Dawn Pastels & Cornish Trees

It turns out these things might have a life of their own after all; pictures and ramblings to wrap up 2020, a new year campout, and thoughts for a new lockdown.

It turns out these things (posts) might have a life of their own after all; perhaps it’s something to do with being back in a covid lockdown. There are some pictures to share anyhow so if you can get past the ramblings of an angry Cornishman then there’s always that.

After what felt like months, but in reality was only about 8 or 9 weeks, of battling rain and gales, on the 27th I decided to hang up my wheels for the remainder of the year, and pull on my hiking boots instead for some additional poking around in the places that two-wheels can’t so easily reach. It felt like a good change.

Tent and stormy December evening
I wrapped up 2020 with a hike. The year ended on a stormy note with the arrival of heavy rain just as I was pitching my tent; I’d been delayed while enjoying a good yarn with a local chap out walking his dog. We had a good old grumble on what had been happening over the preceding few weeks, and also shared dismay over the damage still visible here from the summer fly-campers in the form of blackened fire-pits dug out of the heathland. Turn over a boulder in many spots around the coast now and you’re as likely to find a discarded sanitary pad or face-mask as you are an earthworm.

Winter has traditionally been a good time to enjoy a bit of breathing space here in Cornwall; to be able to explore and enjoy the occasional campout and so on without the crowds compensated somewhat for the increasingly, and overwhelmingly busy summer. It now seems likely to be March before anything other than short outings from home are acceptable, by which time the Easter holiday season will be looming; as such I realised this week that something I find particularly depressing about the whole situation is not the lockdown itself, it’s what inevitably happens afterwards. The weeks after the end of lockdown #1 were particularly ghastly, the weeks between the end of lockdown #2 and Christmas were also uncomfortably busy, and a number of times while out riding I narrowly avoided falling victim to enormous Range Rovers hurtling through the lanes. Certainly during that period the occupancy of holiday lets and second homes was up to around 80-90%. Locally businesses started closing before Christmas, citing an inability to cope with, or ‘police’, increasing numbers of belligerent visitors from tier 3 and 4 areas, and one holiday lettings business (based in Norwich rather than Cornwall) was outed as explicitly encouraging tier 4 visitors to book for Christmas and New Year; I have little doubt there were others.

‘Twas the night (well, the afternoon) before Christmas… I was thoroughly rinsed by this one while out riding.

I met a couple out on the cliffs just before Christmas who openly told me they were from London but were staying in their holiday cottage because they were also supposed to self isolate after returning from overseas travels but had decided to come and stay in Cornwall instead; the idea that might represent a problem for Cornwall and the Cornish, let alone be illegal, was entirely lost on them. As such, while I may well be suffering from a degree of confirmation bias, when looking last week at a ‘heat map’ of infections in Cornwall that showed remarkable correlation with the areas of highest second home ownership I found it hard to dismiss that as coincidence. Cornwall is in a spot of bother now unfortunately with, nationally, one of the highest rates of growth of infections, on top of limited medical resources. Devon and Cornwall Police appear to be dealing with significant numbers of covid breaches, almost all exclusively second home owners. It’s deeply frustrating.

There, having got that off my chest (thanks!)… here are some pictures of things I particularly liked over the last couple of weeks. A few more months of poking around my local neck of the proverbial woods to follow no doubt.

