“I have seen dawn upon the Exe,” writes Eden Phillpotts, “ and can remember how a great mist rolled down the river to meet the morning. In billows it came under a breeze from shore, hid all the heron-haunted flats and marshes, heather-ridges and sleepy dunes; then the risen sun touched it, and it waned gloriously in a rosy glow against the increasing blue of the sky; while from its depths stole Exe to the sea; and I saw red cliffs and marble beaches and fishers with bright sails setting forth into an ocean of light.”
This would have been the eighteen seventies. To have seen the dawn from the Warren, it argues that the boy Eden spent the night there. Did young adventurers camp there in Victorian days? A lot of families camped there a hundred years later in the nineteen seventies. We did, my wife and I and two infant children, on a wild night of thunder and lightning and were woken by the sea birds to our own desert island and a day of fine weather. Now, alas, there are ‘notices’ on the beach prohibiting all sorts of things, camping amongst them.
In his soap operatic novel “Redcliff”, Phillpotts sends two pairs of lovers to the Warren, not at the same time!, to experience the bliss of young love enhanced by the beauties of Nature.
“He took off his coat and spread it for her to sit on. Then he flung himself on the sand, smoked and looked at the evening light creeping down the estuary and burning on the flats till they shone like red gold. Mary heard the whispers of the dune, where breezes stirred its ragged, grassy crown; she listened to the ripple of the waves also and the cry of the marsh birds. The boats were returning to Redcliff on the tide, their little sails aglow.”
Eden Phillpotts was one of those men who had been ‘in love’ with some girl or other since his schooldays and I strongly suspect the Warren might have been the scene of one of the old womanizer’s first dalliances.
Be that as it may, tomorrow I shall post a love song entitled ‘The day the sky turned green on Dawlish Warren