The essential ingredients of a cliff-top walk are simple - the sea below, and a path above. There's no need for extras or shortcuts - just a track which wiggles in and out, following the edge of the land.
The imaginative can peer carefully down at smuggler's coves and secret beaches. Faraway dreamers can watch ships anchored out to sea and plan intrepid sailing voyages 'out there'. A basic, blinkered plodder can just follow the path, breathe deeply, hold the handrail (if there is one), and enjoy the fresh air.
Seaside Cottage and Echiums
A good cliff-top walk has to be a curious blend of the safe and the scary. The ocean's enormous power makes any human-made structures en route seem so vulnerable - and so cute! I always look at the fishermen's cottages I pass with misty, romantic eyes.
Down to the Cliffs
Salt Spray Gardening...
But as for any thoughts of gardening - aargh! The salt spray! These are not places to garden - better to hide here in winter with a stack of books, or come in summer with someone special to fall in love with...
Taylor's Mistake to Boulder Bay
My local cliff-top walk starts at the surf beach called Taylor's Mistake, wanders past some quaint seaside baches (small cottages), and ends at rocky Boulder Bay, near the entrance to Lyttleton Harbour.
The name of the general area (and the farm) is Godley Heads. But this is a featherweight when compared to other coastal cliff-top walks. I'm thinking in particular of the long distance footpath in Cornwall. I'd love to walk that track!
My coastal home-grown path has few romantic or historical associations. No smugglers (to my knowledge) have hidden their stashes in the sea-level caves, nor have any Agatha Christie murder mysteries ever been set here.
But there's a pretty seaside garden in front of a cottage at Boulder Bay, filled with driftwood, shells, and freashly planted friesia bulbs. This the perfect morning tea stop.
Good Morning Seal!
And Silly Seals
A silly seal flip-flops his way over the rocks towards me. He's coming for morning tea? This is his garden? Oops. I leave him and the sea behind and climb up the track steps, over the hill to the harbour.
The birdlife seems to be a bit boring and basic - just seagulls and shags (sorry to slight you, birds). The winter vegetation consists of escaped succulents and big purple flowering Echiums. A few fir trees are planted down by the sea - the native bush is long gone, cleared for stock to graze. I wonder what would the land have looked like when fully clad in New Zealand native forest...
But I still love this cliff-top walk over the naked hills. For now, it's just a winter morning's saunter, there and back. Consider it a training walk for that world-travelling day when I experience the coastal Cornwall path.
If these pictures look cold and wintry, that's because they were taken just one week before mid-winter's day. Brr!