Archive for September, 2011

Go Ape!

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Went to Go Ape Delamere on Saturday. I am extremely peturbed by heights. Especially artificial ones; cliffs don’t bother me but roller coasters will. So this was kind of a big deal. However there were no freakouts at all and everything was completed without any problems. I was so paralysed with fear on the final one that I just went forward on autopilot without thinking much.

I did not take a camera because I thought it may have been damaged; on reflection though, it would have been fine. I might just start taking it everywhere just in case

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Adventures in Cornwall

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

So, I’ve just come back from another camping trip, this time much further away, at the bottom end of Cornwall! If you want to see any of the photos larger, simply click on one. Brace yourselves for the longest blog post ever written (taking 18 days to write! madness, eh?), as we delve into the adventure that was Cornwall…


This time it was just the three of us. No Ash or Nick; so due to the lack of the former, expect less crazy mad antics in this post!

Cornwall, of course, being much further away than Shell Island (which is more of a walk in the park in distance) meant that we had to utilise our nations Motorway network, and of course it’s multiple service stations. The site was brilliant; Not a scouser or Brummie in sight (or should I say sound?), though plenty of Cockneys and also strangely even more boatloads of Germans. As well as this, the showers and toilets were kept exceptionally clean by the small family keeping the site running. By the way this site is called Penrose Campsite. That’s Penrose Campsite. Pen as in the stationery and Rose as in the plant. If you find yourself near Helston, Cornwall in July or August, just drive toward Porthleven and follow the "camping www.campingcornwall.net" signs. They’ll come around and get your money in the evening. If this isn’t reaching alarm levels on a shameless plug scale yet, that’s www.campingcornwall.net .

So, lets run through the daily highlights! Now with chapter titles! Scary wooo, bow before my scary chapter titles.

THURSDAY: The Journey

We agreed to meet at McDonald’s Chirk at 5am. This meant getting up at 4am, which meant sleeping from 7pm the previous evening. We met at around 5:10pm because Verity was late (which must be quite a rarity given her cornering speeds), had a breakfast, and then headed out. I had made a conscious decision to Check in on Facebook everywhere I could, because many people were in work and this would keep them updated, and it also makes writing the next section much easier! Our route took us via the M54 past Telford, the M6 through Birmingham, and then the M5 in it’s entirety. Our first stop was at the M50 junction with the M5; they had a Costa coffee so I bought a Latte, our second at Bridgewater services at junction 24 in Somerset; fortunate because by now I had inexplicably spilt my Latte all over my car and myself so could do with a wipe down. Our last stop was in Devon at some greasy spoon diner in a portacabin called M&G’s Diner. Not bad food though.

Upon arrival at around 1:00pm, we weren’t sure of check-in procedures so moseyed around asking random farmers and other campers and eventually decided on a site just vacated (literally, the people were leaving as we arrived).

As we had passed over Bodmin moors, we had hit several really heavy showers. The kind where the fastest windscreen wiper setting does nothing. But when we did arrive it was, as in the photo, sunny and clearish, only because the showers could be seen in the distance. We started erecting the big tent only to be battered by a shower one it was all unfolded. However once it had passed (only when we had clambered to get the waterproofs on), the sun came back out and things heated up (meaning off with the waterproofs).

By half three, the first tent was up and various items were unpacked. We now had a waterproof shelter. Although there were no more showers in daylight, at least we had a refuge just in case. We then put up my tent, and this went up much more quickly. We unpacked many items and decided to move on to going to TESCO in neighbouring Helston to get some food and beer. We did, and got so much snacks that we barely touched most by the end of the week. At this point we remembered we MUST HAVE LOGS FOR FIRE, so we scrambled around many local garages, who only sold kindling or were out of stock. Eventually we found some in the local Costcutter at Porthleven. When we got back from the shops, we were met by Lisa, one of the owners doing the rounds. Incredibly friendly and with terrier in tow, she accepted our money for the weeks stay and chatted with us for a while.

After she left we decided to try and find the way to sea, as she had provided basic directions. We passed a corn field and then once on the road decided the sea was too much downhill for us to come back up, having depleted our energy on seven hour drives.

So, we retreated to the tents, started a fire, and opened the beers. We also watched the stars, as the sky was that clear that satellites could even be seen flying over. After a while though we decided to call it a night, doused the fire, and went to bed.

