Saturday, 3 October 2009


In 1862 Eden Phillpotts was born in India. His father died when he was four and he and his mother and his brothers returned to England and it seems that they lived for some years at Dawlish with his grandfather and his mother’s sisters.

Anyway, one of his most precious memories was that as a boy he ran and rolled in the sand dunes on Dawlish Warren. He later wrote verses about it. Let me quote a stanza or two:

Oh naked-footed boy with the wild hair
And hopeful eyes, is it so long ago
Among these windy dunes you made your lair
Beside the immutable sea’s unwearied ebb and flow?

Above you sings the horrent bent; the sun
Finds you and burns your budding limbs to brown;
You race the waves and wade and leap and run
Then in the sweet, hot sand contented cuddle down.

You dream great dreams while all the upper air
Is musical with mews and round about
Upon the flats among the sea-ways there
The dim sea lavender spreads her purple fingers out.

I can report that the mews were still musical, at least in the spirit of our contemporary composers, and the horrent bent was still singing when I visited the Warren this summer: probably singing the same old song!

In a chapter of his book ‘My Devon Year’ of 1903 Phillpotts records a return visit to his beloved Dawlish Warren from which, in a day or two, I shall quote .

Tomorrow: Misjudging the tide.

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