Monday, 31 August 2015

Camping in Cornwall

Hello all! With just a couple of days before work and school were to start the lovely P had an idea - a last-minute camping get-away to Cornwall. How could I refuse? We haven't camped as a family for a few years: as the children had got older camping had not worked so well at a time when the teenagers needed their space. A family of five for a week in a tent was not very conducive to this, so as the years have passed our holidays have evolved into staying in cottages with differing combinations of whoever is available/wants to go at the time, and this works well. B has graduated now and is enjoying a new job and spending time with her boyfriend, and J is getting ready for his second year at University, while D is in her final year of GCSEs and has a busy social life. As a result we have to be very flexible about planning our holidays.

Most summers we go to Cornwall at some point, and usually to our favourite holiday destination of St Ives, but as this year we were camping for just one night and the weather forecast for the weekend wasn't great, we decided to go a bit closer to home. We decided on the North Cornish coast and J found us a lovely campsite in the pretty coastal village of Tintagel. Most of my photos look rather gloomy as it was overcast for most of the weekend with the odd burst of sunshine, but it was very warm, despite this. Here's one of the many dry stone walls which I love. They're always full of wild flowers and covered in lichen.

The campsite was a good one and we woke to a shimmering silvery sky the next morning.

 I love all the little rituals of camping: the unzipping of the tent in the morning to see what the weather's doing, that first good lungful of fresh air, walking across the dewy field in wellies to the shower block, lighting our little stove (we travel lighter than we used to), boiling the kettle to make our first cup of coffee, saying 'good morning' to other campers. It's a holiday experience which runs right through my childhood, our pre-children years and our time with a young family and we hope to have many more.

After breakfast we packed up and headed for the village, and this beautiful NT property, The Old Post Office. Over 600 years old, it was originally a medieval farmhouse and has the most amazing undulating roof. A sweet building, it made a refreshing change from the usual stately homes owned by the NT.

The inside was fascinating, with very low ceilings and a calm, whitewashed simplicity.

The beams on the ceiling were very low, and the rooms quite small.

These slate ladder steps led to a platform where the unmarried women of the house would sleep, hence the old expression 'left on the shelf'. They look a bit dangerous to me!

The hearth and oven downstairs exuded homeliness. 

I was impressed by the intricate stitches made by the young lady who sewed this.

At the back of the house the garden was a lovely retreat.

We left the Old Post Office and decided to head to the beach down a steep path which wound through a valley, a little rushing stream to our left.

Wonderful orange crocosmia grows wild throughout Cornwall and here was no exception.

When we reached the Beach Cafe we stopped for lunch, and very yummy it was too.

And then began to climb down the steps to the beach below us.

As we looked up we could see the bridge taken by everyone visiting the castle (myth has it King Arthur's castle) on the cliffs high above.

Down on the beach the stream cascades over the cliff in the form of a lovely waterfall - it was very cooling to paddle in the icy water at the bottom.

The tide was just beginning to come in and the water whooshed and rushed around the rocks with great force.  

Red and pink seaweed lay scattered along the strand-line, and was thrown by owners for their dogs to chase and catch.

There are a couple of caves in the cliffs and one, Merlin's Cave, is easy to walk into at low tide.

A different view of the beach presented itself from inside.

At shoulder height on the rocks there were limpets, showing how deep the water gets when the tide's in.

The sun came out for a while, making the cliffs greener and the sea bluer.

I got out my seaside journal and sat jotting my thoughts, as is my custom at the coast.

Soon it was time to leave, and we headed back up the steps to the top of the cliffs.

We decided to take advantage of the Land Rover rides back up the steep valley and piled into the back of one along with lots of other hill-weary tourists. It was a bit of a squash!

We also went to Trebarwith Strand. J and P wanted to swim, and were hoping for a beach. Instead we found a very dramatic place. This area of coastline is made up of slate and it's very evident here. Great shelves of slate make up a pavement here down to the sea, layers and layers of rock with natural steps at their edges.

The beach was submerged, but there were plenty of surfers here. It seemed a wild place and was evidently very popular.

I was fascinated by this little cottage cut into the cliff. I'm not sure I could relax in it with all that rock hanging over it!

We finished up at Polzeath, a place we've never been before. It was a lovely beach, very sandy and with huge rolling waves crashing onto it. It was also a very busy place, full of families body-boarding and masses of surfers too. As a result photography was difficult so I only managed one photo. 

As we drove home after a day and a half away we were really glad that we'd squeezed in this little camping trip. We were so lucky with the weather and the camping was great. We saw some bits of Cornwall that were new to us and loved being by the sea again. There was a wonderful sunset as we drove, the perfect end to our mini-holiday.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A Late Summer Walk

Today J and I went for a little walk. He'll be back at university before long and I'm back at work next week, so we decided to fit one in before the holidays finish. We last went for a walk together in the Easter holidays and I posted about it here. Living in a rural town works well for us - we are on a fairly busy road but less than 5 minutes away is the countryside. So we pulled on our walking boots, turned right, then left at the end of the road and set off across the fields.

Down the valley past the elderberries, already ripening and turning a fabulous shiny black.

The fields were full of pink clover ...

... and bird's foot trefoil.

There were dark, furry broom pods ready to pop open,

purple flowering grasses,

tightly-closed umbellifer seed-head 'cages',

and huge thistles which were taller than us.

After a while we dropped down into the woods. By then a hot sun had come out and it was a relief to walk in the shade.

The trees above us swayed in a soft wind, and I was reminded of Thomas Hardy's description of trees' 'voices' in Under The Greenwood Tree:

"To dwellers in a wood almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature. At the passing of the breeze the fir trees sob and moan no less distinctly than they rock; the holly whistles as it battles with itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise and fall."

Today the breeze wasn't strong enough to make the trees sigh, but it was fascinating to look up and see their trunks and boughs moving, creating flickering patches of light and shade on the floor beneath us.

The sloes are just beginning to be touched with tinges of purple. In a while we can pick some to make Sloe Gin with.

Out of the woods and back into the sunshine, we walked past clumps of purple knapweed, a-buzz with bees.

Then came the best treat of all. A common blue butterfly. Looking closely at it, you can see its blue furry body and striped antennae. It feeds on the bird's foot trefoil growing all along the valley.

Its mate was with it, a pretty brown version, dusted with blue and with orange spots. I've been very lucky with butterflies this summer, and am delighted to have got these pictures. J and I share an interest in natural history, although he is much more of a scientist than I am.

On we went through a good deal of mud (it has been very wet this week) past these autumnal-looking seed-heads.

Down to the bottom of the valley to follow the course of a little brook. It gurgles musically under a pretty brick bridge here, half-hidden in the undergrowth.

Then over a little waterfall too, splashing over some rocks. After all the rain the brook was very full and quite fast-moving.

We left the brook eventually and passed some delicious-looking brambles. We wished we'd brought a container, but neither of us had thought of it, so we left them for the birds.

After a couple of hours' walk, we arrived at the next town and bought cheese and onion toasties and coffee for lunch, just as we had when we went on our spring walk, and caught a bus home. It was a lovely way to spend a morning with J, and chatting as we go is as enjoyable as the surroundings. I really appreciate these moments with my now grown-up children, little windows in the lives that they are forging for themselves when we can catch up with each other and enjoy each others' company. 
I'm very glad we found time for it.