August 2021 - Cornwall - Travel & Day 1
Flipping heck, Cornwall is a long way from Norfolk.
We were on the road for 8.30am ready for the 419-mile journey. I left our route in the hands of the Waze Sat Nav app and so it would be a complete surprise to see which parts of the country it took us through.
After almost 2 hours I decided to have a brief stop to refuel Karen’s caffeine levels at the Cambridge Services. It would also have been rude not to have a MacDonald’s Breakfast Muffin at the same time. The services were busy but just about manageable.
Back on the road we continued along the A14 before joining the M6 and then the M42. I was now listening to TMS as I drove. The match was very exciting as the result was on a knife-edge.
I may have mentioned before but I really do not get any pleasure from driving in this country. It is a means to an end. Today the end seemed to be endless.
After almost 5 hours since we set out, I was ready for another stop. We pulled into Gloucester Services which was set up more like a large farm shop. It was very busy and loads of other people seemed to have had the same idea. Karen bought herself a tea whilst I abstained in order not to require any additional toilet stops. Whilst there I saw the Waze app jump our arrival time by 40 minutes due to hold ups coming up on the M5. I was not happy but all routes around it would take even longer.
Through gritted teeth we continued our journey and eventually joined the very slow traffic through the Bristol area on the M5. It was apparently caused by the sheer volume of traffic alone. I recall reading research shows that having a 50mph speed limit on motorways would get traffic moving quicker and wondered why we don’t try it. The theory is all to do with cars then not braking so much or something like that.
We finally got going through Somerset and then Devon and finally made it to Cornwall. Sadly, though Falmouth is a long way into Cornwall. The A30 was reasonably clear although we hit traffic again on the last 18 miles on the A39 going through Truro.
Our accommodation was an Airbnb on the outskirts of Falmouth itself. On paper it looked great. When we got to it, we looked at each other and both said the outside photos flattered it. We were met by Robert the very nice owner who lived next door. Once inside, our fears were allayed completely. The property was a converted double garage and was fab. All the design, fixtures and fittings were of the highest quality and tastefully done. We had a small lounge, large kitchen diner and bathroom downstairs with a bedroom and cloakroom upstairs. It was perfect for the two of us and got me thinking that perhaps we should do the same at home. Karen gave that thought short shrift.
Robert gave us the tour and gave us some local tips for the area. He said that as a Cornish man he didn’t like to travel and had never been as far as Norfolk although he did know of Sheringham through their Shanty men singing in a competition locally.
After getting ourselves settled we decided to fetch Fish & Chips for our evening meal. Sadly, the one Robert recommended was closed for the night, so we ended up venturing further into Falmouth itself to find one that was open. It seemed to be popular which was a good sign, and the staff were very friendly. It was a good choice and we enjoyed them back at the annex.
After a good night’s sleep, I left Karen snoring in bed in the morning to catch up on world events on the laptop. I would have had some breakfast but although Karen had packed a 2kg packet of Muesli for herself she hadn’t put in anything in for me. I ended up eating a left-over Egg Mayo panini from the journey.
Eventually Karen got herself up and we finally made it out of the annex at 10.30am. Today’s plan was to leave the car behind and walk to the coast and then along the coast to Pendennis Castle and finally into Falmouth itself.
It didn’t take long to get to the coast, and we the followed the path along to the first bay which was Swanpool Beach. There were quite a few people on the beach and doing various water sports. We decided to have our first pitstop of the day with a couple of hot drinks. We needed them for warmth as much as anything. The day was cloudy and there was cooling fresh breeze.
It was pleasant but we needed to move on and walked up the cliff again along to the next bay which was Gyllyngvase Beach. We skirted the beach to walk through some very gardens that ran alongside it.
From here it was a steep climb up to Pendennis Castle and it took us a couple of bench stops before we tackled the final and steepest part of the walk. As we approached the castle, I realised it was an English Heritage property which was a shame as we had only picked up the National Trust cards out of the car before we set off. Tolerant Karen didn’t look to apportion blame between us for the mistake. I then recalled that I had photos of the correct cards on my phone which I was convinced would still give us the free access. Karen said she wouldn’t mind at all if she dragged herself all the way to the top only to find we couldn’t go in.