FRIDAY: Boxers and Lizards

RUMBLE. Was that thunder? I asked myself this having been suddenly woken with no memory of what actually had. Eyes barely open I surmised the situation. Heavy rain on the tent, heaviest I’ve ever heard  while in it? No thunder though. Close my eyes again. A flash is seen through my eyelids just as I am about to drift off. Open them again; followed by another distant rumble. I decide that we’re on the edge of a storm and there’s nothing to worry about. Remembering that Mark had said that T-Storms had been forecast, I had looked into the protection a tent could give to a human in such a storm. Nothing; if a lightning strike hit my tent, or anywhere nearby, I would be dead; or seriously injured. These thoughts had been swirling around my head for the previous days, but no issues, we were on the edge of a storm. I decide to go back to sleep.

KRAK-A-THOOM – How wrong was I; the brightest lightning strike I’ve ever seen and loudest thunder crack I’ve ever heard happen simultaneously above me; the almost absent delay between the two placing it almost, if not, directly above me. Mind numbing fear of imminent death took over; with no time to spare I put my Nike Hoodie on and sprinted to the safety of the car; if there’s one thing Top Gear repeats on Dave have taught me, it’s that cars are as safe as houses, in a thunderstorm due to the metal shell  acting as a Faraday cage and redirecting the current around you, though it will play havoc with any electrical systems (true for aircraft too).

       

The only problem between myself and the car was the ridiculous amount of rain. Knowing that time is a serious issue here, with each nanosecond passing meaning we’re closer to another strike, I just ran anyway, soaking myself and my bare legs with freezing rainwater. In the rush for the car, I did not put on trousers, so I was just in the boxers. So I climbed in, turned on the engine and put the heaters on full; but I remembered that I did not actually close the tent. So I ran back and closed the zip, and came back to the car. After getting into the car a second time, a combination of shock from what had just occurred and the fact my legs were coated in freezing water, I began shivering almost to the point of having convulsions.

At this point, Mark and Verity had shown up too. I had forgotten about these two due to my own personal emergency; though them being alive was a bonus to my own survival. After waiting ten minutes I went to go put my jeans on. So after making another trip without trousers on I was cold again. Not wanting to put them in in the confines of the tent I pulled them up outside. The rain had stopped by now but the ground, being clay, was still very wet, so were my socks, and therefore so were the inside of my jeans when I put them on. After waiting another 30 mins, we went back to the tents, comfortable that the storm had passed. I went straight back to sleep.

Throughout the night there were more distant rumblings, but nothing major. The next day, we had breakfast, consisting of Bacon and Sausages. The weather had now warmed up a lot, and the wind, while strong, was once again a prevailing one. The nasty storms had come from Europe it seemed. Unfortunately this meant the front of the tent was now facing the wind, forecasting bad things for that fire. After breakfast and showers,we  then decided to head to Lizard Point; the most Southerly point of the UK. It was extremely picturesque and I took enough photos of the area that it has a dedicated set on my Flickr account.

Upon arriving, we saw there was a pay and display car park here. Unfortunately we had no change (I had left mine in the storage hammock in my tent), but we had cash. So we had to go to the tea room first. A single guy had started to take the car’s details, but Mark explained him away that we were paying but had gone to get change. We did manage to spend a while here, taking photos, walking to the point itself, and then down to the old lifeboat station and then over to another point around the corner. After spending a great deal of time here, we moved back toward Helston for another round of shopping at Tesco, this time a larger one.

After we had done this we needed more logs for the nights fire. The logs from Costcutter seemed to take a while to burn and were covered in a soggy grime, but as they were the only logs around we bought some. Once back at the tent, the logs were piled up, kindling piled around the logs, and a few firelighters shoved into various positions. Then they were lit and the whole thing went up quickly due to the kindling. However the logs would not properly burn and let off a lot of smoke. Now that the wind was swirling around the windbreak area, there was always smoke in somebody’s eyes. Terrible.

SATURDAY: Pirates of Penzance

On Saturday it was decided we’d go West to the Geevor Tin Mine, Lands End, and Penzance.

We drove West, it only took about 15 minutes to get to Penzance; the sat nav took us through the town itself so we got bogged down in traffic but it seemed nice enough so we decided to return that night. We drove on to the mines, but when we got there it turns out it was Closed. Yes, the tourist centre is closed on Saturdays, the most touristy day there is in existence. So, bemused by this we decided to go to Geevor the next day and instead go to Lands End that day. So we did.

Lands end, if you have not heard of it, is the most Westerly point of the UK mainland. It is where most charity runs from and to John O’ Groats begin and end.

