It's very green! That's the impression Cornwall has left us with. It's just covered in fern and gorse. The roads are like tunnels through the bushes, and if you come across a tractor coming the other way you've a bit of reversing to do.
We have a tradition of sometimes letting Cate choose where to go for our holidays. So far this has meant we've visited Hartlepool and Northumberland. It's usually not somewhere we would have had high on our list and usually a pleasant experience. This year she chose the place that the entire population of England was also going to, with little chance to travel abroad amid the pandemic.
We managed to find a cottage right at the extremity of Cornwall, in between Penzance and Helston, in a tiny village called Balwest. We were close to some beaches and pretty close to the tourist attractions, so that was good, but it was also the longest drive possible from our house while staying on the mainland. We booked a hotel half-way for each journey, so we could split it into two parts, and that proved a sensible move: On the way down we took about 9 hours just to get to Worcester. OK, partly this was my mistake for staying on the M6 too long and going the wrong way around Birmingham, but still...
Anyway, the stop at Worcester meant we could go and visit my brother, who also lives in a tiny village, near the Welsh border. We had a really pleasant evening with Craig, Kim, Joseph and Reuben.
The next day was supposed to be the short leg of the journey, but the roads were just packed with traffic, so it was another 7 hours or so before we got to our cottage. Worryingly the traffic going the other way was static most of the way - I wasn't looking forward to the journey home.
Anyway, after a long, long journey, and the last few miles through single track roads (thank you sat-nav!), we found our way to Merriview cottage. It's a semi-detached cottage, with the owner living in the other half, a big garden, lots of flowers, and a lovely view down to the sea. It turned out we'd taken the long way through the single-track roads, and there were three different narrow roads that would get us pretty quickly down to the main road to Penzance. One was OK, where you had to occasionally stop for another car; one was narrower, and much used by the local farmer who was clearing his field, which meant a lot of reversing; and one was so narrow that the jaggies were scraping both sides of the car.
This bit of Cornwall is a little bit rugged, which means there are lots of nice walks about. Cate and I tried the hill (Tregonning Hill) just behind our cottage a few times. It's a nice easy walk with some great views from the top. Apart from the cenotaph at the top there were a few other interesting spots along the path. There is a quarry, famous for being the place where china clay was first discovered and mined, starting a whole industry, and apparently itinerant preachers would come to the quarry and preach to the miners there on a Sunday.
There was a good view inland as well as to the coast, and we could just see the satellite dishes of Jodrell Bank on the horizon. We followed the path down through a farm, which had a big wooden star covered with light bulbs, presumably for Christmas time, and followed the road back to our cottage, passing an adit, running with fresh water, and the Little Wild camp. As we passed the Little Wild camp there was a loud explosive noise, so they were living up to their name.
The town of Marazion was about 15 minutes away. It's a nice seaside town with a good big beach, and the famous St Michael's Mount, twin of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. At low tide you can reach the island by a causeway, and if you get stuck there are boats which will ferry you back. We didn't cross over, but there's also a little mini-island close to the shore, which a branch of the causeway also leads to. We explored this a bit and Cate went for a swim before we found a Cornish pasty shop for our lunch.
The second time we visited Marazion was on our last day. We had gone the whole week without having a cream tea, so we went looking for a cafe on a dreich day. Unfortunately the rest of the population was doing the same thing: however after a while we found an open-air cafe that had some spaces at the non-umbrella'd benches and we had our cream teas in the rain.
Every trip seemed like a bit of a risk on this holiday. A couple of days before we went the car started acting up. Every time I started it with the engine still warm it stuttered for a while before starting, the rev meter didn't work, and it struggled to give any acceleration. Thinking the battery might be the simplest possible cause, I took it to Halfords on the morning after we got there, but amazingly they didn't have a battery that fitted. So the rest of the week we were expecting to get stuck in some remote car park with a non-starting car. Thankfully it got us through, though it suddenly lost power a few times on the motorway on the way home.
We settled into a routine of visiting somewhere in the morning, going back to the cottage for Claire to have her afternoon nap, then Cate and I going somewhere for the afternoon, usually involving a bit more walking. Claire had just had a replacement hip and was recovering before going for the second one, so couldn't do any strenuous walking.
