On the good ship Bessie Ellen.

Monday 24 April 2017 – Cornwall.

John, a good friend of ours, had his 60th birthday at the end of last year, with winter not being the best time of year to have a nautical party, the celebration was not held until this weekend. John and his wife Deborah organised, and paid for a group of us to go to Fowey in Cornwall and then spend two nights on board the gaff rigged ketch, the Bessie Ellen. Wow !

We left London early on Friday morning, 13 of us in a rented van. Over the past month we have all been watching the weather forecast and it had been looking decidedly average for most of the month, taking a turn for the better the week before we left. It was going to be cold, but not wet. Our first stop was a Little Chef, I have always wanted to stop at one of the (in)famous road side cafes but have never been brave enough. This one on the A303 is a Little Chef with a difference, it featured in a 2008 TV series when celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal revamped the menu and the decor. Though Little Chef have dropped his menu now. The food was fine, the coffee was a bit meh though.

We arrived in Fowey mid-afternoon and were soon heading out on the charming water taxi (“DON’T STAND ON THE SEATS” !!!!) to our home for the next two nights, The Bessie Ellen. We were welcomed on board by owner and skipper Nicki and her small crew.

The majority of us were sleeping in the main cabin, which had 12 small bunks along the sides, they were quite snug. I was very glad I had remembered to bring ear-plugs with me, 12 people in their fifties were likely to form an informal middle of the night snoring chorus.

Once we had dumped our gear below decks and had a welcome cup of coffee and some cake we were split into three groups and, in my group’s case, literally shown the ropes. My group were shown how to raise the mizzen sail – the sail at the back of the boat. There are no fancy rope pullers here, only human power. The Bessie Ellen was built in 1904 to ferry clay over to Holland, and other freight around coastal UK and Europe. Originally she was not built for comfort, and there have only been a small amount of luxury added since! One of the other groups were taught about map reading and navigation, and El’s group were shown how to raise, and lower, the foresail and the three jibs, the small sails the front.

Once the sails we were up, we were on our way out of Fowey and into the channel. Magic !

There was not a lot of wind, enough to get a little bit of wind in the sails, but we were also using the motor to keep forward momentum. The group who were taught about navigation before we left were given the task to sail us to our first destination.

As we approached Charlestown, our destination for the night, it was all hands to the decks to drop and tie up the sails.

We were offered the opportunity to go ashore for an hour or so, and all took the chance to go for a short walk, and to sit in the sun and sup on a couple of pints in one of the many bars in this small village with its gorgeous tiny walled harbour.

Dinner was prepared for us by Pete the Chef. We guests were involved in working the ship, but the kitchen and cleanup duties were all cared for by the crew. We got to drink wine and beer and chat about the day while the work was all being done in the tiny kitchen. It was a really nice meal as was the evening drinks and chat!

After a ‘varied’ night’s sleep El and were up on deck reasonably early to watch a very nice but not spectacular sunrise, though there were some great clouds for me to photograph.

After breakfast it was all hands on deck with mops and swabs to clean the decks, sadly I arrived to late and missed out on this chore.

Very soon it was back to the sails again, and we were off for another sail/motor along the Cornish coast towards the west.

It was a gentle trip, the sea was dead flat calm so there was a lot of chat and a lot of gazing towards the land.

We stopped off the coast at Portscatho; where we all disembarked for a long afternoon walk over to St Mawes, where we will be picked up again for some afternoon sailing – hopefully with more wind. 

It was a really nice walk, back on my beloved South West Coast Path to Towan Beach, where there was a small discussion at a signpost, before we headed inland and off the path.

We found a lovely little tea truck on the way, which we pretty much took over.

We walked inland to the estuary, though a lovely forested section of track toward St Anthony, where we caught a very expensive small ferry over to St Mawes. There just happened to be a very nice pub here, so it would have been rude to not stop for a drink.

Soon enough we were back on the boat, and with a decent breeze we were sail up and for the first time on the journey the motor was off and we moving fully under sail. It was lovely. Almost peaceful; just the creak of rope, or rope on wood, the sails crackling in the wind and the rush of the sea on the hull. There is not much like it!

Soon enough we in the Helford River, our home for the night. Lobster was served on the deck as a pre-dinner snack, and with a glass of bubbly at hand and good friends it was perfect.

The sunset was pretty decent as well !

Sunday morning was glorious, very very sunny, with a lovely crisp blue sky, it was also quite cold! After breakfast we were sail up again and off out of the Helford River, sadly to sail back to Fowey. Once out of the river I was given charge of the tiller, we were under sail , but the wind was really not doing us any favours so we were back on the motor as well. I quite enjoyed myself though !

