But alas, due to work commitments all I could manage was just shy of a week (6 days including travelling) but those six days were absolutely fantastic and will be remembered for many years to come until senility overcomes me.
So, Jasmina and myself decided to decamp to Cornwall, in the South West of England, for a few days break away from London. Jasmina had a week off from work as the family she’s working for were off to Spain for a week (and she couldn’t get a Visa in time to go with them so had a week off) and I decided that I should really take the opportunity to show her a bit of the UK and also take my first proper vacation since Delphine and I went with her family to Nevache in the French Alps (which I think the last time I went there with them was in 2001).
We booked a really lovely cottage on a farm in Lanjeth, a couple of miles outside of St Austell (which apparently is Cornwall’s largest town with about 30,000 inhabitants). Lanjeth is a small village although maybe a village is being overly generous as it’s really a collection of a few farms and houses which, as we discovered, is pretty common all across Cornwall. Still, it had a bus stop (two bus routes with buses once an hour – unfortunately one bus came at 20 past and the other at 22 past the hour so if you turned up just after that you still had to wait for an hour for any form of transport).
We coached over to St Austell from London on the Friday night. The coach left at 11pm and arrived at our destination at about 7.15am on the Saturday morning. We sat in the train station cafe for a couple of hours drinking coffee before phoning the farm we were staying on to see if we could drop our bags off early (check in wasn’t until 3pm but they had a place we could leave our bags whilst we went exploring). After dropping off the bags – and having a game of pool and darts - we headed out into the fields with our Ordnance Survey Map (essential tool for the week) and went for a walk. The walk ended up being 8 miles and also introduced us to another countryside quirk – no pavements on most roads. Now obviously whilst wandering the fields that’s not an issue but along the country lanes and more major roads this could be a bit hazardous. We got back to the cottage by 3pm to officially check in and also receive delivery of our supplies from Tesco’s Direct which I’d ordered before we left. Then, after a little rest and a shower, we headed for another walk through St Austell and into Charlestown which had a historic harbour and beach. It didn’t take long before Jasmina had soaked her shoes in the sea and we followed that by a couple of hours sitting on the beach watching the sun go down and the tide eat away at our possible dry patches. Probably covered another 7 miles in the evening although we cheated and got a cab back to our cottage when we reached St Austell as it was getting late and I’d only had one hour sleep on the coach the night before and certainly wasn’t used to walking 15 miles in a day!
We had planned to watch a dvd before going to bed but I went to lay down whilst Jasmina had a shower or something and when she came out I was fast asleep. So scratch the Saturday night entertainment.
We spent most of Sunday relaxing at the cottage before deciding to go for a walk and try and get up on some hills we’d seen near Lanjeth the day before. We finally found an access point and started up the public paths along the hillside. These weren’t taking us *up* the hill though, just around it. The hill itself seemed to be partitioned off so in true rambler spirit we jumped over the locked gates and headed upwards. There were some footpaths to follow and also some steep climbs up the side where goats were grazing. The view from even partway up was fantastic and, having brought a bottle of wine and some other goodies with us, we savoured the view even more before continuing further up to see what we could see. We finally crested the peak we were on to discover an old mine and spotted an even higher point which we subsequently went off to conquer before enjoying more wine and staring across the horizon across the fields to the sea in the distant. At this point we saw a yellow jeep making its way up a dirt track towards the mine. It kept stopping and then continuing its path. We ignored it and kept watching the horizon. It made its way past us some distance off before turning round and going down another route which ended up some way below us. From there it turned round and went back to being behind us whereupon it decided to leave the dirt track and go cross country in our direction. It was pretty obvious it was heading towards us so we put the wine and other goodies away and headed down from the peak towards it. The theory being they might not be so annoyed with trespassers if we went to greet them as opposed to making them climb all the way up to us. Luckily this assumption proved correct and a friendly security man explained that this was private property and we’d strayed from the path. He advised us not to jump over any fences or locked gates and we agreed we’d head back down. He then disappeared and we started back down the hill – or atleast part of the way as we decided to stop and finish off the wine and goodies in a nice spot before heading back to the cottage. Whilst finishing these off we spotted a couple of kids climbing up to where we’d just come from – so I guess it’s pretty common for the mine to have people wander up there to drink, smoke, see the view or enjoy some seclusion.
Once back at the cottage we demolished two more bottles of wine and attempted to watch Black Sheep and Stardust – but we were too drunk to really pay any attention.
Monday was our trip to the South Easterly tip of Bodmin Moor. Being on foot, and only having a few days in Cornwall, there was no way we could cover any real distance across the moor so we decided to get the train to Liskeard and go walking from there. We took in several prehistoric monument on the way starting with the Trethevy Quoit just north of Tremar and The Hurlers Stone Circles which are next to Minions (which was our first encounter with a proper country pub on the holiday :p). We ate our pack lunch in the stone circles themselves before heading across the moor and past numerous ruins scattered around the place – plus LOTS of sheep and lambs. We finally made it back to the main road and passed King Doneirt’s Stone en route to Golitha Falls – which were both quite disappointing but climbing around the Falls trying to make sense of the so-called tour path was amusing – we also met a family from Dover there who we also met a few days later when visiting Tintagel. We finally made it back to Liskeard just after 9pm in the dark and after a brief pub stop we headed off to the station and caught the last train back to St Austell and home. I reckon we walked about 15-16 miles that afternoon so we were very happy to get home to comfortable chairs and showers...
