Dawn, and an orange orb breaks the horizon as the metalled sea shimmers. Topsy charges excitedly towards the shore, startling gulls into flight. The air is clear and cold, the shingle beach empty save for those hardy shiverers seeking renewal in the cold waters of the North Sea. We find our stride, Topsy leading, the lights of the domed power station blinking in the distance. At the tideline the sand is firm, the going good, but we strike inland and run the dunes to the mouth of the Blythe. Our feet sink into the soft and marramed sandhills before we turn west, following the river to a narrow iron bridge, a relic of the 1870s. Riverbank now gives way to gorse and heathland as we follow the line of the long disappeared railway. To the east, the medieval church tower is silhouetted by the winter sun. We run towards the light.
Reedbeds rustle in the gentle breeze and meandering waterways guide us through the marshes to where the crumbling concrete of war litter reveals a history that never happened - Nazi invasion. The village - here since the Saxons - still slumbers, woodsmoke scenting the morning air. On the hilltop ahead (towering a full 10 metres above sea-level) the Victorian lighthouse glimmers, drawing us home. Re-crossing the river we pass the inn (survivor of the great deluge of '53) and ford a field inundated with both water and fowl. An echelon of geese heads south and oystercatchers call as we return to the seaside idyll in which a son of the Empire invented a dystopia.