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Although I’d only been back home for two weeks, it was time to get the caravan hitched up again. This time to Cornwall, to meet up with my two daughters and grandson – Sam. The drive to Falmouth is a journey of nearly 300 miles, so I decided to break the drive by stopping for two nights at Exeter. The site I’d chosen was the Caravan Club site at Exeter Race Course situated alongside the A38 at the top of Haldon Hill. My route was the familiar M25, M3, A303 then A30. After a coffee break at Solstice Services at Amesbury, I arrived on site just after the 1pm arrival time, and after booking in, was told to choose a pitch from many vacant ones. Pitches are fairly level, arranged on both sides of four parallel roadways set within the racecourse. Some pitches are on hard standing whilst others are on grass, but all have an electric connection adjacent. There is also an area set aside for tent campers. A toilet block is situated to one side of the site. After setting up pitch, I spent the rest of the day sitting on the shady side of the van for it was HOT!.
Right from the start, the cloudless sky indicated another extremely hot day. I packed up a lunch box and set off in the car towards Exeter where I parked alongside the River Exe. After unloading the bike I took to the cycle track which follows the river bank from Exeter Quay down to Starcross. The parking spot was approximately mid-point on the track and as I have ridden the route towards the City several times, I headed downstream to Starcross. Soon I reached the lock at the entrance to the Exeter Ship Canal.
In medieval times one of this Country’s main products was wool. It was much sort after by European Countries, and the transport of wool promoted the rapid growth of seaports. Exeter became one of those centres but because only smaller boats could navigate the river, the bales of wool had to be ferried down to Topsham. Most of our canals were built during the years from 1770 to 1830 but the decision was taken to build the Exeter Ship Canal as early as 1550. As the demand for bigger vessels increased, over the following 300 years the canal was both deepened and widened several times. What was once the lockkeeper’s house at the southern end of the canal has now been converted into a hotel.
Part of the cycle path skirts the perimeter boundary of Powderham Castle, the 14 Century ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire.
Today was moving on day. The drive to Falmouth was just 120 miles, so there was no great hurry to leave. Both the A30 and the A38 eventually lead into Cornwall, but I chose the A30 across Bodmin Moor. I arrived at my pre-booked site around 2pm and spent the afternoon settling in. The site I’d chosen was a C&C Club CS situated close to the A39 a few miles from Falmouth. The site is on a slope so I needed around two inches of ramp under one wheel to achieve a level floor. Pitches are well spaced with four pitches in one field and another five in a lower field.
Power connections are adjacent to each pitch. At one end of the top field are two water taps – one drinking water and the other for domestic use. Close by is a small toilet block containing a shower cubicle and next door, a toilet. Chemical disposal is under a manhole cover set within a grove of trees. With 10amp electricity included, my site fees were just £15 per night.
Also today, my two daughters arrived in Falmouth to take up their booked house. I joined them there in the evening for dinner so that we could plan our week.
I drove the car three miles to Mylor Bridge and after parking, I unloaded the bike and set off on the ride to Flushing. The ride was a return journey of just five miles but the first mile was uphill and the second one was down and down. I was more than a bit worried about the long climb facing me for the return journey!
Eventually, I found the landing stage for the foot passenger ferry, and before long the girls and Sam arrived from Falmouth.
We made our way around the headland to a lovely secluded piece of beach. The girls and Sam went in to swim before we sat down to have our packed lunches. Later, I left the family to set off on a walk, whilst I faced the long climb back to the car. With the bike’s motor on full boost, plus my pedalling, it was a relief, after a few rest stops to reach a point where I could look down and see Mylor Bridge below me.
We were each doing our own thing today but our plan was to meet up in Lizard Village at lunchtime. I was ready to leave by 10am so I set off on the 20-mile journey. Although there is a National Trust Carpark closer to the Point, parking is free around the edges of the large village green at Lizard, and since it was not yet 11am, not many cars had arrived. I sent a message to the girls telling them where they could find me parked alongside a couple of picnic benches and then I set off for a look around the village. It wasn’t long before I passed the village bakery where the first batches of Cornish pasties were just being unloaded from the ovens. The aroma drifting into the street was just too much to resist. I was drawn in and bought one– then returned to the picnic benches. What a delicious feast it was! Soon the girls and Sam arrived and we set off to Lizard Point; the family on foot and me on my scooter. The point and lighthouse are just about a mile away along a narrow, surfaced roadway. As you stand at the point, you are standing on the most southerly point in the British Isles. Looking out to sea, the nearest land is the coast of Brittany just about 100 miles away.
Outside the Ranger’s office, she’d set up a couple of telescopes focused on the seals basking on the rocks. I wanted to try and photograph them through the telescope. But difficult to hold the camera steady.
The family wasn’t particularly anxious to join me on today’s visit. We did the trip at this time last year and at an entry cost of £150 for the four of us, I wasn’t surprised. However, I was able to book my ticket using Tesco vouchers so today I set off to visit the Eden Project. It’s a drive of around 25 miles up the coast and I’d booked my slot for 11.30. It covers a lot of ground around the paths of the old, disused quarry in which the project is built. So I unloaded my scooter and used that. My first surprise was the numbers attending. Last year, I joined a fifty-yard queue before reaching one of the box offices. This time, I went straight in without waiting. Maybe the hot weather had put visitors off, but also I wonder if the organisation is not in danger of pricing itself out of the market. £100 is an expensive visit for Mum and Dad and two kids – even without the inevitable ice-creams and drinks. Still, it was interesting to ride through the rain forests of South America and the gardens of the Mediterranean and Australian regions again.