There was quite a swell on the sea and some of the crew were feeling it a bit. Nicki, our skipper decided to give us a short break in the lovely hamlet of Polkerris. unsurprisingly there was a pub there as well, so yeah it would have been rude not to.

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A pint of lager in the sun, in a pub almost on the beach. Nothing wrong with that at all. There was nothing wrong with lunch back on the boat either!

Another hour of motoring against the wind saw us back in Fowey late in the afternoon, our sailing trip was sadly over. We had a great time on the boat, memories I will cherish, I love this bit of England and seeing it from the sea for the first time just added to the magic.

We had dinner in Fowey, and a fairly early night. I think we were all pretty tired from sleeping in a single room on the boat. Having our own rooms in a hotel, and the chance for a hot shower (there was one of the boat!) meant some very solid sleep. After breakfast on Monday we had an hour to look around Fowey before we had to jump back into the van for the drive back to London. I really liked the bits of Fowey I saw. There is a castle, which we discovered was private (boo) and some nice old fishing cottages. The village felt good, and having nice weather certainly helped…

Far too soon we were all piling into the van for the six or so hour drive back home, I had a stint of driving for a couple of hours, mainly on the motorway. The van is easy to drive, it doesn’t feel that big, and it handled well. The only issue was it was restricted to 62 MPH, which is kind weird when you are accelerating and then all of a sudden you are not accelerating any more, and over taking was a slow process!

I had some really good news about a couple of jobs I had applied for while I was away, one of which I was really excited about it. More news on that another day…

It was an amazing weekend away, and I feel lucky to be welcomed into such a great group of people.

Pendennis Castle and Falmouth.

Saturday 19 December 2015 – Falmouth, Cornwall.

It was a really windy night, and it is now a really windy morning. The wind was howling around the hotel making things whistle and creak all night long. The weather is pretty lousy this morning too, rain is forecasted for most of the day and with 30mh winds blowing in off the sea I don’t think I will be doing too much coastal walking. But there is a castle, or two to visit – so not all bad !

After a very nice, and not too large Cornish breakfast I got myself organised and was out the door for 10:00, opening time for Pendennis Castle. My hotel is one street back from the beach and wow, the wind was so strong! It wasn’t raining when I left so I made the most of the time and took a couple of photos of the sea before power walking up to the distant castle.

The Lerryn Hotel, where I am staying, I have the near balcony room, but the view has been pretty much entirely grey since I have been here.

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At the top of the hill I took a detour around the back of the castle to see if there was a view over the wall, which there wasn’t, but there were a couple of trees just begging to have their photo taken so I happily obliged. I love trees without leaves, most of the trees in and around Auckland are evergreen, so I am just not used to seeing so many naked trees. Such a clear marker of seasons changing.

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As I discovered last night on my stroll in the dark, there is a decent, though empty moat, and high walls separating me from the castle.

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Once across the moat and through the entrance I decided to do something I should have done about five castles ago – I joined English Heritage for a year, hopefully this will not mean I stop visiting English Heritage run castles now I have paid the fee. I am planning on doing two today, so a decent start.

Like St Mawes Castle, a sister castle on the far bank of the Fal River, Pendennis Castle is a Henrician castle built under Henry VIII between 1540 and 1545 to protect the river from a perceived threat by both the French and the Spanish. I was surprised to learn today that the harbour at the entrance to the River Fal is the third deepest harbour in the world, after Sydney and Rio. This made it very attractive as a naval base, though it was never really used as one at all. The castle is one of a string of castles built across the south coast after Henry decided to annoy the French and Spanish when he rejected the Catholic church.

The castle was expanded during Elizabethan times with the majority of the outer buildings and the high walls being added then. As an artillery fort the site was continued to be modified up to and just after the end of the Second World War as new artillery technology was developed. The fort was abandoned by the military in 1956. A story I heard while I was there was the that most damage done to the fort since a siege during the English Civil War was caused by the MOD in the 60s when they destroyed a temporary barracks building by blowing it up – and cracking the walls of other buildings in the process.

As it wasn’t raining once I was on site, I decided to follow my usual tactic of walking around the perimeter, looking at the views and checking out the outside of the tower.

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I headed down toward the WW2 observation post and had a look at the window.

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I tried to find my way to the WW2 gun emplacements below, but my efforts seemed quite fruitless as all the paths were gated off – reading the map was going be a last resort obviously. I eventually came across a tunnel… I so love a tunnel.

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This led the way under some earthen defences to the gun emplacements. There was a small group having a tour while I was there so I tagged along and listened in. Turns out the group were the only other visitors on this miserable day – and they were Kiwis too. The wind was really howling on the point, the whistling as the wind passed through the mast was incredible.

