Saturday 2nd July. When I woke up, my knees reminded me that they had made quite an effort the previous day, perhaps the Frenchman’s Creek walk, or maybe the Minack Theatre steps, most likely a combination of both. So, a late breakfast, some photos,
and a very early lunch in the restaurant of the place I was staying, the Old Quay House. Good old fish and chips. Very early because I had decided to rest my legs today, and after lunch to take a circular bus ride on the hop-on hop-off Land’s End Coaster, an hourly service.
Here’s a tourist map of the far tip of Cornwall that I was given during my 2021 holiday in Penzance.
The Hayle estuary and St Erth, where I got on the bus, are half way down, over on the right. I chose to take the anticlockwise route, which went northwards to St Ives, along the north coast westward towards Geevor, southward to St Just, then continued south, diverting to Sennen Cove, back to the main road, and out to Land’s End and back, then down, and on another detour, to Porthcurno (the home of the Minack Theatre, though the bus necessarily turned back before that), inland to St Buryan, across to Newlyn, then to Penzance, Marazion (St Michael’s Mount), and northeast back to my starting point. The bus ride would take four hours. It takes 15 minutes to get to Penzance from Hayle, where I was staying, by car.
I sat upstairs in the open-air part of the bus. It was very blowy – and for most of the time, especially along the north coast, and as the previous evening, I wished I had more clothing with me. People got on and off at regular intervals. I think I was the only person not using the bus as a means of getting from A to B. And I was able to use my senior’s bus pass.
I took no more photos from then in, Penzance, through Marazion and back to St Erth/Hayle.
Back at my lovely patio for the evening, the tide was well out.
One full day in Cornwall left. And no, I didn’t see my friendly gull this day.
Wednesday, 29th June. It promised to be a reasonably fine morning. As the sun came up, it caught the feathers of the birds as beautifully as the setting evening sun did.
But I couldn’t hang around, I had to be at Penzance Heliport by 9.30.
I had booked to go to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly by helicopter in 2021, but that had been cancelled because of fog. A helicopter trip would have completed my trio of aerial ambitions. I had been in a glider in 2009 on an incredibly hot day,
and in a balloon exactly four years ago today (blog post here). So a helicopter trip would complete the trio, and Penzance to the Scillies would do nicely. This time, I had booked, with Penzance Helicopters, not to St Mary’s but to Tresco, because of the lovely Gardens there.
Our helicopter arrived and, having disgorged its incoming passengers, refuelled.
Still inside the building, we had a safety briefing. In due course we were directed to seats inside the aircraft. I was fortunate and had a window seat. (Given that there were 12 passengers in three rows, that was a 50/50 chance.)
We were off! But I had no camera. It was in my small backpack, which I had had to surrender to the hold. (It really was sardines inside the copter, and of course I was the only one wearing a mask – an FFP3 one.) But I had grabbed my phone, which took this outward series of pictures.
Penzance to Tresco is just 15 minutes, so the first of the 145 (five inhabited) Isles of Scilly soon came into sight.
I spent almost all of my time on the island in the Tresco Abbey Gardens, which will be the subject of my next post. (The weather much improved and I had a lovely time!)
I had to be back at the Heliport at 3.45 pm, one hour before take off. (It did seem to be an awful imbalance of time – a whole hour passed waiting for a 15-minute flight!) But half an hour before that I was (stuck) on the other side of the heliport, and saw the flight before arrive and take off. I did take a video of the latter, but had not reckoned on the enormous buffeting I would receive from the beast, which rendered the video useless.
After that hour, and another briefing, we were guided to the helicopter, and again I had a window seat.
I was able to recognise points of the island now as we flew away, the round lake I had not been able to get near, a larger one I should perhaps have headed for rather, and the bay I had visited, and of course the sheltered dark green mass of the Abbey Gardens.
We flew at 1000 feet/300 metres.
The captain helpfully pointed out that we were to pass the Minack Theatre – something I had not expected to see, and certainly not from this angle, for another two days.
Neither had I thought to see my car from above – the small one, fourth along,in the near row of eight vehicles.
And I was pleased see, as I happened to look up, St Michaels Mount. (Actually some miles away, but I zoomed in on it.)
Back at the ranch (The Old Quay House, Hayle), I caught up with the wildlife – that’s The Causeway behind.
I took a cup of tea out on the the patio, and was joined by a Herring gull. To cut a long story short, over fifteen minutes or so he came and went three times, and I suspected his motives.
A firm but not shouted ‘No’, such as I use on the cats when necessary, was sufficient to stop him breaking and entering. I think he must have found booty inside on previous occasions.
But the cheekiest was, he attempted to lift my mug up!
My verdict on the helicopter part of my trip to Tresco? Well, I’ve completed the trio of experiences, but this was all rather prosaic. Outstanding by far was the balloon, and the glider flight was wonderful. (If only it hadn’t been 30 degrees C. That, along with the fact that the pilot had to do a lot of circling to catch the thermals, meant that my tendency to travel sickness had kicked in.)
I’m fantasising about having a holiday in the Isles of Scilly. Should it come off, I shall go by boat, not least for environmental reasons.
Tuesday, 28th June. The first full day of my holiday, and the weather forecast for Cornwall, especially for the afternoon, was awful. But I’d known this for days, so was well-prepared not to do much.
It was high tide at 5.45 a.m.
I zoomed in to the cranes – of the mechanical kind – way across the water, to the north.
And went back to bed. By the time I was ready to have the breakfast awaiting me in the fridge, the tide was well on its way out.
Feeling I shouldn’t stay in all day, and with the weather forecast only for possible showers in the morning, I decided to do a little exploration locally, and just to take a walk into Hayle town, along a tiny part of the South West Coast Path (SWCP). As I set off, the play area of The Old Quay House was to my left. (My room is furthest away, behind the smaller tree.) The weather was definitely not such as would encourage other residents to sit out.
The SWCP route took me along The Causeway, beside the estuary. This was very busy, and I remain puzzled as to why so many would take it, as it leads through Hayle town, when the A30 bypass was so near. They can’t all have been wanting to end their journeys in Hayle can they? Fortunately there was a footpath all the way along, even if it did mean crossing the road a couple of times. Plenty of wildflowers along the way, including these orchids.
I was amused at the footprints left by the Shelduck.
I learned later in the week that Hayle has a very interesting history, and I must find out more, perhaps by visiting its Heritage Centre, if – hopefully when – I return to the area. This Wikipedia entry confirms!
The SWCP leaves the main road leftwards, briefly to take a path by Carnsew Pool, said to be of ornithological interest. (This map shows much of my walk.)
However, the path was very tricky at some points, due to erosion, especially for someone whose balance is less sure than it used to be, and who had not bothered to take her walking pole with her.
I resolved to stick to the road on on the way back – the sighting of one solitary Little egret not being sufficient enticement to risk the path again.
The SWCP returned to The Causeway, which itself went right then immediately left under the mainline railway viaduct.
Along the quayside, there followed a sequence of indications of Hayle’s past innovative and industrial importance.
I now had the choice of following the SWCP, along North Quay, or turning right along the main road. I decided on the former, but now know I made the wrong choice. Following the road would have taken me to some more mudflats and the possibility of seeing some more waders and other birds.
Between South Quay and North Quay was East Quay.
In deciding to follow the SWCP, I had basically decided sadly to walk alongside what turned out to be a huge building site, the controversial North Quay Development. (Incidentally, looking at various estate agents’ windows during the week, I was horrified at property prices in the area. No wonder local people have such a housing problem.) I walked along it for about 15 minutes, but it was clear that there was to be nothing of interest for a while more,
so I turned round, given also that time was passing.
When I got back to East Quay, I noticed a footpath to Hayle Station. Reckoning that this would be much quieter than the main road, that the station would not be far from the viaduct, and that there must be somewhere to get coffee near the station, I took it.
There was coffee. In a place which also sold second-hand clothing and tourist trinkets. A bit noisy as behind me there were two pairs of women, each putting the world to rights (in ways which I would have disputed) rather loudly. But there was coffee.
I retraced my steps back to The Old Quay House, entirely along The Causeway this time. Not too many photographs – the rain promised for the afternoon (it was indeed by now just midday) was starting.
Back in my room, I looked out across the estuary. The building works are scarcely visible in this zoomed photo through the teeming rain.
I ventured out again in the rain, first to a nearby wine shop – I had forgotten to buy a bottle at M and S the day before – and then to The Old Quay House’s dining room for a seafood kebab and a lemon cheesecake.
The afternoon was spent tucked up in my room, watching Rafa and Serena (her last Wimbledon appearance?), while simultaneously knitting, or listening to Steve Richards’s latest ‘Rock&Roll Politics’ podcast. (I found that triple-tasking was beyond me.)
I did just peek out of the doors around 3 p.m., to see Great black-back Gulls and Herring Gulls looking pretty miserable.
By the next high tide, around 6 p.m., the weather was beginning to clear up.
At 8 p.m. all was calm, presaging a much better day tomorrow – and that was very important to me. I had grand plans for it …
It was about an hour from The Lost Gardens of Heligan to the out-of-town shopping centre near where I was to stay, and I called in at the Marks and Spencer food hall there for a few provisions. Five minutes later I was settling into my room in The Old Quay House. In 2021, I had chosen a very low budget B and B place in Penzance, which was fine if I just wanted to sleep there and have breakfast. But in less good weather (and sadly Cornwall does have quite a bit of that), or when I just didn’t want to go out, it had been far from satisfactory, having no comfortable chair to sit in, very little space, a small window looking on to back yards, and no garden to sit in. So this time, I had looked for a places equally, if not more, convenient for getting around, and with amenities that had been lacking in the Penzance accommodation.
It meant paying, a lot more, but my goodness it was worth it. I had looked in the Hayle area for convenience. There did not seem to be an enormous number of hotels there, but I could not have found a better setting. Not just a vista, but an RSPB reserve, at the head of an estuary, with the tide coming and going twice a day. A private patio. A decent size room. Windows on three sides. Continental breakfast provided in the room the day before, and a fridge to keep a few provisions. A mainline railway station, St Erth, 15 minutes’ walk away, and as I discovered, some handy bus stops and routes very nearby.
I remembered to take some photos before I started spreading my belongings around.
Of course the first thing I did was to open the patio doors. The tide had just turned, and was beginning to rush out over the flat estuary.
The first bird I noticed was a solitary juvenile Herring gull.
Returning indoors, I was immediately pulled outside again by the haunting sound of …. a Curlew!
Further out, there was a Mute swan. Sadly, it became clear through the week that there was only the one.
In the distance, with a little-used branch line station, Lelant Saltings, in the background, the ‘gang’ as I came to call them, of Canada geese emerged from one of the creeks.
Through the evening I kept going out on to the patio. (It was quite chilly.)
The Curlew again.
It took me a while to identify these, but they are young Shelduck.
The tide has a lot further to to go out yet. Apart from a couple of wide feeder creeks, the water will disappear entirely.
I was pleased to see a Little egret by one of the creeks, lit by the setting sun. I learned that this was a favourite spot.
For some days, the next day (Tuesday’s) weather forecast had been appalling, especially in the afternoon, so I had my plan B ready…
It was time to cross another causeway. After all, it was nearly twelve weeks since I had driven across the one to Lindisfarne. But this time it was to be on foot.
For the first time this week, the view to St Michael’s Mount was clear as I set off along the Western Promenade in Penzance for Marazion and the causeway to the castle on Tuesday, 7th September. Booking ahead was imperative; entry would be denied without a pre-booked ticket. The attraction is run jointly by the National Trust and the St Aubyn family, who still own much of the island.
You are told to arrive at the gate of the castle at the time of your ticket, and to allow 15 minutes beforehand to cross the causeway, whether on foot when the tide is low enough, or by ferry. I was pleased to have allowed even more time than that, since the car park fee took time to pay, at one of those horribly complicated machines that wants to know all about you.
At the castle gate I appeared to get special, expedited, treatment. Was this because I was a National Trust member? Anyway, I was soon on my way to the visitor centre.
Then over to the wall for some views,
before starting the long, steep and difficult cobbled and/or stony upward trek to the ‘top’.
