Monday, 9 November 2009

In the footsteps of Victor Meldrew

Written 8th November

After a wet night, we woke to sunshine again.  Thanks to a tip off from Kathryn and Austin, just before we left we caught the repeat of the BBC series on Great British Driving Roads and specifically the episode where Richard Wilson takes a Splitty to Land's End following the coast road from St Ives.  He didn't much like the van, the camping or the weather (well he is a grumpy old man not a seasoned camping adventurer!) but he did concede that the road was fabulous and gave a sweeping view over the unspoiled cornish coast line.  Although we knew his final Lands End arial shot to be a lie - you cannot get a campervan or any other vehicle to his particular priviledged parking spot at the edge of the world - we decided to try the coast road for ourselves.

So on another changeable weather morning, we plotted our route from Bodmin to St Ives, stopping in Perranporth for a cliff top cup of tea and bacon sandwich and a view over the rolling surf.

We had planned to stop in St Ives for a wander round and when we arrived the sun was shining down into the famous harbour (no pix as traffic behind us and couldn't stop).  As we are now cheap people on a budget, we wanted to find some unrestricted road parking rather than pay to park in a carpark so drove into town a bit to see what we could find.  Historic St Ives is built up a cliff face from a harbour and is full of picturesque narrow winding streets.

A lot of the roads are sensibly marked as not suitable for unauthorised vehicles, some aren't however and some how we ended up down a very narrow road with a cross roads at the end and a sharp up hill turn to negociate.  Will decided that he couldn't get round in one go and tried a reverse round the corner manoever.  Unfortunately even with its new improved handbrake and Will's hill start skills (at one point we even tried having his foot on the brake and mine on the accelerator but my left foot accelerator control skills were not up to the job), it quickly became clear that we were inexorably rolling backwards at an angle towards some poor innocent person's house (she popped her head out to see if we were ok and seem quite unpeturbed by the whole thing, apparently many people's sat nav's lead them down this road...).  Will managed to stop just as the rear bike wheels were grazing the wall and I was dispatched out of the van to take the bikes off and buy him and extra foot and to chock the wheels with some handy lumps of fire wood which we still have as the weather has been distinctly not good enough for BBQs or fires in recent evenings.  Chocs in place, Will was finally able to roar off up the hill in a cloud of exhaust smoke leaving me to trail up behind, wood in hand.  At this point it started to chuck it down with rain so we decided that St Ives was not for us and headed on to the coast road.

Cornish weather being similar to dartmoor weather, soon the sun was shining and the coast road was indeed fabulous as promised and after a few miles of pleasant drive we stopped for a bit of a walk at Cape Cornwall where there is an old tin mine chimney at the top of a cliff over looking the sea. 

The sun was shining, the waves were pounding and the wind was blowing a gale - fortunately it was blowing us on shore not over the edge! - and it was exhilaratingly exciting.  Then,  with Land's End in sight, we decided to press on to our goal in Sennan Cove in the hope of fish and chips with the setting sun.

On a previous trip to Cornwall we were given some very wise advice from Bill at the lovely campsite we stayed at (Court Farm nr St Austell) that Lands End was horribly tacky and expensive and that it was far better to park at Sennan Cove and walk over the cliffs to Land's End and this turned out to be very true so our plan was to try and park for the night in Sennan and walk over the cliffs in the morning.  Unfortunately our plan was foiled by the not open-ness of the fish and chip shop, the lack of anyone to check with about stopping in the harour carpak (a wild camping website had indicated that the harbourmaster was ok with people stopping in the car park if you ask as he had only be forced to put up the no motor homes, no overnight stopping signs by the council) and the howling gale which had sprung up and which was blowing the rain off the sea and straight up the cliff in sheets.  After some deliberation we decided to shelter from the storm in the First and Last Pub then see if we could find a deserted layby to stop in.

Expecting a horrible tourist trap this close to Lands End, we were pleasantly surprised to find a warm, welcoming pub with a good mix of tourists and locals and live music later on.  The landlord agreed that although he shouldn't, he was fine for us to stop in the carpark so we settled in for the night.  5 hours of solid drinking (well you can spin 3 pints out for quite a while if you try... ) a mountain of sausage and mash and 2 hours of acually pretty good live music later we staggered out to the car park in the still near gale conditions.  The wind was so strong it was actually lifting the roof enough to make the catch springs creak and rock the van so it wasn't exactly an undisturbed night's sleep but we woke to glorious sunshine and back on our mission.

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