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Posts Tagged ‘Sun’

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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It’s time to up sticks and for the perennial camper you just hope for dry weather when unpitching. The omens during last night’s storm were not good but the morning breaks calm and sunny, the brisk wind having dried out the tent. Packed, I head off down the coastal road signposted Newquay on the lookout for a nice secluded beach. After a mere 2 miles Trevose Head entices me. It is a picture book Cornish cove village consisting of a mix of newish holiday rentals and old local stone houses. There is a combined store/post office, a socially active church and a minuscule village hall. Equipped with a take-out mocha I plant my fold up seat in a prime spot on the beach allowing me a complete view of the bay from a wind-shielded location.

Trevose Beach

Trevose Beach

This small sandy inlet provides a perfect bubble for young families who can keep an eye on the kids while soaking up the sun. One such family nests next to me and their youngest (James) sets about gleefully transporting shovels of sand to the base of my chair. Mum admonishes him but James is enjoying the game too much for that to stop him. A couple of hours drift by as I read a book and capture the odd gem of dialogue from my neighbours. My favourite was one father suggesting to another that they dig a pool – “for the kids”. Yeah.

It’s lunchtime and my stomach navigates me to the Tredea Inn with its great views down a valley to Porth Cothan beach. They have WiFi and I can help myself. When I ask them for the network key they don’t know it. “Don’t I know it?”. Fortunately the tourist trade is booming and the surrounding cultivated fields suggest a significant local farming economy so shortcomings in the IT skills market won’t keep too many people out of work. Apparently Orange are the major player down the coast as in many places they provide the only coverage, enabling roaming users to access broadband and with it such luxuries as streaming digital radio. For some the “digital switchover” will actually just be the “switch on”. Insights like these really interest me on my travels and locals seem only too eager to spare some time to talk.

It’s easy to forget that tourism is only one (albeit major) spoke in the Cornish economic wheel. Cross country journeys through unheralded small towns like St Eval reveal only minor concessions to tourists with schools, community centres and affordable housing the more prominent landmarks. This presumably is where the disenfranchised locals live, priced out of their ancestral coastal villages and reliant on tourism, farming and – decreasingly – fishing. None of this is headline news but it’s interesting to see how the community is re-inventing itself. The local papers dedicate many column inches to future economies (eg: renewable energy) and as you drive through villages it is common to see hand painted signs along the lines of “Pengelly – building work, car mechanic, calor gas”. People here are resilient, flexible and entrepreneurial.

It’s a one night stay at Watergate Bay Touring Park. I’m not sure when Tregurrian Bay was subsumed by Watergate Bay – maybe around the same time Jamie Oliver opened a trendy restaurant there – but the rebranding exercise is an example of re-invention in action. The bay is – oh dear, I promised myself not to use this word yet again, but here it is – stunning. Vast, golden , vibrant, powerful and made for the big screen.

Watergate Beach

Watergate Beach

It has clearly gone upmarket and there is a slightly different vibe here to the other beaches on my travels. There is a more affluent feel about the visitors with car parks full of Audis and more trendy single sex groups hanging out together. A group play boules nearby but probably call it “petanque”. There are also kite surfers and large groups playing cricket. If there is such a thing as a lifestyle beach this is it. It’s different but I like it because despite some airs of pretension it has soul and life. Like me then!

Afternoon becomes evening, the heat of the sun is on the wane and I decide it is beer o’clock. Doom Bar on a pub balcony – gorgeous! It’s named after an infamous sand spit at the mouth of the river Camel. Legend has it that many a sailor has found his vessel beached on this spit and had no option but to head ashore and get bladdered until high tide. The North Cornwall Guardian I’m reading is to be recommended if you want a grasp of local affairs. For starters it’s a daily rather than a weekly like some of the competition. Also it provides journalistic nuggets such as the major problem with under age drinking in Cornwall. Really?! Also a youth group is looking forward to a visit to Alton Towers. Is there really nothing similar a bit closer? A new cinema has been criticised as being vulnerable to terrorist attack. Let’s hope that Osama hasn’t picked up the Cornish Guardian from his local newsagent in the Pakistan border region (or Iran / Saudi / Texas depending on your conspiracy theorist tendencies) or you’ve just offered him an open goal. There’s nothing as entertaining as self important journalism in local papers!

As the sun sets I return to the campsite via the coastal path and the cliff-top views are breathtaking.

Watergate Cliff

Watergate Cliff

I really do need to work out how to set the camera mode for this kind of photography. It makes point and click easy but there are several menu drill downs to get to the interesting stuff. Back at camp a sign tells me about an apparently “unmissable” band in the bar tonight. Presumably they couldn’t make it and the mulleted 50 year old blokes twanging out soft rock are stand-ins. Unless of course they meant unmissable in an ironic sense – now I get it!

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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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