Here are some photos of a walk I did recently in the hills overlooking the town of Martinez in the San Francisco Bay area of California. As you can see, pasture land that was green and lush a couple of months ago is now brown, and only the oak trees remain verdent, standing proud in the landscape as the send their roots deep into the soil in search of water.
I have been visiting this part of the world for many years now (my brother lives in the area) and when I first visited it was at this time of the year and I found the landscape to dry and dusty to seem beautiful – I was used to the English countryside which is green just about all year round. Somehow just to look at what seems an almost dead landscape made me feel thirsty. However after many visits I have now seen this landscape at other times of the year and I realised that in the winter, which is the rainy season, this area looks as green as England. Interestingly, I found that this knowledge of how it changes through the year changed my appreciation of the landscape even in the dry season. It was as though my memory of how lush it could be was always part of my impression. So it now seemed akin to the pleasure of seeing the yellowing and browning of trees in autumn – when you know that this is just temporary and that as part of cycle of seasons there will be a rebirth later in the year, it no longer seems desolate and inhospitable now.
The town of Martinez itself, incidentally, is on the south shore of the Carquinez Strait in the San Francisco Bay. The area to north of this is inlet contains the Napa Valley, famous for its vinyards. I like the views of the town below, which has an oil refinery and is visited by tankers. If you watch the boat traffic, you can see these tankers and tug boats motoring through the straight. They make a majestic sight.
Before we could enjoy the view, we had to put the work in and climb up from sea level through the trees:
This is farmland with public access. There is alwas the risk of running into cows – this cowshed gave met a clue…
And then I turned the corner and saw them taking a drink at the pond…
There is an old road that goes West from Martinez that is now closed to traffic and has become a scenic walk. I started and finished the walk on this drive in a little village called Port Costa. This is a tiny village on the coast with a couple of cafes and old, Victorian buildings. It is a charming quiet little town. There is one aspect of this which is undeveloped and that is the coastline. One would have thought that the most attractive thing about this town was its situation right on the coast, and that the town would have taken advantage of this. If we have been in Devon in England, for example, the whole layout would have been created so as to preserve the view out to see first, and then work backwards from there. In common with many American towns, I have found, they don’t seem to do it. There is a dusty parking lot on the coast and the strip of land between that and the water is hidden by tall, uncared for scrub. Nevertheless it was still a pleasure to have a glass of lemonade here after my walk!