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I walked around the grounds a little bit more, before finally entering the Henrician artillery tower as the rain arrived again. I liked the gargoyles, sadly I got rain on my lens, but I have decided to keep the photo anyway.

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The inside of the artillery keep was decked out like it was in the 1700’s, including a very loud soundtrack that kicks in when you walk in the door – a bit of a surprise.

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The roof was locked off but I was told I could go up there if I re-barred the door once I was back inside, I could see why once i was on the narrow steep, circular stairs to the roof, they were quite wet and slippery. I met one of the Kiwis on the stairs and we took it in turns to go out on the roof and have a quick look around, while the other held the door closed in the ferocious wind.

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Down from the roof I headed over to the more recent barracks block – only a hundred or so years old and had a coffee and piece of cake for a late morning tea, and that was pretty much my last act in the grounds and I left the castle soon after.

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I decided to replicate the walk I did round the moat last night.

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And then headed down to the sea front to visit Little Dennis, a small coastal blockhouse. The wind was so strong here, I was struggling to stand still to take photos. It is right on the tip of the point with wonderful views across a blustery sea to St Mawes.

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This ice cream seller was very keen, surprisingly I saw a couple with ice creams as I walked up from Little Dennis, so I suppose his efforts paid off. Good on him, it was not nice out there, but at least it was not cold…

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I took the coast path around the point rather than walk on the roads like last night.

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There were a couple of guys living in tents on the edge of the forest, they must be facing very tough times to choose to be in a tent with wind like this. The coast path was pretty greasy, but so much nicer than walking on the road.

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Soon enough I was back in civilisation, I walked past the ship yards that caught me so much by surprise last night, it was raining pretty hard by now and this was the last photo I took before hiding my camera away in my back pack – and putting a rain cover on the pack as well.

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It was a short, but wet and not particularly lovely walk into the waterfront area of Falmouth. Money has been spent in the area nearest the port, with new restaurants and bars including a Pizza Express which I am pondering for tonight, I do love pizza and there is something special about the anonymousness of a chain restaurant when you are a solo eater. There is a Rick Stein’s fish restaurant but it looks too stale for my tastes, though I am sure it is lovely, pricey too I bet. By the time I had passed round the back of the new buildings the rain had passed and I could ditch the rain cover and get my camera out again. I sort of liked the waterfront, it is big yachting harbour, so slightly reminiscent of Auckland and other yachty places.

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Falmouth has allowed itself to be taken over by tourism, as I was walking down the hill from the castle I passed a new waterside development of ‘exclusive’ apartments and a lot of the old buildings in town have become shops or tacky bars and eating places. Who ever thought that the old harbour master building would make a good Mexican cafe and hairdresser was badly misinformed/taking a kick back or something. I understand that towns need to keep relevant and make money, but sometimes selling your soul is not worth the price.

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Having said that, so far I kind of like Falmouth, but it has not made the most of its waterfront, unless you count car parking as a value add. All the small wharf areas are full of cars, I have tried to miss them when as I have taken photos, but they are there.

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I was planning on taking a ferry over to St Mawes to visit the sister castle to Pendennis, but due to the really strong wind the ferry was cancelled for the day.

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Time for a new plan, it was only afternoon and I had pretty much seen all of Falmouth’s waterfront area. I headed up to the art gallery for a quick peak. Nice building, some interesting local art as well.

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That was pretty much my day, it was definitely my day photographically. I went back to the hotel and uploaded and edited photos, watched some football and had a rest before heading out for an early meal. Back in time for the final two episodes of The Bridge season 3.

A nice time so far in Falmouth.

This new laptop I am using is Windows 10 based. So far I am really liking it, a far better experience than I expected –  except the version of Windows Live Writer I have been using to write and manage blogs screws with images uploaded to WordPress. Boo Hiss !!! I hate writing blogs in Wordress, time to find a new writing tool. So far I have loved and lost Blogpress and now Live Writer, hopefully the next tool find is as good and lasts longer….

Roche Rock Chapel

Friday 18 December 2015 – Roche, Cornwall.

I cannot believe that another working year has passed. My first full working year in the UK, and it has been a difficult working year. When I left my IT Management job in New Zealand, just over four years ago, I vowed I would not do stressful work again, and there I was back in it in my first UK job. At least now the main piece of the project is well out the way the second half of the year has not been anywhere near as stressful and tiring as the first half, but I am still doing IT. I guess I just like the money too much!!

To end the year on a positive note I have decided to do one last road trip, no walking this time, well not much walking anyway. I have hired a car, loaded it up with the DLSR and tripod and clothing appropriate for another rainy weekend in Cornwall and headed off to Falmouth for three nights. El is working until Wednesday so I thought I should make the most of those days and head out into the wild.

I chose Falmouth mainly because it has a castle, plus I have not been there before, and of course it is on the South West Coast Path and that is always an attraction. Having a rental car meant I could take my time heading down and stop off on the way.

It was a slow start, it took ages to get out of London, the traffic was actually pretty good, but I am impatient, I do not drive often and when I do I want to be nailing it down a highway out into the country, not crawling along the north circular. I have a diesel Audi A1, it is pretty basic, but it is so much better than the Peugeot 3008 we had in St Ives. Functional and easy to drive. Once I worked out to how get my phone connected via Bluetooth and my sounds going it was sweet as and the miles just flew by – mainly because of the clear motorway and my heavy hoof… One thing Britain has over NZ is a decent speed limit – and less fear of getting nicked for speeding.

A few weeks ago I bought a book called ‘Wild Ruins’ that listed a whole bunch of small and unusual ruin sites in the UK, one of those sites was Roche Rock and it is located just off the A30 about 40 minutes from Falmouth. It was on the way, looked really intriguing in the book so I decided to pay it a visit on the way down. I am so glad I did!

I found the village of Roche OK, but took a wrong turn before finding the site and ended up passing by the back of it, wow! The instructions in the book must have deliberately made you walk around the long way so you get a more mysterious introduction. Nice one !

As I was looking for a spot do a u-turn I found this old kiln site, so stopped for a quick photo. I actually thought it was an old tin mine/foundry site, but reading about it in the hotel later on I discovered it is in fact a 1950s brick kiln. It still looks cool though, and was a good spot to do a u-turn.

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I headed back up the road to Roche, looking for a place to park so I could walk to the ‘Rock’, in the end I parked where the book suggested – which was pretty much the only spot. Wisely I changed shoes into a new pair of trail running shoes I recently bought. The walk in was muddy, slippery and in some places a bit dodgy as the layer of foliage hides the holes in and between the rocks. A bit of grip was a good idea.

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The ‘rock’ is a small pinnacle of granite that pops magically out of the countryside, it has been a spiritual site for centuries. The town name of Roche, is French for Rock. Site preparation for a recently built housing complex found pottery and other artefacts from the Neolithic period, so this is a really old place.

The main reason for coming here, is not to see the rock, and but to see the chapel, and it is mostly hidden from view from the path I took until you get to the far side of the rock and get the first hint.

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The chapel was constructed in the 15th century, there was not a clear reason why, possibly by a hermit who did live there for a long period of time. The chapel is dedicated to St Michael, and perhaps was used as beacon or resting place for pilgrims on the way to St Michael’s Mount near Penzance. No one really knows. One of things I like about it.

It slowly reveals itself as you walk around to front and see it in all its majesty. Yes, it is not the Tower of London, or Salisbury Cathedral, but it is a magnificent ruin. How it was built up there, precariously balanced on that rock is as much as a mystery to me as to the why. That so much of it remains 600 years later in this harsh landscape is quite remarkable.

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There is a ladder up to the ruins, but it was very very windy and I did not have a bag for my camera, and I had the big DSLR with me, I wasn’t going to risk it (or me, if the truth be known) by climbing up that ladder in a high wind. So the mystery of what lies up there will remain for me.

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As I headed back to the car, a murder of crows arrived, adding to the bleakness of the ruin, the rock and the boggy moorland surrounding it. I was even more glad I did not venture up that ladder!

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I walked back around the far side of the site to the one I had come from and took a couple of last shots before heading back to the car. I wish the weather had been worse or better. Big clouds or bright sun would have been good. Flat grey sky was photographically dull !!

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I drove onto Falmouth and arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon, just as the forecasted weekend rain arrived. \it is fairly quiet in town, and Falmouth is a log bigger than I thought, as there are not too many guests I have been upgraded from my single room, to a much bigger twin room with a view over the houses to the sea. it is a nice room. I hung out in my room for a bit and went out for a walk and tea in the very early evening – luckily as the rain had stopped.

I took a walk around the outside of Pendennis Castle, my plan for tomorrow. It was very dark, no street lighting at all and even though it is only 6:30 night has fully descended. There was quite a nice view of the castle from the road near my hotel – it is a lot further away than I thought, too far to take a photo hand held and far to windy to use a tripod.  I was hoping to get a clear shot up close, but the walls are too high. I am really glad I thought to toss my head torch in my bag as the walk around the walls was very very dark, and a bit slippery too.  It was really nice up there, completely alone and all I could hear was the waves and the wind in the trees. I took a photo with my phone.

