Most people know about Boscastle on account of that time it flooded and I don’t mean the locals got their toes a bit wet whilst watching Corrie and eating their fish and chips one night. It fucking flooded. We’re talking homes and businesses destroyed, cars washed out to sea as torrents of sewage infested water roared down the tiny streets. Scenes you usually see on BBC News of events happening in far away places before you reach for your phone and text a small donation to the Red Cross and thank the deities that you have the fortune to not live in a country that experiences natural disasters. Helicopters air lifted people clinging to trees as buildings collapsed around them and thankfully, no one was killed or even seriously injured.
That was in 2004 and since then, Boscastle has rebuilt and fuck me, it has the prettiest harbour I’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping my eyeballs around. Ever. You know when you see your crush and they’re so hot that you can’t stop staring at them and before you know it you’re stood there like a slack jawed imbecile, drooling on their shoes, utterly unable to form sentences? Boscastle harbour is pretty like that. Except you won’t get a slap. And it doesn’t wear shoes. The beauty of it probably comes from the fact it’s a natural harbour and it’s so damn awesome it’s part of the National Trust.
So we’d gotten here slightly too early on account of the fact we forgot it was Sunday. We wanted to check out the Museum of Witchcraft which didn’t open until 11.30 but that’s cool because if you walk up the right hand side of the harbour you get some gorgeous views and I got to highlight my inability to get down hills without the aid of a walking pole. I say pole and not stick because I’m not that fucking ancient yet. There’s also a little tea room I forget the name of which is pretty fab for killing time. The cream teas are awesome and they serve Tregothnan tea which is, I believe, the only tea grown in England and it’s grown right here in Cornwall. It’s a “fair” tea which basically means if you like your tea strong, let it stew. I like my tea to strip my taste buds and stain my mug to the point only a vat of bleach and an angle grinder would clean it so it’s not really for me, but Tarrant liked it.
Anyway, this museum we’d come here to see. It’s actually really well laid out and very, very fascinating. It covers everything from images of witches through the ages and how we came to think of them wearing pointy hats and flying on broomsticks to the persecution of witches, complete with a replica of a weighing chair. They used to weigh suspected witches against a church bible. If the woman was heavier than the bible then she was considered innocent and they think the clergy promoted this method in order to prevent the torture and ill-treatment of the suspected women. Humans tend to be heavier than Bibles. They also used to tie them up and throw them in water. If they floated, they were guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake. If they sank and drowned they were obvs innocent but it’s kind of a lose-lose situation all round for the accused.
They have artefacts used by modern witches and ancient witches, examples of charms used including the way they sold the wind to sailors stranded by a lack of wind. The wind was captured in a rope which was tied with three knots. When one of the knots was undone, the wind would blow and the sailors would be on their way. There are explanations of pagan gods and how Christianity may have incorporated the images of these gods and goddesses and used them in their religion. There are witch poles and divination rods and an explanation of why you might find a desiccated cat hidden in your wall. If I ever find a desiccated anything hidden in my walls I’m fucking moving house.
Even if Boscastle wasn’t on your list, take the detour, have a cream tea and a locally grown cuppa and have a wander around this hugely informative museum after you’ve gawped at the stunning little harbour and posted the photos on Instagram. I’d say it was totally worth it. So yeah, onward with a walk we wanted to do, brandishing our walking poles like the proper walkers we were, with our backpacks containing lunch and chocolate and a water bottle containing a slug because Tarrant had decided to fill it from a hosepipe. That’s not fun, trying to remove a slug from a water bottle because you’re halfway through the walk and it was the only water you had left.
Anyway. The Boscastle to Tintagel coastal walk is quite a popular one with plenty of waymarks so you don’t have to worry about dying horribly in the middle of nowhere whilst foxes nibble on your entrails. The walk takes you past amazing, rugged coast and views of turquoise water that looks like it could belong in the Mediterranean.
Horses graze near this little white building which was originally built as a summer house. World’s fucking smallest summer house! That was in the 1800’s and since then it’s been used by revenue men to watch out for smugglers, as a coastguard lookout, and as a folly, which basically means it doesn’t do anything but look pretty. I could be considered a folly before my first cup of tea in the morning. Minus the “pretty” part. Now it’s a lookout manned by volunteers. Oh, and the horses are there to pointedly ignore tourists and to keep overgrowth at bay.
When you get to the “Tintagel 2¼” way mark you’re sorrrrrta kinda halfway through. At this point you’ll have just walked down a big fucking hill and there’s a big fucking hill to walk up, right ahead of you. We were having a water break when a woman wandered down a third path, off to the left as you get to the bottom. She told us that there were some ruins of an old mill and some Bronze Age carvings, less than a 5 minute walk that way. So we headed that way, because any excuse to put off walking up that really quite large beast-hill. This area is called Rocky Valley and whilst I don’t know anything about the awesome little mill, the labyrinth carvings are mentioned in the Witchcraft Museum. Apparently, labyrinths were important to west country witches. I’ve since found out that there’s a bit of dispute as to whether they’re genuinely bronze age as some folks think they’re too deep. We also have no idea why people hang coloured ribbons from the trees…
We made it all the way to Tintagel and after a look around the ruins of the castle and the island, it was time to head back to Boscastle for a cheeky half at the Cobweb Inn. Cornwall, it seems, is made entirely of hills and uneven steps. You know those steps that are set just wide enough that you can’t comfortably alternate legs? Yeah. Those fuckers. We were knackered. I mean, there are lots of hills in Brighton but usually there’s a pub at the top and you don’t end up scrambling up them on your hands and knees. It’s worth every step though, even as your arse muscles plot mutiny and your face turns a fetching shade of red, luminescent enough to be seen from space, you’re rewarded with view after view after view.