The sea down there is not like much of the rest of UK seas. It is actually blue, not some green hue. With the currents bringing warm water from the Caribbean I suppose this is the reasoning. Which is good, because having been to Cuba and Mexico, I can say the sea is pretty similar in colour! Much better than Rhyl’s water anyway. I can’t imagine Rhyl’s beach being used for anything other than for collecting washed up drug addicts from Liverpool who just fall into the Mersey. This would also explain why Rhyl is so full of druggies; having finally scrounged enough money to go back home, they realise they can buy more smack instead! I digress.

When we arrived there were a lot of different nationalities here, as told by their number plates. Dutch, German, Belgians, even a Russian Lexus 4×4! A lot of others had driven further than us to get here. We paid the fee to enter and then walked not to the point itself, but to a rocky outcrop just to the South. It was more picturesque than lands end itself so we went there first. We spent about 20 minutes here taking photos; I was even asked to take some photos for a group of other people!

On the way back, we had to walk through a tiny farmstead, which had been converted into a small petting zoo type thing with craft shops for ancient, traditionally crafted, deeply cultural Cornish items; like fridge magnets. The place was overwhelmed with chickens as well. This made me nervous as I was waiting outside with them while culturally important fridge magnets were bought by the others. Chickens unnerve me; what do they want? Why are they here? Why are they birds if they don’t fly?

One this I had noticed about Lands end is the constant buzz of ‘copters and planes. These things are like buses to the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles off the coast. After we had finally loaded up on pricey cheap crap ancient Cornish artefacts that are culturally significant, we moved to go to Lands End itself. As we got to the top of the hill, some cyclists were just getting in from an 8.5 day cycling mad-dash from John O’ Groats, the most Northerly point! Amongst all the clapping and whooping and general good feelings floating around over these people completing done this monumental task for some reason, we took images of them like the rabid tourists we were. It turns out it is all for Wooden Spoon, a childrens Rugby charity helping disadvantaged children.

After this we ventured into the lands end complex itself. Lands end is not owned by a non-profit entity like the National Trust but is privately owned for charity. So it’s a bit commercial and shamelessly so, with a “4D” cinema, some museums and experiences and a bit gift shop.

Despite this, we bought some useless trinkets from there, myself some badges to stick on my suitcase which is a thing I had spontaneously decided to do. Seems a bit geeky on reflection and it will also require sewing and I have no idea how to do that but I will give it a whirl. After that we saw the point itself. We would have had a personal image with it (“Avox 343 miles” was suggested for the custom sign!), but the thing was overrun with Japanese tourists. Japanese tourists get everywhere, except Wales it seems!

We went to the “First and Last Refreshment House In England” (everything within a 5 mile radius seemed to have the moniker of “First and Last”, pubs, garages, maybe even the local crack house?) in search of libations, but alas there were none, so we had ice creams instead.

While en-route, it appears the path is suffering serious erosion, with part of the path missing along with the land beneath it as the cliffs move backward. I wonder if Lands End itself will fall into the sea at some point…

Once we were done with our ice creams we walked back to the car because we were to investigate Penzance. More importantly we’d not ate so wanted food. Before we did though, we attempted to eat some Slush Puppies; now I’ve not had these since I was a kid, and neither had the others, so we made various painful winces on account of brain freeze while attempting to finish them.

On the way through we’d spotted a Wetherspoon’s. So we drove back toward Penzance. We saw several “Minnack Theatre” signs on the way back, and each time we did, somebody had to keep reading them; but we decided to visit there the next day with Geevor.

When we stopped at Penzance we had to pay in another pay and display, and then moseyed up the street, as the Wetherspoon’s is at the top. At this point we went into Pound Stretcher looking for milk and duct tape. Except there was no duct tape; not even upstairs where it was warm and smelled of burning. So we continued on an got some from a real pound shop where everything is a pound.

We then moved on to Wetherspoon’s at the top, and ordered our food. I could only have a pint because I was driving, but I was content with Coke after that. Just to note, the particular JD Wetherspoon pub was called The Tremenheere, and was just like the Elihu Yale in Wrexham because it was also full of old men (we have two Wetherspoon’s in Wrexham being especially awesome). One old man on his own was being bothered by the staff because he drank like three pints in a few minutes. A large number of Australians also arrived to start their night on the town. I’m not sure why Australians would be in Penzance; if any Australians read this let me know as it must be national knowledge why.

Once we’d used the free WiFi to our hearts content, we left and went down to the harbour to see the sights on the way back to the car.

