Friday, 8 November 2013

Disaster Averted and our first Nightbag! A long, long day in Cornwall

 So first of all the good news, I have today purchased a spanking new computer, as the old one was starting to get so slow that uploading photos took an absolute age, and made keeping this blog up to date a real chore. Now I've caught up with the decade technology wise, things are much easier and I should be able to add more islands much more frequently. I thought I'd celebrate with some pictures and writing about a recent trip Liam and I took to Cornwall, where we braved the decidedly autumnal conditions to seek out a set of very different and individual islands...

Kynance Cove

We left Bristol at seven after only about four hours sleep, having watched the excellent Stewart Lee live the night before, and not got to bed until about two, so we weren't exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed, but a cup of coffee and the sight of the empty M5 southbound finally got us going. Our first and most distant target was the mysterious Asparagus Island, not featured in any of the many books about islands that we've been collecting, it was only a devoted scan of googlemaps that alerted me to it's existence, but as a sizable tidal clump with beach access it certainly looked worth a go. 

Asparagus Island

Derelict Cottage at Kynance Cove
 We finally got to Kynance Cove around eleven, after a long slog through Devon and Cornwall, and parked up at the National Trust car park on the clifftop, and after paying the one pound charge for members who haven't got their cards (really, really need to remember to get a new one) we set off on the trek down to the shore. There are two paths here, a short one for when the tide is out, and a longer one for when it's in, as there is a short section on the short path that gets cut off when the sea is high. The fact that we had been sent the long way around suggested we hadn't timed it exactly perfectly to cross on the sand to Asparagus Island, and as expected after winding down to the beachside cafe and across the headland we could see some serious swells running over the thirty metres or so that separate the island from the shore.

The Sea was still there

Still there...
Knowing that we'd have a wait of at least an hour, we decided that we'd check out what offerings the cafe might have for breakfast. Lots, it turned out, but then reason #1 for a 30 minute round trip back up to the car park, I'd left my wallet in the car. Long walk back up to the National Trust car park, but when we arrived, the car was open but Liam's keys were nowhere to be found. Not in the bag, not in the pocket, nowhere. Therefore, reason #2 for another walk, retracing our steps back down the long path to the cafe, over the headland, back up the path again and all the way back to the car, no sign of the keys anywhere. As a last resort, asked the guy in the National Trust car park booth. Keys were handed in within a minute of us parking up. Silly sods dropped them on the floor. We'd just about come to terms with the prospect of calling the AA to do something to resolve the situation, hundreds of miles away from anywhere, but it wasn't a fun idea.

But now it was retreating
Enough for us to make it to the top!
So for the second time we walked down the long path to the beach, but at least we'd wasted some of the time whilst the tide was going out. Not all of the time, it seemed, as whilst the actual causeway across to Asparagus Island was drying, we also needed to get around from the beach as there was no path down from the nearest headland. After an hour of me watching and Liam snoozing it was close to two, but then finally I decided that the time was right to go for it. The sea still covered the path but it was shallow enough that we could just about dash for it if we didn't mind getting wet legs. Although I possibly went a little deeper than I wanted, belly-button deep with my only pair of trousers on, we got around and onto the sand ready for an assault of the steep cliffs of Asparagus Island.
One of the best caves I've ever seen
Ready for the running the sea-gauntlet
Quickly to the top, some photos and a look around at the other free standing stacks in the vicinity, all of them too steep for any habitation, then a descent back to the beach, where there are several proper sized caves to explore. After braving the deeps of the path back to civilisation, we completed our third ascent of the cliff path to the car, and off to more adventure.

Next up we were going for St Michael's Mount. You may recall from our trip to Scilly in 2012 that we were left staring wistfully across the causeway as the waves whipped over. This time, it was just as wet, but most of it was coming from the sky. The causeway was barely passable, and by the time we got there the tide was coming in again, but the rain had begun lashing down, and it wasn't really fun to do anything other than run over, take some pictures and run back again. It looks like an awesome island to explore, but sadly we just didn't have the right day.

The slightly wet causeway
The Harbour at St Michael's Mount
On the way back, we jumped up on top of Chapel Rock, in a flagrant lack of attention to our own self imposed rules, Liam decided that as it had steps on it it must count as an island, but the presence of some tufts of grass on the top and the fairly substantial size means it will get a place in the list.

On the Mount
Fairly Wet

After these triumphs, a couple of failures. Firstly we made a highly speculative attempt to reach Samphire Island. It's definitely somewhere off the North coast of Cornwall, south of Newquay, but we got as far as driving along the road in the general region before realising the absolute gale was going to make any attempt at running over the mile or so of fields to the coast absolutely miserable. We carried on to Newquay.

Here we wanted to go to Towan Island, the picturesque tower of rock just off the cliffs in the middle of the town, with it's very own suspension bridge and guest house on top, but we got as far as the door that said private and that didn't open with a welcoming face when we knocked. Nobody to explain the quest to, nobody to let us in with welcoming arms and allow us across the bridge. Pants.

The closest we came to Towan Island, you can just see the bridge
 Finally, just a mile or so up the coast, a sure fire bag was on offer. Porth Island is another landmass connected by a short bridge over a channel washed to soaking at high tide. By this time it was both stormy and completely night time, and we enjoyed the prospect of our very first island visited in the night time. No idea what Porth Island looks like, other than it's dark and it's quite hard to not step in puddles of mud. Still, we did it, took the photo, got the (wet) T-shirt, and as soon as we got back to the car it was a swift dash back to Bristol.

He's putting on that smile, it was horrible

But was it worth it?
 Left at seven in the morning, got back close to eleven at night, managed to bag four Cornish islands in varying degrees of comfort, but a great day was had by all (both)!

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