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I walked around the headland, hoping to get into town and find somewhere to eat, walking off the tree lined headland I was really surprised to find a working ship yard – I have done no research into Falmouth – and a longer walk into town than I thought. I investigated the main street of Falmouth before finally settling on a small tapas place for a glass of red and some food. It was quiet and enjoyable, apart from the bloody Christmas music.

I was back in the hotel by 9:00, nothing on the telly so listened to music and typed this. Going to get ahead of the photo editing and blogging this time !

St Ives!

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.

Saturday

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%.

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And very quiet on a winter’s day, in summer this would look a whole lot different.

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The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden.

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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.

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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!

Sunday

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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At the end of the pier there was a small lighthouse, worthy of a photo, and under better circumstances a better photo.

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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.

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Into the howling wind we walked around the point to Porthgwidden Beach and its very cool beach huts.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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Maybe it was the lunch time whisky, but I thought St Ives looked remarkably like Auckland’s Rangitoto Island!

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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.

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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.

Monday

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.

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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.

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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 !!!!

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A day of sun and a day of rain.

Sunday 23 and Monday 24 August 2015 – Lanivet, Cornwall and back to London.

Sunday was supposed to be another rainy day, but for a change when they got it wrong it was in our favour, and it turned out to be a pretty damn good day. We checked out of the hotel after a late breakfast with a plan to drive down the coast to Lands End. I had been there a couple of years ago, but El had not been there before.

I was keen to take the coast road from St Ives as I wanted to see some of the old Cornish tin mines. We made good time into St Ives, which was as expected really busy. We were going to try and find somewhere to stop for lunch – preferably at the Tate, but there was just nowhere to park the car. We still love St Ives though, and there will be more St Ives stories later in the year I hope.

At Carn Galver I found my roadside tin mine, yay !!

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We drove down to Lands End and were shocked, stunned and horrified to see that there was a 6 pound fee to get into the car park, it was packed. I illegally backed up the road and drive off in disgust, 6 quid to park a car for an hour is ludicrous. We had a plan B – The Minack Theatre a couple of miles away. Which had a free car park, though we did have to pay 4.50 each to get in. Well worth it though. El had not been here either, so after a coffee and a couple of scones with cream and jam we went for a look around this unique site. The view over Porthcurno – what can you say !!

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The Minack Theatre has been in operation since 1932 when Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House offered her cliff side back yard to the local theatre group to perform Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest. A couple of years later the theatre had taken shape and was in use. Over the next 80 years a load of changes were made to the site and it is pretty near perfect.

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Us from El

We were fortunate to be there while a local group were rehearsing a new musical comedy to played at the theatre in the next couple of weeks, so we sat and watched under that nice warm sun for a while. We were not alone.

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Over the years there has been a huge amount of productions, both big and small at the theatre, and we are quite keen to come here one and day see one.

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Such a lovely spot.

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We dragged ourselves away and headed off towards Bodmin Moor, we had booked a night in a 600 year old abbey that is now a guest house. From modern luxury to some really old luxury… The abbey was great, we were not allowed to enter the old tower alone, and as the guest house owner was busy at the time we did not go. This was a real shame as the rain on Monday morning was near torrential so we could not go then either.

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We walked into the small town of Lanivet for dinner in the local pub, we had to book a table and had to eat at 6:00 as it is so popular. The food was OK, just pub food, so we were a little disappointed as we had read good reviews. The pub was nice though and we sat outside in the sun for a while before our meal.

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After dinner we walked back to the hotel via the small church. There is supposed to be a marker in the church yard that indicates the geometric centre of Cornwall. I am hoping it was this, as it was the only marker in the church yard.

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After an early night we had been planning on a couple of short walks in Bodmin Moor, before catching a mid afternoon train back to London. The weather was just foul, pouring with rain. We went to the station and changed our tickets to a much earlier train and drove into Bodmin town. We saw a sign to the historic jail so decided to head there for a coffee for half an hour before returning the car. The jail looked really interesting, and another place to go back to for a visit. I mean interesting in a grim historical way, definitely not in a wow way….

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It was a really popular place on such a lousy day.

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And that was it, back to Bodmin Parkway station and the train back to London.

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Our original plan was to go back on Sunday, but the rail union had announced strikes on Sunday so we changed to Monday. As did everyone else. With last minute changed tickets we did not have reserved seats and the train was jammed, we grabbed unreserved seats where we could, and changed two or three times until we got seats together from just before Exeter, all the way back to Paddington. It was a long trip back. Why are return trips always slower than the trip to the holiday ?

