echoed his excitement, carrying their own brightly coloured nets and buckets, as they watched a tiny crab scurry from its hiding place under a rock to find cover under slimy, green seaweed. My sons jumped from one rock to the next looking for little pools of water hidden between them. Their delight took me back to my own childhood holidays on Cornish beaches, hours spent combing rock pools with my brother. I understood then my husband’s reaction to Land’s End.
How lucky he was to see the Cornish coastline for the first time as if through child’s eyes.