We walked past the harbour and then the car in the end because we wanted to see in the other direction but the sea defences were quite high, so we had to find a gap. We did in the end and saw the island with St Michael’s Mount on. It is a bit like the French equivalent but less built on.

Once done with this we went back to the car and then drove back to Penzance, but not without first going down to try and find a car park for the sea; we’d tried to find it the day before but had bee unlucky and had to give up because Verity’s car needed fuel. However I had an inkling of where to go and went down a dead end road, with the car park and coastal path heading off. We decided to come back later, but not before we saw perhaps the most awesome sunset ever.

After this we went back to the tent, which was perhaps 100 metres away but via windy roads so was a bit much to walk back and to.

We had another fire, though it was much warmer so we did not need to shiver nearly as much! So we busted out the drinks and had more, and slept around midnight.

SUNDAY: The Mines of Moria Geevor

So, the plan for today was the tin mines, inexplicably open on a Sunday and not a Saturday, and the Minnack Theatre.

We arrived at the mine around 1pm, having spent the morning showering and breakfasting. I didn’t know what to expect from this mine; it could turn out to be interesting, or as boring as Wrexham Council’s heritage centres. Sorry Wrexham, but having a museum on the site or or near to the actual thing is not interesting.

Turns out, this place was interesting. The mine had been preserved as it was when it closed in 1990, right down to anti-Thatcher graffiti on the walls and porno VHS tapes in the lockers. I suspect some items were returned by the miners after it was announced the mines would open as heritage though.

Much of the original machinery and equipment is as it was when it was left behind, but the museum said that most equipment was sold, so either a lot is missing (a video showed a modern mill but this entire facility seemed to be gone, building and all), or some machinery is from other similar mines.

The old stuff was interesting, mind, but it wasn’t what really showed the place off. What did, was the miners equipment, left from when they worked at the mines, and this really showed the conditions they worked in. The older tunnels were cramped and barely workable under modern standards, though the later tunnels were large enough for large machinery to drive around (taken down in pieces and assembled underground), like the mining ponies before them who never saw daylight.

The locker rooms had many old items in them, Woodbine cigarettes, old British racing stickers, keys, and of course, the porn. The image to the right, for example, is labelled “Big Blonds 4”. You also had the communal showers still in place, as well as the managers areas, slightly better off but not modern by any standards. The Cornish tin mines were so deep that they were very hot; the miners often wore t-shirts with torn off arms for maximum coolness.

Of course, it seems a lot of this stuff is placed; but the experience is really authentic. Especially the old graffiti; in the last days, it seems that the miners scrawled all sorts on the walls of the place.

Walking through this place made me think of what my ancestors must have done in the 18th and first half of the 20th century; in the Bersham colliery. I also wondered what could be done to turn Bersham into a similar tourist facility. Perhaps even lower people into the old workings?

After “the dry”, which was the name for the mess areas with the lockers, we went to the Mill. This is where the almost endless process of getting the tin out of the mined material began. It takes ages, with various different methods used to get it all out. The spoil was mixed with water and put into the sea; just being dirt after all. This avoided huge spoil tips like those seen in the coal and slate industries of wales.

We made our way through the mill, through old machinery, on old wooden catwalks above the ground in most places, but before long we were on the ground. When we exited we were provided with a dust coat and led to the underground path. Upon leaving the mill, we were greeted with the sight of the Atlantic. We had to walk downhill toward the underground section. This was a much older, separate tin mine called the Mexico shaft, within the Geevor grounds. We were led on a tour of the tunnels, they were extremely low, extremely narrow and really dark. There were ex-Geevor miners around the tunnel to explain some of the features, which was quite interesting.

Apparently over the hundred or so years since these mines were abandoned, they had filled with mud and had recently been dug out. So they could expand in the future as they dig out more. As the surrounding rock is solid granite, there is no need for any roof support, as can be seen in the right image.

People were much shorter back then, as we found out by constantly banging our heads on the roof of the thing. Again and again, bang bang bang. It was like having a headache drilled into you. Using this small tunnel as a base for all future knowledge, I now know that in the 1800s, everyone was midgets. Yes, Midgetkind ruled the earth with an iron fist and made fun of the “tallies”. Well who’s laughing now, midgets? Hmm? In your face.

