Saturday – Cricket, Tiffin and Correspondance

Ideally a holiday should end before or when you want it to but I’ve another day booked and wake up stiff and tired due to yesterdays exertions plus the poor quality of sleep you get when your air matress goes flat in the night. Combine this with the ongoing drizzle and the 10 mile circular walk to St Agnes is not selling itself to me today. I need a Plan B. I need a challenge!

Plan B goes like this… Find a cliff top viewpoint where I can sit in the car, listen to the cricket, read a paper and stuff my face with a home assembled cream tea. Now we’re talking! Yesterday I noticed a take-out cream tea shop in Perranport (what a great idea for a franchise) and they should sell all the gubbins I need. It’s disappointing therefore to discover that today they are out of scones, jam and clotted cream. I didn’t think to ask about tea. Next I visit the Co-op where I get a paper and the clotted cream. The scones have raisins in them (wrong for a CT) and the jam shelf sits behind a large stationary roll cage that I can’t budge. With no scones and the preserve harshly imprisoned a solution comes to mind. When I was walking through Crantock yesterday I popped into a farm shop that sold everything I need. The 5 mile drive yields results and the final piece of the jigsaw fits into place as a pub carpark at Pentire point allows me some fantastic, albeit soggy, cliff top views. Cricket, paper, cream tea. Perfect!

The beauty of a good quality cream tea is the sheer calorific value you get from it. Yes – the chlorestoral probably takes a day off your life but what a way to lose it. Much better and more memorable than a limp and tasteless burger in some squalid fast food place, regretted and then forgotten in an instant. Last year I gorged myself on a truly epic cream tea on the Isle Of Wight and the memory of it still bring me pleasure now. Hmmm…

That’s that then. What now?

Newquay is around the corner so lets find a Wetherspoons (not so much “a” as “the” since there is only one in the town and only one further south of here and that’s in Penzance) where I can upload a blog or two and grab a drink. Note: My campsite has Wi-Fi but at an eye watering £3 per hour it would make more sense to buy a dongle. I find the pub surprisingly easily. It’s rammed due to the rain but I buy a coffee and manage to cadge a table. I love what Wetherspoons do. It is what it is with quality cheap beer, coffee, edible food and where conversation rules. They tend to come in two formats – tasteful conversions of interesting old buildings (eg: old cinemas, banks, etc) that draw in a varied but inevitably vibrant crowd, or formulaic refurbishments of dark featureless boxes that act as a magnet to pallow faced all day drinkers who say little and only move to slope outside for a fag. This branch errs towards the former but the building has no great architectural merit so perhaps my theory is looking a bit tatty.

I spend three hours arsing around with blogs, photos and email – not because I have that much to do but the network speed is so slow it feels like somebody is rattling out the ones and zeros with a morse tapper. Sundays and Mondays blogs go live but the rest will have to wait until I have more stamina. Anyway, it’s brightened up a bit now so I’ll take in the sea air and find out if Newquay has any hidden charms beneath its predominantly low rent surface.

It hasn’t.

I will take away two distinct memories though. Firstly the measures some people will take to avoid their neighbours…

Most famous house in Newquay
Most famous house in Newquay

…and also that of a busy high street like one you might find anywhere with a car packed tarmac road lined with the normal high street stores, but crawling with bare footed dudes in sand encrusted wet suits heading down to Fistral beach with their surf boards. You don’t see that in Derby.

On my return to the campsite I can’t help noticing a very large dead badger at the side of the road. I know that if I stopped to take a closer look I would find the clear indentation of a size 10 walking boot.

Thursday – build me an ark

I’m woken by a cargo plane buzzing over the campsite as it prepares to land at the adjoining airstrip. It’s mercifully dry and I prepare to undertake the activity I have dreaded most, before the other campers wake and are able to watch. Yes, it’s time to put away the “2 second” tent that I pitched yesterday in 2 minutes (I opted to attach the optional guy ropes). It was perfect for one night but far too pokey for anything longer, and not for claustophobes or (laughably) the second occupant they suggest it would additionally accommodate. My only previous attempt to wrestle the tent back into its bag was in my back garden. It took 15 minutes and lots of industrial strength swearing. Progress – today its back in the bag within 5 minutes with only moderate foul mouthed mutterings. Next time I will challenge myself to 2 minutes and light cussing.

