Beach Combing

by By Andrea Lynn 

I tuck my hair behind my ear. It’s always windy up here as I follow the beaten track from what once was known as Frankie’s Cafe on the seafront, heading towards Trow Rocks. But I love it. It calls me. It soothes me. It fills me. I’m craving the space and the time it affords me; essential for my well-being.

The wide familiar, well-trodden path, beckons me up the steep incline to the clifftops. I dismiss the calling of the seagulls, squawking in their masses as they swoop, hover and perch on the precarious crevices of the cliff face that is home to them. Instead of veering off to the raw and jagged edge on my left, I press on. Focused. Determined.

The sound of the sea is much quieter up here on the cliff top. The seagulls and the sea a distant, raucous chorus. I hear the constant echo of the waves undulating, luring me into an almost hypnotic trance in it’s peaceful lullaby. I love the sound of the sea. Calling me forward.

I taste the salty air, embracing the light whisper of the April wind, cool and fresh against my face, still playfully whipping my hair across my face, a constant reminder of it’s presence, “Remember me?” it seems to say. The sound of my steps underfoot as they kiss the earthen clay of the path, flanked by the vibrant hues of wild green grass, thud quiet as I near my goal.

The rocks beneath my feet tempt me down the cliff face as it dips

I increase my speed, eager to reach it, discarding the splendor of the view beyond the fenced barrier protecting passers-by from the cliff edge. Not today. The end’s in sight. I press on. Then I see it. The curve of the clifftop. It’s horseshoe shape, molded into a cove below that is known as Trow Rocks. I move closer and peer over the edge. The tide is still out. The crescent of the secluded beach visible. Three boys are playing, two of them scaling the rocks. But I don’t dawdle. I press on. I’m almost there. “There it is,” is I cry excitedly. My voice carrying away with the wind. “The clearing!”






Just past Trow Rocks, where the cliff juts out to the sea, I leave the path and walk on the grass toward the edge of the clifftop. I pick my way gingerly down onto the rugged sloping rocks nearer the edge. There’s no fencing barriers here, only rocks; dark, smooth and jagged; well-worn from the incessant beating, crashing and lapping of the North Sea.

Here I stop and feast my eyes on the spectacle before me. As ever, it takes my breath away. I remember to breathe. The rocks beneath my feet tempt me down the cliff face as it dips, urging me forward onto each of its varying degrees of platforms, like stepping stones leading to the sea below. There is no sand here. Only rocks and sea; and the panoramic view where the horizon and the sky merge and blend. Today, it’s swirling shades of grey sharpen the choppy waters that break into swathes of long sweeping arcs in stark white contrast as they roll towards me across the great expanse. Mesmerising.

Taking one look at the beauty before me, I press my hands together and bow in silent reverence

Abruptly I give myself a shake, turn my back and clamber back onto the grassy slope. This, is what I came here for. I take a few paces up towards the path. Here the earth dips; a shallow crater as if from a splintered meteorite, a wide bowl-shape of earth and grass that lies just below the trodden path. Except for the boys and a couple walking their dog, I haven’t seen anyone. I’m all alone. And that’s the way I like it. I shrug off my backpack and sit on the grass. Immediately I’m sheltered from the wind, like a cocoon, with only the peaceful lullaby of the sea for company.

It’s been 30 years since my last visit and I’m finally home. Now I can breathe. Now I am free. Free to be me. I lie back. I can feel the magic of the place hasn’t left. It’s still here…

I must’ve dozed off. I yawn and check my watch. I’ve been lying here for 40 minutes. Time to make a move. Still alone, I stand and stretch, then dust myself off. I hum as I swing my backpack over my shoulder and step onto the path, inches away from where I’d slumbered, unseen. Taking one look at the beauty before me, I press my hands together and bow in silent reverence, then head back to the Beachcomber guest house my parents own on the Lawe Top that faces the mouth of the River Tyne. Back to my life. Back to being young again.

I love starting my life back over from what I’ve learned in my future. The wizened experiences always help me make more informed choices for the next 30 years. This time, I’ve re-entered my life at 12 year old. The sands of time have shifted me back 40 years. And I’m thrilled! I race down the hill, passing Frankie’s Cafe with a renewed spring in my step.

NorthernLife June/July/Aug 24