Last of the Lockdown Riding Diaries

Spring in Cornwall; lockdown cycling as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate just how special this little corner of the world is.

Well, probably the last. There is enough material once again, from the last few weeks of poking around on two wheels, to make a post worthwhile I think. The weather continues to be quite unreal.. no doubt in advance of a summer to be defined by wind-driven drizzle. A friend suggested I also write about the camera kit I use while out biking – both on my longer adventures, and just while poking around at home, so I’ll do that too in the next week or so; there are some other topics also on my mind that may be worthy of a few words.

The wildflowers this spring have been breathtaking.. and without people around it has been much easier to slow down and appreciate just how special they are.

Technically we’re still locked down and nights away from home are not acceptable, but here in the west of Cornwall the coast is as busy with visitors as the busiest days in August. I will keep on riding, and photographing and so on, but the atmosphere has changed and this past week in particular it’s been much harder to find that contemplative state of mind while out and about.. Mentally, emotionally it is disruptive to frequently stumble across burned patches amongst the grass and wildflowers from disposable BBQs, garbage and BBQs casually tossed aside, and camper vans and tents wedged in the most inappropriate of places in order to avoid scrutiny. I’m lucky not to live in a coastal village, as friends and clients alike have mentioned how they’re having to wash their doorsteps every day as, in the absence of open public toilets, visitors relieve themselves instead in doorways and at the back of houses. This morning I came across yet another motorhome, this time wedged down a bridlepath, out of sight of the road, they had a nice little camp with surfboards, bikes and beach toys.. with tensions running high in local communities, some might have considered a rock through the windscreen an appropriate gift to leave. The beach car parks I passed this morning were packed tight, like sardines, with hundreds more cars abandoned on the roads outside, in gateways and so on, and still I watched someone in a flash vehicle nudge a parking barrier out of the way with his bumper so he could go in and park anyway. It’s as if other places don’t exist. The BBQ thing is a particular hatred of mine.. it’s not only that people like to bury them in the sand or toss them over a cliff rather than take them home.. it’s the fire risk too. A grass fire from a discarded BBQ has been burning for two days now up the coast in Devon as firefighters struggle to get it under control. The utter contempt which which so many treat, what I think is a special part of the world, is heartbreaking. People have to get out and about, but a little sensitivity, respect, and plain old common sense would go a long way right now.

Anyway.. I didn’t really intend this to be the post of a ranty Cornishman, my apologies… so here’s another visual diary of my lockdown riding around here.

The wildflowers this spring have been breathtaking.. and without people around it has been much easier to slow down and appreciate just how special they are.
The bumblebees have been happy too… this is a red-tailed bumble; they appear to be the most common kind on the cliffs here.
I frequently ride along this stretch of trail.. and it has invariably been fabulous as the flowers change.
I spent much time sitting out on the cliffs with just the seabirds for company. I love to watch them soar.
There is one stretch of cliff near here where fulmars like to nest. They’re easy to identify with a straight, plank-like wing; grey on top with white colouring near the tips.
Herring gulls… they’re widely considered a pest in the coastal tourist villages.. but that’s only a consequence of human behaviour. In the absence of tourists they’ve been forced back to more traditional sources of food. Accustomed to scavenging discarded food from the visitors, the gulls are hungry in places like St Ives and Mevagissey.. I would not like to be the first person to walk out on the quay with a punnet of chips…. Despite the ill feelings about them that many people harbour, they’re a deeply impressive bird.. incredibly rugged, adaptable, and intelligent. I admire them greatly.
Just more sea thrift. John Betjeman’s poem “Greenaway” was set in north Cornwall but could just as easily be here….
I know so well this turfy mile,
These clumps of sea-pink withered brown,
The breezy cliff, the awkward stile,
The sandy path that takes me down.

