Ramblings

September 2005


Tuesday 6th September – Barnsley Canal – It seems every September starts with misty mornings and this is no exception. But it is weak and transient spectre that soon dissolves in the morning sun. Blackberries gleam purple-black from the brambles. A group of horses blocks the tow-path and are reluctant to move but eventually descend onto the rough meadow below. Willow Tits buzz, Great Tits chatter, Magpies cry harshly and Wood Pigeons are everywhere. A few days ago, a decent sized flock of Lapwings moved across the hilltop. The pond down from Greenfoot looks slimy and dank in the dappled shade. Flies are becoming annoying and I pull a handful of long grass to act as a whisk. Up the hill and onto the fields where a Red Admiral butterfly flits past, resplendent in red, white and chocolate.

Saturday 10th September – Cornwall – The drive down to Cornwall was not a pleasant affair. Most of the way the rain fell heavily. Going into the county there were traffic queues reminiscent of the 60s. But the sight of Buzzards on roadside poles or soaring lazily overhead and the great sweeps of purple Heather moorland soon cheered the heart.

Sunday 11th September – Gwithian – We have returned to the same campsite that we used in May. In the early morning mist, the field is scattered with Herring Gulls of all ages. There are also decent numbers of Pied Wagtails, including many juveniles. Jackdaws fly around the church steeple. Four have occupied the top spots, the tips of lightning conductors on the four little towers at the corners of the square steeple. A dropping in the middle of the outer tent indicates that a hedgehog has paid a visit in the night. Curlews keen and Rooks caw.

Hayle Estuary – An RSPB hide overlooks a pool with a large area of scrubby mud beside the Hayle Estuary Causeway. Unfortunately, there is little to be seen. A single Little Egret, now a common sight in Southern England, stands on a small islet – and that is it!

Marazion – We take a leisurely drive along narrow back roads and suddenly we are on the south coast of Cornwall, in Marazion. The village stretches along the edge of the sea, hemmed in by the hills. In the bay is the magnificent St St Michaels MountMichael’s Mount. A steep sided hill rises out of the sea, topped with a castle. The island can be reached at low tide by a causeway, but at this moment, boats are ferrying visitors across to the tiny harbour and its scattering of buildings. Above the harbour are woodlands and then the castle tops the island. Bernard of Le Bec, Abbot of Mont St Michel in Normandy, built the Benedictine Priory of St Michael’s Mount in 1135. King Henry V seized St Michael’s Mount for the crown as an alien priory during war the with France in the early 15th century, and by 1424 all links between the two priories had been broken. The near continuous wars with France and Spain necessitated the need to garrison the Mount, although the only forces it came up against were domestic rather than foreign. The last major period of military activity was during the Civil War (1642-51) when the Mount was held for the Royalist cause. After the war the castle lost its military function and instead became the family home of the last military governor of the Mount, Colonel John St. Aubyn. The St. Aubyns still live in the castle. A War Memorial stands under the hill beside the road. The gates carry the words of the hymn, Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide in wrought iron. Below are the notes to the tune also in iron. Many yachts are being launched into the bay. Penzance stands opposite. It is somewhat amusing to see a horse being ridden along sands from which dogs are banned.

Penzance

Penzance – A major port of Cornwall. We head down the back streets that lead to the harbour. Small terraced houses, a large Wesleyan Chapel and School (now a community centre) and interesting little shops. By the harbour is a large ship’s chandler and paint supplier. A kiosk advertises crab sandwiches and we share a round. These are real crab sandwiches, just brown bread, smear of butter (well, probably margarine) and a thick layer of crab meat. We wander past boats put to various uses – one has a T-shirt printing shop aboard, another, a large wooden affair, is being refurbished, yet another is a large rusting deep sea trawler with a pleasure cruiser sitting on its rear deck. The Scillonian III is in port; the ferry to the Isles of Scilly. We head towards the town centre. Here there are vast car parks for tourists and the sorts of shops that trippers seem to like. The main street rises up from the sea. One side is on a raised pavement. We get pasties from the Penzance Pasty Company shop and they are good.

Dolman

On the moors between Madron and the coast road we come across a dolman (usually three large rocks with another rock capping them, a burial chamber that would have been covered in earth as a barrow, but the earth has eroded away) where the road splits. I wonder if the dolman is here because this was where two paths met, or diverged, or whether the tracks came here because the burial was a prominent mark. The map shows many prehistoric features in the vicinity.

Zennor – We stop at this little hamlet and Dill the Dog and I head down to the cliff tops. The flowers on the walls are very different to our last visit here in May – Bindweed, Red Camion, Yarrow and Sheepsbit Scabious. Sloes are purple-black on the Blackthorn. The sea is turquoise in the inlet below Zennor Head. The rocks are thickly coated with lichen, much more so on the seaward faces. Heather and Ling are beginning to go over. A large black slug slides across the spiky heather. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly flits along the track. There is a flock of House Sparrows by the farm reminiscent of those that used to be common around our houses when I was young. Swallows are chattering on the wires.

Monday 12th September – Hayle – The day starts badly. I purchase the Guardian newspaper from the Co-op. Today is the launch of the new style Guardian, Berliner sized, new typeface and many old favourites missing! I am so busy scowling at it that I miss the kerb and fall heavily, wrenching my ankle. I can hardly walk so our plans for the day have gone.

