I’ve written before about how writing and walking seem to fit together.
I’ve just hiked the first section of the Wales Coast Path – only fifty miles out of 890 in total, but it’s a start. I think Wales is the only country in the world with a path around its entire coastline, and as I have already completed the Offa’s Dyke path up the Welsh/English border this means that the whole perimeter of over a thousand miles now lies in my grasp. Onwards!
It’s one of those ideas that just cannot be dismissed once it has entered your head. Manna for the completist, which I unfortunately am.
The little section in the bottom left-hand corner from the old Wye Bridge in Chepstow heading west along the curve of the Severn estuary to Cardiff looked thoroughly unpromising on the map: a post-industrial sprawl of decaying steel- and water-works, motorway and marshland. In fact it was superb. Most of the route runs along the sea wall, so on the left hand there are vacant mud flats seamed with khaki channels waiting to be erased by the froth of fast-rising tide. The two Severn Bridges spring across like sketches drawn in shimmering air. Yes—we were lucky with the weather – none of this would look quite so enticing in wind and rain.
On the right hand there is a different emptiness. It’s a remote hinterland of salt marsh and wetland, crisscrossed with pylons and bounded by the distant M4. The hum of power and traffic is spiked all the way by the pee-pit of marsh birds and the trilling of larks. The banks rising to the sea wall are thick with rusty spikes of sorrel, brambles and dog roses, and lush billows of cow parsley and buttercup. There are occasional fields of ripening corn, and the church towers of villages like Redwick poking up from a mile inland, to give the aspect of a rural idyll to what is really only the tiny rim of a semi-urban wasteland. There are plenty of vast rusting sheds and expanses of weed-stabbed concrete to testify to what was once productive and is now redundant. But the worst eyesores of all are the scattered wind turbines. Everywhere you look. Hideous. Pointless?
I was walking with my brother, who is a good talker but is also good at not talking (essential quality for 3 long days of one-on-one companionship). I was thinking, as I always am on these excursions, about the current book– and it suddenly dawned on me that this one is all about brothers and sisters. As well as the central one there are three or four sister/brother pairings, each illustrating different aspects of sibling relationships. I am three-quarters of the way through DAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE. How can I not have realised this essential theme of the book before now???
I write by making things up as I go along, so the book was less planned in advance than it might have been. But as ever, walking and thinking brings the subconscious to the surface.