October, revised

If I had been diligent and conscientious and just a little more bored, I could have written something about the month of October by now (as well as July, August and September). I would probably have discussed the drawing in of the northern hemisphere nights and the first big storms barrelling in from the Atlantic. Meanwhile, down in the southern half of the globe, shorts and bushfires would be a genuine topic for discussion yet again.

octsw05As it happens, October 2015 has been somewhat benign, at least in the southwest corner of England in which I have mostly lingered. And I have been perfectly content to linger there, what with this benign weather and all. I do believe we endured two whole weeks without a single drop of rain, an occurrence putting many outside of their comfort zone. At the start of the month I got away with a few hours in shorts, and the dry weather appeared to encourage farmers to set fire to things. On a beach, near Padstow, in an ashen blue sky air, T-shirt adorned, it could almost have been Australia.

octsw01One day of particular breathlessness spurred me to get on a bike, reassured that I would not face a headwind of Atlantic gale proportions. Hiring two wheels from Wadebridge, I rode much of the Camel Trail, only wishing that I was on my own more comfortable machine which languishes back in Canberra. Breathless from forty kilometres of riding through breathless scenery in breathless air. It was not quite Vancouver high, but the experience provided much to enjoy, including an inevitable stop for Rick’s fish and chips, well-earned.

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octsw04Around the corner from Padstow another day offered something a little more sedate, though with just as much, if not more, breathlessness in the scenery department. A stop for coffee overlooking Watergate Bay (coffee=acceptable and worth revisiting) preceded a jaunt along the cliff line overlooking Bedruthan Steps. Here stands the archetypal grandeur of the North Cornish coast, carved and sculpted by The Atlantic, still relatively benign. And upon these mighty shores, the National Trust serves delectable treats from their cafe…potatoes as giant as the rocks and wedges of ham as thick as the surf.

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octsw07T-shirts and scrumptious food at Bedruthan became a happily common theme for a few days, transferred to settings closer to Plymouth. A visit to Mount Edgecumbe offered discovery of a good lunch spot and welcome to an autumn, though at times it was hard to distinguish this from spring within the formal gardens. A couple of afternoon hours at Wembury proffered sunlit sea, coffee and cake. Meanwhile the steady climb up to the Dewerstone from Shaugh Bridge was sweat-inducing, relieved by a home-made sandwich that hit the mark like only home-made sandwiches sometimes can.

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Plenty of leaves remain on the trees, but despite the best efforts of the weather the signs of autumn ever-so-subtly emerge. No Atlantic storms, but more and more tinges of yellow and gold, fading to dour brown, eventually to carpet the land and decompose into treacherous sludge. Sweeping moors are turned to rust by the bracken which dwindles under a lowering sun. Offers for Roses and Celebrations pepper the shops, a proliferation of karaoke singers and pantomime dancers parade on TV, and Argyle are still top of the league.

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Quite possibly the best thing about this time though is the fact that Devon and Cornwall can return to some kind of quiet normality without flocks of marauding caravans and plagues of Daves from Dudley. The roads are quieter, car parks cheaper, dogs are (alas) allowed back on the beaches, even though it seems they were never off them in the first place. Sometimes you feel you have this land to yourself and it really is a quiet little backwater in our giant world.

octsw11And so, there I was, rarely bumping into anything other than the odd pheasant down in the Roseland Peninsula. A farm track took me out to Dodman Point, high above a placid silver sea pierced by the occasional trawler chugging back towards Mevagissey. Around the headland, Anvil Beach was – this time – peppered only by one or two souls, some inevitably allowing their dogs to run wild.

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The tangle of tiny roads and time of year seems to make this area a backwater amongst backwaters. The seemingly vast Caerhays Estate hosts a few timeless hamlets, invariably reached by a steep decline toward the sea or a severe kink in the wooded lanes. At Portholland, chatter over a cup of tea rises into the gentle afternoon sun, while at Portloe, it is though you are transferred to a Polperro without the masses, sitting quietly content amongst its pockmarked coves. Here, as the afternoon quickly fades there are signs of closure, of people battening down the hatches, of a looming change to be embraced sometime soon. The Atlantic storms will roll in, but perhaps we will just have to wait until November for that.

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Seventh Heaven

I experience inevitable pangs of longing as pictures of Floriade, flat whites and thongs in thirty degrees Celsius begin to infiltrate my Instagram feed. Suddenly (and quite dramatically this year it seems) the balance tips and before you know it the people of Canberra will be cycling blissfully along the lake in bushfire smoke. I would be quite happy to throw on some shorts, pedal down to Penny University for a coffee, pop back to Manuka for some takeaway Mees Sushi rolls, have a nap if the squawking birds allow, and then watch the shadows lengthen on Red Hill. Still, I could fairly easily be doing that this time next week if I chose to.

The day will come, but not yet. There have been, and still are, plenty of good reasons to linger in the northern hemisphere. The recent weather has been better than it was in August, though the days shorten and wind now has a bite. As September trickled into October, autumn itself appeared on hold. Seven days with barely a cloud, and even those were as fluffily white as the sheep. Seven days in which I again got distracted. Seriously…

Sunday

A morning walk on the moors, what better way to absorb the clear air and open space? Intending to go to one spot, I ended up at another, but that can often be the way with Dartmoor. Squeezing through Horrabridge and up to Whitchurch Down, the setting looked exquisite enough to not need go any further.

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I think I ended up climbing to a clump of rocks known as Pew Tor but I didn’t know this at the time. It seems apt, since several rows of disorderly granite offered exemplary seating to watch proceedings across to Merivale and Great Mis Tor and down the moor into the Tavy and Tamar Valleys. Brentor was there (again) as were the beacons of Bodmin Moor across the border. A seat for a Sunday morning service I don’t mind attending.

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Monday

I had duties to perform but duties that only served to add an extra layer of holiday feeling not at all conducive to working. The A38 and M5 – often a scene of holiday hell – acted as a gateway to Bristol Airport and temporary disposal of the parents. I could’ve just turned around and come back to revel in my newly found again freedom, but that little stretch of road between the M5 and Bristol Airport is just so lush that it seems a waste to pass it by. Especially when I can zip off my legs, eat ice cream and toil atop Cheddar Gorge.

