It was a beautiful, if cool, summer morning when we set out on the long planned adventure in search of the smugglers caves. We had heard stories about them all our lives and that was thirty years of stories among the three of us.
It was known that a long time ago when press gangs used to roam the beach in search of unsuspecting souls to kidnap and use as sailors there were also smugglers who brought in all manner of merchandise in the dead of night. There was a tunnel from the cliffs just a few miles from our home which stretched all the way to the manor hall and the lord of the manor could get his supplies this way to avoid the taxes imposed in those days.
Of coarse all we knew was that smugglers, who in our eyes were probably also pirates, would bring in kegs of rum on to the dangerous rocky shore and at great risk transport them to the hall through a tunnel about a mile long.
Geordie, Janet and I were neighbours and spent most of our summers at the beach or around the docks and had always talked of finding the smugglers cave with tunnel attached.
We were lucky enough to have parents who didn't question us too much about our whereabouts as long as we were home on time so we arranged to spend a whole day away. We truthfully said that we were going to walk along the beach to the cliffs and spend the day there. We even helped make sandwiches to take for our lunch although I admit that my help was wrapping them up and not making them.
We each had everything we needed with us. Sandwiches, an apple, a bottle of Tizer(our favourite soft dring), a swim suit, a towel and a flashlight.
The trip was well planned as we knew the only way to get to the cliffs was at low tide. Low tide being scheduled for 11 am that day we figured it would give us lots of time for the search.
Walking along the beach with visions of smugglers and pirates on our minds naturally led to some diversions along the way and so it was that we ended up attacking and defending a cement block house left over from WW2. It lay half buried in the sand at an angle which made it the perfect simulation of the deck of a ship. Climbing in through the small windows which then became cannon ports we defended against other ships for quite a while until we realised that our main goal for the day still lay much further up the beach.
The tide was at its lowest when we arrived at the cliffs. It was an area seldom visited since the only attraction was the tidal pools left in amongst the rocks and seaweed made traversing that rocky wasteland treacherous for any but hardy ten year olds with treasure on their minds.
As we clambered over the rocks towards the cliffs we naturally had to search out the small crabs and fish hiding under rocks in the pools and just as naturally throw a couple of crabs at Janet since she was, after all, a girl, even if she was one of the gang.
When we found a nice flat rock Janet suggested we use it as a table and stop for lunch. Then we could start searching for the cave in earnest.
Much of our lunch ended up being thrown to the seagulls who could swoop down and catch a piece of bread in mid air without bumping into each other. We were so fascinated watching their acrobatics that filling our stomachs became unimportant.
Lunch over we set off in earnest to the cliff face and looked about for possible caves. We quickly became aware that we would have to split up if we were to check out everything we saw. Most of the recesses were no more than a few feet deep but some went much deeper and the only way to tell the difference was to go in and look around.
Working south we checked out every nook and cranny but could find none that continued at a height tall enough to be of use as a tunnel.
I had been working the upper caves and came to the realization that if the cave did exist it would probably be high on the cliff face since the smugglers would need to arrive at high tide or be smashed to pieces on the rocks.
We started to concentrate our efforts high up but this was hard work so when we came to a tidal pool deep enough to swim in we all changed into our swim suits and jumped in. We were used to swimming in the North Sea so the water in the tidal pool was luxuriously warm and once again we frittered away more important search time just enjoying ourselves. After sunning ourselves to dry off we once again changed and set off exploring the last section of the cliff.
With no results we noticed that the sea was getting awfully close and we still had to back track quite a distance over slippery rocks north to the beach or we could be trapped. The thought of being trapped in one of the high caves until the tide receded again didn't bother us half as much as the trouble we would be in if we were not home on time so we set off north along the rocks.
Halfway back we all noticed it at the same time. There, high up in the cliff face, was a large cave opening which had not been visible looking from the north. Too good to miss we all climbed up and into the cold darkness of the cave. Geordie's flashlight was the only one left working so by its light we carefully picked our way further and further into the cave. It was the deepest cave yet going so far back that we wished we could have found it earlier when we would have had more light to explore it.
Suddenly rounding a bend we came to a solid wall of concrete and knew that we had actually found the right cave. Disappointed that the authorities had chosen to spoil our fun but excited that smugglers had actually dragged their booty through this cave long, long ago we headed back to the entrance.
Looking down all we saw was water. While we were in the cave the sea had reached the bottom of the cliffs. A quick discussion ensued and we figured if we merely went over the rocks barefoot we would be able to keep our shoes dry and make it out safe and dry.
The waves were very mild and we made it almost to the edge of the rocks where we could get to a grassy sand dune and to safety when a slightly bigger wave came along. We were just crossing some seaweed covered rocks with the water just over our knees when the wave took our feet from under us all at the same time. Half swimming and half dragging our gear the rest of the way we made it to safety, soaking wet and exhausted.
None of us owned a watch so we worked out the approximate time by checking the sea against the high tide mark and decided it must be around four o'clock giving us no time to dry out or walk back home. Pooling our resources we came up with enough money to catch the bus along the coast road. The bus conductor made us stand the whole way so as not to wet the seats but she did allow us to ride.
In all a very satisfactory day.
Now all that remained was to make up a white lie for our parents to explain away the soaked clothing.
The official story:
After an uneventful day at the cliffs we got back a little early and were playing under the jetty when a very large wave came and drenched us.
We were believed, I think.