I amused myself looking for dolphins (unsuccessfully)
I also filled in the time reading about the castle on an app I had downloaded thanks to a QR code at the bottom of the steps. Annoyingly, that app is no longer on my phone. I suppose it’s possible that it could have auto-deleted as I left the premises, but, much more likely, I deleted it myself thinking I would have no more need of it, forgetting that it would be really useful in identifying my photos. My memory serves me poorly…
I do recall that this particularly appealed to me in a whole roomful of delightful drawings by Lady Catherine Someone.
The route led to an upper terrace
They’re still queuing down there on the lower terrace.
Despite the number of people there, the 15th century chapel, where a service is held every Sunday in the summer months, brought a sense of palpable calm.
I could have spent a very long time in the maps room, and took photos of several of the exhibits. I limit myself to sharing just one of them.
In the same room was this cork sculpture of the island.
This is a portrait of Dolly Pentreath, said to have been the last person to have spoken only Cornish. (Though the next day was to moderate that claim in my mind – see two posts on in due course.)
At last there were no other people around for a short while, as I looked back along a corridor of pictures.
A room described as the Museum was closed for renovations, and the Garrison Room did not interest me too much. But a few more pictures towards the exit did. For colour and style…
… and for nostalgia: Giles, Vera and Gran!
When was looking, without success, to see if I could find any more detail about the castle’s contents on the internet, I came across this walk-through film lasting about 15 minutes.
The walk down the uneven path could have daunted me, but this time I had my walking pole with me. Without it, I would have found the descent a miserable experience. Once down, I was reminded that the ferry, which I was planning to take back for the sake of having a boat ride, would not be running until well after 2.00 pm, given the state of the tide.
Not really hungry after the very copious breakfast served by Alan and prepared by the unseen Sally at Chiverton House, (despite my taking neither sausage not bacon, nor any of the carbohydrate-packed offerings) I went to sit on the big lawn for a few minutes.
I usually try to avoid taking photos with people in them unless they are part of the story, but I think they add something here – others may disagree.
I was delighted to see a little egret on the near shore and zoomed in on it.
Having patronised the Island Shop, I then walked back to the car park. I saw no point in hanging on for more than hour just for the sake of having a short boat ride. The cobbles were not kind to sore feet,
so I cut off leftwards to take the hypotenuse back to my car. Sadly the ripple marks on the wet sand were almost as uncomfortable as the cobbles.
On the way to Marazion, I had noticed a signpost to an attraction I had added the evening before to my ever-increasing list of ‘Things I’d like to do’…
Fancying a short late morning walk in the Quantock Hills, I googled and found this, thanks to Quantockonline.com
Ideal. Nice length, water, and a picnic spot with a viewpoint. Splendid. Hawkridge Reservoir was built about sixty years ago to provide water to Bridgwater. Technical details here.
50 minutes away from my home according to the satnav. I arrived after 75 minutes – yes, more roadworks. It’s August.
I had some difficulty identifying the car park. I saw a broad entry to what was evidently a car park, but it had no panel saying it was for the public, so I drove on. I found nothing after a couple of hundred metres, so turned back and parked in the one I had seen, where there was just one other car, and this view.
The instructions said to go to the road and turn west, past a cottage on my left. So what did I do? I confused my east with my west. (My excuse was that, on both Ordnance Survey map and the plan, the car park is shown south of the road when in fact it was north – but I should have been more alert!) That cost me ten minutes. Having corrected my direction I found no cottage to my left, and made my way back to the car park. Faffing about for a while more
increased my loss of time to at least 30 minutes, until I realised that, according to the plan, my starting point should not have been at level of the the reservoir’s dam, but more than halfway along its length. ‘They’ had evidently changed the location of the car park since the plan had been drawn, and my OS map was also pretty old.
No public access to the top of the dam.
Hooray, I now knew where I was, at Point 4 on the plan, not Point 1.
These are either scaup or tufted ducks. They are just minuscule dots on the previous picture, and some fishermen in a boat are not much larger.
The weather forecast having predicted only a 3% chance of rain, I had not taken any rain protection. So it was as well that as I reached the bottom of the slope and this splendid sweet chestnut tree,
and found myself at this stile (check – yes!), when the rain came I was entering this wood.
It was lovely hearing the rain but feeling not a drop of it.
By the time I reached this gate and bridge it had stopped.
Through some private land, now labelled Ebsley Cottage.
