Archive for August 2007
The Garlandstone is currently berthed at Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar estuary. She was built in 1909 a little further downstream on the now silted-up quays of Calstock, to ship ore down to the open sea and abroad. Cornwall’s mines have long since closed, and only pleasure craft venture upstream now.
The contrast between the silent upper reaches of the Tamar and the port traffic of Plymouth Sound has to be seen to be believed.
Q. What is over 30 foot long, has a mouth 6 foot wide, weighs 7 tons, hangs around in groups of up to 20, likes rubbing its snout on 17 foot sea kayaks and is capable of jumping clean out of the water?
A. The world’s second largest fish.
Well, not quite. But a week of <shock horror> good weather has allowed us to complete all of the exposed coast that hadn’t been covered yet. Until the weather broke, it was looking dicey for a while!
The Land’s End peninsula was simply magnificent, some of the best sea paddling we’ve ever done.
More to follow when I have a decent connection …
Good for you! Good for Britain!
Heather and I are currently semi-permanent residents of a disused serpentine factory on the coast of the Lizard, Britain’s most southerly peninsula. Our prolonged stay is closely connected to the dire weather, but there are certainly worse places to be holed up in a tent. Long live the National Trust, and their lenient attitude to discreet wild camping on their land.
The Lizard lighthouse is well worth a visit. It’s the biggest lighthouse complex in the world, this being because Trinity House used it as a kind of residential depot for their off-duty lighthouse keepers, at least before they replaced them all with computers. Out to sea, a constant stream of shipping can be seen passing around Lizard Point. Trinity House (they operate the buoys and lighthouses around England and Wales) used to have a museum at Penzance, but it shut down a few years back. Much of the collection is being transferred to the Lizard over the coming year.
Lizard Point looks pretty terrifying at the best of times, with complex reefs and serrated rocks extending offshore. With the wind and swell we have right now (and don’t be deceived by the ‘calm’ timelapse photos) it’s several paddlers’ worst nightmares rolled into one.
Will someone please lend me (give me?) $7 000 000?
Unfortunately another round of atrocious weather has arrived to mess up our plans. Oh well, Fowey isn’t a bad place to be stuck, even if your tent is being blown apart. ‘Fowey’ is pronounced ‘Foy’, to confuse foreigners. It’s a narrow inlet to a steep-sided drowned river valley that is simply beautiful (we know, we paddled 12km down it last night) with a harbour that is unbearably quaint. Daphne Du Maurier lived and wrote here.
O the Harbour of Fowey
Is a beautiful spot,
And it’s there I enjowey
To sail in a yot”
It’s not all tweeness however; despite the diminutive proportions, Fowey is the UK’s 11th busiest export harbour, something to do with the Russian freight ships that keep heading out loaded with china clay.
Heather and I had a wonderful time yesterday participating in the Eddystone Challenge. We got to within 3km of the lighthouse before we were ‘timed out’ by the safety boat (indeed, our own personal safety boat – the event had fantastic organisation) and had to turn back. This was Heather’s longest ever continuous paddle at 24 miles without tidal support and she made me right proud. Also, Team Rainsley still won a trophy for something or other we couldn’t quite fathom then or now. All good. Many thanks to the organisers for a really great event!
The Roseland Peninsula is in Cornwall, east of Falmouth and west of Fowey. Nobody at all comes here, because nobody knows about it, it isn’t close to or on the way to anywhere, and in any case, there isn’t any particular way to get here.
It is the last place in England where small boys wear shorts and children excitedly hunt in rockpools.
There is an episode in The Simpsons where Lisa Simpson sets out to prove scientifically that her hamster is more intelligent than her brother. She wires up a jar of cookies, so that anyone who touches it is electrocuted. Her pet hamster touches the jar, and runs away never to return. Her brother Bart touches the jar, yells “Ouch!” and then touches the jar again, yells “Ouch”, again and again, ad infinitum.
Despite having had two successive scary ‘never again’ days in big swell, yesterday I launched again to paddle around the 100m cliffs of St Agnes Head to St Ives. The swell was as big as before, only very confused by strong wind. It was basically horrendous. Paddling for all I was worth, I managed 6km in two hours and aborted at the first possible spot, Porth Towan. A fisherman had laconically observed that it would be, “A bit choppy” off St Agnes Head. I am not a hamster.
This evening I am being joined by Mrs R, and we are off to paddle the south coast. North Cornwall has been amazing, but some sheltered days would be very pleasant right now.
Newquay is an aberration on the coast of North Cornwall. After endless miles of awesome scenery, it’s rather odd to find yourself in a town purely devoted to the needs of young attractive people. These, incidentally, appear to be lager, surf, sex and designer clothing, in no particular order.
Newquay’s beaches are internationally famous as a surf destination, and this should have set alarm bells ringing. Although the size of the surf has been modest by Newquay’s standards, I have discovered that this translates – in sea kayaking terms – to paddle-squeezing, gut-wrenching, sphincter-tightening, sweat-drenched, utter terror. In the past couple of days, I have discovered that a fully loaded 5.5m sea kayak can get fully airborne, that it is possible to have a civilised conversation with a passing lifeboat crew in a 15 foot swell, that waves really can break without warning a mile offshore, and that the swell actually increases in size the further offshore you head. On the bright side, I have shared a surf wave with seals(!), which kind of makes it all okay.
I put myself through all of this, because I wanted to get out of Newquay before a new round of lousy weather landed. This I thankfully achieved, and am now in St Agnes, which is a very pleasant place indeed in which to sit out the rain and wind. More later, I have a book to write*.
*Which will not include much inshore detail on the coast around Newquay.
Andy L has just departed, and there is drizzling rain, strong wind and five feet of surf here at Newquay today, ending a week of great settled weather. I’ve awarded myself the morning off, and am embraced by the loving folds of a sofa in the bar of the Watergate Hotel. Sooner or later they’ll catch a whiff of my ‘eau de thermal’, realise that I actually live in a tent across the bay, and sling me out onto the street.
I’m sure I said this before, but North Cornwall has exceeded all expectations. We planned to get to Land’s End by now, and could certainly have done it. However, we quickly realised it would be madness to rush past the longest stretch of top quality cliffs that either of us have seen. We even took a day out to explore the River Camel estuary.
In a few days I’ll be joined by my wife, returned from a spot of WW paddling in Canada.
The photos here were all taken between Widemouth Bay and Boscastle.