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Posts Tagged ‘Rain’

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.

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Last night was windy and I emerge from my tent to find sodden guy ropes dangling from the sides free from their anchors. Moorings restored it’s my first chance to take in my surroundings clearly. There are some ugly clouds but a strong wind should blow it over and past in due course. I’m becoming something of a weather forecasting expert this week. My neighbours pitch is like the Marie Celeste. Their car has been absent since I arrived yesteday and their camping chairs sit outside laden with soggy beach towels suggesting that they popped out yesterday for a brief errand only to succumb to some dark tragedy that saw them never to return. More likely they got sick of the rain and booked into a B&B.

I’m going to walk today whatever the elements throw at me and with head to toe waterproofing I set off across the sand dunes looking like some cross between Scott of the Antarctic and Lawrence of Arabia. The footpath leads through a deserted caravan sales park (no salesman is good enough to shift anything on a day like today) and a squall hits me face on with horizontal rain stinging my eyes. I’m Scott of Arabia and hence undeterred. Onto Perranporth beach which is devoid of people aside from a man walking two decidedly reluctant collies. It’s high tide and the beach must be vast at low tide. The rugged conditions only serve to bring to life the views and by the time I reach the end of Penhale Sands the rain has departed and I can peel some layers off.

I have been following the dog walker under the principle of Zen navigation, whereby I just assume he knows where he is going and follow blindly. When he climbs into his Range Rover where the beach meets a looming cliff and drives the 2 miles back to Perranporth the way he came this is looking like a flawed strategy. After a little exploration it turns out there is a coastal path after all which climbs steeply before hugging the cliff edges around Ligger Point and then Penhale Point, which both offer yet more sublime views. Here the wind threatens to lift me off my feet, which doesn’t happen or there would be no blog today, but it’s good news for me and bad news for the blogging community.

Perrenporth Clifftop

Perrenporth Clifftop


Ligger Point

Ligger Point


This stretch of coastal path skirts a military base that looks as if it has been slowly deteriorating since the end of the cold war. Some rusty razor wire looks a little menacing but this comes to an abrupt halt and an eminently scalable wooden fence takes its place. A series of foreboding no-entry signs are then somewhat undermined by the massive wire mesh gate which has been left open so that anybody can enter the compound. The winds of change have left this place behind. Meanwhile a flock of birds are propelled inland by the easterly gale, probably involuntarily.

It’s 11am by the time the path descends into Holywell Bay and time for a pot of tea at St Pirans Inn. I’m their first customer of the day and by way of welcome Phil Collins retches out of the speakers. It is beyond me how after all these years neither he or anybody from his record label have had the decency to come out and publicly apologise for his solo career. Even a written statement read out on his behalf by a solicitor would be a start.

A visitation to the local store for a postcard yields another interesting chat with a local, who seems quite impressed that I have walked “all the way” from Perranporth. He has lived here 8 years and done it once but he doesn’t go there because it’s not as nice as Holywell. There’s probably a little truth here in the sense that Holywell is prettier and less commercial but tonight it will be sonambulent while I will be Disco Stu at Perranporths finest night venues.

Disco Stu

Disco Stu


A deviation inland sees the dunes make way for fields and it’s onto Crantock for lunch. The Old Albion is a sturdy stone Inn with a smuggling past that promises fine food and ale. It is therefore depressing to enter and find that not only do they have no food on but the beer is Carling and they have Sky Sports in the main bar.
Old Albion

Old Albion


A few steps opposite sits the Cornishman and this has an extensive menu including daily specials as well as some interesting tipples. Here though the chef has popped out (for lunch?!) and any food order will be at least half an hour. Fortunately a nearby tea room comes to the rescue and the ploughmans I order materialises suspiciously within 90 seconds of my order. There be odd things afoot in Crantock.

The worst part of a day walk comes after a pub lunch when cooled limbs and preoccupied digestive systems are rudely stirred into life to lug ones body up a steep hill. I am incentivised however because I want to see the brilliantly named village of Cubert at the top of the hill (see google is this makes no sense)…

Church at Qbert

Church at Qbert


Cubert yesterday

Cubert yesterday


…and also there is a wonderful looking pub called the Smugglers Den Inn that lies in an innocuous hollow (I know about because I drove passed it yesterday in the rain). It is an oasis of character and real ale.
Smugglers Den Inn

Smugglers Den Inn


My choice of Skinners “Smugglers Ale” is an obvious one and it goes down all the better because of the miles of walking through the wind and rain it took to get there. To cap it all off the sun is out and I take the opportunity for a photo. Self portraits have become trickier due to the transformation of my camera tripod into a bipod after a screw came out. I myself am almost a monopod having jarred my knee earlier scrambling down a dune. I’m hoping that the beer will help the healing process.
Tim at Smuggers

Tim at Smuggers


One of the major natural assets I have yet to mention is the extensive network of mature hedgerows bounding the fields and narrow lanes. This ecosystem supports a wide range of wildlife and today in particular I have seen countless birds winging from one hedgerow to another as well as butterflies, bees, colossal dragonflies and a few shy & nervous hairy things. I say “natural” asset but there is a certain amount of landowner custodianship involved in the protection and extension of this network. I know that in the Peak District there is a formal management program to cultivate and renew hedgerows and I wonder whether a similar scheme exists locally.

