Boswinger, Cornwall

19th - 21st March 2004

And so to some recent general news, which saw the hiking club off to Cornwall in March.  Given the enormous distance involved, I had taken Friday 19th March off.  This meant that I would drive down on the Thursday evening after work.  I usually get asked to provide a lift for one or two folk and on this occasion it happened once again to be Ravi Shankar, no, not the famous musician, rather a young Indian graduate who has been at our company since September.  Leaving at 17h00, we got to the Youth Hostel in Boswinger around midnight, having driven mostly under the cover of darkness.  It's incredibly strenuous and at times I battle to keep awake though usually, a stop for a coffee at one of the numerous service points encountered en route does help.  My car not being a high performance vehicle by any manner of means, I drive within the limits of its limited capability.  We encountered a detour near Taunton on the M5 south towards Exeter and had no option but to leave the highway.  From St Austell the roads to Boswinger are narrow and winding, flanked on either side by steep, tall hedges hiding stone walls behind them. The Youth Hostel, a short distance from Mevagissey and the Lost Gardens of Heligan I had visited last year, turned out to be one of the best I have been to. 

Bearing in mind that fewer people elected to go on this trip (given the distance) and fewer still took the extra day off, it was no surprise that I had the added luxury of having a two-bunk room to myself, complete with shower, literally an en-suite one next door, since, in reality, no-one else ended up using it. In summary, this comfortable, spacious Youth Hostel had oodles of space.  On the Saturday morning, after a healthy bacon and eggs breakfast (the only time I indulge myself in this type of breakfast, a far cry from my current carrot/celery/apple juicing routine), we drove through Mevagissey to Pendower Beach, parked the cars and proceeded to march up Pentewan Valley in what could only be described as a marshy, muddy swamp. Boots caked in mud, I witnessed something extremely funny as we walked.  John Adams always takes along Louis, his Retriever, a much-loved though somewhat eccentric hound, prone to barking almost predictably when lifted over stiles or kept waiting in the back of John's 4X4.  En route we encountered a bloke heading towards us with puppy Doberman sans dog-lease (John had Louis on one, though). This transpired to be a huge error of judgement on the part of the man with puppy, as it turned out.  As expected, with his attention now distracted, Dobie took a huge interest in Louis and began to leap and jump playfully around John's somewhat disinterested hound.  We continued on our way with the puppy in tow, forcing its owner to retrace his steps in a vain attempt to recover his puppy. Only serving to get Dobie even more worked up, he now had two to play with and his world had never been better! This carried on for the next 20 minutes at least.  The owner shouted at his dog, to no avail.  Eventually we stopped, but the Doberman, chased by his owner, continued deeper into the forest and they soon disappeared from sight. We could hear an agitated voice yelling "Come here!" on one or two occasions and caught sight of them dashing to and fro some distance beyond us.  The whole incident left us in stitches. 

Bob Smith was taking the lead in guiding us on our route and we elected to head towards the coast and back along the cliffs, though we could have headed inland, in effect bypassing Heligan Gardens.  The choice of opting for the coast turned out to be a wise move.  The scenery was great but the walk strenuous. By midday the rainy weather had cleared and the sun came out to warm us up somewhat.  The undulating hill-sides made the going tough but we eventually made it back shortly after 17h00, having left at 10h00 that morning. With no pubs en route, we consumed whatever we had brought along. Unfortunately, owing to the unfavourable weather conditions at the time we started out, I had decided to leave my camera behind.  After a shower we headed off to the Barleysheaf, a pub in neighbouring Goran Churchtown, which had a reasonable reputation in terms of serving up a decent meal  I had chosen Monkfish, which I did not find appetising at all.  It isn't a soft fish and doesn't "flake" as one would expect but is instead rather rubbery in texture. John Adams described his experience similarly, when ordering the same dish the following evening and wished that he had asked around.  Back at the hostel, Anne Young got us going playing games till the early hours. 

The following day one of the groups had planned a walk from Pendower Beach to Portloe, where we expected to arrive at about lunchtime.  We had two new arrivals to the hiking club, one being Liverpudlian Bonnie Parker, who was in training for the London Marathon and found the walk "boring", as she put it.  The other, Evrin, a girl of Turkish origin, took an entirely different view of the walk, finding it a difficult experience, wisely deciding to turn back. The wind was gusting fairly severely but at least it was behind us, such that we weren't facing it head-on.  It was also fairly overcast.  Vanda Ralevska agreed to drive my car to Portloe.  This was a contingency plan, in case we wanted to bail out. By lunchtime the weather had cleared a bit and the rest of the group had elected to walk the rest of the way back to the hostel at Boswinger, after having lunched, that is.  I had the best crab soup ever at a pub named, with devastating originality, reckoned Peter Karran, as the Ship Inn.   The rugged, windswept coastline is truly stunning, mostly undulating grassland suitable for grazing, the turf fairly soft underneath.  It curves as one progresses, cut away so as to create tiny little bays with steep cliff edges.  It's certainly heavy on the legs.  The area is home to numerous castles and undoubtedly requires more time on a future trip to explore it all.  I drove back to the hostel and a few of us went into Mevagissey to do some shopping.  The weather turned foul once more.  Back at the hostel, I slept for a while and then got a lift to the pub with Anne Young, along with a few others.  Wary of the previous evenings disappointment, I chose the more conventional steak and ale pie. 
Given the long distance in getting back and the fact that I had got two reasonable walks under the belt, it made sense to take an early trip home. Though Ravi would probably have wanted to see either The Lost Gardens or Eden Project, visits require at least a full day for each, the poor weather aside. A decision was made, once we'd left St Austell, to avoid the main highway via Bodmin and Okehampton to Exeter and rather take a slower, arguably more scenic route in the direction of Liskeard and towards Dartmoor in Devon.  After Tavistock one enters Dartmoor proper and the landscape changes dramatically, giving way to marshland with dark brown scrubland.  We stopped for lunch soon after Two Bridges.  Ravi's healthy appetite was ruined somewhat by the fact that, being vegetarian, the only possible dish of choice was quiche.  Having had the same the night before, he was hardly impressed by the lack of possibilities, aggravated too by the rather bland taste of what was finally served up, which he proceeded to spice with every available additive.  My chicken pie wasn't much more appetising either, to be fair. The journey to Exeter and then up the M5 to Bristol was excruciating, only because I battled to keep awake.  This was made easier when Ravi enquired as to the meaning of WC on the highway signboards. My explanation, based on what I had learnt from my own father as a child, which I knew to be tongue-in-cheek, stood for Wesleyan Church.   I explained that the reason it was referred to as such was due to the English reluctance at explicit descriptions, probably dating back to Victorian times, the alternative terminology providing a "way out" of an embarrassing embellishment of the topic.  In fact it meant water closet or "loo", obviously!  Anyway, he was tickled pink and laughed out loud.  It is interesting that a subsequent search on the web produced a delightful story, as contained in the appendix below.  We hit heavy traffic near Bristol just before reaching the M4, due to football fans en route back from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to Southend, of all places. We made it back to Welwyn by 21h30.  It was a most satisfying trip, the great distance being the only negative aspect.




[UK - index] [Home Page]


Links to other websites: