Since our visit to Norfolk and our failure to hire electric bikes, Kate was determined to book in advance this time. Notice has to be given so the bikes can be charged over night. Kate plotted the route we would take across the Cornish Way to Mevagissey. Both Hannah and I had serious doubts we would make it as far as that, but Kate was adamant we would. I should have known something could be amiss when we arrived at the garage in Bugle and the bikes didn’t appear to be ready for us. After a twenty minute wait we were given brief instructions about how to use them and told the battery charge would last for 30 hours. The owner could not advise us on the suitability of riding the Cornish Way as he had never been on it himself but assured us it was well signposted so we would be fine.
It is quite a novelty riding an electric bike. Initially I was worried about using the throttle and pedalled normally, but the hills in Cornwall make it extremely hard going and I gave in. It was so easy to pedal with just a little electricity that for a short while we enjoyed the bumpiness and hills as we made our way in the direction of Mevagissey. We had been going for about an hour when Hannah’s bike seemed to have run out of electricity. Trying to pedal a heavy bike up hills when you are miles from anywhere is very difficult so we telephoned the garage and explained that we had no electricity. Within twenty minutes another bike was delivered in the back of a car. We set off again but began to find the signs few and far between. It was a case of guessing which way as the map we had been given was useless. Eventually I saw a sign to Carlyon Bay, where as a child I played in the rock pools with my father. We turned off the main road and headed for the beach. It is so strange how childhood memories come flooding back when suddenly, the scene you see before you is just as you saved it in your head. My lasting memory of Carlyon Bay was not the beach itself, but the road down to it. The amazing pinks and blues of huge hydrangeas lined each side of the road. Unbelievably, after so many years, they are still there. I was stunned. Looking down to the bay it was clear work was being carried out. I saw pictures of the beach several years ago and was so upset to learn it had been ruined by development. A huge monstrosity of a building, strangely called the Coliseum, dominated the view. It reminded me of an old corrugated barn. I could have cried when I saw the pictures. Now it has been demolished and I could see the whole beach again. It is truly a spectacular sight but not one I could photograph as we had decided not to risk breaking cameras whilst on the bikes, so reader you will just have to imagine a blue sea, a curving expanse of sand and the feel of a tropical paradise. More development is going to take place unless the local people can stop it. The plan is to build houses and apartments for the very rich, if it ever happens the view will be gone forever and the beach will be spoiled.
We asked the car park attendant where else we could cycle to. He told us about Charlestown and we headed off with our electricity on full pelt! What a totally beautiful, if tiny place it is. I missed my camera as we sat on the quayside in an ever increasing wind. Kate still wanted to head towards Mevagissey but Hannah and I thought we needed to head back. But now as we had left the Cornish Way we had no idea how to return to it. Kate thought she knew, so Hannah and I followed her. Within minutes I could see a sign which had always filled me with joy as a child. There in front of me was East Crinnis Farm. I couldn’t believe it was still there, but now it is surrounded by lodges. The family had clearly expanded their holiday business. So many memories flooded back, kittens and puppies, riding on the tractor and outings with my friend whose name shamefully, I have forgotten. The last time I saw her we were both 18 and I crashed her car! I cycled a little way up the drive. The old farmhouse was just the same. I was sure they wouldn’t remember me after entertaining so many guests over so many years, so off we went again to rejoin the Cornish Way, well that’s what we hoped, but the more we cycled the more confused we became about the route. I was getting tired even with the electricity and until someone designs a bike with a comfortable saddle it is unlikely I will ever be able to keep going for too long! I suggested we headed back towards St Austell as I knew that wasn’t too far from Bugle. If we couldn’t find the cycle track we could then just stay on the road. We passed several turnings that could have led to the Cornish Way but couldn’t decide which one to take. Time crept on and eventually we met a man cycling home from work. I guess we were probably the last thing he wanted to happen to him that day. He tried to explain in a broad Cornish accent which route we needed to take but realising we were all useless at following instructions he said he would cycle with us to the entrance of the track in St Austell. Some people are just so kind. He cycled a lot quicker than us even with the electricity and as we headed into St Austell and up an extremely steep hill, my bike suddenly ran out of electricity and I nearly fell off. Pushing a heavy bike up a steep hill with traffic all around me was not what I had signed up for. The kind man and both daughters had completely disappeared. I trudged on and ever upwards wondering if there was a defibrillator anywhere close should I need it!! Eventually we met at the top of the hill and the kind man pointed to a very bumpy track. Kate advised me to get on her bike while she remained determined to cycle mine. It was all up hill. It was clear the bikes were struggling to cope on this mountainous journey and now bits of them started to fall off. The reflectors went first and then part of one handlebar. Fortunately we saw each one fall. Kate look shattered but refused to give in. Finally we came to a dual carriageway with a bridge over and a car park at the side. The mule in me had had enough. We agreed, after a minor debate, to ring the bike owner again. He arrived with yet another bike explaining that this had never happened before. As far as I was concerned it wouldn’t be happening ever again! I gave him one of my very withering looks as I got on the bike once again. He gave us directions back to Bugle and about twenty minutes later, having sat on the most uncomfortable saddled in my entire life, I hobbled to the car. Never have I been so glad to get into a hot tub and hold a glass of Prosecco! It tasted particularly wonderful that evening!