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mag05Steep climbs made a warm sun feel hot. Only brief glimpses of gorge and harsh but inevitable comparison with the many amazing chasms of Australia put this one close to the wrong side of the effort-reward ratio. Still, the rolling Mendips and glary Somerset levels offered an appealing backdrop, and the effort was ample to justify a wedge of clothbound, cave matured, genuine Cheddar.

mag06Anyway, the weather was of course A-MAZE-BALLS and I may have added to my dirty tan. It certainly did not feel like autumn, despite a few sneaky clues emerging in shadier spots.  Who needs Ibiza? Even the drive back on the M5 and A38 was quite a pleasure, as if one was heading west on holiday oneself. Which one pretty much was.

Such gloriousness spurred me to an impromptu, upwards detour as the sun lowered across Devon. Up to Haytor to see the last, laser hues of sunlight projected Uluru-like on the grey granite. Shorts still on, but not exactly appropriate. Cooler nights ahead, but clear and calm days to linger.

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Tuesday

For balance, I completed some chores and did some work. But by about four o’clock that became tiresome and the sun was still taunting me through the window. So I hopped over on the Torpoint ferry to Whitsand Bay, parked up and walked out to Rame Head.

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mag10What gorgeousness in the shelter of the east wind, the sunlight cast low upon the rugged line of cliffs stretching to Looe. What good fortune to still be able to do this so late in the day, after being unusually productive. And what a nice spot to watch the sun go out again, the end of another year accomplished.

Wednesday

If I was to design my own exemplary birthday present it would probably involve a sparkling drive across the rolling countryside of eastern Cornwall. I would reach the north coast at Boscastle, where I would sip on a reasonable coffee by the water before moving on to Tintagel for a more than reasonable pasty. Crumbly fudge may also be picked up via this route as an optional but inevitable extra. Interspersed between the eating would be cliff top walks under a big blue sky, the sound of ocean waves rising from the caves and coves of the coastline. Yes, the coffee could be still better, and the weather still warmer, but I sense a contentment of such simple things with age. Tintagel Island my cake, a steak and stilton pasty the candle on top.

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Thursday

mag12Older, wiser, even more prone to daytime napping, I again used the day in a semi-productive manner with frequent interruptions. A few spots of cloud came and went and the hours ticked on by to leave me with yet another end of day outing. Somewhere handy and close would do the job, and while the inlets of Plymouth Sound and cars of the city are detrimental to handiness, the views from nearby Jennycliff still manage to do the job. Goodbye sunshine, see you again tomorrow.

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Friday

Having barely ventured outside of the Plymouth city borders yesterday (a few steps on the coast path veering into the South Hams), corrective action was necessary on what was shaping into yet another sunny and mild day. This fine weather is getting tediously predictable, yet I still feel the urge to make as much of it as I can, because surely tomorrow will be worse. And so, ship shape and Bristol fashion, it’s off to Salcombe we go.

mag14I think it’s fair to make a sweeping generalisation and say that Salcombe is in a more upmarket corner of Devon. Upmarket in the ships ahoy, jolly poor showing by the English against those Colonials I say dear boy mode. The Daily Mail is the predominant manifesto of choice amongst a bowls club of stripy sweaters keeping a keen eye on the watery horizon for any unwanted intruders. And, across the river – at East Portlemouth – high fences of hydrangeas protect expensive views and private beaches.

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mag16Thankfully there are access points for commoners who make the effort. The ferry – manned by a servant with pleasingly gruff countenance – bobs back and forth to link town with East Port (as the locals probably call it). The fine, golden sand of Mill Bay is perfectly accessible, as long as you abide by the many rules and regulations set out on the Charter of Public Citizen Access as endorsed by the Board of Her Majesty’s Quarterdecks and Royal Commonwealth Bridge Club. The National Trust – a more agreeable British institution – have usurped some of the land nearby for all to use, and this takes you round to a couple more secluded bays and out back into the wilds.

mag17Now, the clipped hedges and accents fade, paralleled by a spilling out of protected estuary into untamed sea. A yacht bravely ventures out past Bolt Head and into the deep blue. A sea which is looking fairly placid today, reflecting much warmth towards bare cliffs and making me legless for the second time in a week. For some reason I am reminded of a tiny stretch of rare undeveloped Spanish coast between Cartagena and La Manga. Warm, barren, secluded. A palette seemingly burnished by the sun.

There are a few people for company out in the wilds, especially upon reaching Gara Rock Beach. An old man on some rocks seems to glare at me as if I was wearing a fluorescent pink onesie emblazoned with the words ‘LOOK AT ME’ or something. Only when he gets the binoculars out do I realise his penchant for birdlife, and my likely noisy clambering disturbing a pair of superb tits. A scattering of people bathe on the sands, while fellow ramblers wheeze their way up to the cafe seventy five metres above.

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Ah the cafe. I am back in Salcombe, with its crayfish pine nut salads and cedar-pressed Prosecco, served on a deck all wood planks and reinforced glass. Torn between two worlds, I resist and plough on down through woodland with my homemade cheese and ham and – a little in keeping – avocado sandwich. Back in town, an ice cream from Salcombe Dairy perfectly caps it off, a delight that anyone can most definitely enjoy on a day such as this.

Saturday

And so we are back where we began. Or, to be precise, back where I had intended to begin a week ago: at the top of Pork Hill between Tavistock and Merivale and heading into the heart of empty, high Dartmoor. Late day light replaces that of mid morning, but the scene is much the same. Perhaps the grass is a little more yellow and the bogs a little less swampy. The sheep are thirsty and the ponies unfathomably shelter in early October shadows. Small white clouds swiftly pass on the steady breeze, projecting speckles of shadow on a landscape devoid of much at all. One small farmhouse lingers in the fringe lands of the valley. Tors rupture and balance in a haphazard jigsaw of granite. At Roos Tor, there are no roos to be seen, but I am perfectly fine with that. For now, in such magic weather, with such a magic week, there is nowhere better.

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(Sunday: It was cloudy, I napped and had roast dinner)

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More moors

Dartmoor is a very handy place. Particularly on those days where guilt gets the better of me and I engage in the preposterous proposition of work. After instant coffee breaks – a sure sign I have been in England too long and settled for inadequacy – it reaches something like 3pm and I yearn to break free. And there Dartmoor is, through the school and hospital and fast food takeaway traffic, and up the A386.

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moor05The area around Burrator is probably the handiest and offers a useful mixture of forests, tors, ponies and a chance to gobble down a Willy’s ice cream. Sharpitor, Leather Tor, Sheepstor, Down Tor all provide the opportunity to scramble around and over clutters of granite, to gaze north and east into the wilds and south and west over the patchwork dream to the hazy ocean on the horizon. Swathes of bracken meander down to gnarly forests and tinkling streams, some of which are occasionally plummeting (conveniently and suspiciously close to the ice cream van).

