Jaywick – Into the salt flats – 3

The Jaywick saga continues as we trek through the Colne Point nature reserve and check out the desolate land between the the two towns.

Running to find something. Colne Point. Dead crabs on the dirty ground. Block jumping. Discovering a world war two pillbox. 

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We pushed on until the grass verge turned back to sea wall and path. It was a lonely piece of concrete amongst green, running for maybe fifty metres before reverting to grass. Here we were higher than the ocean, higher than the farm fields behind us. The only other souls were unseen insects and lizards in the grass and tens of small, brown birds that sat on the rotted fence poles of the wasteland, every so often letting out a brief, whistling call.

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By now the Seafisher’s Hand was far behind us. We’d curved around the bay to Colne Point. Ahead we saw structures on the floodplains.

‘Think they’re abandoned?’ asked Ben.

‘We’ll see, maybe.’

We broke into a run, weeds curling around our ankles and grabbing at our shins. As we drew closer they became more distinct. They were two, wood panelled, cube-shaped buildings, looking out to sea. They sat on stilts, raised off the unstable mudflats and standing two storeys high, totally alone. Nothing around them but mud sand and salt. Desolate is the perfect word. It seemed almost like an alien planet or another time.

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Further up, when our excited run fizzled to a determined walk, we spotted large stone blocks by the buildings. They were spaced maybe three feet apart—some old sea defense dating back at least a century, I guessed—and about four feet square. We followed the dotted line of blocks with our eyes. On the side closest to us we could make out another small building, this one only about eight feet high and concrete. It was a pre-World War 1 pillbox.

We started running again, looking for a way down. Further along and after a few failed attempts, we found a route. We had to jump a small ditch filled with stagnant water, then we tested the clay ground with our feet for stability. It seemed fine as long as you avoided the wet patches, though it had the texture underfoot of the rubber floor in a children’s playground.

Looking down into the muddy, salt water rivers we spotted a crab run for cover in the loose dirt. Shortly, we realised that all around us were the orange corpses and shells of crabs, turned upside down in the yellow grass, pecked by the gulls.

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We jumped the small ravines and carried on. Where there wasn’t grass there was dry mud and pools of salt water. We had to pass a fence, barely standing, a thread of orange-brown barbed wire connecting the withered posts. Ben stepped over and I followed. Here there were webs of white and yellow strands over the mud, almost like a spider’s web. It crisped and cracked underfoot.

Progress was slow. Wet mud and concealed potholes meant you had to keep your eyes on your feet. We made our way to the stone blocks, climbed on top and then ran and jumped from block to block until we made it to the buildings. The block jumping, not just a better means of travel across the salt flats, but also the type of thrill that keeps you grounded in an journey and vitally connected to life.

It’s a truism that the more danger you’re in, the more appreciable life is.

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The wooden buildings turned out not to be abandoned but that was no disappointment as in viewing distance from the cube houses was an old pillbox. We climbed down from the stones and passed behind the buildings and round to the old structure. I climbed onto the roof and looked across the horizon. A grassy bank made the sea invisible but poking above it was what looked like a mast tangled in a green fishing net. The net would get caught and blow out violently whenever the wind grabbed it. It seemed like it could have been a small, beached fishing boat but there was no way to tell and I never found out. If it was a boat, it sat at an angle in muddy sand, crabs danced around its hull, water eroded the wood, and it was left there, maybe stuck forever.

The pillbox was hexagonal. Grey with rubble and stones poking out the concrete. Small, slit windows showed a dark and dirty interior. The smell was of must, sea salt and the sourness that comes from so many things living and dying in such a small space, so far from the sewer run-offs and drainage systems of the cities and towns.

To get into the pillbox you had to duck through a short passageway. It was dank and the floor was cracked and ruined. The passage led to the main interior where windows provided slanting column of light in. They were designed so that a much wider view could be had from the inside than you could ever get looking it. The walls were up to a foot thick, the ceiling itself probably about 8 inches of solid concrete. Standing on top of it made us wonder how a building like that supported itself. It seemed so unlikely; it would stand hundreds of years, not a single support relieving the weight of the heavy roof. All this and it’s on subsiding ground. War defences: built to last.

Medicines on the other hand, they are designed to keep you coming back.

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We smoked a spliff, listened to a little Aesop Rock and looked around. The ceiling had white stalactites hanging, presumably from condensated sea salt.

Once, men spent hours at a time here, maybe lived here. All armed and with some—however small—expectation of war. Now the only evidence of any human habitation was an empty beer can. Carlsburg, I think. It didn’t seem that anyone came down here much. Probably the land itself made for an effective deterrent.

About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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11 Responses to Jaywick – Into the salt flats – 3

  1. Lana says:

    Oh that beer can would have annoyed me in the midst of natural land like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was an element of shame about it, definitely. Although, honestly, the whole area feels so rundown–the towns on either side barely have road surfaces, much less streets in the traditional sense–that it doesn’t register too much in a way. It’s always a shame to see such beautiful areas tarnished though and litter is especially annoying because it really isn’t hard to take with you. Thank you for your comment, Lana. Always appreciate your input.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. allison says:

    Very enjoyable to read this. Made me feel almost like I was there. Aside from the war relics and crabs, this place seems to have a similar feel to that of the river towns on the flatter parts of Appalachia in the US.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Jaywick – Into the salt flats – 3 — Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain | Jaywickman

  4. Pingback: Jaywick – The long walk back – 4 | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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