After this, it was off to the Minack theatre. The Minack, if you don’t know, is a fancy outdoor theatre in Cornwall, started in 1932 by the inhabitants of Porthcurno. it has been home to most popular plays, and has also been featured in many programmes such as the BBC’s Coast, or the old idents (not indents!) they used to introduce funerals (such as for the Queen Mum or George Best)

We paid a small entrance fee. No play was on, so the fee was just to walk around; so we did; BUT IN STYLE. There were a lot of Europeans around, and they decided to put on their own performances, including seemingly drunken singing, and also some amateur acrobatics, which was quite funny to watch! They only did it for about ten minutes, but it was enough for some photos! So I can now say I’ve watched a performance at the Minack. The views from the place were amazing. We could see an isolated beach further down the coast, where the only routes to it were rambling along a worn path, or around the rocky outcrop itself.

Travelling around the Minack can be precarious, some of the access routes are very.. precarious, and it’s a steep slope down to the stage area. Fortunately we managed it with no major qualms. Unfortunately, we also had to get back up again!

This was not as successful and I was out of breath by the time we got up top again. Not surprising; I’ve been out of breath a lot again recently. I blame the lift in work, I always used to take the stairs! Anyway…

After spending some time here, we eventually left. Surprisingly, for a place right at the end of a headland, accessed only along single track country roads, the car park was quite full! I imagine they make similar amounts of money from visitors in a day than they do from a play!

After this, we headed back toward the campsite, lit the fire, and again drank into the evening. During the evening, I had a message from my Dad saying we should visit Falmouth. Apparently as an infant I’d been down to Cornwall extensively and visiting Porthleven, Lands End and Penzance before (I bizarrely have a conscious memory of driving through Penzance); so I deferred to his opinion. Falmouth it was.

MONDAY: Adventures in Falmouth

So we had a few choices, but decided to defer those to the following days; Falmouth was the adventure for today.

Falmouth is a big port. The last major one before Britain ends. The river Fal is also a major artery for many communities as far North as Truro (which we sadly did not visit).

After usual morning shenanigans, we left for Falmouth. It is closer to our site than Penzance, just the opposite direction. On the way in, we saw “Float and Ride/Park and Ride” signs. Being wooed by the novelty of a Float and Ride like the shameless tourists we were, we were only disappointed when the tide was out so had to take a bus. Seriously, Falmouth, build a fancy floating pier like most modern Marinas, so the ferries can operate at all states of time. Seriously, what kind of place wouldn’t have those? Losers.

Anyway; I’m not a fan of buses. Years of Arriva under-investing in the division covering Wrexham has meant we get the old hand-me-downs, including one with a dedication plaque from the Mayor of Wigan in 1992! They could never cope with the hill to Coedpoeth, and broke down on one occasion; the Polish driver with a thick accent could not get the depot to understand him; so I had to tell him we were on Heol Glyndwr. Don’t even get me started on some of the weirdo’s that take the Wrexham 10 and 11 buses. Anyway, we had to take a bus. Luckily, it was a modern double decker! Woo!

Anyway, digressing again. Gotta stop digressing.

Anyway; the driving force behind going to Falmouth is that it was the only location we could find with a McDonalds, which Verity was suddenly and inexplicably craving. However, turns out the only McDonalds was by the car park, so we took the bus away from Verity, infuriating her to the point where she threw over street furniture, turned green, and could only say the words “Hulk Smash” or “It’s clobbering time”. (Not really)

So we looked for one in the town centre, but there weren’t any; just a KFC, which myself and Mark would have liked, but it was aaaaaaaall about Verity (******* angry ginger midget. >:/). So instead, as a stop-gap, we finally ended her days long search for a Cornish Cream tea. For the time being this ended her McDonalds hulk like rage; one that Cornwall had never seen the likes of.

So, after this, we decided to walk up the high street. This was a proper high street; like Wrexham’s or any other medium town’s. Major brands, nothing too big, but your M&S, your Greggsy Pauls, Stevey Charles and Greggsy Steves (I have no idea what fashion is but it seems pointless so those equally pointless names I just made up will do as “real” brands; whatever “real” is; it’s all made in the same Chinese factory! Get over it. Argh! More digressing). But interestingly, it also had a place called “Trago Mills”. This store was old. Department store old; 60’s old, in it’s post-war, optimistic style. Yet it seemed only a few notches above a flea market/Pound Stretcher type store. However, I saw an excellent deal. Some amazing walking boots I could have bought. They were a sub-brand of Kodiak, but promised the waterproof-like qualities. Having conquered Snowdon in more than soggy conditions and having completely soaked feet in my old old Hawkshead boots, I knew this would be a much desired quality for further wet-walks.