From such moorland vantages – and practically any other hilltop in West Devon and East Cornwall – the modest mound of Brentor is visible, disconnected from the barren tops of Dartmoor before it slides down into the Tamar Valley. Its distinction not only stems from its prominence amongst flatter surrounds, but its famous church that some dedicated god-botherers decided to construct a long time ago.

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moor02I suspect the church provided a symbolic, steadfast two fingers to the heathens, roaming the moor via their crazy stone circles and rows, all wild hair, posies of heather, and rampant Chlamydia. An outpost for civilisation, a rising up from the moral turpitude of the flea-bitten masses towards the light. I feel much the same leaving Plymouth and heading to Dartmoor today, bathed in its pure air and natural light. Swept away in wonderment, even my jeans are feeling holy, what with all the pasties and frequent straddling of giant cracks between granite blocks.

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moor07As well as flailing raggedly down from Dartmoor, heathens would have been in profusion west of Brentor and into the dark, forbidding uplands of Kernow. Willing to shake it up a little, I grabbed my passport one afternoon, crossed the Tamar and headed towards Bodmin Moor. Less defined and gargantuan than its Devonian counterpart, there are nonetheless pockets of heather and gorse pierced by shattered tors. Ponies graze and stone rows lurk and the diggings and ruins of the tin industry crumble away in profusion. There is less of the idyllic in this zone around Minions, but there is enough to encourage future exploration.

From these boggy pastures the River Fowey runs south and widens into that rather delightful spot by the sea. Upstream has its highlights too, as I found at Golitha Falls. Verdant woodlands are making the most of the last of the summer, tinges of yellow and orange and red brushing the tops exposed to the sun. A scattering of leaves are floating down towards the mossy branches and rocks of the forest floor. All the while, the pure waters of the river meander and tumble unendingly onward, luring you to follow them forever towards the sea. Cool and refreshing and rejuvenating, there are no excuses not to get back to work, other than more moors.

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Gap Fillers 1: Southeast Cornwall

I am behind, seriously behind. Numerous distractions scattered within a 30 mile radius of Plymouth have conspired to infiltrate the memory card of my camera and ingratiate the memory banks of my brain. Blogging was so much easier when I was marooned in Canberra, with just the occasional escape to regurgitate and local tree pictures to upload. Today I forget what day of the week it was yesterday and where I popped out in the afternoon after labouring in front of my computer doing work (eeek).

So, in an effort to catch up to the present day, here is the first of a non-sequential, scattergun melee of words and pictures. To provide some semblance of logic, the focus is on Southeast Cornwall and various trips I have made across the Tamar to this somewhat understated of back yards. It’s an area that can get overlooked – in fact I have been guilty of such – for the drama and mystique of the North Cornish coast. But there are many gems, some of them new to me, littered within the rolling fields and crystal coves of the south.

Literally just across the Tamar are the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand. It’s a small pedestrian ferry ride away from the salty sewage and sinister seagulls of Plymouth’s Barbican. Despite the influx of Janners, it is undeniably charming courtesy of its narrow streets and pastel ocean tones. Stick around as a sunny Sunday afternoon lengthens, and you can gleefully soak in the mellow vibes with a Doom Bar outside the front of the Devonport Inn.

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Around the corner from here is Whitsand Bay. An area that I frequently bypass in pursuit of those finer grains of sand. Come at high tide and there will be little of it to walk on. But when the tide is out, the bay stretches on and on and on. The ribbon of road skirting the cliff tops bears a passing resemblance to a small section of Great Ocean Road, and steep tracks lead down to the sands and rocks and pools far below. Not so bad to reach, but harder to return.

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There is a great sense of space here – of vast ocean and big sky, Plymouth hidden by the hulking spine of Maker Heights and Rame Head. Small fibro shacks with names like Eddystone View and Shipwreck Haven add a rough and ready, ends of the earth, windswept aura. It could be coastal Tasmania, Devonport around the corner and Launceston up the road.

Along from Whitsand Bay the trappings of modernity return at Looe, a place of many a childhood day. There is nothing overly special about Looe – it’s just your regular run-of-the-mill southern Cornish fishing port nestled into a steep valley. Peppered with fish and chips and amusements it is a resort town, though not of the same ilk as Skegness or St Tropez. Two prime assets are its leafy branch rail line linked with Liskeard and Sarah’s Pasty Shop. Both in the same day make it worth an afternoon.

scorn03Many of the emmets and grockles and – indeed – locals combine a trip to Looe with a stop in Polperro. Polperro is undoubtedly the prettier of the two, with narrow (mostly car-free) streets, cosier cottages, and a ruggedly fishy pungency. Pasties look no more than average, but the recent revival in crumbly fudge (as opposed to the bland, processed slabs packed in Huddersfield) has blessed the town with a new outlet to be commended. Cornish sea salt is the fitting and fulfilling way to go.

From here I am going to skip a huge section of the coastline and return to it in a jiffy. Mainly because I want to build this post up towards a marvellous, heady climax. So, shifting further west, if I was to pick a line between Mevagissey and Falmouth I would be marking unchartered territory. It excites me that I still have unchartered territory in this part of the world. I made a small incursion into it the day after returning from London and it confirmed that if I was ever to move back to the UK it would not be in London (but never say never right?!).

scorn04Gorran Haven is, I suppose, nothing remarkable and its town beach would disappear with a high tide. But it offers a less touristified alternative to nearby Mevagissey, possessing enough steep narrow streets and cobbled harbour walkways to keep seaside amblers happy. I think it’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and their business, which is no doubt discussed in lurid detail at the local RNLI supporters group meeting every third Tuesday of the month following the gathering of the Retired St Austell Druids and Mystic Circle Society. But I think I might like that. Its fish and chips and fairly remote and secret sandy beach around the headland might also make it bearable.

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But if we are looking for blissful sandy beaches in azure seas there is a gem amongst gems, a golden crown gleaming through the rubies and pearls of Southeast Cornwall. I had not set my eyes on it until a month or so ago, benign and more subdued under cloudy skies. A sunny day in early September gave me inspiration to return.

Eschewing another day of winding lanes and tractor blockages, I took the train for a change, disembarking at Par for a bus to Fowey. Fowey is kind of like Looe and Polperro, being yet another steep harbour lined with pastel cottages and granite townhouses. I like it the most out of the lot of them, maybe because it is a bit more upper class when I am not. I could live here but doubt if I could afford it. You can tell it’s on the Islington radar, with a beautiful bakery and organic butcher and delicatessen and many a cosy cafe to wait for a water taxi to take you to your yacht. I think this might help explain why I think I could live here.