And that was the end of my holidays.  I had a few days off back in London, where I did all the blog posts from the past three weeks. Work tomorrow – Friday 28th. Not looking forward to it really !

A great weekend away, love Cornwall. 

A wee bit of luxury.

Friday 21 and Saturday 22 August 2015 – Mawgan Porth, Cornwall.

El and I booked this trip a while ago, when I first decided to do some walking on the coast path. My plan was to walk to Mawgan Porth and meet El at the very lovely hotel we stayed in for her birthday a couple of years ago. The hotel backs on to the path and I had visions of me walking up through the hotel to reception with my backpack on, 3 weeks worth of facial growth, possibly a bit smelly and asking for a room. Well that didn’t happen.

What did happen is we went together from London to Bodmin in Cornwall in a first class carriage on the train, picked up a hire car and I drove us to the hotel. It was far less strenuous.

We had booked ourselves on the 9:00 am train out of Paddington which meant leaving home really early as there are month long works on the Victoria underground line into Walthamstow and we had to do a rush hour run across London. It actually wasn’t too bad in the end.

Paddington station is famous, for one thing.

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It was really nice sitting in first class with plenty of space, gallons of free coffee, a decent sized table, power points and extremely dodgy wifi which allowed me to work on my SWCP walk blog posts as we roll back towards the coast that had so recently defeated me.

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The train ride is pretty pleasant, it is reasonably quick and there are some lovely views, especially on the coast between Exeter and Plymouth, a journey I have taken a couple of times in the past. From Plymouth the train passes through Saltash and across the river Tamar on the wonderful Prince Albert Bridge, designed by the engineering genius – Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1859.

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The weather was pretty average when we arrived in Bodmin to pick up the rental car and had not improved 30 minutes later when we pulled in to the Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth. We did not have high expectations about the weather as the forecast for the whole weekend was pretty rank. We had high expectations about the hotel though, and planned on just having a relaxing weekend. The view out of our room over a stormy Mawgan Porth was pretty lovely.

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As was the room itself. A bath with a view, I am going to have to test that out.

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The rain gave us a moment to nip out and go for a quick walk into the thriving metropolis of Mawgan Porth, all half dozen buildings of it. We walked round the beach and up the headland on the far side to the hotel.

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The beach looked lovely under the low clouds, and was still quite popular with the surfers that come to this part of the country.

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We bought a bottle of wine at the local shop and headed back up to the room and sat, just inside the door to stare at the rain and the listen to the sea across the deck. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant both nights we were there and they were both superb. Excellent food and wine, including a delicious, light and flavoursome Cornish sparkling wine from Camel Valley.

Saturday morning broke wet and warm and shrouded in low cloud. We had been expected this so were not overly disappointed by it all, though the view out the window was limited.

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After breakfast we took a walk around the hotel, the view from the outdoor pool must have been amazing, but I was not willing to get into it to find out. I did take a dip in the indoor pool though.

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We both had very indulgent massages, I was of course planning on needing one after three weeks of walking, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, well I you would wouldn’t you.

The rain cleared early afternoon so we walked back down to the beach again, I wanted some more moody beach shots. I have swapped my G16 to shooting in raw mode and man what a difference it makes, huge improvement in image quality.IMG_2294

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We had lunch in one of the beach side cafes before heading back up to the room, where I took the opportunity to relax for a while!

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The sky soon shut in again and there was no romantic sunset to share our dinner with. We had to have the bubbles again.

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It was a lovely couple of days, being spoilt, eating lovely food, washed down with some fantastic wines. A two year treat!

A wee trip to Cornwall.

Wednesday 31 July 2013 – Cornwall.

Crikey, another month over- 2013 is disappearing so fast !

On Sunday I picked up a Vauxhall Astra that I had hired from a rental company just down the road from El in Walthamstow, after loading a few days worth of stuff we excitedly headed off on our first road trip – and El’s first experience of me behind the wheel…

Our first stop was lunch with my daughter Meliesha in Bristol. The journey to Bristol was pretty quick, I was expecting a lot more traffic on the motorways given it was the school summer holidays, but apart from some roadworks that just seemed endless on the notoriously awful M25 it was plain sailing all the way. Luckily Mel’s new flat was not far off the motorway exit ramp so we didn’t even get lost. We went for a very nice vege roast lunch at the pub up the road and sat outside in the sun for a couple of hours before El and I left to get back on the road for the longer drive down to Cornwall. It was so nice to see Mel again, and Dickie of course !

I had to really resist the urge to go on a street art walk, there is some great stuff in Bristol, but it was not on the way to where we were going and I could have taken hours… I did snap this as we walked though.