Lighthouse

Godrevy Island – The island is just off shore from the point to the north of Gwithian, across the bay from St Ives. I manage to hobble up from the car park to a point on the cliffs where I can see the sea and the island. It rises on dark low cliffs. A square wall of stone house the lighthouse, which is octagonal in shape. Cormorants stand on the rocks below. There are numerous surfers in the sea. A pair are right below us and are pretty successful and picking up the waves and surfing in along it.

Hayle RSPB Reserve – A Common Sandpiper bobs in a tiny inlet of mud. A Curlew struts across the back of the scrape. A Wheatear is amongst some tussocks of grass, popping up frequently to scan the area. A Little Egret is in a channel and can only just be seen. We head over to a pub that overlooks the main estuary. I have a pint and scan the mud – Wigeon, Teal, Little Egrets, Oystercatchers, Mute Swan and many gulls. Kay brings a menu which is the sort that make Rick Stein (and I) weep – typical pub food, probably all from a national catering conglomerate, nothing local or even vaguely interesting. We head, instead to Philip’s Pasty factory and Kay gets me the largest pasty I have ever seen – delicious.

Tuesday 13th September – The Logan Rock – We head over to the south coast of Cornwall again to a little village called Treen. From here a track leads though a field of Sweet Corn and then through one of a crop – smells like Swede – under fleecing. Stiles made of steps of granite cross several high banks Logan Rockbefore one approaches a flat area with a large outcrop of rock on top of the cliffs. The banks are the defences of Treryn Dinas, a large Iron Age fort. On the outcrop of rocks is the Logan Rock – a large boulder that could once be rocked to and fro by hand. In 1824, a group of sailors led by Under Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith, nephew of poet, Oliver Goldsmith, pushed the rock over and into the sea. There was public outcry and Goldsmith, at great expense, was forced to restore the rock. The views here are magnificent. To one side of the promontory there is another outcrop and a Common Buzzard, a dark and golden one, sits watching. To the other side, Maxa huge area of pale sandstone rocks has split in a radiant formation looking like an enormous fossilised tree stump. On the cliffs to the south is the Minack Cliff Top theatre. I was hoping we could walk round to it on the cliff top path but my ankle is throbbing. We return to the village and get a cup of tea and a pasty from the local shop. We are told the pasty is made in the village by a woman who gets up before 6 o’clock each morning to bake them. A little black spaniel comes looking for crumbs, but is not quick enough as Dill the Dog makes sure she gets any falling morsels first. We are told the spaniel, Max, is always on the scrounge. Another dog brings his ball and places it at the feet of any passer-by to kick so he can chase it. Max, meanwhile, has disappeared into the shop and comes out with a chocolate bar he has stolen from the display and disappears off to the sports ground round the corner to devour his spoils.

Wednesday 14th September – Falmouth – We go to this large port to see an exhibition of paintings by Patrick Woodroffe. He has been painting and drawing his fantastic scenes since the 60s. The main street runs alongside the edge of the large estuary of the River Fal. For some reason, planners have seen fit to direct traffic through this narrow, and ideally pedestrian, precinct to reach the car parks. We have a cup of tea in a little café leading down to the dock – it is decked out 1940’s style.

Saturday 17th September – Earl Sterndale – A small village in the Quiet WomanDerbyshire Peaks. We meet Dave and Joy, and Ken and Brigid at a campsite next to the pub, The Quiet Woman. After a pint and a pork pie we set up camp. Heather joins us, but is not staying as husband Kevin has a migraine. A few bottles of beer later it is time for the barbeque. Dave has a huge piece of rib of beef off the bone. We eat a ridiculous amount and eventually head off to the pub. It is a splendid little establishment, Marstons Bitter and Mild and another smaller brewery offering whose name I cannot remember – telling... The pub sign depicts a headless woman, with the words Soft words turneth away wrath. It is thought to show one nagging wife known as Chattering Charteris. Apparently her husband lost control one day and cut off her head, to the approval of the villagers. After a few pints, we head back to the camp for some of Dave’s guitar playing and even some unaccompanied singing from Ken! Although I am asleep as soon as I am in our tent, I am awake again at 4 o’clock. The church bells chime, cockerels start crowing and a donkey brays loudly. This continues until well into the day.

Saturday 24th September – Barnsley Canal – My walks have been brief affairs this week as my ankle is still painful and weak. The sun is blazing down on the canal. Robins are in song and various tits twitter in the undergrowth. The large red caps with white spots of Fly Agaric toadstools are under some Silver Birches. A Grey Squirrel runs along the path and for some reason turns off towards the canal. Dill the Dog trots along and there is a splash followed by much movement and further splashes from the water. Fortunately, Dill the Dog decides not to follow the foolish squirrel. A Jay flies silently away into the trees beyond the foot bridge. The call of a Little Grebe yodels up from the Loop. A Grey Heron flaps down the valley.

Monday 26th September – Barnsley Canal – A cool autumnal morning. A Magpie flies up high into the air over the large Hawthorn thicket on Willowbank and then dives back down into the bushes. A Chiffchaff attempts his song but soon gives up. A Wren darts out from the edge of the canal and across the water into the reed beds. Numerous Wood Pigeons soar and glide. A chattering charm of Goldfinches is by the bridge. Song Thrushes and Blackbirds occupy the top of the tallest Ash around. Every now and again there is a tussle for a certain perch but it soon quietens down again to a watchful silence, pride having been satisfied. A Robin sings from one of the Silver Birches along the canal.