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scorn09I could just as equally live in Polruan, across the river from Fowey and gateway to another luscious corner of cotton wool clouds hovering over creamy fields spilling into the sea.  No fancy bakery, no organic quinoa, just good old fashioned St Austell Ales and the sound of circular saws emanating from the boatyard. A steep, steep hill laden with bunting, or a slightly less severe meander lead to St Saviour’s headland, and expansive views south, east and west.

scorn08Back in classic South West Coast Path territory, the trail dips and rises steeply once again, the glare from a becalmed sea radiating heat like the sun through a windscreen. Turn a corner and you cross over into the Mediterranean, as the horseshoe cove of Lantic Bay welcomes the weary. Islington-on-sea may have anchored down below, but the ultimate satisfaction is to arrive on foot, rewarded for effort beyond expectation. I cannot think of a better place to eat some of my provisions from that bakery and delicatessen, marvelled by the colours from on high.

A jewel for the keeping.

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Cornish pastiche

Amongst the dollops of clotted cream and generous helpings of Plymouth rain during August, a few days away in Cornwall yielded a chance to dabble in classic British seaside family holiday territory, complete with dollops of rain and generous helpings of Brummie. Staying in a cosy cottage up an unfathomably narrow lane on the fringes of St Agnes, the benefit of this traditional British seaside holiday was that it was not entirely British or overly traditional. There were French people for a start and – well – the experience was less Blackpool bucket and spade and more scenic coastal delight. On a good day and some bad, the Cornish coast is difficult to surpass.

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The trip started very much in the traditional way, departing Plymouth on a train in pouring rain, invariably teeming and spitting and drizzling all the way to Truro. And while this particular band of summer holiday weather cleared as a double decker valiantly wound its way to Perranporth, the emerging sun only served to bring out the windbreaks and ice creams and Brummies upon the beach. United in ice cream dedication, I then turned my back upon the human speckled sands and headed up, up and away.

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What followed was a predictably exquisite walk along the coastline to St Agnes, despite the scarred residue of mining and the eroded zigzagging of ambling ramblers and rampant rabbits. Loaded with a backpack of clothes I could easily have been mistaken for some intrepid adventurer myself, hiking the entire perforated coast of the southwest and growing a beard in the process. I was happy for this facade to stick, passing impressed day trippers with their miniscule handbags and inappropriate footwear on their traditional summer holiday.

corn03Navigating plunging cliff lines and sapphire coves, the thought of lugging a full backpack over days and weeks lost some appeal with the steeply unending climb up from Trevellas Porth. However, contrary to popular exaggeration this did end and it was with some joy that my muddy shoes and sweaty back made it into The Driftwood Spars for a prized pint of Doom Bar. I could, indeed, get used to this.

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Reunited at the pub with the French family, my fraudulent pretence of long distance exploration could no longer be maintained. More traditional holiday pursuits – such as rock pool pottering, cheese eating, and children not really wanting to go to bed – amply filled the remainder of the evening. And I, with the rest of them, settled in for a comfortable night of sleep in the little cottage up the unfathomably narrow lane.

corn06The next day offered something of a repeat of the previous, albeit more family-friendly and with one of those pathetic little daypacks on my back for company. What was unchanging however was the beautiful scenery, from the generous sands of Porthtowan to the charming cove of Chapel Porth. There and back again over heather and gorse, the curls of Atlantic surf peppering the craggy headlands and sweeping up empty beaches enjoying their day in the sun. Ice creams and sandcastles and paddles in the undeniably frigid sea were add-ons at the end of the day, as the summer clouds again gathered over the abandoned relics of this heritage mining coast.

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Red sky at night, ice cream vendor’s delight, so the ancient saying goes. And true to this cliché, the next day dawned clear and blue, generating a fervour of ant-like humans engaging in traditional seaside holidays upon the sands of Perranporth. There were windbreaks and Brummies and disposal barbecues and the inevitability that is a once-loved but now abandoned flip flop. Plus, of course, ice creams in abundance.

corn08Thankfully the tide at Perranporth was out and the beach here thus stretches on and on and on, offering enough room for everyone to enjoy their own holiday. Space to paddle in pools and throw Frisbees; dry sands on which to lay, wet from which to build; high cliff tops concealing the congregation of brooding clouds, the lofty rocks a sufficient shield to pretend briefly that this is actually summer.

It is in moments such as these that the appeal of the traditional British seaside family holiday becomes clearer, particularly if it happens to have a French twist and things proceed a little less in the Birmingham tradition. It is an appeal embellished of course with the delight that is being in this part of the world, with these people, and with the prospect of a rainy day yet again ahead, on the return to Plymouth tomorrow.

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Tasty taster

I suppose it is not uncommon to arrive in Plymouth in the midst of summer to find the place bedecked in insipid drizzle. A shroud of gloom so dank that even the statue of Sir Francis Drake stares out blankly, wondering where the rather large body of Plymouth Sound has gone and thus if it has been stolen by the Spanish. It’s a welcome that temporarily makes you question why you bothered, offering reassurance that you are doing the right thing by not living here. And then the weather clears.

swA01In the space of one week, you remember to make the most of drier and clearer slots sparingly scattered across the southwest summer, and race to the moors, the coast, the countryside. Dartmoor is literally on the doorstep: one minute it’s all superstores and industrial units and Wimpey homes, the next rolling farmland and upland tors. Somewhere amongst the wilderness you may have the good fortune to deliberately stumble upon a cream tea. And once more, you are back in Utopia.

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Across the border, a pilgrimage to the North Cornwall coast is a must, unifying the potential for pasties, fudge, and ice cream with rugged scenery and pretty towns. There are so many pretty towns with so many pasty, fudge and ice cream shops that is hard to know which one to raid. Experience proves a good option is to hone in towards Tintagel, and have it all.

swA04First though there is Boscastle which is just simply a delight, no matter the weather (although the deluge causing flash flood variety does tend to put a downer on things). Ducking in to a cute cafe by the water as a shower passes overhead, it is all sunshine and smiles the other side of a typically variable flat white. The summer of sorts reappears, and a sweater can be removed in the sheltered harbour glow.

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swA05Tempting cakes and bakery goodies are purgatory, but you push on in the knowledge that a Pengenna pasty awaits up the road in Tintagel. A meal in itself, today it is the main reason for stopping there. A walk past plastic Arthurian swords and St Austell Ales, it nourishes but is underwhelming. High expectations from past delectations are hard to satisfy, but solace comes from a creamy fudgy pile of ice cream from Granny Wobbly instead.

