It’s been a whirlwind few days since arriving in the UK. This week I’m staying in Cornwall with a group of friends from home and we’re having a blast. As all of us are writers bound for the World Fantasy Convention, our interests are very compatible: striking scenery, quaint villages, ancient monuments and ruins, castles, local cuisine…
After a road trip down from London on Saturday — ducking into the Stonehenge carpark for a free view of the monument along the way — we arrived in the town of Bodmin in time for dinner. We decided to take A roads rather than motorway, convinced it would be more scenic, and we certainly enjoyed the drive immensely. England is so very green compared with Australia, and the south-west has stunning landscapes.
On Sunday (yesterday) we explored the nearby Bodmin Moor. This involved squeezing our little red Toyota Yaris (nicknamed the Thai Bullet for its chile colour) down narrow roads barely the width of a car, our route twisting and turning up and down across the landscape. We are navigating largely via Google Maps on a smart phone, which is proving both effective and challenging, because 3G coverage in this region is negligible. Yet somehow we manage to make it work.
Our first stop on the moor was Colliford Lakes, then Bolventor Church, by which time we conceived a desire for coffee. Turns out Sunday mornings in this part of the world are not ideal for coffee stops (of the kind we had in mind). We drove around for a while and started to get frustrated before we stumbled across the little town of Upton Cross and its Apple Fair. This is one of the many things I love about travelling. The Apple Fair was a local event. They served instant coffee and home made apple cake in the church hall for 50p each — and we fell upon these with gusto. It was lovely to chat to locals and experience such an authentic celebration of local industry.
But the highlight of the day was to be found near the small town of Minions (where we finally found food, and I enjoyed my first Cornish pasty for this trip). Minions is home to two celebrated sites: the Hurlers, two prehistoric stone circles; and the Cheesewring, a natural pillar of stones carved into an odd shape by erosion.
The Hurlers (above) are not too far from the town, set into the grass. We trekked across the spongy peat to reach them, beautiful in the sunshine. (We are having fabulous weather so far — a mix of sun and cloud, but not too much rain.)
But then we kept on walking, along with the locals out with their dogs, past the placid cattle, into the depths of the moor and up a rocky crag of granite to view the Cheesewring.
Our final stop involved much crafty navigation, but eventually we found Trevethy Quoit, one of Cornwall’s most striking Neolithic burial chambers (says the Lonely Planet Guide). Alas, my camera battery had run out by this time and I don’t have a photo. But it was very cool.
I’m using my iPhone camera on this trip, and although I hadn’t anticipated the battery issue, I’m quite happy with the photos. Nor had I anticipated the lack of 3G coverage, which is why I’m posting a little later than I had planned. (Yes, OK, it might also have something to do with the socialising in the evening… But it’s so nice to travel with friends for a change!)
Today (Monday) we visited Tintagel castle — but that’s for another post…