Monday, 4 October 2010
Back from Cornwall
On Friday the first day of October, the south of England received around a quarter of its usually monthly rainfall, and this was the day that I chose for driving back from Devon - as it turned out, not a wise move, as it took 8 /12 hours against the usual 5. I thought I was never going to get home. As soon as I thought I was getting somewhere, the traffic seemed to slow again, and by the time I finally got in, I was tired, miserable and thoroughly fed up.
Still, it was worth it. The weather up until the day before had been fantastic. In fact it is hard to believe now that just last Wednesday I was sunbathing at Bedruthan Steps, one of the more stunning North Cornish beaches that I was lucky enough to be able to visit.
To try and keep costs down, I stayed at youth hostels. There are plenty in this part of the country to choose from, and the three I chose were Boswinger, which is in the south near St Austell, Tintagel and Westward Ho! which is just across the county border in Devon.
The drive out was long and tiring, along for me, an unfamiliar route, but now I have done it once, I will remember the way for next time. I usually find that I only have to go a place once in order to get my bearings, and remember my way around sometimes years after that initial visit. Boswinger is a small village near Goran Haven in the south of Cornwall, not far from the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which is of course the main reason I chose to stay there. Sunday then was spend exploring the different routes around the garden, and eating a delicious lunch of baked potato brushed with olive oil, salt and cracked black pepper with Cornish Yard (a Brie type cheese made with nettles), coleslaw and salad, all of which (apart from the cheese) was grown on site. When I returned to the hostel later on that day, I drove to nearby Hemmick beach, which is less than a kilometer from the hostel along a very narrow and very steep road. It was a a beautiful beach, but on the way back I met two cars trying to go the other way. Reversing round all those bends to the nearest passing place on a road barely wide enough for one car proved hairy to say the least, and is not something I would do again - I have a mental note to walk to the beach next time.
Monday was spent driving across Bodmin Moor via Golitha Falls and the village of Minions, which is the highest point on the Moor and close to the Hurlers Stone Circle and various other ancient artefacts. I had lunch in a lovely little tea room in the village and went back to the car to read before continuing the journey on to Tintagel. It was a lovely day, the scenery was stunning and I was in no hurry to get the hostel, which didn't open until 5pm anyway.
The directions said that it was perched on the cliffs near the south west coastal footpath at the end of a very rough track, and they weren't kidding. The track turned out to be a path strewn with rocks and gravel, and I found myself wishing for the first time, that I had a four wheel drive. I managed though, navigating the hairpin bends to arrive at the most beautiful location imaginable. I knew I was going to have an amazing few days and I wasn't wrong.
The weather was variable throughout my stay in Tintagel, but I managed to see all the sites - King Arthur's Castle, The Old Post Office and of course the various shops around the High Street. On one wet and windy lunch time, I treated myself to a delicious plate of scampi and chips. I then drove into Port Isaac, where the television series Doc Martin is filmed, in the company of an Australian lady named Barbara and bought some geranium flavoured Turkish Delight and a CD by local group, Fisherman's Friend.
The following day I went to Bedruthan Steps, around a hour and a half's drive from Tintagel, and not far from Newquay. There are probably quicker ways to get there but I was not confident at finding my way through all the small villages and so chose to stick to the main roads going, through Padstow. It was an amazing day and so warm - I removed the legs form my convertible trousers and walked up the beach for around an hour, stopping every now and then to take pictures of the surf and the huge boulders littering the beach, and supposedly used as stepping stones to the sea by the giant Bedruthan, hence the beach's name. It really was a beautiful day and probably the highlight of this trip.
Unfortunately it was over all too soon, as the following day I headed off out of Cornwall and back towards North Devon, en route for home. The last night was spent in the very cosy and by youth hostel standards, luxurious hostel at Westward Ho! I was the only guest and so had the place to myself - what luxury and how nice to was to sit in the conservatory watching television while listening to the rain, and to go upstairs afterwards for a long hot soak in the bath (the only hostel I have ever stayed at that actually has one). The following day it was back in the car for that long drive home.
It was a tiring week in some ways, with lots of driving (around 800 miles) but one that as ever stretched the boundaries and blew away the cobwebs of the preceding weeks. Of course now I am home, things continue pretty much as before - thankfully none of the residents at work died during my absence, but it is coming up to that time of year, so you do start to wonder who might be next. I would rather not think about it, but the thought is there.
My next time off now will be in November, this time just for five days, and then again in January, before I hopefully head off back to Lundy at the end of February. I need the wide open spaces and the solitude and sense of familiarity that only the island can bring. At the moment the cottage is free from Valentines Day onwards towards the end of March, so Is shall probably book as soon as the next credit card statement is processed, around 15th.