Two-nighter – Early May 2011
South West Cornwall
RAINDROPS & COBWEBS
Rain may have dogged our journey to SW Cornwall, but the minute we arrived on site, the sunshine miraculously popped out and we snapped up the opportunity to get out on our bikes for half an hour to blow away the cobwebs. Cycling to the nearest village of St Buryan, the May flowers were out along the hedgerows, dappling the green, multi-foliage background with harmonious whites, pinks and purply-blues.
The site we chose was one of the Caravan Club’s CLs (Certificated Locations), which was a field with the most basic facilities required of a CL: water and chemical toilet disposal. So, for our two-night stay, we had no electricity or outside loo, and used gas for cooking and fridge.
Cows roamed the surrounding fields and plenty of swallows (which appear from April to September) swooped low to the ground to feed around the camper. Apparently, livestock farms tend to attract the birds, due to the number of dung-obsessed insects. We also had horses as ‘neigh’‑bours (sorry!) and, judging by the crumbling, wooden horse-jumps, someone had long since given up on any dreams of becoming a riding champion.
At night, with no other campers on site, there was perfect stillness; and the only lights on the horizon were from the main farmhouse a little way off (which shone skyward, like a beacon trying to communicate with outer space) and a distant lighthouse off the south coast.
We awoke to a gloomy, foggy horizon the first morning and set off on a trip to the ancient village of Carn Euny – or what remains of it! In case you were wondering, in Cornwall, they tend to use word ‘carn’ instead of the more usual ‘cairn’ to mean ‘stone’… either way, it’s all Celtic.
The site dates as far back as the Iron Age and was re‑used by successive inhabitants for around 900 years. The circular outlines of stone dwellings are still in evidence and a display board shows how the place might have looked in years gone by, with various parts added over the centuries. A drawing illustrates how the roofs would have been constructed with long sticks radiating out from a central pole.
Despite the solid ancient shelters, you do wonder why people chose to live there, given the windy, hilly location. Having lived down this neck of the woods some years ago now, I had forgotten how windy it can be. The landscape isn’t so much windswept as windchiselled; and the clouds, blown off the rugged Cornish coast, can certainly pack a pace across the skies at times.
As we were about to leave, we met a lady who seemed to know a bit about ancient sites and got onto the topic of the site’s ‘fogou’. These mysterious features are a kind of tunnel or passageway built into the ground, their purpose being somewhat debatable. Many, like this woman, feel they were burial chambers, whilst another theory is that they were used for food storage. The woman mentioned another two fogous – one of which is open to the public on Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula – which we noted to visit another time.
God pulled out his watering can and we perched up in the van for lunch before heading off to the lighthouse at Pendeen. Apparently no longer open to the public, we could still have a wander round now that the rain had abated. All along the pathways, coastal flowers were turned black by masses of flies. Surprisingly, no swallows had yet copped onto the feeding station!
We spotted a seal swimming about off the coast but the rain tried to hold back my chances of getting a decent photo. My distant pictures of the shy creature could just as easily be vague, dodgy shots of the Loch Ness Monster.
There was still enough time to make our way to Cot Valley near St Just. Having once seen pictures of the large, round stones at the small cove where the valley meets the sea, I’d been inspired to go there and take a few photos of my own. On the way, we stopped off at Ballowal Barrow (an ancient ‘funerary monument’) at Carn Gluze and looked over at the renowned Cape Cornwall. So many sites, so little time!
Surprisingly, there were only a few people around when we arrived at Cot Valley, and Steve wandered off while I lost myself in taking snaps. The cliff face is packed with smooth, round stones all held in place as if just waiting to drop, somewhat like the penny cascades in an amusement arcade.
Eating fish and chips in the van back on site, we had sunny views of the swallows winding down for the day, sipping from the puddles and gathering together on the rope fence-lines, and we spotted a couple of goldfinches and pigeons feeding in the grass.
NO STONE LEFT UNTURNED
The rain broke out again during the night and we were woken early by the ‘cow alarm’ and, after a short snooze, the Isles of Scilly helicopter making its first trip of the day.
After breakfast, we decided to chance the weather and made our way to the ancient stone circle site called Boscawen‑un, only a few fields away from where we were staying. We came to a sunken path, bordered by wild flowers, mentioned on the information sheet we’d been given by our site owners. Known as ‘wildlife corridors’, they are excellent at providing a linear feature along which insects, rodents and birds can travel. Apparently, bats will fly down them at night and feed on insects, and barn owls may be seen feeding on voles.
At the stone circle, there were 19 outer stones – all granite bar one, which was quartz – along with a central stone. Of course, several theories abound as to the purpose of such circles, mostly of the ‘ancient ritual’ variety.
Returning to Campervan HQ, we packed up and headed for home, stopping off along the way at the Merry Maidens stone circle. This isn’t that far from Boscawen‑un as the crow flies; and it is surely no coincidence that a similar pattern of stones exists here: 19 outer ones, all granite (no quartz one this time), but with no central stone. Was it always that way, or had the stone been removed at some point?
As we left, I reflected on our trip. We don’t have a TV at home, but I’m sure that unplugging from the usual distractions – e.g. computer, internet, phone and ‘to do’ list – went a long way to making me feel revitalised in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.
Although it had only been two nights away, the site had also offered us a complete getaway and it just goes to show that you don’t always need the standard week or two to feel like you’ve had a break.
TIPS & CONCLUSIONS
- It might seem pretty obvious, but a thermos flask can be a real energy saver when you’re away. If you have electricity on site, boil up a flask of water for a quick brew when you’re out & about and you’ll cut down on gas usage.
- It’s worth checking out the weather forecast before your trip, although don’t take it as gospel. Consider your destination and pack accordingly. SW Cornwall, for example, can be very changeable, so we took wet-weather gear and layers to guard against the chill winds. It turned out that we needed every bit of ‘contingency clothing’ we’d packed!
- Considering the site had only the basic facilities required of a CL, we thought the £10 a night fee a little excessive, especially as you can often pay that to get a shower & toilet on some sites. However, we had the site to ourselves and it offered solitude and a return to nature, so I wouldn’t necessarily discount going there again.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following our travels, and we’ve since made another trip away, details of which will be ‘digitised’ for your reading pleasure soon. If you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, you can do so in the box to your right. That way, new posts will automatically be sent to your Inbox.
As there was no real biking involved this time around, all you Steve’s Cycle Shorts fans will just have to hold back your tide of excitement till we post out next blog-a-majig, where we head off for the English Riviera and outskirts of Dartmoor…
You can also read about our adventures in my book Campervan Capers. Available at all major outlets online. Click here for more info.