Sometimes at the beginning of the year down here in the West Country you get the feeling that this must be one of the wettest places in the world. It makes you wonder how we can ever have droughts….surely by now a strategic network of linked water holding sites could have been produced, storing strategic water supplies in the wet areas like Scotland and the West Country? Anyhow it’s not all doom and gloom….when there is a break in the weather we can do our regular round walk down to St Keyne’s Well. And from the beginning of January we see stirrings of Spring…here and there primroses,
snowdrops and daffodils which, depending on the site, can be in full bloom. All very cheering. When there is a complete break in the weather we venture a bit further taking the bus to Looe very often and walking along the sea defences at Hannafore or the opposite way towards Seaton, and in a sheltered spot you really can sit in the sunshine (a terrific privilege at this time of year).
Having been to the cinema in Plymouth to see Tosca streamed from the Met in New York a short while ago, we now returned to see the Royal Opera House version. Chalk and cheese. Those who know me will predict that I will say that the British version (as seen
here) was much better, but we both thought it really was. How much nicer to have a theatre with Edwardian glamour and glitz rather than a concrete edifice. The staging was different, more atmospheric, and the singing was sensational as was, to be fair, the Met’s. How do these singers do it? They really are magnificent. There are three main protagonists in the opera. The leading role -Tosca – was played unconventionally as a youngish person in the Met’s performance, more traditional at the Royal Opera, both good. The artist who meets a tragic end just shaded it for the ROH, and actually we thought the evil character Scarpia, who has a massive role, was better in the Met performance although all the social media would have you believe otherwise. That just goes to show that at the end of the day it can be a matter of opinion. We are so glad we have at last discovered live opera performances from the greats at affordable prices (free sometimes with our Times+ membership!). A bit late in life but so what….I hope we go to many more and that, before I finally pack my bags, I will be able to see live opera in the Verona amphitheatre….my lifetimes ambition.
When for once guaranteed a nice day we decided to explore the beaches of the North coast. We have been before, but I had an itching to rank them and to note down their car parking charges for future reference….sad I know, but the sort of thing retired people do. I also wanted to see Bedruthan Steps for the first time. Diverting a bit westwards to pick up lpg for the car (as our regular source was out of supply) we made for the outskirts of Newquay so that we could wend our way North to Padstow via some famous beaches. Starting at Porth we decided not to call as it seemed a bit too urban, right on the outskirts of Newquay, perhaps a mistake as I see afterwards that it looks rather nice and there is a great walk across a narrow footbridge to Porth Island. Another time. Our first glimpse of Watergate Bay was all we could have expected, and we decided to pull into a farm gateway on the hill above the beach for our picnic…home-made quiche and hot chocolate – with a view. Lovely.
Moving down to the beach we parked in one of the two large car parks (free between 1st November and 31st March), and had an exhilarating walk on the sands which were very busy indeed with dog walkers and families (last day of half term). The setting and the clean beach and the rolling surf made it a five star beach for us. Parking charges quite high (but only £1 after 4pm so………). Good-looking hotel, and Jamies’s Fifteen somewhere nearby (we will visit some day….looks great).
We already knew Mawgan Porth beach quite well, and if you pop into the pub as we did last time with Katherine and Aiisha you can park for free there. It has an excellent reputation (eg in The Times’ Top Ten Beaches), and quite unusually a river running through the middle…our rating 3 or 4 stars.
Our next stepping off point was the famous Bedruthan Steps which intrigued me as I knew access to the beach was difficult – down 120 steep steps built into the cliff side, and I was wondering whether it was something I might not manage due to my acrophobia. The parking here is free for NT members and we just managed to squeeze in by the cafe. Quite a bit of wildlife on this coast as the NT board indicated…well, an amazing variety actually….
We set off from the cafe at Carnewas Cliffs with spectacular views almost straight away…
and we stopped on numerous occasions for photos and just to take in the breathtaking scenery…get anywhere near the cliff edges and you are really exposed…a good gust of wind and that would be it!
and I wouldn’t like to walk to the end of this particular fence…
Anyway, the further we followed the path the more spectacular the views….
and of course the weather helped…blue skies, blue seas, wonderful beaches, virtually pristine, and magnificent cliffs…
and when we eventually got to the steps themselves (pedestrian steps not the Steps of the title, which are the huge rocks seemingly thrown across the sands by giants), I went down part of the way (leaving F. safely ensconced on top), and discovered that they were probably ‘do-able’ for me…
mainly because of the two handrails!
A salutary poster on our way back to the cafe showed how right it is for all of us to give up all plastic whenever possible…a tragic story of what we are doing to our wildlife…poor albatross.
Our rating of Bedruthan Steps (out of 5 stars)…….6 stars without a doubt.
Next stop Porthcothan where again we squeezed into the last parking spot…there were only a couple of dozen, but in season I believe the adjoining field is opened up. The cafe (closed) looked really nice. Access over the pleasant sand dunes. The beach opens out at low tide to connect up with small coves to the north and south. At high tide, Porthcothan Beach shrinks dramatically but also turns into a very sheltered beach due to the dunes and cliffs. 1st November to 14th March no charge. Four stars.
On to Treyarnon Bay. Parking charges all year round unusually, but cheaper than elsewhere £4 all day. Lots of activity in the car park as we arrived surfers changing before or after their exertions. Lovely beach if a little narrow, protected again by its dunes and cliffs. Three or four stars……
Last but one stop today and one of the best, Harlyn Bay. Parking very reasonable. ‘Considered one of the best family beaches in Cornwall’….can’t argue with that. Backed by beautiful dunes, it is wide and long and not only has great sand but superb rock pools too. And good surf.
The very last stop….Trevone Bay.
One of those Cornish beaches that are deeper than they are wide, but pleasant enough. I must admit I like huge sweeps of sand around a long bay.
Well, an interesting day out for us as well as hugely enjoyable. We also noted that there are some beaches we can get to on the bus. Take the 11 to Padstow and then the Atlantic Coaster A5 towards Newquay. We must try.