Today’s event was the main reason for our family gathering in Cornwall. We were all heading into Truro to visit the Cathedral for the ceremony where Sam, together with his friends were to be conferred with their degrees from Exeter University.
The queues began to form outside the Cathedral long before the ceremony was due to begin. Eventually, I took my seat and sat back to enjoy the splendid architecture as I waited for the ceremony to begin.
Truro Cathedral is not an ancient building, but it looks older than it is because it was built in the Early English Style with some French influences. It stands on the site of a previous 16 Century church. Work didn’t begin until the 1880s and was finished by 1910. It was at Truro during Christmas of 1880, in his temporary church building that the newly appointed bishop had the idea to hold a different sort of service. He called it a Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. Little did he know how his idea would catch on!
The ceremony began with the Chancellor and Faculty processing up the centre aisle to take their places on the podium. Then the organ began the fanfare introduction to Hubert Parry’s Anthem “I was glad when they said unto me” followed by the voices of the University Choir. What a splendid start to the ceremony! Next followed several speakers and finally, a long procession of students took their turn to be called up to be conferred with their degree. But we, like everyone else in the Cathedral were waiting to see only one person, and that moment finally arrived. What a proud moment it was!
Soon we were back outside in the sunshine for the pictures – and the reception at the campus.
We decided to do our own things today. The girls to take a walk along the coastal footpath whilst I took a drive and then a bike ride. I decided to head across the peninsular and head down to the Helford River crossing. I parked and took a walk to view the track down to the quay. I decided it was much too steep to go down………Well…. No………..It was much too steep to get back up again! I took a few pictures instead and found somewhere to have lunch.
Later I ventured down the road in the car, but what a mistake that was. Very difficult to get turned around. I returned by the coast road and stopped at Swanpool Nature Reserve where I took a bike ride around the lake.
The girls suggested we meet up for lunch at Swanpool Beach. So whilst the girls and Sam walked from their house, I drove from the site. We met up in the carpark and took our belongings across to the beach and found a pleasant spot for lunch. Sadly the good weather had deserted us today. The heatwave which we’d had for the past ten days or so ended and today was dull with a breeze. How different to when I was here yesterday,
but the swimmers and surf-boarders didn’t seem to mind. It was a pity because this was our last day in Cornwall.
Most evenings I joined the girls for dinner at their house. My drive back to the site took me past the house which they rented three years ago. It was a beautiful property with a lawn stretching down to the river bank.
But the house has been demolished now and the site is vacant ready to have a new block built consisting of apartments and a penthouse, all with harbours for their cruisers. In 2008 the property changed hands for £490,000. Recently developers bought the house and then pulled it down. They paid £1.6million. Not surprisingly, bungalow owners across the road who are about to lose their views of the river are angry about the development
Today the girls were heading home. And I was heading for my next stop. The Caravan Club Site at Honiton – Putts Corner.
It looked as though I was going to arrive before the 1pm arrival time, so I pulled into one of the lay-bys on the A30 between Exeter and Honiton where I took the opportunity to have lunch. In due course, I arrived at the site and checked in. I was invited to find a pitch and then return to report the number and collect the barrier tag. There was a wide choice of vacant pitches from which to choose. Eventually, I got settled in with electric, water and waste connected. A sun lounger in the shade of the trees sufficed for the rest of the day.
From the site it wasn’t too far along the road. Just four miles before arriving at the Donkey Sanctuary. Over the years, I have been here several times and seen it develop to cater for ever-increasing numbers of visitors – and ever-increasing numbers of donkeys. To wander around the yard and stables, then around the paddocks is a pleasant way to while away an hour or so. And it’s all free – other than a donation.
After another four-mile drive, I arrived on Sidmouth’s seafront where I had lunch followed by an amble along the prom.
The sunshine has deserted us. Very cloudy and it seems the rain might be not too far away. I did a cycle ride from the site along the local roads, but not much to see because trees stretch along both sides of the road. Eventually, I did find a break where there was a view across the lower-lying countryside.
Today was my last before returning home. I had a Tesco voucher to admit me to the Swannery at Abbotsbury. It was a longish drive and the weather wasn’t looking too promising. But finally I decided to go for it, so I set off across country to join the A35 towards Dorchester. The final section of the drive is along the high ground which overlooks Chesil Beach which is an 18-mile long shingle barrier beach stretching from West Bay to Portland. The pebbles along the Beach are graded in size from potato-sized near Portland to pea-sized at Bridport. Then behind the shingle bank, there is a freshwater lagoon, The Council have thoughtfully supplied a number of laybys along the route from which to view the coastline.
The road finally drops down to sea level and the lovely thatched cottages of the village of Abbotsbury. What a nightmare life must be for the residents living in their lovely cottages with two streams of continuous traffic struggling to squeeze through the narrow streets.
Just before the Norman Conquest a great Abbey was founded here where monks lived according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. Very little of the buildings survive other than a few scattered remains. Part of the Abbey Tithe Barn is still used and there are some remains close to the village church. The swannery also dates from when the Abbey was in use for the Swannery would be used as a source of food. When all the Religious Houses were dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII, the buildings and lands were sold to one of Henry’s advisors, and it is to his descendants that the Swannery belongs today.
With a medical appointment scheduled for later in the week, departure was necessary today. I was away from the site by 9.45 and within five miles had joined a surprisingly lightly trafficked A303 – at least until Stonehenge.