After the hectic nature of Christmas and new years we hired a car, and motored our way down to Cornwall in the south west corner of England. Somehow on picking the car up we ended up in a bribe scandal when a small argument broke out regarding the amount of petrol already in the car. The gauge showed between a quarter and a third and the hire car company attendant claimed it was a half. ( we needed to return the car with the same amount of petrol as we picked it up) After a brief discussion he mumbled that a tenner would prove it was empty! Of course being the wheeler dealer that I am I had no money on me so beaconed to Jane to get me a ten pound note and assured her that I’ll explain later. Of course while the boss is looking out the window at us she’s digging around in her purse, blissfully aware of the conniving dastardly deeds I’m implicating her in. Anyway I drop the note onto the seat as the attendant advises that I can return it dirty and if I scratch it to seek him out before I return it. So we set off on our journey back to home. This wasn’t our first driving through London, but it was the first during peak hour traffic. We wizzed along Tower bridge ( the famous bridge commonly thought of incorrectly as London bridge) at 20 miles an hour, the limit! Trying not to tip into the congestion zone lane! But alas we did and it didn’t matter as after arriving home packing the car we set off across London proper to find the M5 motorway and power towards Bristol.
British speed signs are about the size of a postcard and are fixed to odd items along the roadside so once we hit the motorway we had no Idea how fast we could travel. Three lanes in both directions and we stuck to the slow lane at 60 miles and hour. We also got passed by everything including a pedestrian so I upped the pace to 70 miles an hour, which still seemed slow compared to everyone else. Of course I wasn’t in a hurry and it felt that our current spec Vauxhall Corsa (holden Barina) was in no hurry. It motored along well enough but took a while getting there. I wondered what sort of motor it had, and in fact weather it did have one or weather small people were hidden under the bonnet pushing. It was quite an easy trip to our first ad-hoc destination which was…
Averbury, a small out of the way town with a standing stone ring running around most of it. It would seem the druids built a series of complicated standing stone rings and avenues, mounds and motes for some religious reason, akin to Stonehenge but on a grander scale. The stones were less sculpted, more original in shape than those at Stonehenge. However, at some point in the 18th century townsfolk decided to push some of them over, carve some of them up and bury others so they could build their town through a quarter of one major ring. So what they have accomplished is a magnificent ring of circles some 500 years old that they can’t charge people to see as they are in free territory. Great thinking there peoples. Anyway it was quite freezing so we visited the visitor center as national trust visitors so it was free, quite interesting in a restored 15th century barn complete with bats and no heaters. So we finally retired to a vegetarian cafe adjacent the barn for soup, crusty bread and baked potatoes. Of all the places to put a vego restraint this was the most unlikely, but most appreciated by us.
After lunch, at about 3:30 we found the car, as it was some miles away by now, as small English town have out of town parking for tourists, and they lull you further from your car with interesting offerings of a touristic nature and I’m sure offer you an overpriced cab to get back to the carpark. But none of that for us cheapskates, we braved the cold, blustering arctic style winds, narrowly avoiding frostbite on exposed skin, and piled into the car, only to have to get out again as I had so many layers that I couldn’t sit in the drivers seat let alone drive the car. So semi naked relative to five minute prior I was back in the car huddling over the hot air vent currently only blowing luke warm air. Back on the road again, we found our way to Fowley (pronounced foy) An old sheltered harbour where the englishers launched their ships to battle the Spanish armada. King Henry the bad one fortified the bay with St Cathrines Castle, which stands as a ruin today which we hiked to and climbed upon and through and over. But the wind and cold beat us back into the car and onto the Eden Project.
For the uninitiated check out http://www.edenproject.com/ This is a Project by the company for whom I work that shall remain nameless, we got free entry and spent the rest of the day there. It is the project by which my office is mostly known, and it is magnificent. The biomes are a steel space frame with plastic pillows inflated between the framing, and the best one was the rainforest Biome. We spent hours walking through the humid warm rainforest looking at plants from out part of the world. It was magnificent to be inside warm and reminded of home while the Cornish peninsula was blasted with more arctic wind. The smells and wet heat on our skin made us imagine the sounds of a tropical (read Australian) rainforest. The other biome is an arid region, more akin to what we have in Australia but it didn’t move us like the rainforest section. The project has been built in a reclaimed stone quarry so the Biomes hug a wall, the entry pavilion sits atop the pit and there are other buildings dotted across the site for education and entertainment. It’s well worth the trip if you find yourself in Cornwall or south west England. It aims to show the link between people and plants/environment and We believe it succeeded and I’m not just saying that cause I work here, at the place not to be named.