Tuesday was a trip to Newquay. This was primarily because Jasmina was determined to go nightswimming and as there was no way to talk her out of it I decided we should go to somewhere which was famed for having great beaches as opposed to back to Charlestown whose beach was both small and right next to a harbour entrance – even if the harbour wasn’t being used the currents still wouldn’t have been good.
Anyway, Newquay involved a cross country bus ride which was really relaxing and the town itself reminded me quite a bit of Brighton – although just with a lot more Surf shops everywhere. It’s definitely different from the rest of Cornwall we visited. It’s a lot more tourist orientated with lots of pubs, restaurants, amusement arcades and younger adults. I can see the appeal though as the coastline is fantastic. We got there just as the high tide was beginning to receed. After indulging in a curly-whirly ice cream I kicked my shoes off, took off my socks, rolled up my trousers and went to test the water. Chilly, but not *too* bad.
We stayed by the waterfront for a bit before heading up to a Walkabout pub that overlooked the beach. To get some drinks, have a sit down and wait for the tide to go out further and for evening to come. We headed back to the beach about 6ish I think and now it was beginning to stretch a very long way and some of the rock islands now lay forgotten on the beach for us to walk past. We cracked open some cider and mucked about for a bit – with me stripping down to my pants and t-shirt and going for a dip in the sea (yes, it was colder than before but hey, it was fun). I possibly went in a bit too early as we still had to wait for nightfall for Jasmina to have her swim so I ended up happy but chilled for probably about two hours. She’d brought a change of clothes (she had decided to go in fully clothed to allow some insulation) so after the sun finally set she disappeared into the dark sea. I will say that I wasn’t keen on her doing this at night as it was pitch black and there was no way to keep track of her to make sure she was ok and not in any sort of trouble but if someone really wants to do something there is very little you can do to stop them. Anyway, she vanished into the sea and I ended up chatting to Dom on the phone only to find out about 15 minutes had passed (Jasmina reckoned she’d be about 5 minutes because of the coldness of the water). As there was absolutely nothing I could do I just sat down on some rocks near the bags and waited to see if she’d emerge or I’d have to go and find a coastguard. Luckily, after about 25 minutes, a very chilly but incredibly happy Jasmina emerged slightly up the beach and we quickly got her towelled off and into some new dry clothes. Well, they would have been dry if she hadn’t chucked her wet ones on top of the bag with the dry ones in :p Still, they were ‘drier’ and her socks and shoes weren’t touched.
We made it back to the bus stop in plenty of time for the last bus. We were planning on heading back out (up the hill again) after we got to the cottage but it was a bit too chilly, after midnight and we were both wanted to be up early on Wednesday for our cross country trip to Tintagel. So we opted for the warmth.
Wednesday was our last day and was to involve a lot of travelling by train and bus to get to our destination. It was also a day of delays, missed connections, but beautiful countryside and scenery.
It was certainly a long trip to get there. It took us one train and two buses and just under three hours. We had a really friendly bus driver from Wadebridge to Tintagel – actually pretty much all the bus drivers we had and people we met in Cornwall were incredibly friendly, something you don’t get so much in London! We had a pub lunch in Tintagel before heading to Tintagel Castle which is steeped in Arthurain lore. The castle itself may be in ruins but it’s still a very amazingly place. When it was fully operational it must have been a fantastic sight and I’d be surprised if many people could ever have conquered it. It’s treacherous enough getting to it now when English Heritage have built bridges, stairways and other walkways connecting the island it’s on with the mainland gateways it had. On a windy and rainy day I reckon they’d have to close the site as it’s very exposed, very steep and even in with a slight gust it can feel daunting. I’m not incredibly good with winds – stemming back from a few things when I was younger – nor am I particularly good with sheer drops without anything to prevent you from falling. I managed to cope with Tintagel Castle up to a point when I started feeling a bit of a panic attack growing inside. I sat myself down in the centre of the topmost are of the ruins to try and centre myself before making my way down to sit in another, more sheltered area, for about an hour whilst Jasmina sat at the edge of the cliff staring out across the sea and meditating. I finally made my way back to the ticket office area and calmed down completely and waited for Jasmina. Whilst waiting I bumped into the family we’d met at Golitha Falls a couple of days previous and was chatting to them when Jasmina appeared and we headed back to catch our return bus.
Lo and behold we had the same bus driver as the one who took us there. We chatted as he drove and then he stopped at a really picturesque cove called Port Gravane where he told us to take a few minutes to have a look round and have a cigarette. Port Gravane is beautiful and has an amazing landscape. The driver, who lived there, told us of the best places to cliff jump into the sea (not that I’d ever have the guts to do that!) and also of the rough seas they can get during winter. When we finally got back to St Austell Jasmina headed to Charlestown Harbour for one last glimpse of the sea at night whilst I headed back to the cottage to prepare a roast chicken for our final dinner in Cornwall. Jasmina was back by about 10.30 and after devouring our roast we settled down to watch Sky Captains on DVD.
Then it was Thursday. Time to return to London. It didn’t seem like we’d been there long enough to already be returning to London. But it was. The end of our little adventure was upon us.
It was a real shame to come back as Cornwall is such a beautiful place and we both had a really restful and fun time there. I’d certainly like to go back sometime and if anyone’s looking for a picturesque break in Britain I can certainly recommend Cornwall. Plus everyone we met was so friendly . Certainly having a car would have made some things easier but then we wouldn’t have walked so much and seen so many other things that we’d have missed in a car.
I know why I’ve not been on holidays now. They’re addictive. I want to start planning another one NOW! J