Visual clues picked up by a roving journalist

by martinhesp

In my newspaper, the Western Morning News, today there’s an article by me which includes this illustration of various shoes dangling on a fence.
It may seem a curious shot to use in a piece which is part of a series called Secret Seasides – but the shoes are a clue.

Why should beaches need a clue? Well, they don’t really – but I reckon all the best seasides have some sort of story – and Strangles in North Cornwall is the place where 100s of shoes washed up after the infamous Boscastle Flood of 2004. That was a real story – and I covered it for the newspaper.
I was the first journalist down into the village the morning after the inundation – and I saw how the shops had been ripped through by the waters of what is normally a babbling brook. That’s how all the sandals and boots ended up in the sea so that they could be swept up to Strangles – which is the next accessible beach north of the Boscastle inlet.

The only mystery is why visitors to the beach later that summer should have seen fit to carry sea-damaged footwear 700 feet up to hang them on the fence at the top of the National Trust owned hill above.
Anyway, my conjecture is that if you showed Sherlock Holmes – or my own humble Erskine Lammoran (the Cornish Snapper) – this photograph and explained it was in a certain part of Cornwall, they would instantly begin to unravel why such a strange thing as shoes hanging on a fence could exist.

And here’s another photo I took recently on the day that I discovered famous Tarr Steps clapper bridge had been washed away by Christmas floods. The metal ring hanging above a river doesn’t look like much – but again it is a photographic clue which actually tells an entire story.
The ring was put in place in 1952 after devastating floods had carried big trees down the River Barle. The trees smashed into Tarr Steps and sent its slabs up to a quarter of a mile downstream – so after it was rebuilt engineers decided to erect a cable “tree-catcher” above the ancient monument.
The cables have been protecting Tarr Steps ever since – but recently the floods were so bad – and the trees being washed down so big – that the hawsers snapped as if they were made of string.

So, as I say, the photo is a clue.

And this is exactly what my Cornish Snapper stories are based on… Visual clues that tell a story.

Someone has to solve crimes – and in real life it is the job of police detectives. There’s no more room for amateur consulting detectives like Holmes or friendly old ladies like Miss Marple. Few people, other than police officers, have an excuse to be near to crime scenes on a regular basis – or, if they do, they have no reason to go about collecting clues.

But the hyper-observant photographer of a big regional daily newspaper like the Western Morning News would have every reason to be in such places at such times, noticing everything and anything he could.

I rest my case.