This was a holiday with a purpose, for me that is. I wanted to finalise which location I will use as a template for the terminus on my loft model railway. Cornwall is the area and I did propose to use Penzance but some difficulties have arisen so I wanted to have another look 'on the ground'.
There was a second purpose; we have extensively toured the UK and have a pinboard map that we keep up to date with our visits, last year I realised that there were some significant gaps and I drew 40 mile diameter circles on the map in ten places to highlight these. In 2012 we got rid of the East Anglian one, this year we wanted to remove the one straddling the Devon/Cornwall border.
The big pin marks the centre of an empty 50 mile diameter area
Day One Wednesday 4th September
As forecast it was very misty as we started and there were all sorts of traffic warnings but we had a three week window to make this trip in and whilst we weren't expecting to be away for all of the three weeks we had a definite return by date so we ploughed on. Our first campsite was the Camping and Caravan Club, Dartmouth which is actually in Stoke Fleming. The mist had cleared away by the time we reached Devon and we looked forward to meeting up with Tony and Sal, to whom we are now related by the recent marriage of our children. Well the mist had been the original problem but some time near Totnes we could hear one of our dogs indulging in excessive licking. Now I don't expect you read blogs to hear about anal glands so I'll be brief. The result was we booked a Vet appointment for Lottie in Dartmouth for the next day. The afternoon and evening was spent with Tony and Sal lazing, boozing, and eating their food.
Day Two Dartmouth
It is a short, if steep bus ride into Dartmouth. We have been here many times before but hadn't had spent much time in the town so after a recce to find out where the Vet was, we spent the three hours before our appointment exploring and having lunch. Dartmouth is a tourist hotspot with river and sea trips being the main attraction and of course the steam railway in Kingswear on the opposite bank. Away from the harbour there are lots of narrow alleys with all sorts of shops mostly local. In the small park there was a kiosk serving tea and sandwiches that seemed to be run by volunteers, we were seduced by the prices (coffee £1 sandwiches £1.5 cake from 50p) and had lunch in sun keeping clear of the gulls and watching the world meander by.
The Vet bill was surprisingly cheap and we were sent on our way with antibiotics and a sense of relief, apparently Lottie had done most of the Vet's work for him. We stayed a little longer in town and got on a very crowded bus back to Stoke Fleming. Dinner was in the dog friendly pub that is part of the campsite.
Having said our goodbyes to Sal and Tony we departed towards our next campsite near Bridestowe on the Devon/Cornwall border, It is a little CS (certificated site) between Oakhampton and Launceston that was chosen and booked because it was in the exact centre of our empty spot on the map. There were several ways to approach it: back on main roads to Totnes then A 38 towards Exeter and the A30 to the Oakhampton bypass; Totnes on to the A38 then across the moor via Bovey Tracey and Mortenhampstead; Totnes then A38 towards Plymouth then A386 Yelverton Tavistoke etc; or a cross country route to Ivybridge just skirting the moor to Cornwood then Yelverton etc. Now most of our Devon miles previously were in the Romahome or the Trafic and the Chauson is much wider, but we chose the route through Ivybridge using the narrower route that I had often travelled in the Romahome. The trip passed without too much incident, apart from a couple of reversing and hedge kissing moments. Lunch was at Cadover Bridge. The only regret is that we wasted much of a sunny day driving.
The site and the owners were both delightful. The pitches were full and, as arranged when I booked, we had to spend the first night by the side of the barn. For such a small site they had every amenity; electricity, free shower, loo, hairdryer, microwave, washing machine etc. It was just off the A30 on what was the original non dualled A30, so very easy if you want to break your journey to Cornwall.
Day Four Saturday
We knew that this was going to be a wet day so we headed for Launceston hoping to spend some of the time on the narrow gauge railway and also visit the castle (English Heritage). We failed on both counts, firstly were we unable to find suitable parking near the castle and secondly the Launceston railway doesn't operate on Saturdays. Doh! So on to Oakhampton to buy a paper and replenish our food stocks. Failed again! We were too big for the supermarket carparks, eventually we gave up and headed to Mortenhampstead. It now has a bypass which takes you around the west of the village and deposits you at the carpark. A walk into town to the Coop and a butcher replenished our stocks and just as the rain started to come down in a serious manner we left to go onto Dartmoor. We stopped at the first large carpark on the moor, you know the one that gives you such nice views towards the Fernworthy Forest, not that we saw much in the pouring rain. We read the papers had some lunch and generally vegetated until the rain abated. Then it was on across the moor via Princetown to Yelverton and back to our site.