Hawthorn tree wrapped by vines..
A very Cornish tree.
I’ve got a bit of thing for the winter trees hereabouts…
A festive hut…
Seaglass
I find seagulls amusing…
Rope…
New years eve. It tipped it down until about 7pm at which point my last dinner of the year was spicy beans and rice, topped with an incredibly smokey full-moonrise, all washed down with hot chocolate, and chased with a slug (or three, or four.. I can’t remember) of bourbon. It felt like the best place to be.
Temperatures dropped with clearing skies and everything froze solid. It was fabulous. Ships in sheltering from the storms and / or waiting to make their way into the port of Falmouth.
tent pitched in predawn light on the coast
Dawn pastels.
Morning. I did lounge with coffee for a while before moving on… but not too late, the point being to be gone without trace before anyone else is out walking.
I used to do an awful lot of hiking/backpacking when based in Canada, but being back in Cornwall and living far from mountains means I don’t spend so much time on two feet these days. Using my legs in an alternative way again felt good. That ‘no other footprints on the beach’ feeling is always special.
Old cornish paths…
Trails have been almost unrideably sloppy but a few days of cold, dry weather recently have improved things. I dusted off the “lockdown loop” again. It seemed appropriate.
Some terrific winter lighting. I often feel a little sad when I think about the end of winter..  spring is always lovely, and welcome, but the light of December and January is so special.. when it isn’t raining.
Farm gate shopping trip on a cold, frosty morning. I like using farm gate stalls for my vegetables; aside from supporting local small farmers, it inspires more creativity in the kitchen I think when you set out with no expectation of what you might find, and have to just use what there is rather than just always be able to have what you want from a supermarket. Big bunch of beetroot, cauliflower, and some green stuff this time. I like this stall in particular, it’s tucked away so not as busy as some, the farmer is a super chap and is always keen for a pleasant {socially distanced} yarn when I show up on my bike.
Scenic route home with the spoils stuffed in my Puffin Burrow seatpack. It cinches down nicely when carrying little but is handy for stuffing some extras in while out riding.
Unfortunately the mud was no longer frozen by this time.
Bug nursery.
This morning. The day felt ‘shiny’… a clear northerly airstream, a hard frost, low sun, flat ocean, and a runny nose. A rare and perfect winters day.
My favourite time of day at the moment is the last hour when I can escape completely into a book. Thanks to a thoughtful family at Christmas, and Elementum’s bookshop.org portal  (I avoid amazon on principle) I have these beauties to tuck into:
Right to left:
1. Owls of the Eastern Ice
2. The Snow Leopard
3. The Snow Geese
4. Homesick
That latter was written by Catrina Davies, who, because of the carnage wrought on communities here in Cornwall by the second home and holiday let industry, has been living in a shed at Polgigga for years. I cycle past her place frequently. It feels like Cornwall is approaching some sort of a crux in terms of what is happening here, and while the book is likely to make my blood boil with rage, it’s an issue I feel increasingly strongly about, especially having seen the contempt for Cornwall displayed by so many folk from across the border recently. You might have met Catrina if you watched Simon Reeves excellent two-part programme towards the end of last year. It was a refreshing and responsible change from the more usual cloying, fetishisation of Cornwall exhibited by the media.

8 thoughts on “Dawn Pastels & Cornish Trees

  • Mike – I liked this post of yours. Photography first class. I plan to forward the whole shoot and shebang to several friends who would appreciate it. Maybe you will get a few more Canadians join your travelogues. This one was a far cry from the sandy, dusty, arid places you have been to on a regular basis. A friend’s son enjoys being a nomad, although for a year or two he has not been on any major jaunts. He and his wife seem to like Peru and other countries which are mountainous/hilly, hot, drought ridden. In the case of Julian, after many years of cycling from Calgary down to Mexico and then Peru, at the age of 38 he met his wife who was of like mind. I think they have been everywhere that most of us would not dream of going to. Just like you. Here I am wishing you a Happy New Year, Mike and hoping 2021 will see you meeting up with your soul mate.

    Looking forward to your next newsletter. Alma

    • hey Alma, thanks for your lovely comment, and feedback, and a happy new year to you too! It’s funny how the high and arid places have a special appeal for some, I wonder if it’s a consequence of growing up, or ‘evolving’, in a wet and low environment… such as Cornwall?!

  • I agree Mike – excellent photos – you have a good eye for framing a shot and the light makes for great pictures. I enjoy how you write as well…authentic & not over laboured. I know what you mean about being out early…my favourite time to ride, even in the winter weather – I like the calmness & feeling of waking myself up slowly.

    Good 2021 to you.

    • Thanks Matt, a peaceful, at the very least, 2021 to you too. Hopefully things are significantly different by the end of it. Thanks too for the lovely feedback. Interesting, or perhaps not, I used to be a “hit the road early full of energy person” when younger.. I can still do that but don’t like the self-inflicted pressure, it’s good to have an hour or two for easing myself into the day I find.

  • Good post Mike, this year is already starting bad for us (we’ve had three deaths in our circle) and it’s not stopped raining yet….

    However, I’m determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel, just need to keep reminding myself that there are good times and good people out there, you are one of those good people and your blog counts as a good time !

    • hey Steve, so sorry to hear that sad news. I don’t know what else to say about that; a real blow.
      It’s a bit of a rollercoaster in terms of trying to stay positive I find, some days it’s easier than others. Just looking forward to day when can catch up with like-minded folk and go for a ride, in the meantime it’s the online community of good folk such as yourself that kep me going. Sending positive vibes in your direction, and thanks for the kind words, very much appreciated!

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