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We had no real plan for the day and no accommodation booked for the night so just drove down towards Cornwall, through Exmoor and past a whole load of places that I visited when I was supporting Mal on his epic epic 1014km run last year.

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It was strange driving past some of these small villages I shot through last June, I was a bit of a bore to poor El, regaling her with memories of the run and I have just had a slight blogging detour and wandered off to re-read Mals posts about the run. Epic really is the word.

We had sort of picked the coastal town of Bude as a possible place to spend the night and arrived there in the late afternoon and conveniently the local hotel had a room available. The hotel was a classic old school English hotel, we were the youngest people by about fifty years and I am sure I was looked at sideways when I wore flip flops to dinner ! The food was very nice though and the banoffee pie was (almost literally) to die for.

We had a good walk around Bude before tea and I ended up taking more photos here than anywhere else in Cornwall, a lovely spot.

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On the top of the hill I saw a marker for the southwest coast path and the trail heading off over the cliff tops and into the distance and it really made me want to go for a run. I haven’t run in weeks, no motivation, or even worse I think – lacking the inspiration to run. I now know what was missing – hills and trees and grass and mud and all those other good things that don’t come with running on tarmac. Time to change me thinks!

Anyway, we loved Bude and I especially liked this tidal swimming pool, though I didn’t jump in.

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The following morning we headed off south-west making our first stop at Boscastle, a village I stayed in last year. It is a lovely little fishing village that was almost destroyed by flooding in 2004 and has been mostly completely renovated. We were early enough we missed the worst of the summer holiday crowds.

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Second off was Tintagel – famous for its ruined castle that was supposedly the home of King Arthur. We didn’t go into the ruins, there were quite large queues to get in, but did walk up and around it.

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In one direction there were clouds, in the other blue sky ! Tintagel Castle is just a ruin on this rocky outcrop.

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There is a rather out of place and fairly ugly Georgian (Ithink?) hotel on the other side of the valley.

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After a very nice, locally made ice cream we set off for our final journey to the hotel that El had booked for us in Mawgan Porth, The Scarlet Hotel, a new eco-hotel on the cliffs above the beach – it was absolutely lovely and even better it had a no children policy !

Once unpacked we went for a walk along coast path along the cliff tops in quite a strong breeze. El, Sorry about the photo, just showing how windy it was, honest!

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After the walk in the afternoon we sat on our deck and drank a bottle of wine my sister and brother-in-law bought me a while ago, a bottle of Wither Hills Marlborough Pinot Noir – it was superb – thanks ! This was followed by a wonderful meal in the hotel and for a change we chose wines that were recommended for each of the food selections and they too were delicious. I did wear shoes by the way…

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The following day we took a trip into Padstow as the weather was looking a bit rubbish, it seemed most other people had the same idea as though it was raining quite hard when we arrived the village was packed, though the sun soon popped out and it was another lovely day. I didn’t really enjoy Padstow, it was very commercialised, full of shops selling clothes and stuff that was unnecessary to a small fishing village. Oh, well – most others seemed to like it. We did wander up this street for lunch at this pub, but it was closed.

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We went back to the hotel and I finally had to succumb to my needs and chucked on a pair of board shorts some old road shoes and took off for a half an hour run along the bit coast path that we walked the day before. I really enjoyed just getting out and plodding up hills and down rocky shale paths, it felt good to really suck down some fresh sea air!

In the afternoon El had booked some spa treatments for both us, and I will say the massage was welcome !

We went for a walk along the beach in the early afternoon, watching the heavy clouds come in over the sea, waiting for it to rain.

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The hotel is the building centre right with the curved roof.

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But the clouds soon blew clear so we ordered a light meal and a bottle of wine and sat out on the cliff side on some big cushions and enjoyed the last of the evening light.

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The following morning sadly we had to check out and head home. The weather was again a bit dubious and it rained a bit on the way. We drove the long way as I wanted to go through Dartmoor, which was all a bit of let down as we stuck to the main highway and we didn’t see too much moor land, then again we didn’t see too much of anything for a while…

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And a few hours later, that was that. We were back in London, our short and lovely holiday over. We had a great time away, everything was superb and El only swore and grabbed hold of things twice in all my driving…

A walk to Porlock Weir

Day 163, Friday 15 June 2012, Porlock

After those wines last night and what has to be the softest and most enveloping bed ever I slept like a dead person until 6:30. I really seem to have sleep dialled at the moment, I hope I have not hexed it !