On one of these afternoon trips we followed a road towards Prussia Cove, which sounded nice. It was one of the really narrow roads and took a while to get to, and when we did the car park was full, so we gave up on that one. Instead we followed the road where the nice Chinese place was, to Perranuthnoe beach. We stopped at what seemed to be the car park, and turned out to be a field. The guy charged us £3.50 to park and when we walked down to the village we found the proper car park was just £2. Oh well!
The beach was lovely though, contained in a small cove. We'd come back here later on.
Lizard Point is the most southerly point on the mainland. Cate and I visited it one afternoon. The village of Lizard has plenty of parking, though we ended up in a tight spot between two other cars to the extent that they probably found it difficult to get back in their cars. Sorry folks! We walked to the coastal path, and then along the coast towards the point itself. It's very cliffy, so my scared-of-heights warning was going off a bit, but it was a nice, scenic walk, on a lovely day.
On the way back, the road wasn't quite as narrow as some, but quite twisty. We were overtaken by three speedy motorbikes. I commented that it looked like fun but a bit dangerous. Just a couple of minutes later we were stopped and diverted down a side road as an accident had just happened. It just shows how careful you need to be on these roads.
We came back through Helston, which was our main destination for meals out. We had a few home cooked meals and a few meals out during the week, but booked ahead for the restaurants given how busy it was. We tried the excellent Nettles chippy one night, had some big burgers in Boo Koos another, and finished our week with a meal at the Anglo Asia, all in Helston, and all recommended if you're in the area.
We couldn't go as far south-west as we did and not visit Land's End. Claire and I had been there before but of course Cate hadn't, so we took a morning trip there one day. The car park is pretty expensive, and the tourist bit is pretty full on, but at least that's a small, self-contained area, and you can go out and walk along the coastal path for a bit. We didn't get very far as Claire was limited by her legs, but it's a lovely area once you get away from the buildings.
Claire and I also had a short trip into Penzance one morning, while Cate had a lie in. We managed to make it up the hilly main street from the harbour-side car park and had a brief walk about the town. We fancied a shot in the lido but didn't get a chance during our week.
Looking for something a bit different from coastal walks and beaches, we tried the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. It's in the tiny town of Gweek, on the other side of Helston from us, and situated on a hill, so there was a bit of walking, though a wee road-train was available.
It's obviously a good cause looking after the seals that have been rescued or can't fend for themselves, and is a pleasant wee place, but like all animal places it's a bit hit and miss. We saw some seals and a big sealion, but the beavers were elusive.
We took a detour through Porthleven on the way back, just to take a look. It looked difficult to get parked so it turned out it was just a flying visit.
Our nearest beach was in a direct line to the coast, and a very short drive away, in Praa Sands. Cate and I visited a couple of times. On the first we just went swimming, and I got stung by a jellyfish. Thankfully it was a very mild sting, nothing like the one I suffered in Ibiza, and we identified it as a compass jellyfish.
The second time we came down it was a hot day and the beach was packed. We had brought Cate's paddleboard all the way from home so we took it down with us to get the use of it. Cate was out on it for a good while, and I had a short stint which involved falling off it a few times and struggling to pull myself back on. I retired to the beach to watch everyone move their deckchairs and wind breakers every 10 minutes as the tide advanced.
We're not ones for enjoying the night life wherever we go, so evenings were nice and quiet for us. We explored the village and roads around us a bit, and we had a few walks on the beaches, enjoying the golden glow of the sun as it set.
On the Sunday we took the very short walk to the local Methodist church at Balwest. It's a lovely building and I liked the family pews with their little gates; the folk were friendly there but it was a small congregation and mostly elderly.
The drive home was pretty much as bad as expected. We left early to avoid the total standstill we'd seen on the way down, but an accident at one spot and the endless congestion meant it was a grinding drive up to Newcastle-Under-Lyme, and the dodgy car didn't help matters. The next day was easier though. We were past Birmingham, so the drive up to Scotland was mostly plain sailing.
Home to a happy cat - thanks to Carol Cosycats for feeding him while we were away.
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