Howevever, disaster! They only had a 9 and a 10. I am somewhere between an 8 and 9. 10 is too big. So, believing that such a store would have the right sizes in the back room, I enquired as to the missing size. However, the guy, who I will name Dilwyn-clone, because he looked like a handyman I may or may not know, simply said that somebody else had walked off with my dream 9 and then without another word, walked off with the defective pair.

Noooooo!

DAMN YOU TRAGO MILLS FOR NOT KEEPING THE OTHER SHOE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS LIKE MOST STORES

Anyway, without much more fanfare, we had another tea at Harvey’s Wharf, Falmouth, then walked back toward the bus stop, caught the bus back (we were at the front, AND ON THE TOP DECK. I may revise my bus hatred.), had our McDonalds at last (neutralising Verity as a threat to the greater Falmouth area for good), and then we went back. Not before overloading my car with some finally dry logs from a petrol station en route (after trying B&Q, who only sell logs in winter? Why would people have outdoor fires in winter? Losers).

Anyway, as we drove back through Helston, we finally decided to stop at the lake to… rent a pedalo. We’d talked about this every time we had passed. Now was the time to do it. I was not especially pleased. I was carrying £800 worth of non waterproof camera equipment and did not want to go for a swim.

However, we then rented the boat and headed out. Wow. After like, 30 seconds of pedalling, my legs felt dead. When was the last time I did anything physical? Oh snap, it was back then. I’d really only been able to climb those three mountains because I used to run up the stairs every day in work. This happened a few times each day. Now I use the lift every day. Nooooooooo.

Anyway, upon getting in, I had plonked myself down in a seat. That was it. I had convinced myself that if I moved from this seat, I was falling in. The others were trying to get me to move to the other side of the boat because Mark was on my side, and Verity weighs less than a helium balloon and they kept saying pedalling was hard because of this. I kept trying to explain that because the propulsion method was in the centre, and because of Archimedes’ Principle, this didn’t mean anything; but I don’t think they gave a shit about that. More people need to get down with Archimedes! He was a cool guy!

After this we went back to the tents to chill for the rest of the day, and light a fire and sleep of course. I went to charge my phone while there (in the cars of course, using idling power), however the charger>USB adpater had fallen to pieces in the mean time, and as a result of this, when I put it into the connection, it blew the car’s fuse for the charge port (which is what the manual calls it, don’t think it ever came with a cigarette lighter). So alas, no charging in my car; I did it in Verity’s car instead. We did also, however, go to the Pub in Porthleven that night, travelling using Darren’s taxis! The next day would be a re-visitation of some areas, and exploring more, as it was the last full day we had!

TUESDAY: Mourning

So, this was the last day we had before we had to go home. Instead of using it for visiting new areas, we decide it best to get the most out of our best visits. So the plan was to walk around the Penrose Estate, a National Trust piece of land adjacent to the site which contains the Loe Pool; Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake, separated from the sea by the Loe Bar; once a river estuary.

From the instance we woke up there were constant helicopter noises. Once the bank holiday weekend had finished, it seems that RNAS Culdrose was back on active duty, with constant exercises occurring. Not just copters though, jets too. The runway was right above the valley, so every few minutes, the valley was filled with the ROAR of jets taking off.

After we were done with the Penrose Estate, it was back to Lizard point. However first, I needed a fuse for my car! After investigating Tesco, there were no fuses at all. The Tesco garage did, but no 15amp mini blades, just a pack of assorted others. Then it was on to Texaco! Again, packs of mini-blade fuses, but no 15 amp inside them. So I went to the convenient Garage across the road. Nope, they don’t do them either; “too rare”. However he pointed me in the direction of an auto electrician that would! So we drove past a dodgy used car salesman, and down a gravel path to it. Fortunately he had them, but they cost a staggering 25p. He said I was his biggest customer of the day. I found this snide comment about my girth to be unnecessary and rude, so I kicked him in the nads, leaped over the counter, stole all the 15 amp fuses, and left (this bit didn’t happen).

Once fused, we headed to Lizard Lighthouse. This was one still in operation by Trinity House. It was beautiful the first time we went and we wanted to go onto the stone beach now that the tide was out. This meant climbing a ladder; but no big issues!

So we went into the visitor centre. Going into the museum and climbing the lighthouse was too expensive, so we just bought some water and left. They had some pricey knick knacks priceless Cornish cultural artefacts though.