What better way to burn off just a few of the calories than in Port Isaac? Doc Martin and an array of quirky characters with affected bumpkin accents may have walked these narrow streets, but today it is over to the tourists. Most are taking pictures of the places where Doc Martin and an array of quirky characters have walked the streets, but some – like me – push on through the town. Up onto yet another gargantuan headland with views of the harbour and coastline stretching north to Hartland. Inland, as the rain clouds refuse to budge over Bodmin Moor, patchwork farms go about their business of producing life essentials, many of which I feel I have eaten today.

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So, a cream tea, pasty and fudgy pile of goodness completed in little under 24 hours, ticking off both the wilds of Dartmoor and the coves and crevices of the North Cornish coast. Occasional rain days offer more mundane revisitations around Plymouth, but the foodstuffs continue apace. A roast dinner, proper Cadbury’s, and even a barbecue in a bright and breezy sixteen degrees mate.

swA07All this eating necessitates exercise, I guess. If I was in Canberra I would head up Red Hill but here I can return to Dartmoor. Waking early on a Saturday morning, little traffic on the roads heading gradually up through suburbs and to higher ground, half of Devon and much of Cornwall reveals itself. It is, again, bright and breezy, just the ponies for company in the lee of Sharpitor. Selfies are needed, but the emptiness, the space, the clear air, the expanse is a joy to behold in this sometimes claustrophobic country.

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swA10Sigh…if only you could get a good coffee. Hang on, what’s this? It still requires further validation, but there could be something with potential. A flat white which is flat and white and creamy and not scalding hot with a pile of insipid froth on top. Blended together with a mellow strength. Served in a glass as if a latte but I can forgive that. I will have to come back and reinvestigate.

Fortunately there are fine cakes and pastries on offer even if future coffees end up being awful. And there is always tea. With a scone. And maybe some jam. And a smidgeon of cream. And a landscape which is as delicious in the admittedly intermittent summer sun. It is the Ambrosia, and I will come back to taste it again.

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The ice cream bucket list challenge

Laydeez and gentlemun, welkum to Landan Saaaaaaaaffend, where the temprator is nynedeen digreez innit and the cockles an whelks are fresh from the eshtry mud.

ukA00As gateways to Great Britain go, it is a bit different, but Essex is indeed British soil and there is comfort at seeing the red cross of St George adorning the council estates and in smelling the fish and chips on Southend seafront. Should Southend be a little too bedecked with commoners awaiting a summer carnival parade, Leigh-on-Sea is a tad more upmarket with white stiletto undertones. Home to several cosy pubs spilling out onto the mud and water, an ale and hearty burger brings me back to a Britain obsessed with pulled pork and bake offs.

Hertfordshire is the classier cousin to Essex, where inspiring place names like Potters Bar and Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City are linked by motorways and single file country lanes alike. Interspersed within this, offering views of giant pharmaceutical empires and a procession of easyjets bound for Luton, stands Knebworth House. Perhaps best known for Oasis and Robbie Williams mega-concerts it may come as a surprise to hear that Knebworth is rather refined. The archetypal crusty upper class country estate, complete with musty carpets, majestic libraries and derring-do tales of empire building. Gardens with fancy lawns and fancier sculptures, a copse littered with giant fibreglass dinosaurs serving as inspiration for damned colonial upstarts such as Clive Palmer. On an increasingly sunny summer afternoon, as deer graze the meadows and country pubs await, this is England, but not quite my England.

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The next day brings the homecoming within a homecoming as I depart London for Plymouth. That’s not before saying farewell to the iconic capital with two friends who I met in Australia and who I can continue to enjoy pizza with – whether on Bondi or near Bankside – to this day. It is a happy conclusion to the English prelude and the level of unhealthy eating signifies the start of many days enduring essential foodstuffs, the real super foods that are far away from a land of quinoa and hipster-nurtured compressed kale shavings.

ukA02Gargantuan fish and chips were a starter prior to a night at Home Park, watching a rather lame game of football thankfully enlivened by Guillaume the French nephew shouting ‘come on you greens’ in an adorable accent. It worked, for we managed to scramble a deep into injury time penalty equaliser. More sedate, slightly less greasy but perhaps as equally lardy as those fish and chips was the Devon cream tea; the Devon cream tea that takes place in the same spot on Dartmoor practically every year but is a tradition which never fails to be anything other than marvellous. That first bite of scone and jam and – mostly – rich, buttery, clotted cream is like the feeling from a first sip of morning coffee multiplied ten million times. The river valley setting and surrounding tors amplify it further.

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ukA04Indeed, becoming as traditional as the cream tea is the slightly guilt-driven walk up Sharpitor, which is still just a gentle and brief jaunt for hilltop views of half of Devon and Cornwall. Traipsing up with family could get a little repetitive if it wasn’t so rewarding, an annual canvas for Facebook photos and Snapchat selfies amongst the clitter and ponies of the high moor.

ukA05The Cream Tea on Dartmoor Experience is just one required escapade for the bucket list. The next one to tick off is the Cornish Pasty in Cornwall Adventure. Today this requires a rather trundling and busy train journey all the way down towards the pointy end. St. Ives is not only a reputed haven for artists, but possesses one of the more accessible by public transport shopfronts for Pengenna Pasties, where artists create masterpieces of delicious shortcrust pastry stuffed full of meat and vegetables and seasoning. Eaten on the beach, of course.

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I should not neglect here to give a special commendation to Moomaids of Zennor. While their clotted cream vanilla (what else?!) was nothing remarkable, I was hoping that the Cornish sea salt caramel was never going to end. It may feature as a staple of the next Cornish Pasty in Cornwall Adventure (with Bonus Local Ice Cream Discovery).

ukA07Away from food (for a little while), it is about time I mentioned the weather. For should I not write about food nor weather, what will I have left?! Temperatures were well below average as the shorts and sandals in my luggage remained largely untouched, while clean jumpers came at a premium. But there was plenty of dry and fine weather. This meant that, on occasion, clean jumpers would need to come off and then quickly returned once the sun disappeared behind the clouds scuttling across the sky on a chilling sea breeze. It was weather not so much for sunbathing but ideal for family fun in West Hoe Park, where nieces and nephews were able to relive one’s own youth by venturing on the iconic – yes, iconic – Gus Honeybun train and bouncy castle, and create their own memories in a pirate ship mini golf water boats gold panning extravaganza.

