Monday 07 December 2015 – St Ives, Cornwall.
In an unusual fit of organisation El and I booked this weekend away in St Ives quite a few weeks ago, hopefully all this pre-planning – and pre-paying for things will become habit forming. It gives us something to look forward to, as well as saves us quite a lot of money on train fares ! This will be our last weekend away before the end of the year, but we do have one last midweek night somewhere new booked in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. One last splurge before a new year of reduced spending, on food, drink, holidays and other things. Save for a trip to New Zealand.
After some slight confusion around which train carriage we were going to meet in, we settled down with coffee for the almost three and half hour ride to Exeter. We had tossed up whether it was easier and/or more cost effective to hire a car and drive or catch the train to St Ives. In the end we decided to combine them and get a train to Exeter to avoid the hell that is London traffic, and then drive from there. It was a good plan – on the way down…
The train trip was pretty good, it was more crowded than I expected, but I got a bunch of emails written and other things done on the way. I have bought a new laptop – I could not help myself on the Black Friday sales – the price I pay for not being at work ! Though to be fair, both my laptops are old and my main photo-editing laptop is starting to warn of pending battery failure. My new laptop is so much lighter than both the old ones, perfect for travelling !
Our hire car was waiting for us at station, and after a quick hand over we were on the way out of town, heading west towards St Ives – Wahoo!!!
St Ives is definitely at the top of the list of future places we would like to live in. I know moving to Cornwall is a bit of a cliché, and I am sure a lot of the Cornish are really unhappy with the flood of outsiders moving in and buying up property. St Ives is very high on that list as it is a beautiful spot, and for us it has the added bonus of being an art destination with a number of galleries and residencies, including a Tate Gallery – which has just closed for renovation… Not that we are artists by any stretch of the imagination, but artists attract a similar type of folk which in theory means a less conservative bunch to hang out with, and more importantly – it should be less UKIP than Folkestone is.
We arrived in St Ives late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, so decided to skip checking in to the hotel and go straight to the Barbara Hepworth Museum as the garden was closing in an hour and we wanted to see it today. Tomorrow the weather forecast was not good at all.
We had a GPS in the car, but I am not a fan, and it was a bit confusing, I am not sure how accurate this one was either. I ended up turning it off and finding a car park near the small centre of town, it is not a big place ! It was good to actually see some of the streets away from the centre of town as we are more likely to want to live off the main streets, lovely as they are in winter, in summer it would just be horrendously noisy I suspect.
St Ives is steep !! That sign shows a gradient of 25%.
And very quiet on a winter’s day, in summer this would look a whole lot different.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden.
Barbara Hepworth was an English artist well known for her sculpture work, she spent many years in St Ives and the house where she lived, worked and tragically died in a studio fire in 1975 is now a museum. El and I went to a Barbara Hepworth exhibition at the Tate Britain about six months ago and I had been intrigued to see some of her work in the museum garden as El had said it makes more sense in situ. Work that had been inspired by, and made, in St Ives and finally sited by the artist in her garden. The garden is a lovely spot and things do make more sense there than in a museum setting. It was also interesting see the studio much as it was when she passed away.
Though it was still only late afternoon it was dark by the time we left the museum so after a quick look around on the way back to the car we headed off to our hotel. We had a little bit of ‘fun’ when I took a turn up a street that was so narrow the car only just squeezed through, and then after realising it was not the way to the hotel overflow car park, I had to reverse back down, there was some cussing. I was not used to the car.
We had dinner in the hotel, it was rather average, but at least the fish was very fresh, and then it was an an early night as it was raining and very windy outside and the final of The Returned was on the telly!
As expected it was still raining and windy when we got up, the forecast was for on and off drizzle, and high winds all day – the forecast, for a change, was correct… After a pretty reasonable breakfast in the hotel and a bit of lingering for a break in weather we headed out the door for the morning, suitably attired in many layers topped off my waterproof jackets. It was that kind of day.
We had a loose plan to head down to Portminster Beach, which was sort of below the hotel, then walk along the beach into St Ives itself, round the headland to Porthmeor Beach then slowly back through the streets of the town to the hotel. We had lunch booked at the Porthminster Beach Cafe, and as it was open when we got to the beach we decided to grab a take away coffee – I needed a proper coffee to start a holiday day ! The cafe location was fabulous, we stayed for coffee just to stare out the window, and as we left I asked if we could get a window seat for lunch – and we did. I am glad I asked as it was quite busy for lunch.