Next on todays agenda, in as far as there is one, is breakfast at Jamie’s “Fifteen” restaurant at the beach. It’s first come first served from 8:30am whereas lunch and dinner require booking months in advance. Out of sheer optimism (in retrospect that’s all I can put it down to) I decide to trot down hill without any waterproofing or umbrella. It will stay dry by the power of positive thought. For such a high profile restaurant (google it if you don’t know about it) it’s very hard to find the way in! There’s a sign in the general beach car park pointing in the wrong direction and that’s it. Turns out you have to walk to the dingy far corner of the car park and descend some unheralded staircase which I only found after 5 minutes. Perhaps this is some deliberate ploy to deal with the over-demand, by ensuring 50% of their potential customers just give up trying to find it in the end. There is still plenty of space when I arrive and I am ushered to a window seat though most of the tables are window facing due to the open plan design. Full English doesn’t appeal today – though it looks “pucka” – so I go for a cereal / yoghurt / fruit compote thing which is very nice, although the Beach Hut Café downstairs does something similar for half the price with views almost as good. In fairness it’s a pleasant environment and the staff are great. It would undoubtedly be a special place for an evening meal as the sun sets. Instead I’m about to leave and it’s cats and dogs outside.

A 20 minute walk up a steep hill in the rain doesn’t appeal so I wait for a bus under the canopy of a surf school. A couple of young families are getting suited up for a lesson and today is probably a good day to jump in the sea. When the Newquay to Padstow bus finally arrives I’m almost too embarrassed to ask to travel one stop up the hill. Fortunately the driver is too embarrassed to ask me for a fare so he lets me travel for free in return for me clearing the mist from his window that is obscuring his wing mirror.

What do you do on an unremittingly wet day in Cornwall? Well here’s what I did – drove to some pretty coastal villages, saw some great looking gnarled old pubs (from the outside only) and parked up in Newquay in an effort to find shops that didn’t sell surf gear. Fat Face and Animal would go bust if Newquay iced over. Eventually I found a gentlemens outfitter stuck in a wonderful Grace Brothers style musty time warp where I purchased some ludicrously cheap waterproof overtrousers. Suits you sir! The weather forecast is for rain forever so at least with the final element of body waterproofing in my armoury I can go walking in the face of whatever is thrown at me.

Onto Tollgate Farm campsite at Perranporth where I pitched my large tent for the final time this week, and then sat down to incongruously listen to the first day of the second ashes test match at sunny Lords. The farm sits on a hill and apparently has a range of animals for visitors to visit & feed, though my only sight was of a soggy llama with a look of bemusement if such a thing is possible. I wonder whether this is a sign and I should start building an ark.

Tollgate Farm - today
Tollgate Farm – today

Quick camp stove food does the job but only just. It’s mid evening and further canvas internment will only lead to death by dampness so I conjure up the image of a cosy country pub with an open fire and see what my OS map has to say on the subject. Many of the pubs in Cornwall are hundreds of years old and full of character – the sort of places you could happily spent an evening. The first two I find however have full car parks and the notion of a 50m dash from some space further afield is not tempting. I’m pulled over to check the map again for barely 15 seconds and the passenger door is opened by a single toothed man materialises from nowhere to ask if I am lost. In Nottingham this sequence of events is a prelude to car jacking, soliciting or a drugs score but I think this is a selfless act of kindness to a stranger from a local – something that used to exist further north. He advises me about where to go and I advise him never to visit Nottingham. The Plume Of Feathers in Penhallow is a marvellous eatery, except I’ve eaten. Luckily it has real ale, 80s music, cosy seats and a roof. Confusingly it also has a covered pool table with a sign stating “please do not use this pool table” and a dart board sporting the notice “sorry no dart games”, but despite these paradoxes I’m sold. I sit down with a yummy pint on Magik ale from the local Redruth brewery and it occurs to me that after taking 190 photos in the previous 4 days I have taken none today. Tomorrow I will walk and take photos regardless of the weather. And drink beer. Hmmm beer.