Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ghosts of the past mingling with the present


Dawlish and Teignmouth, both towns from my childhood.  My memories of Dawlish are far more certain, than those of its neighbouring town, which is surprising given that Teignmouth is closer to Torquay and has boats.  Perhaps my Dad just preferred Dawlish, and maybe we spent more time there.

Early memories of Teignmouth include being driven through the town's busy shopping streets, because that the route for through traffic, and believing my Dad, when he told me that the flags that decorated the main street were hung out just for me in honour of my visit to the town… A few years later he said the same thing to my  younger brother, and I began to realise that the flags were not just there for me, or my brother, they were for visitors of all ages and part of the ambiance of the town.

Today we parked on a road leading into town, knowing that we would have to walk back up the hill, but happy to save a few pounds in parking fees!  Through the fence we could see teenage boys practising track events - the summer term has begun for them.  "Oh no!" says Abi "I am truanting!"  We reassure her that their Easter holiday began earlier than hers.

A helicopter hovers over the town, and with delight we realise that we are higher than the helicopter…We climb the footbridge embellished with "Welcome to Teignmouth" and look down in wonder at the town and the Teign estuary, spread out for us to feast our eyes upon.

We discover St. James' church.  Two abseiling workmen are inspecting the walls of the  grey church building which appears to be circular and contrasts incongruously with the plain red sandstone tower. I would love to step inside, but the church is locked.  We continue our way through the streets to reach the sea front.

We stop for a latte on the prom, enjoying the sunshine.  It's too early for lunch. We monitor the progress of the dramatic cloudscape, and try to decide which way the weather is heading.  

Our wanderings take us to the back beach, where geraniums still grow in boots, and people sit drinking, while listening to the cry of seagulls and the clank of masts.  In the distance traffic trundles over Shaldon beach. One day I would like to sit on this beach and watch the sun set over the Teign.  I look at the spread of housing on the hills above the town and I am surprised how far the development spreads, and wonder which of the groups of houses form separate communities, and what they are called.  My husband admires a large house and I remember that this was the town's municipal offices and I wonder if it is still.  We watch trains travel along side the river, before turning into the town to the station.  The greyness that has been advancing down the Teign valley, shrouding the golden fields of rape, reaches us.  We head for lunch.

Later we wander towards Dawlish.  The sea wall walk is closed and a hive of activity as the damage from the winter storms is still being repaired.  I notice a footpath up the hill. I know we regularly took the footpath past the lido, up to the car park, but the steep path closer to the beach also feels familiar.  We stop off on the public viewing area, and take photos of the trains as they approach and depart.  We continue up the hill, and I realise I have absolutely no idea what is up there.  I can remember crossing the footbridge over the rail track, but no further.  As far as I am aware I have no reason not to remember, I think I just have no reason to remember!  We follow the roadway past several heavily fortified fences and a ramshackle property in a dingle above the railway.  Adjacent is an area of open land.  I have no idea how long this common has been here, or if this was where we climbed the hill. Did we pay games here? When was this land gifted to the town? My walk gives me no answers, only more questions.  The only conclusion I can reach is that my Dad preferred to walk along the sea wall.  I seem to remember that my Mum didn't share his enthusiasm, especially when my daredevil younger brother was small and the tide was in!

We head back to the car, round corners that prompt memories.  A suddenly familiar terrace of bay fronted houses, my first doughnut, the light house on the quay,  children playing in the nursery opposite the beach. Ghosts of the past mingling with the present, as with all the best trips down memory's lanes.