You have to expect some bad weather in September, we were to be away 18 days in all and today was the worst one. By and large the forecasts for the next days weather were accurate and of the18 there was lots of sunshine on 12 of them. I think the only problem was that three days prior they were always forecasting worse weather than actually happened, which did make any planning difficult.
Day Five Launceston
So we went back to Launceston and spent most of the day on the railway. Preserved railways are one place you know your dog is going to be welcome.
At the end of the line there is a cafe and a farm and adventure park, its mainly aimed at children so we just whiled away an hour at the cafe and I had my first pasty of the trip. Some of the animals are free ranging but Lottie kept this critter away from my pasty.
Its only a short line, we went up and down it twice and spent some time looking around a collection of engines, agricultural machinery and old cars at the Launceston station. They also had a bookshop which sold some overpriced books but I bought one about modelling the GWR, like I need another railway book!
I had done my research more thoroughly concerning parking in Launceston and so was able to drive to a carpark not too far from the castle and it was free on Sunday. So we were able to visit the castle of which it has to be said there is not a lot left. The view from the top of the remaining structure is good though and it gave the dogs a chance to stretch their legs, English Heritage is also mainly dog friendly. Looking from the top of the castle reminds me that the centre of town is to the south of the castle and very narrow, don't get sucked in when you are looking to park.
We went from there to Tavistock and on the way took a diversion for HGV which went through a place called 'Chipshop'! Then on to the moor near Vixen Tor for a cup of tea and a laze.
We left Meadow view campsite and headed to Newquay. We are staying at a temporary holiday site within Hendra holiday park. It was run by the BCC Cornwall part of the C&CC and we had a seven night stay for £70! This was even more of a bargain than we at first realised because it included electricity, showers and loos, and access to all the holiday camp facilities. It was hot and sunny when we arrived, so apart from having a look around and collect bus timetables etc, we did little else but relax in the sun. The THS stewards seemed an industrious lot and I favoured their tombola with a few quid, winning a couple of bottles of booze and a large meerkat toy. They provided a whole tourist pack of leaflets to every camper along with their own notes. I have to say that they did an excellent job including sorting out peoples problems, we will keep them in mind for other THS that they might run. Later I tried out my new chair in earnest, not as good as a Lafuma, but not bad for the price.
Day Seven Newquay
There is a bus stop opposite the site which has buses to Newquay bus station and Truro. No one told us in advance that the bus drivers here were demented speedsters. Anyway today we went into Newquay and did some chores. Doreen's glasses had taken a knock and I had broken my watch strap pin. Within ten minutes of arriving on the highstreet thanks to Specsavers and Samuels both were fixed for free. This left us free to wander. Newquay is an attractive place for sea and surf but you can see why it has got its repuation for tat and cheap booze. On the road leading down to the pictured beach they sold some of the best pasties we had on this trip. Interestingly I have a photo in an old railway book depicing the isolated rock with the house shown below. It clearly shows a tunnel of the harbour tramway in the lower left that no longer exists but looking at the few photos we took I can't make up my mind where it was. Afternote I have researched the harbour tramway and it went nowhere near this rock!
When we got back a newcomer had taken our EHU connection. Actually it wasn't his fault a steward had told him to and the steward soon sorted it out with a splitter. However this near neighbour was subliminally annoying. It was a motorhome but he had an awning with opaque sidewalls which cut out seeing in and out except that we could see the glow of a halogen heater, which they seemed to keep on permanently along with their awning light. They had two barky Jack Russells which, as they kept escaping, we saw more of than their owners. As far as we could tell they never poked their noses outside their pitch apart from the man going to fetch water with a caravan type roller once in a while. Hey ho people!