Of course being England it was well dark by the time we squeezed through the doors with our newly purchased books and postcards etc, so we again boarded the chariot of plastic and headed to our next overnight destination of St Ives on the north Cornish coast, a small artist haven who’s pollution levels are so low the air is clear enough for artists to see and thus paint and sculpt and… well you get the picture. Jane had found a vegetarian B&B who offered us the panoramic view room, overlooking The ocean. Of course we couldn’t see this upon our arrival due to the dark so went dinner hunting The B&B was also a vegetarian restraint, but it was closed post new years for a so called well earned rest, so we trawled through the plethora of seafood joints… get it trawled… before settling on pizza at a local bay side restaurant. Breakfast was provided and while dining we were guided through the local attractions by our host, we plotted our course and headed off, firstly into Tin mining territory where we visited three mines. One a ruin on the side of the road, the L:avant mine who’s steam powered beam engine was the largest in England and was famous for the underground tunnels extending under the ocean adjacent the cliff top post of the mine. They claim that the tunnels extended so close to the sea bed that the miners, while eating their pasties for lunch, could hear the waves moving material around on the sea floor. All I know is it flooded and remains so even after the neighbouring mine purchased the lease, pumped it out and let it fill up again. Finally on our mine voyage we visited Lavants neighbour mine, went on the tour and were taken through the mechanics of tin mining, culminating in our own underground journey, with us replete in lab jackets to keep our pretty clothes dry and clean from the tight confines of a Cornish Mine. Not as small as CooChi in Vietnam, the tunnels were small prompting me to discover that the average height of a Cornish miner must have been 5 foot minus. They say yell down any mine in the world and a Cornishman will yell back up at you, but this old time trade is dying out, only a handful of miners now work in Cornwall, most have taken up fishing or tour guide as tourism floods in to plug the hole left in the economy as Asian miners do it cheaper and open cut takes over.
Back into the car and into the Cornish wild, narrow one way roads with stone walls along their flanks were driven with enthusiasm by me, the little Corsa, while underpowered was quite the little handler, decent brakes and feel through the steering, even across the mud left by farm herds crossing the road some hours earlier. At one point we got caught in traffic, I managed to pass a few cars as a BMW M3 caught up the pack, once I got passed the last car, or is it the first car, the BMW managed to get behind us after the rest of them pulled over or turned off, However I wasn’t going to give up on this haven’t driven-for-a-year-moment-of-joy. Needless to say the M3 driver was scared and couldn’t keep up with the Corsa who’s engine would rev to Christmas in second gear. How must they feel, after giving it their all, I know I saw it lurching all over the place, they were beaten by a nanas car. It wasn’t until the final day that I needed to top up the windscreen washer bottle that I realised that the Corsa was underpowered for a reason…someone had stolen a complete cylinder from the engine. I was driving a 3 cylinder 1 litre city car…How embarrassing… for the BMW. How amazing for the Corsa.
Unfortunately the day turned nasty when more bad weather struck, at about the time we arrived at Lands end, which you can imaging represents the end of land. We had crossed the country from east to west in about 250 miles, and the wind was trying to push us back, We have photos of us almost horizontal walking into the wind. Lands end is bit if a fun park/theme village, of course it was closed so after the obligatory Aussie bravery of climbing rocks in a hurricane we set off for Penzance, you know, where the Pirates come from. We had been warned that there wasn’t really much to do here bar
St Michael’s Mount. An isolated only at high tide place for Monks (of the non-Jane Variety) to do Monk things. We hoped to cross the land but on our arrival typhoon Corsa struck, completely blanketing the sky in night and the world in water. We watched the monastery and its island disappear in a cloud of rain and hail. Well do the original Mount in France just across the channel, the one this one was modelled on.
We retired back to St Ives for the night… More to come tomorrow, along with our One year review