After coffee we wandered out the door and back into the drizzle. It was really hard taking photos today, I had again just taking my pocket sized G16 camera, and I was constantly wiping the lens. Unlike the trip to Poole and Bournemouth a few weeks ago we were not walking along with the wind blowing the rain in to our backs, it was swirling and gusty and all over the show. I had loads of shots ruined by water splashes on the lens, but this is the only one I have left of Porthminster Beach and its lovely cafe.
We walked along the harbour side, it really is a lovely place, there were more people around than I expected, and more than are in my photos. I was quite surprised at how many shops were open and how many people were there. A good sign that this is not just a summer town, but an all year tourist destination. Important.
We walked out along the Smeatons pier – stupidly, as it was really cold and wet and there was nothing much to see, apart from a fat and lazy gull that did not move when I stuck my camera in its face.
At the end of the pier there was a small lighthouse, worthy of a photo, and under better circumstances a better photo.
I briefly watched a small finishing boat head out of the harbour, it must be a hard life being a Cornish fisherman, depleted stocks and cheap foreign fish make each catch tough work – though it was not particularly stormy I would not want to be out there today. But I did appreciate their efforts last night.
Into the howling wind we walked around the point to Porthgwidden Beach and its very cool beach huts.
And then onto the headland known as The Island. The South West Coast Path goes around the perimeter of the island, though today we were not willing to even walk that short section. It was a bit rough out there.
The top of the Island is home to St Nicholas’s Chapel. Not much is known about the history of the chapel, accept that it was attracting funds for maintenance as far back as the mid 1500’s. It was rebuilt after years of neglect in 1971.
It was really gusty on the top of the point overlooking the popular surfing spot Porthmeor Beach, I was surprised to see so many surfers out, though to my inexperienced eyes the swell looked reasonable and with a bit of an offshore breeze it was probably ideal, though cold, conditions.
We did not linger on the beach. With lunch beckoning we did not stop for tea and with the Tate closed we just followed the arrow into town.
We really liked the small town, there are some interesting shops, most of which were open on this miserable late autumn day, a lot of galleries and nothing really that caught the eye as being the normal tourist tat you get in beachside towns. St Ives has done well to keep it a bit more boutiquey !
After a brief respite, and change of clothes in the hotel we headed back down to the Porthmister Beach Cafe and our promised window seat for a wonderful lunch. I am not normally one to name businesses we visit, but the food, English wine and service was all excellent. This is not a cheap place and it is very popular. I am really glad we popped in for coffee and asked to get a window table, as we just sat staring out to sea over an after dinner whisky, not really wanting to leave.
What did make us leave was a seal! Not something we expected to see out the window, it did not really come close but it was swimming up and down the beach and attracted the attention of a bunch of walkers, and eventually us. So we settled our account and headed out side to have a closer look. Though it was just out of useful photograph range. I did spot a rare SWCP sign though, they are as rare as seals in towns.
Maybe it was the lunch time whisky, but I thought St Ives looked remarkably like Auckland’s Rangitoto Island!
We took the long way back to the hotel and after a relax in front of a bit of telly, a catch up on the Bridge and Dr Who, we wrapped up again and headed out for a late afternoon walk to see what St Ives looked like on a rainy Saturday night. Quite nice in fact.
We checked out a couple of pubs – fact finding of course, and finally settled in one for a glass of wine and a small shared nachos for tea – not that we really needed either! And that was the end of a long day in St Ives. Even though the weather was not at all on our side we really enjoyed the place, the feel and the look, and it would definitely be somewhere we could see ourselves moving to one day.
Naturally as we were pretty much spending the whole day travelling Monday dawned with a bit of sun, and turned into quite a nice day.
We reluctantly left the hotel, which we also enjoyed, we had one of the front rooms with a balcony that over looked the road and a neighbouring hotel before a lovely expanse of sea, sand and the far side of Carbis Bay.
I won’t go into the journey home Needless to say it was horrible, with bad traffic, poor GPS, delayed trains and packed tubes. London – why !!!!