 

A quiet day at Godrevy Head
Enough with the thrift for now…
Farther west… It felt like a good day to give my old Salsa Casseroll a mixed road and trail outing down west to around Botallack, Kenidjack and so on.
The frame is lovely and while a touring bike at heart, it rides like a good, steel road frame – light and responsive, and quick.
I bought the frame in 2009 but many of the parts date back much further…
…all the way back to around 1985/86 in some cases. This stuff still works really well, and is so much prettier than a lot of modern stuff.
on the path down to the Crown Mine engine houses…
That view….
On the coast near Pendeen
Ruins at Kenidjack
The gorse flowers are just about gone now, but they were good for a while…
Another foray up to the late Stone Age / early Bronze Age stuff high on the Penwith moor. This is the Nine Maidens stone circle.
I ate my sandwiches in the sunshine, leaning back against the Mên Scryfa stone, amongst the wildflowers with nothing but the skylarks for company.
Much of the riding around here is, in many spots, technical, challenging, and just plain frustrating (with the wrong mindset).. so it is a good place to visit when the coast is busy; very few folk venture up here.
The trees are fantastic, proper Cornish specimens. I was poking around trying to find the recently rediscovered Venton Bebibell holy well, also the source of the Newlyn river, but the area was so overgrown all I ended up with was shredded, bleeding shins from all the gorse and brambles.
Chun castle is a large Iron-Age hill fort not too far from Pendeen.. it’s so big it’s hard to photograph so I just propped my bike against one of the standing stones at the entrance. I love that all this stuff is just lying around amongst the brambles and gorse, and many have no awareness at all of this aspect of Cornish history.
Another stone circle. This one is the Tregeseal circle near St Just. It is more complete than the Boskednan Nine Maidens.
Returning home.. this ride makes a good day out of about 100km of trails and backroads with lots of poking around potential.
The descent towards, ultimately, the Hayle estuary.
The Big Fat Dummy had been feeling a little neglected of late; with regular life on hold there hasn’t been much hauling of stuff to do beyond a few local utility trips.
Unloaded however it is hilariously good fun on flowing singletrack.. others find it so too judging by the smiles as it steamrollers past…
It took a bit of practice as it does weigh close to 60lbs, and the balance point is behind the seatpost, but I have now mastered the art of getting it onto my shoulder with one hand free, for negotiating stiles and other obstacles along the way.
Lots and lots of fun. I’m looking forward to being able to take off for another “Dummy Campout” when it is acceptable to do so. There are many, many tents dotted around the coast at the moment, but it isn’t the right thing to do, it looks really shitty.. and so many people have an irrational hatred of cyclists that I’d prefer not to reinforce; I think it’s important to at least try and be something of an ambassador for pedal-powered life.
During the winter months it was very much a case of “do you rememeber that one day when it didn’t rain…”. This is the one day recently when it did rain. Amazing. The cliffs were shrouded in a thick, wet, drizzly mist… fun riding but not for pictures. The woods on the way home however were super atmospheric. I love a wet forest.
Foresty bits.
part of my 30km “mental health loop” from the back door. Early mornings only now I guess.
Same loop…
Still the same loop… to have that much variety packed into such a short ride makes it very special in my mind… anyway, early mornings are often the best part of the day so I’m sure I’ll get used to  heading out around sunrise.
Yesterday I headed east for a change. This is the King Harry Ferry across the Fal. My Brother Cycles AllDay has lost the mudguards for the summer and is wearing some fatter rubber as a result…
It made for a terrific 130km mixed road and trail fixed wheel ride..
My route took me up and down some of the steepest roads around.. they just happen to be the loveliest.. I could feel it my legs a little this morning…
The lanes are a lush delight at the moment. The fresh, almost luminous, greens of spring have yet to fade towards the darker, more mature tones of summer.
It’s been a while… a hideous winter, and away in the Andes most of last year. Now that it is OK to exercise with one other, I did get back on the water last week with a friend for a chilled-out spin up the coast to a deserted beach for a socially distant sandwich, and back. It was good to have a some company for the time in months. Despite the crowds, people are still reluctant to go anywhere that doesn’t have car parking within a few metres. I might wait for things to settle down a bit before heading out towards favourite spots… beach access points around here seem to be universally mobbed with people and cars at the moment.

 

There.

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