Jumping Geronimo! What's happening to the sand dunes?
I did my first Geronimo! on the sand dunes of California (that's near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, UK). Uncle Norman and the other Norfolk uncles had joint ownership of a ramshackle caravan on a site there, the family hut on the cliffs having been swept away in the massive flood of the early '50s.
It wasn't until I had children of my own and I taught them to Geronimo in the dunes of Cornwall that I realised that he was an Apache chief and this was his braves' war cry. You leap off the top of the dune screaming your head off, confident that the gradually sloping sand will ensure a safe and happy landing on the beach below. Children still do this, but for some maybe the dunes have been replaced by a lino strip in a 'Drop Slide'. I haven't heard Geronimo's name for a while though.
I was reminded of my mis-spent youth by the article about Porthtowan and its dunes invading the village.
When I visit many coastal resorts these days I am dismayed by the poor state of many of the dunes and the many and various local efforts to rescue them. For example at Daymer Bay some years ago we were encouraged to bring along our Christmas trees and dump them behind the fence, 'to catch the sand'. Exmouth's dunes are seriously threatened as are Dawlish Warren's.
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I think we have to realise that we are to blame for this. Not just those brave enough to Geronimo, but even walkers and especially young diggers (who sometimes risk their lives tunnelling into dunes – but that's another story). The only schemes which seem to work are those where the dunes are completely fenced off, allowing no-one to walk other than through carefully fenced-off paths. This only works when the public are considerate enough to obey instructions. After fencing-off it seems common practice to plant marine grasses and other vegetation, whose roots stabilise the sand. The Christmas trees didn't work at Daymer bay.
It all takes several years and costs quite a bit. The National Trust and other similar groups have done it in several places – I'm sure they could advise the people of Porthtowan if asked. They did have a scheme somewhere in Cornwall some years ago where they were asking for volunteers to help.
There are resorts, Exmouth being one of them, that dig the sand from one end of the beach and dump it at the other, as sand moves along a beach with the tide and currents so that those who suggested this were maybe not as daft as they seemed.
When I thought of writing this letter I looked up Geronimo in the dictionary and discovered that it's down as meaning 'expressing exhilaration when leaping, etc ... used as a slogan by US paratroopers in the Second World War.' The penny dropped – my late Uncle Norman served in the RAF during that conflict and he no doubt came across paratroopers and may even have heard them yell as they jumped, but it's taken me 60 years to find this out!