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ukA09It was all rather delightful, aided and abetted by bucket list ice cream and raspberries and clotted cream on the foreshore and then, a little later, waterfront dining on the Barbican courtesy of Cap’n Jaspers (so it’s back to the food then already…). A day to remind, as was mentioned several times, that Plymouth finds itself in a quite enviable position compared with – say – Wolverhampton or Corby or Blackburn or pretty much anywhere else not on the sea and in the midst of such coastal and pastoral splendour.

ukA10This undeniable splendour provides the context for one essential bucket list item for a perfect southwestern experience. The oft-quoted, oft-photographed, oft-walked South West Coast Path. I figure that maybe by the time I reach old age I may just have covered around 10% of this amazing trail. On a day that started with grey clouds and rain, the train trip to Truro and a tactical delaying coffee enabled the weather to perk up, and by time I reached St. Agnes on the bus, patches of blue sky were promising much. In fact, the sun very much came out when munching on the world’s best sausages rolls from St. Agnes bakery.

Up over St Agnes beacon, the north coast view stretches down to St. Ives and, heading in this direction, I found myself clocking up a new section of path leading towards Porthtowan. The main features along this typically wild and rugged stretch are the old tin workings and mine buildings of Wheal Coates. If North Cornwall can be summed up in one scene it is from here, which probably explains why it featured as the cover image for Ginster’s Pasties. And I had a sausage roll, tut tut!

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ukA12There was a point into this walk that something quite unexpected happened. I was feeling a little hot. Yes, the sun was well and truly out and I was able to covert my convertible trousers to shorts, roll down my black socks a little, and bare some leggy flesh. I applied sunscreen, wore a hat, and, by time I reached Porthtowan, felt long overdue an ice cream. However, no sufficiently suitable ice cream was readily available near the beach and I settled for a cold beer instead to happily wind down the time until a bus back to Truro.

ukA14The North Cornwall Walking Wondrousness Trip pretty much meant that the Westcountry bucket list had been amply satisfied. The final day down there offered a bonus with a family day out on the train to Looe. It’s not so far from Plymouth but the journey provides a reminder of the lovely countryside of southeast Cornwall and on the branch line to Looe it could still easily be the 1950s. Looe itself offered its reliable fill of narrow lanes, fish and chip smells, bucket and spades and, for me, one final and very commendable pasty! Again, there was something approaching heat, meaning that shorts – if I had them with me – would have been more than acceptable in the afternoon.

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ukA13The train ride back offered that final hurrah and farewell to Cornwall, resplendent and verdant in the late summer sunshine. For once, the same could not be said of Devon, as I departed the following day in a somewhat murky, drizzly air. I missed seeing the white fluffy clouds and whiter fluffier sheep, the glimmering Teign estuary and glass sea of Dawlish. Even so, it was again sad to leave, the murk reflecting a melancholy that drifts along to Exeter. The holiday is not over, the visits and sights await, and there are more cherished friends and family to see. But it does feel that a holiday within a holiday, a homecoming within a homecoming has drawn to a close once again. ‘Til next year.

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Where the grass is always greener

uk01Rain. We give it a bad rap. Wet and splodgy, irritating with its inescapable shroud of damp. An unwanted present from a dreary sky, sent to make boots muddy and ruin plans best laid. A shocking contrast from the sun in Spain that was 20 degrees warmer. But then surely rain is what puts the Great in Britain, our reassuring companion, along with tea and cake.

uk02It is fair to assume that Basingstoke and rain are hardly the most riveting bedfellows, but shops are shops and people are still wearing shorts to go to Tesco. It is hard to let go of the summer and, just for a moment, it returns on a Sunday afternoon at The Vyne. Here, amongst the moist muddy tracks are the autumnal fruits of summer – fungi cascading down mossy brown trunks, spiky green pods spilling out with chestnuts, leaves wafting down onto the ground, coating the forest floor in a layer of browns and yellows. All helped by that cursed rain.

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uk06bRain is no stranger to the southwest of England, as Atlantic fronts begin to form; waiting in the wings to blow in on winds, some strong enough to bring down trees. This is the season where a night can be dramatic, and the next day as placid as a hippy doing yoga on a fluffy white marshmallow. Air blows in clean and fresh and the lowering sun in the southern sky illuminates the greens-turning-brown on magical days.

Magical days are easy to come by in St Agnes, sitting tucked in on the north coast of Cornwall; a prized position to make most of the sun, and the rain, and that wind when it blows on in. Like so many Cornish towns it totters down through a maze of narrow streets to a beach; there are a few pokey shops and – it turns out – a blessed bakery serving the type of sausage rolls I have craved in my mind since seeing one snatched away for someone else’s consumption last year in Hobart. Proper good sausage rolls that are hard to come by in Greggs and Warrens and anywhere in Australia other than one place in Hobart. Possibly.

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uk05Unlike more genteel parts of Cornwall, the landscape here has a raggedy rugged edge to it, peppered with tin mining relics, tinged with a faded glory scoured by eternal weather. The coast path is solid and spectacular, as it always is, heading along to St Agnes Head with views north to Trevose and south along a wave pounded coast towards St Ives. Higher up – atop St Agnes Beacon – an even mightier panorama unfolds, with most of West Cornwall on view, and St Agnes nestled down below, reached by muddy field to complete a memorable circular.

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Magical days are harder to come by holed up in Plymouth library trying to make something up that is of a work-related nature and popping out for mediocre coffee in the hope that just for once it may not be mediocre. Even mediocre coffee can be a welcome distraction though, so when the cloud clears and a sunny afternoon pops up out of the blue the allure to escape is palpable. Luckily there is a very quick escape from the varied charms of Plymouth, by taking a bobbling boat across the Tamar to Mount Edgcumbe.

uk08Here, the meander of autumnal woodlands and fading gardens give way to exposed hilltops, looming high over the Tamar with views spreading out to encompass a Cornish and Devonian sea.  Inland the wide river flows into a border landscape of patchwork fields and secret inlets, punctuated by towns and villages and giving out to rising moorland hills. Herds of deer scarper into nearby woods, aware of your presence and no doubt cognisant of the fact that you would quite like to see some good old fashioned autumnal rutting. Instead, the view will suffice.

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uk07Plonked amongst this idyll is the city of Plymouth, with rows of houses running like dominoes over the lumpy contours of the suburbs, meeting cranes and boats toppling into the river. Its waterfront welcome mat is striking with the Where’s Wally striped beacon of Smeaton’s Tower and a wheel that looks even bigger from afar. Illuminated is a background of moorland, sweeping over the horizon. It is here that you can appreciate the quite blessed setting in which Plymouth sits. Yeah, the city might be a bit crummy and tatty in places, but a turnip growing in a field of flowers is better than a turnip growing in a pile of shit, right?