The Lost Gardens of Heligan were on my ‘bucket list’ and despite sore muscles and aches where I didn’t know you could have aches, we set off in the car with great anticipation the next day. We were travelling along quite well until the sat nav suddenly said, “Go straight ahead and approach the ferry.” “Ferry, what ferry?” Realising the concern in my voice the girls suggested I didn’t panic as it was bound to be fun! Before I could answer my own question we were being directed onto the small ferry to Fowey. I thought we were heading towards the motorway but once again the sat nav had decided to take a shorter route. We headed off through Fowey knowing we were nearly there. Nothing is that simple in Cornwall. After at least half an hour of trying to find the gardens we were as lost as Heligan once was! Roads were closed off for re-surfacing and the sat nav seemed more stressed than I was. Eventually we came to the end of a very tiny lane. Traffic cones barred us from leaving and as we were about to get out and move them, a rather nice Jaguar car pulled up. The occupants got out and asked if we were as lost as they were. They removed the cones and I asked if we could follow them. Their sat nav had got so confused it was now out of action. So another kind gentleman set off with his wife next to him and us in tow. He stopped to ask directions from the workmen fixing the roads. After about ten minutes of pointing and re pointing we set off again. Eventually we pulled into the car park together, got out and laughed about the scarcity of signs in Cornwall. Some things never change.
The Lost Gardens cover a huge area that includes everything from a lost jungle to small lakes, barns and green houses. Not much was still in bloom and some of the walk ways are very uneven and steep but it is a very beautiful place with stunning views across the sea. We came across a small shed and I saw a swallow fly in and knew she must have a nest. I was delighted to find, four chicks hidden behind a beam their broad yellow grins were bright in the darkness. The mother appeared and disappeared in a flash and as it was so dark and I had no flash I was lucky to get any pictures at all. I became engrossed and could have stayed in that old shed all day but the girls wanted to move on. We watched the pigs and some pretty chickens and wandered up and down hills until finally I was shattered.
Mevagissey was the obvious choice in the afternoon as it is so close. It is one of my favourite places and yet again I was delighted to find it as I had left it. By this time the girls wanted to shop and I wanted to sit awhile, watch the world go by and take the odd snap. I had a wonderfully peaceful and serene afternoon sitting on a seat next to the tiny harbour watching the boats bob and a few other photographers trying to grab a shot. It was a perfect end to an exhausting two days.
Our family has always had links to St Ives. My father’s younger sister Joyce is buried there in the graveyard that looks out over the sea. Little Joyce, as she was known affectionately by both my mum and dad, had caught scarlet fever and it had damaged her heart. She was only fifteen when she died. I had wanted to rediscover her grave and take a photograph but sadly it appears that it has disintegrated. I looked at every cross in the steep graveyard but couldn’t find it.
St Ives is an artist’s paradise. The light is wonderful but catching it when you are on holiday is very difficult. The girls wanted to swim again so we settled ourselves on the beach, they braved the cold water and I searched for beach abstracts to photograph. Twenty minutes later I only just saved their clothes and my camera equipment as the tide came in much more quickly than we had anticipated. I sat and experimented with my settings trying to capture the waves as they crashed against the rocks. Despite the fact that there were so many tourists I still loved St Ives.
As they came out of the water both the girls asked if Cornwall could be our special place and could we visit again next year. I hadn’t the heart to explain that it had always been my special place, a place where unfettered by jobs and the general responsibilities of life, my parents had always relaxed and laughed. I was delighted they both felt the same way and I am already looking forward to our next visit.