Day Eight Truro
Ignoring the two wild bus trips we had already endured in and out of Newquay, we got on a bus to Truro. The route goes down tiny lanes to some villages lying off the direct route with only 35 minutes scheduled for the journey. The whole experience wasn't helped by gas contractors and their vehicles blocking the road. We did two emergency stops and neither dog was very happy under the seats, sliding this way and that. The other thing was that the bus company had lost 80 buses in a fire and the ones we went on had been 'hired in', the one back from Truro was practically a museum piece.
Our venue for lunch was under the viaduct at Victoria Park, on our way there I took photos of old buildings to act as a check that my modelling would be spot on. Later we went into the market hall and I bought a book on GWR stations in Cornwall but this was a bargain, honest. Although I won't be modelling a viaduct I took photos that showed the plinths of the Brunel era wooden viaducts next to the all stone and brick ones that replaced them. One feature that stands out in Cornwall which will be good to model is the large number of palm trees you see. Afternote they aren't palms they are Cordyline Australyis otherwise known as the 'cabbage' tree. Apparently you could buy them in Truro in Victorian times and they do survive well in Cornwall. When modelling you should be able to remove all the rolling stock from your railway model and you should still be able to guesss the area and period. A few palm trees might help!
We now expect two days of light rain so are taking advantage of the facilities afforded by the campsite. Doreen swam in the indoor pool while I looked after the dogs and read in the outdoor bar nearby. My reading of the tourist leaflets threw up another railway related item, the Bodmin and Wenford railway which is less than 20 miles away, I don't know why it had passed me by because it has a terminus at Bodmin and unlike Penzance a simple one, furthermore the gradients to it are similar to those on my layout so as far as I am concerned it is a must see. In any case it looks like it has been frozen in time so lots of the GWR buildings from the 1930's are still there to be photographed. Perhaps we will go tomorrow as it would be a shame to waste a sunny day travelling on a railway. The stewards this evening had organised preordered pasties, £2 each for large ones and they were pretty much as good as those we paid £3.50 for in NewQuay.
The expected light rain is now forecast as heavy for today, Saturday as fine and Sunday as light rain again so plan B springs into action, stay on camp today and do a laundry load, find a beach tomorrow and the railway on Sunday. So I did the laundry and read some more. We have been experimenting with our net awning sides. They have been very successful in allowing us to leave the awning out when wet and windy, the only drawback is drying them off in the rain. Of course although it rained off and on all day it really was very light and we could have easily gone to Bodmin.
Amongst the bits and bobs we got from the campsite we have a list of nearby dog friendly beaches, and that evening the guy from the caravan next door brought us a list of all the Cornish dog friendly beaches, that he had kindly sought out for us. This evening we tried a tin of steak and kidney bought from Waitrose that we have had in the store cupboard, it was a disappointment.
Day Eleven Saturday Watergate Beach
An accurate forecast, sunny but a bit windy, the last two days have cooped us up a bit and it was good to get into the fresh air again. Watergate beach is another one of those surfing beaches and although it was busy there were plenty of room for the dogs to run. You have to park a short walk from the beach (height barriers near to) but there are loos and cafes and even a dog friendly pub/restaurant. The days parking was about £5.
There was lots of surfing to watch, with the RNLI much in attendance getting surfers away from swimmers and both away from the tide rips. On the beach there were two surf schools doing shorework, looked too much like hard work to me.
That night there was a three quarter waxing moon and it was lighting up the clouds I tried to get a photograph of that effect but succeeded only in getting this rather good one of craters near the terminator.
Day Twelve Bodmin and Wenford Railway
Well the weather forecast was again bad, as bad as Friday's, but no option but to go today, as it happened the only heavy rain that fell was as we started to leave the railway and by the time we went through Wadebridge and collected pasties at Padstow (the worse ones this trip) the sun was back out. Now I took loads of photographs but they were more for my modelling use than blog illustration, here are a few:
A conical water tower without the cone, typical GWR wriggly tin huts
Good canopy detail - Original GWR footbridge at Bodmin Road (parkway)
Check rail and point rodding detail, Southern (LWSR) work truck
Day Thirteen St Ives
It was raining slightly the next morning so we made a leisurely get away to our next campsite which was to be at Townshend between Hayle and Helston. By the time we were approaching Redruth on the A30 the sun was drying up the rain so we made the decision to go to the St Ives Park and Ride at Lelant near St Erth. We arrived just in time to park and get on the train to St Ives. The rover ticket on this branch between St Erth and St Ives is £4, the same price as a return to St Ives from Lelant. We spent the afternoon in full sun at St Ives (a cream tea was partaken of by D) and I took some architectural type photos which I wont bore you with.