Another philosophical conclusion I have come to over the last few weeks is, when situated in this part of the world, even when the day is crap, you are having a stinker, work sucks, and other such things, there is the consolation of easy access to clotted cream, jam, scones and tea. This can make a bad day amazing. At Mount Edgcumbe it made a good afternoon sublime.

uk13The hills behind Plymouth spread afar into Dartmoor National Park and this represented what was to become my final outing into the virtual field of flowers surrounding the city. A circular walk from Yelverton offered a perfectly balanced English country composition of riverside woodlands, sheep and cow fields, tumbledown cottages and exposed tors. This amble on the fringe of Plymouth was a pretty decent way to bid it all farewell.

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uk12Spending time here, intermittently from August to November, has obviously allowed me to observe the changing seasons take effect. What once was an uninterrupted blanket of flourishing green is now softening, holes are appearing, and things are shrivelling. A golden brown is slowly but inevitably creeping into the landscape and soon even this will become more spartan and altogether less comforting.

uk14And as the leaves disappear from the trees my southward migration kicks in. It has become a customary route over the last seven years, this time a little later after a little longer than normal. It leaves me with mixed feelings; sad to be leaving one place and excited to be heading to the other. It’s a feeling that comes to life when marvelling in the grand autumnal splendour of Mount Edgcumbe only to come across a couple of Eucalyptus trees shooting up into clear blue sky, aliens in a foreign land. For a moment I am transported, wrapped up against a southwest autumn and looking up at the promise of Australia. The best of both worlds, where leaves do not fall and a cream tea is just around the corner.

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Southwest bits blitz (2)

The inevitable happened. It rained. And became a bit cold. On the plus side I think I found a good coffee but cannot be sure because it was a mocha. It helped comfort against the cold, which actually hasn’t been bad at all. Indeed, it is far from doom and gloom (yet), with still warm early autumn days and sunshine enough to counter the occasional days of murk. And such seasonal randomness swings my mood and affection, from absolutely, undoubtedly in love with where I am for a moment, and then still in love with it but begrudgingly so the next.

2sw01In the immediate confines of Plymouth I have taken to short forays to catch the views from the top of the hill nearby, over the Tamar and into Cornwall. In the other direction, enjoyable visits to Devonport Park, starting to brown just a little but doing so in an elegant manner. Mostly these forays are a good escape from soaps on TV, while the weather is still light enough to escape. Family add a welcome, warm distraction, when they are not glued to the soaps.

Escapes further afield have been possible, in a large part made easier by proximity to Devonport railway station. For instance, this at least makes the trip to Padstow slightly easier, connecting from the train onto a bus at Bodmin Parkway. I say connecting, but their timings don’t really connect amazingly well, so you just have to go into the cute cafe on the platform and eat homemade coffee and walnut cake. You just have to.

2sw03Not that you need sustenance to keep you going because Padstow is synonymous with Rick Stein and, apart from being able to eat the man himself, you can pretty much take your pick from his products: fancy seafood, good old fashioned fish ‘n chips, pasties, pies, breads, meringues, tarts, shellfish, ice cream.  Beyond the world of the Steins there are numerous cafes, bakeries, pubs and ice cream vendors in the town. With money, you will never go hungry.

For all the cashing-in it is undoubtedly good for Padstow and the surrounding area. And I’m sure if you asked Rick Stein where his favourite place in the world is, of all the places he has been, from France to Asia to Mollymook, he will say Padstow. And why not, why not at all?

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The Devonport – Bodmin Parkway rail route offers up another lovely option, without a bus connection. This means that it’s hard to justify coffee and walnut cake but you can take solace with a National Trust cafe instead. A walk of a couple of miles, tracing the River Fowey through verdant woodland and leading along a broad tree-lined drive takes you to Lanhydrock House.

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At Lanhydrock there are gardens doing their utmost to remain in summer and a sneaky side gate or too in which you can enter without paying. Well, it’s not like I was deliberately avoiding having to pay for 10 minutes wander around a garden, and I did spend money on a caramel slice and coffee afterwards. So just keep calm and carry on, as they all say in these places I think.

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In these places I have been a while now, which means a clear routine has set in, particularly in the mornings. A folding up of bed and shifting of table is then followed by a cup of tea and a watch of BBC Breakfast News. The weather forecast maintains interest and days and weeks are planned around what the smiley weatherwoman decides is happening. A cool, blustery day means trips to town and hanging out in the library to do some writing of some kind. A sunny day is greeted with the enthusiasm that comes with the expectation of this being the last of the year.

2sw05On what I thought would be the last sunny day of the year I shifted to bus travel and a bumbling ride to Noss Mayo in Devon. This is now just one of those established jaunts that tends to fit into the annual southwest pilgrimage. Not so many miles from Plymouth it nonetheless takes a while to reach, as the bus frequently stops and reverses for other vehicles to squeeze between it and the ten foot high hedgerows. Practically scraping the walls of pastel cottages, the bus arrives beside Noss Creek and a pleasantly varied walk of an hour or so: coast, farms, woods, creek, boats, pub, beer. And then back on the bus through the rabbit warren of the South Hams to Plymouth. Such is the blessing of living in this part of the world.

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2sw10The sun failed to shine on the far west of Cornwall despite it being a day which I thought might be the last sunny one of the year. Quite possibly the lamest high pressure system in the history of the world covered the British Isles and daubed it in low cloud and mist. And so, unlike my last trip down to this pointy end, St Ives was blanketed in a grey melancholy, with a cold wind picking up off the bay, the only comfort coming from a Pengenna pasty and that good mocha I mentioned before.

Things were no better on the southern coastline around Mounts Bay, that is until the train pulled out of Penzance Station at four o’clock and the cloud parted over Marazion and continued on to Truro and such brilliant blue skies as befitting the last sunny day of the year continued all the way into Plymouth. You could say it was frustrating and you would be right, but the train ride back was two hours of blissful enjoyment and appreciation of Cornwall.

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2sw12The next day dawned, well, sunny. Very sunny indeed, and warm despite the end of September creeping ever closer. While the cloud filled in a little the warmth endured and offered up a couple of hours of unbelievable shorts wearing. This was in Calstock, on another train trundling up the Tamar Valley. The main attraction, apart from the snaking tidal river, impressive viaduct and waterside cottages, is Cotehele House and its wooded estate sloping down to the water. It’s a peaceful, sedate corner of the world, again just a stone’s throw – or train ride – from  Devonport.