One of the reasons for choosing Acorn Camping was the fact they allow you to have barbecues as long as you put your barbie on the blocks provided and that proved useful tonight. Because when every single shop in the whole world runs out of ice you’re forced to use frozen sausages to keep the cool box cool which means you’re then obliged to consume them asap so that the 42% of them that is actually meat didn’t die in vain. Yeah, hard life, Cornwall. Hard life.
The following day we headed to Newquay, well known in the UK as a top notch surf destination for people who own VW campers and make neoprene rolled down to the waist look hot. I’ve tried surfing a few times but it requires all manner of things that I lack such as technique and balance. Seriously. I fall off the floor. I stumble in the shower if I close my eyes too quickly. That time I took a surfing lesson in Australia I could use the salt in my sinuses to season my chips for a week on account of the fact I spent more time with my face pressed onto the sea bed with my arse in the air than on the board. So we were heading to Newquay today to have a go at body boarding because you don’t have to stand up and make a prick of yourself, you only have to remember to actually be ON the board as opposed to standing waist deep in the water with your back to the waves whilst brandishing the board in front of you with your eyes closed.
We’d decided not to go to Fistral Beach for fear of annoying the proper surfers so we ended up at Tolcarne Beach to rent wetsuits and boards and to spend the day riding the mighty waves Newquay is known for. The waves that were currently lapping gently against the shoreline in a distinctly un-surf like manner. Riiiiiight.
So maybe not body boarding then. Maybe something more chilled like kayaking and dammit, I was still getting a wetsuit. I’m allergic to the cold. I think living in Cyprus ruined me for swimming in British waters ever again, I get in as far as my knees then dance around on the shoreline making involuntary monkey noises before retreating back to my flavoured cider. So yeah, if I was going anywhere near the sea I was doing it encased in neoprene and I didn’t care if it made me resemble a Teletubby. Which it very much did. I should probably stop eating meals in between meals.
Anyway, the dude at the kayak rental place was pretty chilled. He wasn’t too worried if we didn’t bring it back on the hour. So we paddled out towards the harbour and round the corner to look at seabirds which isn’t quite as awesome when you come from Brighton where you’re in a constant battle with seagulls over your lunch. I do fucking love kayaking though, any excuse to get out on the water. And despite my aversion to the cold I do still love being in the water but you know how wetsuits work? So basically, they let water in then your body heat warms the water next to your skin and this is what keeps you toasty. Yeah. Great. But when the water enters the suit via the zip, it’s fucking freezing. Once we’d dropped the kayak back we went for a bit of a frolic because that’s the only kind of activity acceptable in the ocean when you don’t have a board or some manner of floaty vessel, and suddenly not only was I a Teletubby, I was a girly screeching Teletubby.
Other things to do on a beach in Newquay include ice cream consumption and sunbathing and hello, sand, my old nemesis. We meet again. I fucking hate sand and its ability to get in places it’s most definitely not welcome. I hate getting it on me, it’s all bitty and it spreads out and becomes impossible to completely remove. It’s the same reason I hate loose tea leaves in the sink, or cous-cous, and I only just accept the existence of glitter because it’s shiny. Both me and Tarrant get bored sitting around for too long though and when we found ourselves taking dramatic filter macro photos of our face parts we figured it was time to go for a stroll, grab a pasty then go for a drive.
Sooo back when I was 18, an indeterminate number of years ago, me and my then-girlfriend bought a camper, gave up our flat in Salford and headed down to Cornwall for the eclipse. Helen got a job as a cook on a holiday park in a little village called Four Lanes which was where we ended up staying for a month or so. Maybe more. I don’t know, it was a very long time ago and lots of the grey stuff in between my ears has been replaced with vodka. But I do remember that one of my favourite things about Cornwall was the many ruins of tin mines dotting the landscape. We used to walk our dogs at one not too far from the holiday park, I remember that we used to marvel that it was place you could explore for free and predicting that in 10 years time it’d be fenced off and you’d be charged to look at it, but I couldn’t remember the name of it or where it was and Helen only had vague recollections too, but me and Tarrant set off in the general direction. I wanted to have a look at Four Lanes and I kinda secretly hoped that we’d find this old mine I used to go to.
Turns out that it’s called South Wheal Frances and it’s just past Lanyon Park as you drive away from the village. And and and!! It’s still free and totally open to the public! This pleased me. It’s such an awesome place to wander around and it has information boards to explain how mines worked and what part of the ruins did what before tin mining was finished and the structures were left to rot.
Anyway, a swift half at the local later and we were on the way to Helston. I’d discovered the Blue Anchor again when I was 18 after we’d parked up and a bloke had randomly told us if we were looking for a decent pint, head here. So we did. They brew their own ale out the back called Spingo and I may have lost more than a few brain cells to this brew. The strongest one gets you pissed from the feet up so you generally think you’re fine until you try to stand up.
We had a half each (of the weak one, thankyouverymuch. I’m a safe driver if you ignore my tendency to scrape against curbs. Though let’s be fair, it’s a fucking stupid place to leave a curb, right at the side of the road where cars go), grabbed a couple of bottles to take away then headed back to Four Lanes to watch the fiery sky ball sink over South Wheal Frances because I will never, ever get bored of a good fiery sky ball sinkage.
Boscastle, Tintagel & Newquay, Cornwall, England
Stayed at: Acorn Camping & Glamping