With the amount of money we’d given to the National Trust this holiday, we mused that it would be cheaper to just join them for the free perks. After paying to park in their car park for fifteen minutes, we left and went to the point itself again.

The reason was as above, to get onto that beach! So we headed right there to make the most of our Pay and Display time. We descended the stairs and then the ladder.

Once on the beach, we wandered around the rocks. This was not a sand beach, but stone, and was surrounded by rocks. Lizard Point had claimed many many ships in it’s time before modern technology allowed to avoid the hazard properly. The RNLI (UK Lifeboats) has a world record for “most people saved” here, when a ship ran aground right outside the lifeboat station!

For a brief moment, due to the low tide, we were the most Southerly people on the UK mainland!

We spent some time chilling here, and posed for pictures, as the tide slowly came back in. We decided to leave and head back up just as our chilling spot was submerged. One thing I did notice, was that a lot of ships pass by Lizard Point! Makes me wonder what working at the Eddystone Lighthouse must be like; 10 miles away from the shore, alone, on rocks barely above seawater!

Anyway, we had to move on from Lizard Point. We decided next would be the small settlement of Lizard itself, to get an ice cream and maybe visit a shop for pointless trash ancient Cornish crafts.

I also wanted to get an image of one of those old fingerposts they had in the 50’s. Everywhere had them once, but only Cornwall seems to have preserved them well enough, all the ones around here are rusted.

After ice cream, we headed back to Porthleven. But first, we went back to the car park overlooking the ocean which we had been to previously. Except this time the plan was to walk a bit along the coastal path and try and find the beach. Unfortunately there wasn’t one for quite some time, so instead we stood above the cliffs and relaxed there for a while. After observing the view, we went back to the car. We were already on the Eastern fringes of the town, so I just had to guess my way into the town. So I did, and we got there, not before having an awesome view of the road. Turns out my awesome innate navigational skills also apply to places I’ve never been! We hadn’t really visited the town despite actually camping there, so decided to look around in daylight.

The town is the most southerly working Port in the UK. There are Ports further west, such as Penzance, of course, but down here where the tourist’s cash means survival, LABELS MEAN EVERYTHING.

So we pulled up into the Car park; I thought I’d have to cough up more money, but it was after 4pm, so no money required! Bonus. We walked along the harbour and then out to the end of the breakwater at the port entrance.

We observed many locals of the rowing club waiting for the boat to return so they could row. There were also many locals in wet-suits jumping off the quay, of all ages; and also some older kids jumping of an old WW2 pillbox into the sea!

After walking to the end of the breakwater and back, we needed food. So we headed back and after visiting a few places, decided on the same pub we had been to a few nights earlier for food. After eating, the Hayle Male Voice Choir turned up outside and started singing!

Porthleven could definitely be described as a “sleepy harbour town”, and it most definitely was! Not one neon sign in sight, and apart from the Germans storming through in their BMW 4x4s, it seemed pretty tourist free, with more Cornish people than not; though we did find a nice Welsh guy at the end of the breakwater!

After this, we went back to the tent, having purchased plenty more kindling and firelighters to help the logs burn. So, we let them burn. We also burned the windbreak sticks, having snapped more than one in each trying to remove them from the clay earth.

We still didn’t burn all the logs, but the windbreaks burned nicely.

 

WEDNESDAY: Goodbyes

So the day had come at last. After possibly the most awesome week ever, we were going to return to the humdrum of normality. Though of course, it would also be nice to return to my corner of Wales. I’ve always had a soft spot for Wrexham and always will; despite whatever crap jaded naysayers will spout about it.

Anyway; we started on the dismantling of the tents quite early. Incidentally, this was the last advertised day of the site operating; all except one group of tents were also preparing to leave. I suspect that as this was a single group of like 15 people over five separate tents, their money had enticed the site owners to agree to them staying a day or few more.

Unfortunately we got the tents down rather quickly, and vacated the site by 11:15. As we were leaving, the toilet rental company had turned up for their portable toilet! We got onto the road, and headed straight for Exeter before stopping. We zoomed along the A30, and at once stage even started racing, like a pair of naughty chavs doing the straight mile by Holt.

So our first stop was Cullompton Services, North of Exeter. We arrived here around 2pm after almost two hours of driving through the moors of Bodmin.