Emerging into ‘wilder’ territory once more, I was delighted to see this Scarlet Pimpernel. It is not rare but I had not seen any for a while.
At Point 6 I got a bit cross with the walk description. Quite clearly according to the plan one was to turn left, south-westish. There was a field to the right, but its boundary was on the left, with a wire fence between field and a coniferous wood. But the words said, ‘follow field boundary on the right.’ What was one to do? I turned left and had the boundary on my left. I was TO the right of the fence. The alternative would have been to turn north, up a slope and have another field boundary on my right. And I’d have got lost again.
I now also had the reservoir to my left. Only fishermen (fisherpeople?) have access to the water’s edge, and beyond, on to the water. This is their clubhouse.
I had to turn away to my right for a bit (Point 8), and, as I turned sharp left a minute or so later, was delighted to be able to rest my elbows on a stile to take photos of this yaffle, aka green woodpecker, at a great distance, as it looked for insects in the grass. I took many photos, and couldn’t decide on the best, so here are two.
As I encountered these, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Zoe who is always very cautious around cattle. With her words in my ears, I moved well south of them.
A lovely view ahead, spoiled by an ugly deforestation scar.
I turn round – they’re keeping an eye on me.
Above the scar is a flock of sheep.
A look back at the reservoir.
By the hedge there was a couple eating a picnic. Had I been nearer to them I would, with an explanation, have asked permission to take their photo, but an exchange of what the cliché calls ‘a cheery wave’ sufficed as greeting.
Down to the minor road, and to where I was to leave the circumnavigation of the reservoir to go up to the lime kiln, the viewpoint, and the picnic spot, for my late lunch.
I felt better about the scar now. And was not at a personal level as disappointed as I might have been. I was ready for my lunch, a Great Climb would have been ahead of me, (I have not mentioned hitherto that it was very hot) and I did not have my walking pole with me to help me down the later descent.
I walked on, thinking I should now see the space where the original car park would have been. Instead – yes – I found THE car park, a glorified lay-by, which had I continued another 300 metres I would have found. It had a nice view of the reservoir,
with some swans and a grey heron,
an information board,
and some people, in and out of cars. I walked on,
found the cottage, and the stile at Point 1, and sat on it to eat my picnic, with a lovely view,
and a better view of the swans.
The grey heron had moved to join its cousin, a little egret.
Difficult to get decent pictures at that distance, but there were also great crested grebes,
mallard ducks (?)
and the chance to get a better picture of the egret.
Back at my personal starting point in due course, I thought this quarry, way in the distance and over to my right, must be Callow Rock Quarry, near Cheddar, the entrance to which I have passed many times on the road, but never seen.
This panorama from ‘my’ car park takes in Wales, Brean Down and much of the Mendip Hills, including the above quarry.
It was time to move on to my other visit of the day.
Wednesday 11th March was mammals day. For that we visited the Souss Massa National Park, and learnt something of its conservation work. We went in four 4x4s, so that each of us had a window. They put me in the front seat of the vehicle driven by Mohammed in case I needed to communicate urgently with the driver. (I didn’t.)
The Park was set up in 1991 in recognition of the area’s importance as a breeding ground for certain birds, including the Northern Bald Ibis. To quote Wikipedia, “Souss-Massa also holds captive-breeding programmes for four threatened North African ungulates: scimitar oryx, addax, dama gazelle [not on our target list] and dorcas gazelle, … The reintroduction of the North African ostrich – which is extinct north of the Sahara – is also underway.” With the exception of the Dama Gazelle, we saw all of these. The Rokein Special Reserve, where goats are kept out and as a result the vegetation is more lush, is where the conservation work is done and where we saw the mammals (and the ostriches).
We had our packed lunch standing in a shelter, and among other things, watched a sea mist…
… rolling in.
but, although we drove through a little mist as we left, it came to nothing. The drought continues.
After a stop at a local pottery and café, where I had a much-craved ice-cream, we were driven to the mouth of the Oued (River) Souss, and stood on a bridge to see what we could see, hoping for flamingos.
For our final stop, we were driven over the bridge, and further downstream to a rather unprepossessing spot, where we could see a two-poled pylon in the far distance.
Immediately to our left was a telegraph pole.
A final look round revealed a Little Egret …
and some Sanderlings. Or so Mohammed said, and he was very good at his wildlife.