Fortunately, I was proved correct, and we were allowed in but only after paying an extra fee of £1.50 each as it was deemed a special family fun day with included activities. We decided not to argue at the extra cost but the activities were all for kids so we didn’t feel it was fair we had to pay for them. We headed to the café first to rest our weary legs and get something for lunch. Karen had her first Cornish Pasty of the trip whilst I had a mediocre at best Hot Dog.
The temperature was getting colder as we sat there, and we resorted to having to put our fleeces on. Everyone around us looked dressed for winter.
The castle itself was in a great position but was not great itself. There was one tower as such and that was not very interesting or exciting. There were lots of cannons but once you have seen one.
I was pleased we made it all the way up to the Castle but it’s not one I would be rushing back to visit.
We then walked back into the town which involved some quite steep roads to walk down. We went and had a look at the National Maritime Museum but were not convinced we would get value out of the £15 admission fee. Instead we looked around the museum shop and sneaked a look back through the doors into the museum itself. There just seemed to be lots of boats on the floor and hanging from the ceiling and I was pleased to have saved our money. It was be OK if you were a boat freak.
Our walk continued to Discovery Quay which was pleasant enough with lots of space, restaurants and bars, before heading along to the High Street. It was here we were met by a mass of humanity. It would have been a nice experience to browse the local independent shops. Instead, though we were more concerned about avoiding the crowds. It was like walking through a football match crowd and not much fun.
As we turned a corner, we then approached the part of the High Street with the Chain brand stores and the tourist numbers eased somewhat. We stopped at Café Nero and sat outside with our free drinks using our Vitality vouchers. This time I was even allowed one as our current vouchers expire tomorrow.
From here we knew it would be a stiff steep challenging walk back to the annex of just under 2 miles through the streets of Falmouth and so we waited a while to allow Karen’s feet to recover. But eventually we had to set off.
It was a tough up and down route especially for us Norfolk folks more used to the flatlands. Using Apple Maps to show us the fastest walking route it took us up what seemed like 1:2 alleyways and pathways. Several times Karen was convinced we were heading in the wrong direction, but I trusted the technology. After a few stops to catch our breath, we eventually emerged on a track which come out alongside our annex.
After a welcome rest and cuppa, we set out again this time in the car back into Falmouth to get our evening meal. After failing to find a spot on our chosen car park we found one that seemed to be halfway up another mountain.
A restaurant we had picked out earlier had a large queue. We joined it and like everyone ahead of us were told that they were fully booked all night. As was we found was everywhere that looked reasonable. We lowered our requirements but found all those were fully booked as well. Apparently, this was all my fault not that I am really sure why. We found out that most places were fully booked for the next 6 months (although one place online said they had a few tables available midweek early afternoons in the Winter!).
We walked for flipping ages back to Discovery Quay where we had been earlier. There were places we passed that did seem to have spaces, but you could see why everyone was avoiding them. They look uninviting and a potential virus breeding ground. We found ourselves wandering around with a load of other people who were all doing the same as us.
I now believe this is the same all over Cornwall. The place is full. It does not have the infrastructure to cope with all the people who are currently here. On the border they need a policy of one in for every 2 out. Even the takeaways cannot cope. Most of them had signs up saying they are not accepting any more orders today, including our Plan Z fall back plan of Domino’s.
By the time we had climbed the mountain back to the car park we were tired, hungry and just a tad grumpy (and that was without me moaning about paying £1.60 car park which served no purpose at all). On the drive back we tried a local pub that Robert had recommended only for find it was closed on Tuesday’s. We smiled.
We were left to make do with what little food and snacks we had back at the annex. Karen vowed that if we see a nice open restaurant during the rest of our time here with spaces we are going to go in regardless of whatever time of day it is or whether we are hungry.
By the time we were back Karen had registered over 26000 steps and covered over 10 miles. No wonder our legs and feet were sore.
Cornwall you are going to try much harder. Staying in lovely accommodation and having beautiful scenery can only go so far. The weather, traffic, crowds and food supply all need to buck their ideas up and fast.