The wonderful multi-chromatic display of spring wildflowers has faded and the dust has turned to mud; it must be summer. When I last put one of these “diary-flavoured” posts together I called it “
The Last of the Lockdown Riding Diaries” by reason of the lockdown having eased and it becoming much harder to find a contemplative state of mind while out and about. With the return of people in large numbers, and cars in even larger numbers, not to mention the sometimes banal demands of a life returning to something approaching normality, the effortless, thoughtful solitude in nature that has so much value became a more rare commodity. That’s not to say I stopped going out, it has just been “different”, with frequent interruptions to the stream of consciousness, my desire to just “be”, from the demands for attention from “things” external to my sense of self.
Cornwall is holding its breath, and for many July 4th will feel like the beginning of a different kind of lockdown. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to enjoy my home properly for a few weeks in the spring.
There is however perhaps enough material to justify another one of these posts before the floodgates open on the 4th July to what is expected to be record numbers of tourists. Having seen scenes from beaches around the place in the news, and the destruction already visited upon the environment, I cannot help but fear for the wellbeing of the coastline, the ocean, and flora and fauna that call it home. Cornwall is holding its breath, and for many July 4th will feel like the beginning of a different kind of lockdown. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to enjoy my home properly for a few weeks in the spring.
Odd as it may seem, I am not unhappy about an absence of clear blue skies. A clear blue sky is uninteresting, and thanks to a childhood of weekends of being kicked out the door with “you’re not staying in watching that rubbish on telly” ( a very good thing for which I’m grateful) I still feel a pressure to just not be inside when the sun shines; added stress when there is work to be done, or jobs on the house that require my attention.. as well as the conflict between a desire to be out, and an equally strong desire to avoid the inevitable crowds of people also out enjoying the sun. I’m Dummying… with the return of some sort of normality and commerce the Dummy is once again making the mundane brilliantly good fun. On this occasion a mate had called to ask if I wanted a bunch of seedlings – tomatoes and chillies. Of course I said “yes please”. My car is road legal again, for sea kayaking purposes, so I suppose could have gone in a car to collect the boxes of delicate cargo.. a couple of hours of fossil-fuel burning soul crushing tedium .. or, the obvious choice, I could travel by Dummy… .. and enjoy 5 hours of bird song, wildflowers, a fresh breeze, traffic-free dirt and tiny backroads, and the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of a warm late afternoon sun fading to dusk. That and the joy of just riding a bike, together with, in this case, the fun that goes with hearing the occasional “f***ing hell, look at that thing” while steamrollering past the occasional cyclists or walkers on the trails. A low evening sun, riding through the woods on my way home. The seedlings, I think, also enjoyed the journey and are doing well. The Red River rises near here and reaches the sea at Godrevy. Centuries of tin mining activity rendered it, and the valley through which it runs, something of a toxic wasteland. The cessation of mining activity in 1998 has allowed the surrounding ecology to begin to repair itself. There are a couple of trails through the valley that I can use to reach the coast on two wheels. They’re always quiet and it’s heartening to see just how lush the valley is becoming in spots. The heavy metal content of the stream is still significant, especially after rain, thanks to run off from tailings in the area. Ironically, with the standards required by environmental permits, the treatment and discharge of the billions of gallons of water to be pumped from the South Crofty mine tunnels in preparation for a potential re-opening, is expected to actually improve the water quality in the river. Red River Valley. It’s been lovely to see how the flowers change with the seasons… from the bluebells, to the sea thrift, then the foxgloves and poppies… … and now, the heather too. The coast is much busier, and with people constantly passing I don’t find the same satisfaction in just stopping for a while. From time to time I get lucky and can enjoy 10 minutes or so of solitude in a favourite spot. Sea kayaking is the only reason I bothered to fix my car and put it back on the road. I would like to ditch the car completely, but I enjoy time on the water around the place too much. A super calm, drizzly day provided an atmospheric opportunity to spend some time up-close and personal with the gullies below Dodman Point. Dodman Point, in the distance, is Cornwall’s tallest headland at 114m / 374ft. There is a granite cross on the top, erected in 1896 in expectation of “the second coming”, and apparently to protect passing shipping; there have been many losses off the point. Also lost here is a radio-controlled slope soarer (model aircraft) that suffered radio failure, spiralling down one blustery day in 1989. On every occasion that I paddle past the spot I wonder what’s left buried in the undergrowth half-way down the cliff. A river of tide… The weekend just past, I spent both all day Saturday, and Sunday, on two wheels. A last chance to enjoy the freedom and relative peace of a coastline without too many vistors. On Saturday I ventured east with a mate. Stove, teabags, and cake on board for a brew in a favourite spot not visited since last year. The tides were not conducive to fishing that day, but a reminder to self to head that way again soon with a rod on board. On Sunday I went south… The cliffs here are magnificent. The day was characterised by a strong westerly wind with frequent, heavy, and icy-cold showers. I liked it, it was interesting. The cliffs are no longer carpeted in the vibrant pink of sea thrift, but the colour hasn’t gone, merely mutated into a less abundant form, but equally as beautiful. When I know it will be quiet, and in places where I could not be considered a nuisance, I do, as a single individual, ride on footpaths from time to time. The irony is around here that many of the shared use paths are often frequented by people that appear to throughly resent the fact that cyclists exist, no matter how respectful and careful, yet the very few folk I meet on joining sections of footpath are invariably friendly and chatty. I tend to subscribe to the Cycling UK point of view that says it should be acceptable for an individual to ride on a footpath provided it is done “in a manner which respects the safety of other path users and their peaceful enjoyment of the outdoors, and with regard for the environment and its ecology”. The stretches of path I tend to use are usually remote and unpopular with masses of people, and sufficiently technical, or have stretches of carrying, such that they are unattractive to cyclists, and also casual walkers, in general. This cross sits on the cliff at the southern end of Loe Bar. It is a memorial to the December 1807 wreck of the HMS Anson in which somewhere around 100 lives were lost. She was a 44 gun frigate that fought during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The wreck led directly to the invention, by Henry Trengrouse, a local Cornishman, of the use of a rocket apparatus, the Breeches Buoy, for the rescue of sailors from ships in distress. Loe Bar. This sand bar separates freshwater Loe Pool, at 50 hectares the largest natural lake in Cornwall, from the Atlantic ocean. Loe Pool was originally the estuary of the River Cober; dates around when the bar first blocked the estuary are uncertain. Daniel Defoe, in the 18th century, suggested that ships could navigate inland to Helston at that time, however there is no evidence to support that, and estimates for the age of the bar place it at from 700 to several thousand years. Regardless, it’s a nice spot, albeit treacherous on its seaward side. It’s not a great photo, and I could have done with a wider lens in my pocket, but just for the record here is Loe Bar. Loe Pool on the left, Atlantic ocean on the right. The cliffs in the distance are those around Gunwalloe and Poldhu cove. These rocks on the cliff above Kynance Cove reminded me somewhat of the plates on the back of a Stegosaurus.
Visitors at Kynance Cove, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful spots in Cornwall… so of course they’re looking at their phones.