We had a McDonalds here, and I took on fuel. Then we got back on the road and furiously pursued Northward at breakneck speed! At one point, just after Bristol, my TomTom (which I use primarily for arrival times, traffic avoidance, and the pretty graphics) pipes up and declares a delay at Birmingham, and it had offered an alternative route via Kidderminster! As it was not even Rush Hour yet, which would only make the delay worse, I accepted. Coincidently, just after this I got a call because Verity needed fuel. Bizarrely, we stopped at Strensham services again, though the ones on the other side of the road! I explained the situation, and so we left the M5 and went via Kidderminster. I’d only been through here a few times so did not really know my way around; but I knew this town does not have a bypass, so we ended up taking back streets and residential roads just to get through the infernal place. After getting back on the main route by Shrewsbury, we zoomed along the A5. We said goodbye where we had met a week earlier, by McDonald’s Chirk, and went to our respective homes.

So, that was Cornwall. It was great! I’d do it again because it was so great, but of course, there are also much greater places further afield!

Dragon Boat Racing!

Monday, September 12th, 2011

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I have a Cornwall based post coming up but it’s in the works. This post has been lying around for three months now, so it’s best I post it.

The day before I went to Mexico I went to the yearly Dragon Boat race. After missing the previous years, I made sure to go, because a) it was fun, and b) I didn’t want to miss out on it again. In case you don’t know, the Chester Dragon Boat Festival is an annual dragon boating event in which Avox, the company I work for, usually participates. It is located here. This year, Wayne had the Gazebos, and I was going with him, so was Adam; this meant being the first there.

When we arrived, it was not so busy, and it was dry. A bit breezy, and a bit chilly, but not raining and not too cold. We got to building the Gazebos as Sean arrived. This was interesting because this meant I could take a photo of the River Dee as it was when we arrived. Until Wayne wanted me back on Gazebo erecting duties (see left).

So as we put up the gazebos some people arrived. We still weren’t at team strength; but people were appearing, albeit slowly. After a while, the Gazebos were up, and the site was now filling up, our own selected site now flanked by other teams, each preparing for the day.

And right on schedule, here came the rain. Not heavy, but steady. That horrible constant light stuff that soaks you in no time. It was also very cold rain, so if you get wet, thats it. Bear in mind we wore purple T-Shirts and it was very cold. I kept thinking of Mexico the next day to try and get over this!

Unlike most Gazebos, these seemed waterproof, unless you touched the actual material. Unfortunately the tiny gap between the two let water through, so there ended up being two groups of people. Mostly isolated from each other, causing a miniature cold war, like a miniscule Russia and USA on opposite sites of a soggy divide.

At this point the rain seemed set in, and it was time for our first race. So our team headed for the disembarking area. We put on our lifejackets, grabbed our paddles, and went through basic training again (and received wristbands to say we had done so).

Then it was onto the boats, precariously balancing down the middle as not to upset the balance. Before we load, we must arrange ourselves by size, with the largest in the middle and smallest at the ends. This ensures the front or back will not be higher or lower in the water which means a fairer race. Fortunately I was not in the middle, but further toward the back so this was a huge bonus. Except when I had to load rather quickly. We got onto the boats, and pushed off from the shore.

Now we had to paddle to the starting area, some distance down the Dee. We would be paddling against the current.

We were off. It was good.We barely lost with a time of 1.27.28. This was the third quickest time for the first round, and of course this meant we were buoyed (hee hee nautical puns) up by this amazing show. It didn’t last, naturally, but good feelings were abound at this point.

Anyway, wetter and colder than ever, we retreated to the Gazebos. The breeze was making the wet T-shirt situation worse, incredibly so. Most of us were freezing, and only the late arrivals had brought coats because it was raining when they left.

We had another two races to go, and each minute meant we were becoming more and more likely to die from hypothermia.

Fortunately, our rather benevolent boss had arranged a cascade of sandwiches. It was like mana from heaven. We scoffed a lot down. There were crisps and beer too. I couldn’t drink too much beer mind, needing to drive back from Wayne’s later in the day, but had only one because I know my limits.

After this snackage we were due for another race, so again we lined up and jumped in the boat. This time we were not as good. Photo finish good. We lost, but by the skin of our teeth. Wait, what does that metaphor even mean? Honestly, teeth don’t have skin. I imagine if they did eating would really hurt. Lame metaphor in my opinion.

In our last race we came last with the slowest time ever. It was not good. We trailed behind the others at such a distance it made us want to cry. You couldn’t tell, of course, because we were all covered in the waters of the Dee. A river that at this point, while treated, contained all the waste of people living in the Wrexham area. Lovely.