Before dinner, it was Hélène’s turn to invite us into the salon of the Atlas Kasbah. She opened her big wooden box, which like all Moroccan brides (she is French) she received on her wedding day. It was full of traditional health and beauty items, and she explained the purpose of every one. A question at the end (from me) about covering her hair at the school where she teaches (she doesn’t, though the fact that it is a French school may have something to do with it?) led to an immense amount of information about the role of women in Morocco – considerably more liberated than in many other Moslem countries.
On the Monday (9th March), we took our first trip out in the minibus, with several stops along the Atlantic coast, to the north of Agadir. The first stop was at Cap Rhir, mainly to look at vegetation, though we saw fauna of interest too…
I got the giggles at this. Philip, Don and Alison take photos of the lizard, a young shepherd boy on his donkey looks on in puzzlement, and his sheep follow.
And the ovines catch us up.
Believe it or not, these two plants are both from the euphorbia family. The cactusy-looking one is not a cactus!
This is a Moroccan Lizard-toed Gecko, or three-quarters of one. Philip had picked it up, but it escaped, leaving its tail behind to wriggle and distract the predator.
Philip was mortified, saying that this had never happened to him before.
We moved further north to Oued (River) Tamri, in search of the endangered Northern Bald Ibis. The total world population (in the wild) is only about 800, and near here was a known breeding site. When we stopped in the car park, alongside the vehicles of some surfers, we knew we would see some of the birds, as one of our number had spotted some high on a cliff to our right.
They flew around a bit.
A Marsh Harrier came to join the party. Well, not really, but it was good to see it.
After eating a very copious packed lunch provided by the lodge, we walked further along the dunes to the mouth of the oued.
We enjoyed walking along the sand, with its fresh breeze and wonderful surfing waves, and were reluctant to leave, but our next stop was explicitly for us to enjoy even more some sea action.
Our route back to the hotel took us into Agadir, and we climbed and climbed, to our puzzlement. It turned out we were being taken to the Kasbah (fort), which was very severely damaged in the 1960 earthquake, especially inside.
The views explained the setting.
Before our evening meal, we were invited into the salon of the Atlas Kasbah, which in a Moroccan home is a room near the entrance used only for entertaining guests. According to Moroccan tradition these can (and do) turn up completely unannounced, have the right to stay for up to three days, and it would be the height of bad manners to ask how long they were intending to stay. They sleep in the salon.
We stayed for about an hour, to be introduced by Hassan to the very elaborate traditional tea making ceremony. Ibrahim – or Hussein, I never did manage to tell them apart, as both were so charmingly smiley – assisted.
Our leaders had pity on us, the morning of this our last complete day. Breakfast was up to as late as 8.00, and there was no pre-breakfast walk.
On the way to breakfast:
I was the last to arrive at breakfast, at 7.30, and was greeted by Neil with ‘Good afternoon!’, to which I reacted with appropriate indignation.
We set off for the day’s activities at 9.00.
We drove through the town of Livingstone. Difficult to capture images describing the place.
Surprise, surprise, we arrived at a sewage works. I didn’t take many photos, except of terns in flight – most unsuccessfully.
We then undertook a long and bumpy journey.
We were aiming for a lunch place (a lodge of course) some miles down the Zambezi River from Victoria Falls, overlooking the gorge. Leader Neil was disappointed that we were not giving it more attention, but the fact is that it was much cooler in the shade, and, perhaps more significantly, most of us were deep into our phones and tablets, having access to wi-fi for the first time in 48 hours. Our super luxury lodge had been without the service since our arrival. Not their fault, but the local tower, or whatever-you-call-it, was out of action. As we were due to depart the following day, people hasd urgent and less urgent need of communication with the rest of the world.
That said, everyone did look at the gorge for a while at least.
I remarked to Neil that I was surprised how slow the water flow was, given the amount and speed of it over the Falls. ‘Or perhaps it’s a matter of scale?’, I asked. ‘It’s a matter of scale,’ he said. ‘Look at those kayaking.’ I hadn’t noticed the tiny little dots. They were moving, very fast, and were much further down than my brain had registered.
Having lunched and, er, used the facilities, (which were totally respectable)