Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

nificent, towering with an abrupt and perpendicular face of dark rock to the height of two hundred feet above the water, and that for a sweep of three or four miles, whilst the deep blue colour of the water indicates its depth, which is more than sufficient to allow a large man-of-war to sail near enough for a biscuit to be thrown ashore from the deck.

It is grand to look upon this, one of Albion's finest cliffs : it is grand to hear the roar of the heavy surges along its base: for even when, as on the present occasion, the surface is smooth, it seldom happens that there is not a heavy swell, occasioned by the channel tide, as it sweeps round this promontory, and especially as the great mass of water which fills Torbay here hastens to leave, or struggles to re-enter, the channel stream. Seldom then, even in the calmest days, is there .wanting that booming roar which is occasioned by the heavy falling of the swell against the long line of rock, varied occasionally by the reverberations and loud gurgling occasioned by its access to the many large cracks and fissures, which being characteristic of lime-stone rocks, here form numerous narrow high caves, though hardly perceptible upon a transient view. When the wind and sea are high, the scene must indeed be grand, for the waves must throw their spray over the very top of the cliffs, covering them with a veil, more beautiful than any artificial dra. pery :

I doubt, however whether such a scene could ever be enjoyed thoroughly, for, at such a time, a painful consciousness of danger must occupy the mind of every beholder afloat; whilst a thoroughly

good view could hardly be obtained from the land.

The interest, and yet the dreariness of the scene, was heightened by many sea-fowl floating about the face of the rock, and mingling their strange cries with the roar of the waves beneath; their nests are, I believe, visited from above, at certain seasons, and robbed of their eggs, at least, such is the case in many places. I could not help thinking of two adventures which I remember to have heard of, upon good authority, as having happened to some individual whilst occupied in his vocation of taking young wild geese in the Orkneys.—Upon one occasion, having detached himself from the rope by which he had been let down over the face of the cliff, and proceeded along a narrow ledge, overhanging an immense abyss and foaming ocean, he came at last to a spot from whence he could only gain access to another ledge by advancing the foot of one particular side, he found, however, that he happened to be standing at the extreme point of the first ledge on the foot which it was thus necessary to advance: it was impossible to attain the second ledge with the disengaged foot: it was impossible to turn round : it was impossible to retreat backwards: it was impossible to change feet by bringing the two upon the minute point on which he rested with one: inevitable des. truction seemed to await him; from this, however, he was saved by the exercise of extreme coolness, courage, and activity, acquired during a life abounding with dangers and difficulties. Springing up from

[ocr errors]

the foot on which he rested, he brought the other to the same spot, and was then enabled to gain the second ledge. To appreciate the feat, we must consider, not merely the hideous situation of the man, supported on one foot, over so deadly an abyss, but the extreme precision with which it was necessary that the change of foot should be performed : in leaping up, it is evident that the perpendicularity of his body must have been observed with the greatest nicety, for if he attempted to keep himself very close to the face of the rock, he was liable, not only to tilt himself over the precipice by the least touch, but to embarrass his progressive foot by narrowing the space in which it had to move; if, on the contrary, he endeavoured to give it additional room, he was liable to carry his body out of the perpendicular line, and so to fall into the abyss beneath. None of these difficulties, however, probably occurred to his mind : he saw the difficulty and the necessity of the measure, and executing it with coolness, preserved his life.

Upon another occasion, the same individual having been lowered over the face of the cliff, attained a ledge which was within the perpendicular line dropped from the top of the cliff, by giving a vibratory motion to his body, and so swinging himself to a footing. Unfortunately, whilst occupied in searching the nests, the rope escaped from his hand, and of course, instantly swung beyond his reach : there was no possibility of communicating with those above, neither, indeed, could they have rendered him any assistance; in an instant he saw there was only one way of escape, and he adopted it :-springing from the rock over the fearful abyss, he succeeded in seizing the rope, and was again drawn up.

As we rounded the headland we were surprised to see the immense fleet of fishing smacks in the offing all busily employed in their avocation. As nearly as we could count them their number was from one hundred and sixty to two hundred, mostly about thirty tons burden, cutter rigged, with tanned sails. It seems that this is the most productive of all the fishing grounds on the coast, and supplies not only the neighbourhood, but also a very large proportion of the more distant markets, as Bath, Bristol, Portsmouth, and even London. It is astonishing how uniformly the fish keep to one long bank, the outlines of which are, of course, familiar to the fishermen, who work their vessels to the windward end, then slacken sail, and cast over the side a large strong sack-shaped net, attached on one side to a strong piece of wood. The vessel is then allowed to drive down the wind sideways, dragging with it the net, which is so weighted as to scoop along the bottom, collecting in its sack all the fish which it meets with, together with much rubbish. Arrived at the leeward end of the bank, the net is wound up by means of the windlass and taken on board, where the fish are taken out, and the rubbish thrown back. The vessel then works to windward again, and renews the process; the more rapidly this can be done, of course, the better, and consequently these vessels, though very rough and inelegant to look at, are remarkably fast-sailers and good sea boats, their qualities in the latter respect

being often tested by the heavy seas in which they have to pursue their business. For the most part they have three men and one or two boys on board, as rough a looking race as can well be conceived. Much, however, has been done of late for their improvement. Most of thein live at Brixham, a small town just within the bay on the north-side of Berryhead. Here great exertions have been made by the worthy clergymen both for the improvement of the existing race of fishermen, and the education of the rising generation. These efforts, I was happy to hear, had been attended by the success they so well deserve. The schools and churches are well attended; in the former there are upwards of two thousand scholars, male and female. These it seems are all assembled once a-year, and after attending church adjourn to a field on Berryhead, where they are plentifully regaled by their worthy pastor with abundance of tea and cake, after which they enjoy the evening in various games and sports in presence of a large assemblaye of the neighbouring gentry, the fair portion of whom get up a little fancy fair, the profits of which go towards the support of the schools. *

Nothing can be more striking than the view which presents itself as one rounds the headland and comes in full sight of the beautiful sweep of Torbay, extending to the depth of, I suppose, three miles, and a breadth of four, affording a striking contrast to the bold and hard line of coast which we had been skirt. ing, whilst the hills which gradually rise on all sides

A very interesting article on the English Fisheries may be found in a late number of the Quarterly Review.

« PoprzedniaDalej »