In stark contract to todays meteorological pot-porri the evening has put its neck on the line and opted for blazing sunshine above cloudless skies (doubly gratifying as the test match at Lords is now off for bad light). After a much needed shower it’s time to seek out and indulge in the finest Friday night entertainment that Perranporth can offer. This is not quite the lottery it might seem as I know there is a band on at the “Watering Hole” bar which is situated directly on the beach. Getting there is the first obstacle as the footpath signposted from the clifftop dumps me in the golf course and then I’m on my own. Not a major dilemma on the way down as it’s light & I can see the bay but I shan’t be coming this way back up in the dark. The next obstacle is the beach itself due to the full blown sand storm that forces me to navigate with my eyes almost closed. Once inside the real ale is superb and I settle down at the only free table only to be chucked off 10 minutes later because I’m sitting where the band are going to play. So that’s why the table was free.

The venue is soon packed to the gills with mostly locals winding down for the weekend and the covers band soon has the dance floor packed, save for the occassional break to restock with beer or to re-attach the bands’ promotional banner that habitually drops off the wall onto the drummer. Several beers later I trudge over the flat sands and up the mile long hillside road in the pitch black. This route prevents me from the possibility of falling into a bunker but unfortunately does result in me stepping “in” the large roadside carcass of a recently deceased furry thing.

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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.

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Arthur Dent could never quite get the hang of Thursdays. For me it’s Tuesdays. There’s plenty to be indecisive about. I’m awake later than expected (welcome, but no early getaway), the weather forecast is intermittently apocalyptic and I’m not sure whether my limbs will protest about another full days walk. Sod it, I’m off to St Merryns for a circular walk of the headland west of Padstow – an area unknown to me. I park up at the imaginatively named Cornishman’s Arms and slip on my walking boots. The publican is out trimming his hedges and I offer a cheery wave intended to suggest I will pop in after my walk but which may have been interpreted as “thanks for the free parking sucker”. I’m equipped with a compass and a print-out of an OS map. There are some immediate concerns as regards navigation. I’m not sure of my starting point on the map and my printer ran out of black ink making the blue sea unnervingly similar to the blue fields.

Harlyn Bay should be North so I head Northish breaking out at the coast half a mile west.

Coastal Cove

Coastal Cove

Harlyn is a true surfer’s beach with few concessions to tourists that might stumble across it.

Surf School

Surf School

An unannounced downpour sweeps over but I dodge it by popping into a shop. Retracing my tracks west back along the coastal path towards Mother Ivy’s Bay I spy another black cloud and this time a rocky outcrop keeps me dry until it passes. My luck has to run out soon. The coastal path is quite level and easy going and around each corner there is another rocky cove below. As I reach the edge of the natural bay a large life boat station appears mounted extremely high up with a very long slipway. The proportions set against an improbably dramatic series of free-standing rock stacks give it the look of a thunderbirds prop.

Lifeboat Station

Lifeboat Station

I cut across the headland now partly to shorten the route and partly in my impatience to get to Stinking Cove! The land crossing is a scant half mile wide and the view from the middle takes in the sun, sand and blue sea of Harlyn to my left and the dark storm lashed maelstrom of Constantine Bay.

Storm over Constantine Bay

Storm over Constantine Bay

With the wind pushing the bad stuff my way I break into a jog to reach a cliff-side quarry for shelter arriving just in time only, to find my hide-out pre-occupied by a family sitting out the rain. The grandparents are seasoned walkers and the least phased by the weather but the younger generation – well they’re nesh. It stops. We bid our farewells and I follow the coastal path South to Constantine Bay – another surfing mecca. It’s then an easy and uneventful stroll back to St Merryn save for my failure to find the pub again, until I realise the Cornishman’s Arms is actually in a neighbouring village. Doh!

That’s enough walking – the rain is winning the battle today. In a moment of inspiration I know just what to do. I drive to Port Isaac where I know “The Crows Nest” pub will allow me to read a book with great views of the sea from inside or outside. It’s sunny but the rain inevitably arrives so I sit in the cushioned window and now have the benefit of being able to listen to the locals chatting about all and sundry. An 80s rock balad compilation loops through a few times and it’s the right soundtrack to the heavy raindrops blatting off the deserted decking outside. The landlord tells me he hopes it is a really bad storm because we may get to see dramatic lightening strikes out at sea and the thunder echoes around the bay. The days when the local folk prayed for their sea-faring brethren have clearly gone!