I had arranged a skype with a friend for the morning and had a few vacant moments trying to work out time zones (I have now set up dual clocks on my computer !) before realising I was not really late. I went down to the hotel restaurant and ate my body weight in fried food for breakfast, plus they added baked beans to the fired breakie as I have not had a good sausage, egg and bean breakfast yet !

Once everything was sorted I went for a walk to Porlock Weir, a smaller village about two miles away. I walked through some of England’s fabled bridal paths, which are tracks for horses and walkers and in many cases mountain bikers and are all over England linking country towns and villages. The path took me up some of Porlock hill and I really enjoyed being back in the countryside again.

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I constantly struggle with choosing between urban and rural when deciding where I should live when I next have to live somewhere for a longer period. I really enjoyed my time in Bristol, I liked the street art, the easy access to anything you need as malls are close and convenience stores are almost 24/7, the constant hum of people, access to public transport and gigs. And then I get out into the country and into the trees, and just relish the slower pace, the peace and quiet and the access to hill trails and mud. I love to take photos in both environments. Thank goodness I do not have to decide just yet !

Porlock Weir is a small fishing village on a minute harbour on the coast of the Bristol Channel.

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I was there for about twenty minutes before the rain started to come down. I took a few photos and today was one day I really regretted not having a tripod with me. Of course, yesterday when I was carrying my gear around I was very pleased to not be humping a tripod !

I just loved this old break water.

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Summer on the English coast !

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I huddled in a coffee shop for a while and then took a long walk back to the hotel in the drizzle, naturally I was wearing one pair of jeans and the others were being washed, so it was shorts for the rest of the day.

I didn’t go out much till 5:30 when I went to the pub and had a pub fish and chips, a couple of pints of Atlantic IPA (very nice) and watched the football, France v Ukraine and England v Sweden..

Cute English Villages – I guess the first of many

Day 162, Thursday 14 June 2012, Bristol – Porlock, Somerset.

Another great sleep, but no sleep in this morning, up at 7.30, coffee and finish packing up my stuff for the trip to Cornwall. The walk to Bristol station took about twenty minutes so I left nice and early and thankfully the morning was dry. The bus was half an hour late arriving and the guy who loads the bags into the bus was the grumpiest bugger I have met in England. Bus stations in the morning are an interesting place to people watch, lots of people moving through some happy, some sad, some completely nuts ! It was an interesting time.

I was going to be getting three buses today, the first two were booked, Bristol to Taunton and Taunton to Minehead, the third was going to winging it. At the station I found out I could get a bus directly to Minehead, frustratingly this was not an option available on the National Express website, oh well. The ride to Taunton in Somerset was pretty good, more in the country than the ride to Bristol so the view was interesting. We arrived in Taunton thirty minutes late which I was thankful for as I still had a thirty five minute wait for the next bus standing outside in what was quite a cold breeze, almost wished I had gloves and a beanie on!

The hour and a half ride to Minehead on the Somerset coast was great, a ‘normal’ sized bus going through these narrow, winding country lanes, numerous times we had to stop and wait as trucks or buses coming the other way completely filled the road. The bus terminated at Minehead Butlins – oh I so wanted to go in and have a look, maybe stay a few days : ) But, no, I humped my pack, my ludicrously heavy camera bag and my wheelie bag in to town and waited and waited and waited for a bus to Porlock – thirty minutes late. It was cold and drizzly and I had no where to dump my bags so I had some English chips – with salt and vinegar of course, but didn’t get my camera out. I will be back there of course for the start of Coast Path Run in three days time – plus I will be in a car then, such luxury!

The ride to Porlock was only a few minutes, through some really tight streets, Porlock main road was barely two cars wide. I am staying at the Lorna Doone hotel, where I am meeting Mal and Tom on Saturday. I will be sharing a room with someone, not sure who yet, so I will enjoy a couple of quiet nights on my own. After settling down (unpacking my bag and throwing my crap all over the room ! ) I went for a walk around town and snapped a couple of images. The town is oldish, the Top Ship pub was originally built in the thirteenth century, but I could not find any info on the church.

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the Top Ship

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The view from my window

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Some of the first leg of CPR !

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After walkabout I went to the pub next door for chicken and leak pie and three pints of Exmoor Ale. The pub was really quiet at 5:00, but I was there to watch some football and do some blog writing catch up. After the football I went back to the hotel and sat in the lounge and watched another game with a Geordie from Aussie and used the internet as it does not work in the room.

I got called into the restaurant by this rather drunk woman from Zimbabwe to have a couple of wines with her and her sister and the hotel owners, it was amusing and I got a wee bit pickled.

Three days to Coast Path Run and I am getting a bit nervous, I cannot image how Tom and Mal feel.