The Corsican MoorDwight Peck's personal website

Corsica in the Off Season, 2007

Corsica, the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the off-season rates, late November and early December 2007.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Hike to Punta Mortella

Another coastal walk -- Kristin is Kangooing us up from Bastia over the Col de Teghime at the base of the Cap Corse, down past the town called Patrimonio, to St-Florent, still another lovely little yachting port. We're here to walk along part of the coast of the Désert des Agriates -- once the breadbasket of the Genoese, but since then monocultured into a "Désert". (Think the US midwest after Archer Daniels.)

St-Florent, the chief town of the Golfe de St-Florent. We'll be walking out on the far side of the bay there, 30 November 2007.

Downtown St-Florent in the off-season. Bilingual road signs are so cool, they have such a kind of insistent dignity about them. Even when they say virtually the same thing.

The Genovese citadel at St-Florent

St-Florent its ownself

The view from the St-Florent citadel northwards along the west coast of the Cap Corse.
Probably a hundred stories out there, most of them still untold.

And the view from St-Florent back over the pass we've just traversed, Bastia on the far side of it, and Kangoo dreading the return in the dark.

And once again the citadel. Unimpressive, locked up tight, even the toilets are locked up. Okay, forget it, we don't need you! There will be other toilets.

We've successfully cajoled and prodded Old Kangoo out this far, a rutty old dirt road to the Anse de Fornali, a little cove and residence of some no-doubt-deservedly well-to-do individuals with their own boats and a faux-castle homestead on the right side of it. We're going left.

A look back at St-Florent over on the far side of the Golfe de St-Florent, and now we're on our march.

And after a certain space of plodding along, telling scabrous Cheney jokes, our destination comes into view, the Punta Mortella (tiny white things in the distance).

Weird Poseidon Grass all over the place. And Kristin.

A Wetland of Purely Local Importance.
Actually, there are two Wetlands of International Importance on Corsica, the Etang de Biguglia (1991) near Bastia and the Mares temporaires de Tre Padule de Suartone, designated by France for protection under the Ramsar Convention just earlier this year <[i.e., in 2007. And three more since then (2012).]

Punta Mortella, and more Poseidon, or Neptune, Grass all over the shop floor.

LOTS of Poseidon Grass (Posidonia oceanica). How about this?: "120 million years ago P. oceanica covered the coastal plains of an ocean that straddled the equator. Drifting over millennia with the tectonic plates, today P. oceanica occurs only in the Med and around the southern coasts of Australia" (source).

"Over centuries the rhizomes form mats which rise up into reefs that help to trap sediment and mediate the motion of waves, thus clarifying the water and protecting beaches from erosion. Dead leaves are shed in the autumn and can be seen washed up on beaches", and here they are!

Neptune Grass banks that have been here so long that they've been eroded by the waves. They look like crap but they're a protected species (in Catalunya), and aside from dissuading sunbathers they have significant human uses: "Dried P. oceanica leaves were traditionally used to stuff mattresses and pillows (apparently deterring bed bugs), to feed cattle, to provide packing material, and even to thatch roofs. Once viewed as beach litter, the importance of this biodegradable material in the ecosystem is now being recognised and several local authorities along the Spanish coasts hold annual information drives about preserving this seagrass and to explain their new policy of leaving areas of beach in their natural state."

Kristin sprints along the coastal path

We're approaching the River Santu, where it effluesces into the sea

One of the few times when I can envy people who wear "hiking sandals"

So, a certain smugness amongst the hiking sandelers.

Preparing to cross the River Santu. Another time when hiking sandals are probably a plus.
In re: the tracks on the sand: we were met by a little crowd of "mountain bikers" lugging their bikes along the trail, but apparently here they were able to mount up and pedal furiously for a few moments.

Another time when I'd prefer my normal walking boots.

The tower of Mortella in the offing

All right, get ready for this. A significant stream of Global Military History began right here. This is the Tower of Mortella, got that?

That Old Wreck, the tower on the Point of Mortella, one of many built all round Corsica by the Genovese (as we've seen) to warn of the onset of North Africans, was assaulted on 7 February 1794 by two British warships and was then captured by land forces under Sir John Moore "after two days of heavy fighting". (Did anyone know why?)

The point is that the two warships cannonaded the son of a bitch endlessly, with no effect, and the Big Cheese at that time, presumably His Admiral Nelsonship, was so impressed that he decided to replicate this design all over the Empire, i.e., at that time, all over the world.

A genius in military architecture, but weak in spelling, he turned Mortella into "Martello", and Martello towers from the 19th century are now, basically, everywhere. I've had my photograph taken proudly, with a good friend at the time, at one of the two Martello Towers on the Plains of Abraham in Québec City, and eleven of the original sixteen Martello towers built in Canada are still standing.

But, if you want to see a Martello Tower, especially one that's in better shape than this original, you can go to Australia, Barbuda, Bermuda, elsewhere in Canada, all over Ireland, Jamaica, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and even the USA. The basic idea was, it seems, Superthick Walls, one officer and 25 men in the garrison, and a single 360° heavy artillery gun on top of it, and a stairway up the outside that was removable if necessary. In Corsica, the torregiani manned the thing and lit fires to warn everybody when things got rough.

Kristin, thinking about Martello Towers and smoked Corsican saucisses and the return walk.

All that said, it's time to start back again, as the day begins to darken somewhat.

And a last look at the grand-daddy of all the world's Martello Towers.

Base map:

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 December 2007, revised 15 June 2012.

Corsica, 2007

Corsica, 2009