Then caught the train back to St Erth, got on a train to Penzance took the extra photos I wanted there, then after a bit of a walk in the sunshine went back to Lelant.
If you have never been to St Ives by train I can thoroughly recommend it, the park and ride is a bit hidden away behind new houses, but well signed, going by train gives you marvellous views.
It was then back through Hayle to Townshend and the C&CC CS campsite. Hoorah! we didn't waste a sunny day by just travelling between sites.
Day Fourteen Gweek Seal Sanctuary
Gweek lies at the head of the Helford river and its not the easiest place to get to by motorhome, however if you start at Helston and follow the seal sanctuary signs past RNAS Culdrose you should make it without mishap. Its not a cheap attraction make sure you get a £4 per person off voucher from their leaflet or Cornish attractions booklet before arriving. It is however well worth it and they allow dogs every where apart from the animal hospital the land train and inside the cafe. It was a dull misty day when we went there but that didn't spoil it for us. Leave plenty of time and focus on the feeding and talk times. The staff there are very knowledgeable and we found it all interesting, especially the history of some of the seals.
Snoopy and Raymond
Some of the seals are long term residents, Snoopy (from Edinburgh Zoo via Whipsnade) has long since decided that she didn't need to catch fish in the water and by staying out eventually got her own bucket. Raymond was rescued and found to be a little lacking in the old brain department quite often he will be looking the wrong way even at feeding times. There are five pools all with different types or ages of seals. There were no pups this being the wrong time of the year but the first strays were expected soon, then its all hands to getting them well enough to return to the sea, this includes training so they get to know that for example fish live in the sea not in a bucket.
There are also otters and sheep goats and ponies ... oh yes, and of course pasties.
Day Fifteen Longrock Beach
Another sunny day, and we needed a dog friendly beach colocated with motorhome friendly parking. Eventually we made it to Longrock, £1 for 24hrs. When the tide comes in though there isn't any beach so you also need tide tables!
Our intention is now to head slowly back to Salisbury
Day Sixteen Pendennis Castle
As members of English Heritage we are always seeking to get value for money for our annual subscription. The day was due to be rainy at least in the morning so we left our nice campsite late, it stayed dull but found that Pendennis at Falmouth was quite an interesting castle, involved in the wars with the French and Spanish in Tudor times, the English civil war and both world wars. Regrettably we left both cameras in the van so no photos still here's a link www.pendenniscastle.com. After some lunch overlooking the harbour and in sunshine now we made our way around to our new C&CC campsite near Veryan. We were only remarking that so far we hadn't had any fish and chips on this trip only to find that a chippy was visiting this evening - meal sorted.
Day Seventeen Lost Gardens of Heligan
We were very close, as the crow flies, to Heligan but looking at the map the road looked too narrow, for too long, so we chickened out and went the long way round via St Austell. It was a lovely day again and we spent most of the day in the gardens can thoroughly recommend it as a day out. There are not only the formal gardens and the wooded valleys but also the human story.
We decided that we would head towards LIskard and I found a Brit Stop to aim for, the instructions were to arrive late afternoon before the shop closed at 18.00. That gave us time to pop into Bodmin one more time to check up on something for the model railway and to go to Trago Mills to look at their pillows.
We arrived at the Britstop with half an hour to spare just time to recce the shop and buy some treats then with a view from the edge of Bodmin moor to the edge of Dartmoor we settled down for the evening.
It rained in the night and it was drizzly and misty when we got up. A few more purchases in the shop and then we headed for home with one more short stop at Beer head to buy amongst other things some more track from the Peco shop there.
With six new pins (flat & white for 2013) two of them within the 50 mile circle you can see that objective two was met. As for the main one, well unfortunately still not decided exactly what to do, but I now have all the evidence I need...probably.
This wasn't the dog friendly beach handout that we were given but seems the proper job: www.visitcornwall.tv/pdf/Cornwall-dog-friendly-beaches.pdf