'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Petrified Forest

Dr Biswell, heroic biographer of Anthony Burgess, came to visit this weekend. Saturday afternoon being unseasonably balmy for Cumbria in October we went down to Mawbray, the coastal hamlet whose charms I've previously blogged. Luckily for us the tide was out so we took a long walk across the sands late in the afternoon, when the coast of Scotland obscured by heat-haze and the sun hung above the horizon forever. One of the fascinating things about these tidal sands is that they really do shift - return to them week in week out and the shoals and rock-pools will have altered beyond easy orientation. On the way back we admired the petrified forest, which was by chance more than usually exposed. Here, close in to the beach, you can see the remains of a 9,000 year old forest. Stumps, boles, branches and trunks lie and sit half-exposed above the sandbanks at low tide. At present there's a few hundred square yards revealed: last winter there was perhaps half that area. It's an intimately tactile record of a vanished landscape, the soft texture of the wood brings home to you the realisation that the trees were alive recently enough, though there's nothing melancholy or troubling about their decay. Up the shingle the sand-dunes have been eroded to reveal the raised beaches which once covered this forest and now have been stripped away by the sea. The geographers tell me that 10,000 years ago there was no Solway Firth: sea-levels were much lower and part of what is now the Firth was then a freshwater lake, presumably left behind by retreating glaciers. On its shores was a forest - whose decaying remains we now admire, though I've no idea what sort of trees. Dr Biswell & I spent some time inspecting this example of ancient landscape, our imaginations quietly in thrall to its casual wreckage. Go and see it if you're in West Cumbria - but please don't take souvenirs: the water preserves just as much as it exposes and wood removed from the trees will disintegrate on dessication.


Blogger Martin said...

Hello Nick & all

Very much enjoying your blog, I too have had the trivial experience of filling in the 'profile'... am I really the only person with these interests?

And in connection with your entry regarding the railways, did you see news from Waterloo Station when the announcer said "The train will be nine minutes late... this delay is due to passengers getting on and off the train". The cheek!
All the best,
Martin Cowin.

17/10/05 11:08 pm  
Anonymous Eleanor said...

So, think about the coastal forest you walked through to reach the shores of Lake Michigan and I'll bet you'll be close to what it may have been like.

20/10/05 12:29 am  

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