Cornwall | October 2021
It’s been two years since our last holiday. We usually go camping in England, Wales, or France in the summer months, and stay at YHA for a night every now and then to allow early morning hiking, but because of the pandemic we haven’t been away since we went to Cumbria in October 2019. We didn’t fancy going camping in England or Wales this summer, because it was too busy. With travel across Europe restricted, more British people were holidaying at home than ever before. This is a good thing as holidaying closer to home is better for the environment than flying for a package holiday in Spain which is a popular option for families, but it put us off going ourselves as neither of us like crowds.
Heading in to another winter, we knew we would both feel better for a couple of days by the ocean or in the mountains. I checked availability on the YHA website and found that there were a couple of camping cabins at YHA Penzance that hadn’t been booked for October half term, and so we decided to go there. We usually tent camp, but in late October it can be quite cold. The main thing that puts us off tent camping in the colder months though is that we have nowhere to dry our tent once we get home. In the summer we can leave it on the balcony to air before packing it away, but that’s not an option when the weather is cold and damp. The camping cabin we stayed in was lovely. It was basic and unheated, but just what we needed considering we were only there for two nights and we just needed somewhere to shower and sleep.
We had two full days in Cornwall plus a travelling day on the way back. To make the most of our time down there we broke the journey by staying with my parents in Somerset on the way down, so that we could arrive and see things on the Tuesday without having to set out from Birmingham ridiculously early. Our first stop was Bedruthan Steps on the coast between Padstow and Newquay. I’m careful not to mention places on Instagram so as not to contribute to the phenomenon of overcrowding at tourist hotspots, but given that only a handful of friends read my blog – and you’re outdoors enthusiasts too – I thought I’d share more details of our trip here, as less harm can come of it!
This is a dry stone wall known as a Cornish Hedge, and the slate slabs are arranged in the herringbone pattern. I love that you can see the guts of the wall, often you can’t see the stones or slabs because of the plant life grows to cover the internal structure.
One of the waitresses at the café at Bedruthan Steps was feeding scraps to this bird – I think it’s a crow – and it was lovely to see the bird gently sidle up to her and take food from her hands. Their bond and trust was a beautiful thing to witness.
On previous trips to Cornwall we haven’t been successful in visiting St Ives. Like Padstow, it’s a tourist town and usually far too busy. Sometimes all the carparks are full and you simply can’t access the town. We wanted to get something for dinner and given that it was an October school holiday rather than a May or August school holiday, we thought we’d try our luck. It was quieter than usual, but still far too busy to be relaxing and we ended up putting our masks on to walk down the high street because it was so crowded. Given that school children are currently the weakest link and largely unvaccinated, the idea of being shoulder to shoulder with families from across the country didn’t appeal.
We bought chips and then walked down the pier to eat them in peace and quiet, away from the crowds, although not away from the seagulls!
This young herring gull was posing for me, they were incredibly tame and didn’t flinch when I got up close to them with my camera!
After St Ives we made our way over to Penzance to check in, and because it was dark, cold, and we’d already eaten, we just went to bed.
The next morning, Wednesday, we decided to visit Mousehole as our first stop of the day. Mousehole is a traditional fishing village near Penzance known for the local community of artists. Again, it can get quite busy, so we thought we’d visit there before the families mobilised and descended en masse. It takes a while to get children up, fed, and out, so we made the most of that window to walk around the quiet streets of Mousehole whilst it still felt quiet and sleepy. Mousehole isn’t pronounced ‘mouse hole’, but more like ‘mowzol’.
After exploring Mousehole, we stopped in at a little café hidden away down on the sea front and commandeered the shed on the veranda rather than sitting in the busy café itself. I think we had the best seats!
A few years ago after realising how commercial Land’s End was and not fancying paying the hefty carpark fee to access the site – it’s something like £10 in the summer – we looked at a map to find an alternative piece of headland nearby. Cape Cornwall is like Land’s End would have been about fifty years ago. There aren’t any amenities beyond a small carpark and a drinks kiosk, and it is completely unspoiled. This is why I don’t mention the place on Instagram, as I wouldn’t want to contribute to it becoming like Land’s End. It’s no great secret, it’s a National Trust site, but it is less well known and therefore much more enjoyable to spend time walking there than Land’s End which is four miles (about 6km) to the south.
This little hut is a national coastwatch site, staffed by volunteers. The coastwatch was set up in 1994 to keep a lookout for fishing boats in distress, accidents, oil spills, and other incidents that the automated systems might miss altogether or not make note of in a timely manner.
The wind was so strong on the headland at Cape Cornwall that I had to crouch down and brace my camera against my knees to film steady clips. The wind made it impossible to stand up straight.
After Cape Cornwall we carried on along the coast, staying in West Cornwall, to another favourite haunt near Zennor. It’s another rocky headland with some ancient woodland and lots of interesting mosses and lichens to look at.
On Wednesday evening we went to the cinema. We wanted to see The French Dispatch but our independent cinema in Birmingham hasn’t reopened after the pandemic. Newlyn has a little cinema, and as it was near to where we were staying, we decided to book tickets. This photo was taken before everyone else piled in to the cinema, we were the first to arrive. We both wore masks during the showing as it was quite busy in there, Ed’s just got his off for the photo.
On Thursday, it rained. We decided to head home early as there was nothing we could do with sideways rain and 40mph wind, but before the really heavy rain set in we did manage to go for a walk on the coastal path at West Pentire near Newquay, and visit Polly Joke beach. It’s a quiet beach without a carpark or lifeguard, so you have to walk there which acts as a disincentive for all but the most determined. Just the way I like it!