Saturday, 22 November 2014

Cornish Baywatch, Padstow to Newquay

On the South West Coast path in Cornwall....






Padstow is teeming. It is a pretty place and there's no reason why it shouldn't attract visitors, but the car park is about as big as the harbour, and there is some evidence (restaurants, delis, etc) that someone called Rick Stein may be at least in part responsible for the boom.....




And me I like it quiet, for the most part, so I head of along the coast.  From Padstow to Newquay, or to put it another way, from the Camel to the Gannel (as the rivers these two towns are on are called) is about twenty-five miles along the coast path, with a mere 4,238 feet to climb involved.....  




This is but a fraction of the whole South West Coast path which runs from Minehead to Poole (or from Poole to Minehead if you prefer), a designated National Trail of 630 miles of stunning coastal scenery.  One day, maybe, I'll do the whole thing, but for now I have to content myself with manageable bits, and in the past, have indeed coped wth bits in Devon and Dorset, but I have not spent so long in Cornwall before.  





And it is worth the wait. A very smart pied wagtail eyes me up as I cross yet another stream....  which means descending from vertiginous heights of beetling cliffs to stony rills and then up again to the edges of rock faces where gulls perch and sheep nibble, with the customary disdain expressed for those without heads for heights or hoofs for cliffs.....





Like this.....





Or this.....






I would swim - at least it would be on the level - but there are bits which seem less inviting than others, and the recent deaths of three adults in rip currents off Mawgan Porth beach is a reminder that the sea can be extremely dangerous.




But then there are the tranquil coves.....  though sometimes Lisa, Steve, Bob or Ellen may have beaten you to it, and scored their monicas on your idea of haven.





I would say there's not mush room (sic) for the peaceful minded, but that would be unfair.  The air is distinctly fresh and should you need a parasol, there's often one to hand.....





And there's no bunting, like a snow bunting, when you hope for a little cheer....




Don't look back, someone once said (Lot?  D.A. Pennebaker?) as it just seems like more of the same, but whichever way you gaze here it's a glimpse into the ongoing erosion of time..... the elements bashing away at each other, shaping our world in a patient licking away at the rocks of ages....




And then, every so often, from the precipitous path, there are enticing views of untouched bays, with the tide out, and, if time were not the master, we would slip down and dally......




Then, of a sudden, someone tells me they saw a peregrine on the cliff, and just in time I snap, blurry and fleeting, but enough to praise the majesty and power of this supreme bird.....




Superfluous fact, but I read in J A Baker's The Peregrine, that if a peregrine were scaled up to be human sized, each of its eyes would weigh three pounds.....  (so how does that affect our interpretation of the expression hawk-eye?)

We move on, to pass by my daughter's residence.  A highly prized bijou installation that, under different circumstances might have won the Turner Prize and earned her a place in the Tate. 






But no time to stand and stare. Instead we stop by her place of work, The Scarlet, where Both the interior and exterior design ... embraces the building’s stunning cliff top location and reflects its natural environment through the sensuous use of materials and design. The hotel offers you all kinds of relaxing diversions including outdoor cliff top hot tubs, a natural reed-filtered swimming pool and an Ayurvedic-inspired spa – all with far-reaching views over the beach and sea beyond.....






From the terrace by day....



And from the terrace in the evening.....

A little to the south west and we rest on the sands at Watergate:





Which bear evidence of life forms strange to us land lubbers:




Then we climb again again to follow the coast path, once the trail used by coastguards in their attempts to foil the efforts of wreckers and smugglers who made this part of the world notorious.  Here the air is full of tweeting and twittering, and flocks of passing passerines fleck the sky:





While a meadow pipit watches me from a fence post:





And stone chats, male and female, busy themselves among the grasses and the gorse, flitting down to pick up insects in the scrub, before perching again on some viewpoint, flicking tails and chatting in their flinty ways.









Looking back from here, the bay seems small now, and the busy people just tiny dots in the surf.  The cliffs here are Carboniferous rocks, known as Devonian, sometimes locally called killas, and they are 360-400 million years old. These are hard rocks, resistant to erosion, creating dramatic sea cliffs and frequently flat cliff tops. 



Our waters may look inviting, but even in the height of summer they are not warm.  When I swam here last August, I was about the only person without a wet suit.... Now, out of season, you probably won't find anyone mad enough to be without one.....






And from the undulations of the coastal path, I am more than content to spend my time on land, dividing my attention between the birds that comb the cliff tops and the scenes at the edge of the sea below.  Baywatching!





Next stop Newquay!



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