ZENNOR: HALLDRINE: February 1986/2016

(First published: The Cornishman, 6.2.1986)

Imogen insists on saying hello...
Imogen insists on stepping ashore…

Halldrine Cove lies just north of Bosigran Cliff in Zennor parish. Few people go there, other than rod-fishermen, rock climbers, and random wanderers. Halldrine is remote and beautiful, if you’re content with a chaos of rock rather than a golden beach. The east and south walls of the cove are made up of sea-stained granite stitched with skeins of sedge and lichen. Higher cliffs line the north side. The sea fills the cove at all states of the tide. When the sun shines, the sea is lime-green above sand. When the sea is rough, Halldrine boils like a cauldron.

North of the main cove is a rocky foreshore where iron-hard slabs and ribs sprawl down to the sea on either side of a deep gully. Huge boulders line the floor of the gully. They have ground out hollow beds for themselves where storm seas have rocked them to and fro. This area of rock covers a hard acre and lies at a gentle angle. It is like a cliff that has been knocked flat. In quiet weather, you can stroll across the slabby granite at low tide and clamber down into the gully, bridging carefully between its smooth walls above the boulders in their cradles of trapped water.

Last weekend, a leaden sky cast a gloomy light overall yet there was a richness of tone in this rocky wilderness that was well-matched by the rusty bracken and the jade-coloured grass on the slopes above. Low cloud streamed endlessly overhead. The wind was bitter. A grey-green sea raced into the cliffs, each wave exploding in fountains of spray against the great fist of Castle Rock below Bosigran Head. The sea within the cove was chaotic. Far offshore pale shafts of light turned the sea to silver beneath patches of ragged cloud.

 ZENNOR: HALLDRINE COVE: February 7th, 2016

Imogen came calling this week.

This ‘naming of storms’ is quaint, a touch sentimental, as if the storm is a Face Book Friend, a member of the family, a celebrity. Imogen is the ninth named storm since the game began. Who remembers Henry? He was here last week, but only managed 90mph gusts. Imogen clocked in past Fastnet Rock at a brisk 121mph.

All these bland storm names…What’s wrong with Beaufort? What’s wrong with Storm Force 10 – Violent Storm  11 – Hurricane 12? They are recognisably detached and definitely more lethal-sounding. Imogen was exceptional all the same. Maximum wave height off St Ives was estimated at 19.1 metres (sounds better as 60 feet plus); off Scilly, waves reached over 20 metres – nearly 70 feet in height. Big enough certainly but, somewhere out west, several big beasts as tall as high houses would have rolled over each other with excitement during the mayhem that was Imogen.

There are old sea dogs everywhere scoffing at these statistics. Call that a wave? Memories will expand, as wide as a wide-eyed wave; eyes will grow distant and salty; old footage of the Horn will stun us into wimpish silence. And, as mob-shots of triumphant waves proliferate, the naming of storms will become commonplace.

At Halldrine Cove in February 1986, the sea had been stormy enough, but on Monday of this week, heading down the cliff was like walking into the mouth of water. The way to Halldrine from the roadside is a longish one, with a final descent by a steep rocky path. If you know the way well, there’s no problem in getting down to Halldrine. On Monday, however, even a hundred feet above the sea, spray from each crashing wave gusted downwind like machine-gunned rain. It was hard to get a decent camera shot, but just above the sea, though still well out of reach, I managed a couple of quick snaps before ducking behind a sheltering rock as the spray deluged the green shore higher than it ever reaches normally. 

Imogen is the ninth named storm. We’ve already had Abigail, Barney, Clodagh, Desmond, Eva, Frank, Gertrude, and Henry. Gertrude clocked 144 mph in the Cairngorms. Delinquent Desmond was a bit short of wind, but managed to dump 34mm of record rainfall in Cumbria, flooded thousands of homes, and knocked out electricity supply to 168,000 households. Nasty bit of work, I’d say. Next up is Jake, then Katie, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vernon, and finally, Windy Wendy. Just like a Facebook page, after all…





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Cornish Landscapes

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