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The eye mask I was given on a long haul flight does the job and I wake at a respectable 6:20am and not the break of dawn. A tentative peak outside reveals the sun glistening off the morning dew, but no obvious black clouds. A quick shower and breakfast then I’m off down the hill with the smug feeling only the early bird knows. Padstow is barely awake and I traverse the deserted harbour to catch the early ferry to Rock. It’s not there and more concerning it appears to be moored up and unmanned in mid channel. A quick call to the harbour master tells me they are refuelling. In the river? I feel a little sheepish for my misplaced cynicism therefore when the other foot ferry chugs out of the harbour and up to the boarding slope. All the same I suspect the “refuelling” had more to do with bacon sandwiches than diesel. It’s just me and a guy in a Chelsea top on the way over to Rock. He tells me he is staying at a hotel on the other bank and had already popped over on the first crossing to pick up a paper. Out smugged.

Tim on ferry

Tim on ferry

Black Torr ferry at Rock

Black Torr ferry at Rock

The walk up the coast from Rock towards Polzeath is captivating and my camera barely gets a rest. Extensive grassed sand dunes offer a tangle of routes between the beach and the links golf course. Pairs of butterflies dance together in the long grass that offers perfect habitation for them.

Dunes

Dunes


An apple tree sits incongruously next to the footpath. Is this the result of some once discarded apple core? I resolve to chuck my own apple core later on and check on its progress in a few years time. A few golfers are enjoying an early round, some dogs are being walked and the occasional sweaty jogger lugs by.

Daymer Bay

Daymer Bay


One particular jogger floats by with a broad healthy smile, perky dog in tow and I wonder whether I have drifted into a Special K advert. The ambience is spoiled only by the man taking a leak behind a solitary windswept tree. I couldn’t wait.

The first few beach goers are setting up stall in Daymer Bay, parent hammering in wind shields and kids happily splashing around in the water oblivious to the temperature. It’s high tide and a rocky outcrop forces me to take the headland walk over to Polzeath. A black cloud looms ominously. Is this the shower I was warned to expect? Coffee on a bar balcony offers views of the bay and shelter if the rain materialises. What can I see? Polzeath is a surfer’s paradise with an expanse of beach and guaranteed surf.

Surfer dudes

Surfer dudes


Hundreds of wet-suited hopefuls are out in the bay, some salt crusted regulars and others under tuition at one of the surf schools that trade in the bay. Some eastern European conversation drifts over from the next table to remind me that the cove is not the well kept secret it once was.

Armed with a pasty I head for the hills and cross the headland to Pentire Glaze. Last time I was here “The Rumps” were sunbathed and deserted and I decided there could be no more striking coastline in Britain. This time the predicted rain arrives and I take shelter beneath a small rocky outcrop and watch trawler PW20 laying lobster pots in the frothing soup far below. It is still awe-inspiring.

Tim sheltering

Tim sheltering

After 20 minutes the rain eases off and I strike up a purposeful march anticlockwise along the rugged coastal path towards Hayle. As the estuary comes into view I have the perfect view of a massive black cloud unleashing a squall as it blows down the Camel from Bodmin Moor. There is nowhere to hide this time and I know I’m going to cop it so there is nothing to do but keep walking. The unwaterproofed parts of my attire get drenched, the salty water stinging my eyes but in no time it’s over and a following westerly breeze starts the drying process. As the beach comes into view it becomes apparent that the surfers have been not the least deterred by the rain and it occurs to me they probably welcome it because it clears the shallows of bathers who block their routes to shore. The tide is out now – Polzeath Beach assumes massive proportions – and it is possible to walk the two miles back to Rock on the sand without using the coastal path. And what a walk! The sun returns with a vengeance and I have a seemingly limitless expanse of pure sand almost to myself (wait until school breaks up next week though).

Tim on sunny deserted beach

Tim on sunny deserted beach

I am struck by the great tidal range as the Black Torr ferry at Rock departs from a point several metres beneath its arrival point this morning. I decide to spend a couple of hours in the balcony bar of the Waterfront Inn overlooking the Rock waterfront lined with small sail boats and dingys. Time to read and also I will catch the ferry once it has restored Padstow as its destination – at low tide it drops passengers off a mile out on the beach. The return trip when it comes around sees the boat packed out and two cyclists struggle to fit their bikes aboard.

The rain is done for the day and so am I. No swanky quayside eatery for me. It’s a much needed shower and a couple of beers in the tent, plus whatever Tesco have to offer.

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