And so you see, while it did rain and it has been cold, this has generally been the exception rather than the rule. My last day here, before I disappear elsewhere for a while, involved shorts-wearing for goodness sake!  And when shorts can be worn there is no rush to cross continents, not just yet. Not until we have that last sunny day of the year at least.

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Southwest bits blitz (1)

It may be a product of sustained transience but the chance to drop anchor for an undefined period in a familiar place has been of great appeal. And so here I still am – Plymouth, Devon – and only twice so far have I pined for the other side of the world. Once I was in Starbucks and had a drink that had the front to be called coffee. The other time, some dreadful nincompoop and his bumbling mates were taking over Australia, and while I was not missing the crowing and hollering, my inner nerd was bereaved of two party preferred counts, the swings, the coloured maps and the abject head-shaking of democracy where a mandate is claimed when less than half of the population vote for you and, even those who do, probably do not agree with 100% of your policies.

Still, I do intend to return to the country despite a change in the people who nominally run it but don’t really do much at all. You see, at some point here the weather will get continually miserable and the people will get more miserable and I will get miserable with the miserable weather and the miserable people. And then I can return to the land down under which is so fortunate it forgets how fortunate it is. But the people there won’t be miserable because they got what they wanted.

sw02Plymouth can be incredibly miserable but at the moment there is a prolonged ray of sunshine that transforms even the dodgy concrete alleys filled with rubbish bags into an artistic postmodern composition of urban life. The crazy drunks walking the streets become salt of the earth characters and chavved up pram pushers on the bus make for a colourful melee of handbags and hairdos. I’ve heard it said that Australia is just like Britain would be with good weather; not exactly, but the weather can do wonders for a place.

The familiar abounds but every time I return there are incremental changes to the city. Royal William Yard is an obvious one and I have been impressed by the conversion from disused naval quarters to swanky flats and waterside cafes. Devil’s Point provides the picturesque walk to burn off jam and cream filled shortbread from the bakery, and something approaching an alright cappuccino is available on occasion.  On my first visit, in warm Sunday sunshine, I had the momentary feeling that I was back in Australia such was the sparkle, the relaxed buzz, and general air of wellbeing. I even had a flat white, but this was very English.

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sw05Part of the familiarity re-familiarisation process is engaging in the foodstuffs of this part of the world. The issue is, the longer I linger, the less I can justify filling my face. On day 1, cream tea on Dartmoor was ticked off and clotted cream has re-appeared on a number of other opportunities (like when I made treacle tart, yum yum!). But I have also been back to Dartmoor and not eaten cream – something that sounds like progress. Meanwhile Dartmoor continues to captivate through its moods and sweeping vistas.

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sw03The Cornish pasties have bubbled to the surface like oozing hot steak juice through a pastry crust, though only infrequently. Almost every single one I have is a disappointment unless it is from Pengenna Pasties. On which note, I am pleased to have paid a visit to Bude where the queues out of the door and mass munching in the town square are a sure sign of Pengennirvana. This was the undoubted highlight of a bank holiday Monday, which was a reminder of what a bank holiday Monday is all about. Traffic queues, parking hassles, gritty sand packed with feral children and people from Wolverhampton going red in the twenty degree heat. I didn’t really enjoy Bude apart from that pasty.

By contrast another day trip in Cornwall ranks as one of the best I have had this year; a year which, I remind you, has encompassed a tour of New Zealand and a scenic meandering across Australia. A piddly train to Penzance doesn’t rank up there with the journeys but then an open top double-decker through the narrow lanes and warm sunshine of West Penwith brought a sense of adventure to the trip. And this delivered me to Porthcurno and a scene to celebrate, a landscape bejewelled in sand and seas bedecked in a stunning clarity and rare calm.

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sw07This is the pointy end of Cornwall, the pointy end of Britain, and if anyone thinks Britain is a drab, miserable place, well…stick ‘em with the pointy end. This is country best explored on foot, on that magnificent coastal path, a path I followed for seven miles or so around Land’s End and on to Sennen Cove. It is stunning country and every minute was marvellous. Of course, you have to put a little asterisk here and acknowledge that the sun shining makes a world of difference. But even on dank, foggy days or, better still, stormy windswept occasions, it is a natural wonder.

sw08The coast path along here turned out to be pretty good walking too, only dipping down to a cove and climbing arduously up again about four times, which isn’t that bad for Cornwall. A lot of the time you can just follow the cliff line, strolling upon high overlooking clusters of volcanic rock tumbling into clear blue seas, where the occasional trio of seals bob along and seabirds glide on warm air.  Around, the exposed heath is a colour of gorse and heather, a purple and gold that could quite justifiably replace the black and white of the Cornish flag.

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sw11A blip of sorts pops up at Land’s End. While the coastline is appropriately craggy and exposed, the necessary touristification due to popularity takes away a bit from the surrounds. So there are eroded paths down to see grumpy farmyard animals, shops selling fudge made in Wales and tea towels made in China, arcade machines to play and One Direction posters for sale. There are doughnuts and beer and ice cream to buy. Stop. Ice cream. I’ve been walking five and a half miles. Ice cream. It’s mid afternoon. Ice cream. I deserve ice cream.

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Expecting lame, rip-off ice cream I remember it quite fondly as not being particularly lame or too much of a rip off. A popular Cornish brand it had enough creaminess to see me over the last substantial hummock of the path before dropping down to Sennen Cove. I remember coming here about ten years ago, on a mild but foggy old day, the cove sheltering a fine sweep of sand intermingled with cottages and boats. It was deathly quiet then, a sure contrast to today.

Today Sennen was St. Tropez, but thankfully the beach stretches beyond the comfortable confines of the car park. Once over towels and tents and through ball games, the beach widens and empties. The sand is genuinely sandy and the water a clear shade of blue. Surfers attempt to do something in the lumps and bumps of wave that exist on this breathless day while lifesavers watch on. Yes, it is, almost, Australian.

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It’s kind of funny how I look out for a touch of the Australian in Britain and when in Australia the opposite happens. I presume it’s the whole have your cake and eat it syndrome. When both do come together – like in the creamy green hills around Kangaroo Valley or the sunny, civilised sands of Cornwall – it’s something of a marvel. And while misery quotients and government philosophies reach common ground there is little to distinguish one over the other. For now.

Great Britain Green Bogey Photography Walking