Coastal ramblings

The beautiful cliffs at Marshall Meadows

A little while ago I posted about a tunnel at Marshall Meadows Caravan Park.  I was contacted by one or two people afterwards about caves on the coast between Berwick and the border.  One comment was particularly interesting, telling me of a cave connected to a passage way  leading up to the ground above the cliffs near Folly Farm.
So yesterday, my friend Ralph Holmes and I set off to try to discover what could be seen.  Unfortunately the property owner wasn’t happy with us tramping about in that area which was fair enough, but a little disappointing nonetheless.

So Ralph and I set off to try to find the cave and see what could be seen from the other end.  Now, it would be extremely foolhardy to try walking the length of the beach without knowing the tide behaviour but we reckoned there were a couple of points where people had once got down the cliffs to the shoreline.

And a lovely walk it was too.  The point we tried near Marshall Meadows was extremely steep and totally impossible to climb.  It may have been once by younger men with a rope to assist them, but not for the likes of Ralph and me!

We continued to the next point just north of Needles Eye, as the name suggests, a projection of sandstone pierced with an arch eroded by the sea.  

Needle’s Eye in the cliffs north of Berwick.

This looked more promising and we made our way down the grass slope until – Rats!  A sharp drop appeared ahead of us making this route impassible as well.  However, the day was not entirely wasted.  Many local readers will remember Ralph Holmes as the owner of the fishmongers in Bridge Street  until the Berwick Salmon Fishing Company ceased to exist.  He is now researching the history of the salmon fishing industry in the area.

So picture the scene as his look of disappointment changed to elation when he spotted the ruins of what appeared to be a stone hut of some sort.  "That’s the Needle’s Eye shiel!  I’ve been looking for that.  Couldn’t find it anywhere on any maps.“

This would probably have been similar in layout and function to the shiels (small huts that housed the team of men during the week while fishing) on the river but the method of fishing was completely different. On the river, boats called cobles were rowed out into the river letting out the net behind in an arc around the salmon fishing upriver.  On the coast, the nets were suspended from stakes, here wedged into the crevices between the rocks that project out to sea to catch the shoals of fish hugging the coastline.

Not much is known of this fishery.  It was probably started in the 19th century but was sold in July 1921 and probably closed shortly afterwards. Many poorer fisheries such as this one were closed soon after the First World War due to a lack of manpower.

The remains of Needle’s Eye fishing shiel.

The fact is was there demonstrated that it must once have been possible to get to it.  It is likely that the land has slipped in the ensuing years; coastal erosion is quite bad here.

And the moral of the story is, "Keep your eyes open – you never know what you might discover round the corner!”


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