Holiday 2016 – Glastonbury & Cornwall

The Beginning…

Well everything has a beginning and so did the start of our holiday. Or to put it correctly the dreaded car trouble one week before setting off. I was greeted with the familiar “Emissions Workshop” light on the way home from work and while plugging in the diagnostic tester I saw a new code that I hadn’t seen before… I also heard the engine making an unusual juddering sound instead of the mostly smooth hum that normally happens.

I had the dreaded cylinder misfire and was that a PITA to diagnose. To cut a long story short I had air leaking in from a completely severed air intake pipe coupled with a faulty ignition lead. Anyway with that sorted and some £70 poorer we were all set to go.

This year we had planned on spending a week in Glastonbury, visiting family and looking around the surrounding area. We arrived on Monday afternoon during a “mini heatwave”. With everyone settled in at the Travelodge I ventured out towards Glastonbury Tor some 5 1/2 stone lighter. After taking the steep ascent to the top of a nearby hill I stopped to take a few pictures but without a 70-210mm lens I couldn’t just fit in the Tor by itself, so I decided to make my way to the Tor via the steeper path which for the uninitiated is turn left at Chapel Springs and keep walking up the road until you come across some fields near the base of the Tor and then make the steep climb up the path until you reach the summit.

When I arrived which was around 8.30pm the view didn’t disappoint. The sky was completely cloudless as far as they eye could see. Quite a few people were also present to watch the sunset, some performing Tai Chi and others meditating. From a landscape photography perspective there were too many people around but I took advantage of grabbing some people shots using the Tor and the sunset to add some atmosphere. Hopefully they should turn out ok. One of the other beautiful sights is to sit on the summit and be between sun and moon on a clear evening.

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The following day we made a tour of the town to get our bearings. Glastonbury is quite a small town with its eclectic groups of shops specialising in New Age Mysticism, the Arthurian legend, outlandish clothing (at least anywhere out side of Glastonbury!), funky cafe’s and other eateries.

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Later that day we ventured up the Tor as a family and had a picnic at the summit and all got sunburnt. And that’s even with factor 50 on! On the way back down we were so dehydrated we stopped off at the first café we came across which was the 100th Monkey. It’s a quirky place with a nice selection of drinks and food. The only thing on our mind was that of quenching our thirst so we had a round of ginger beers. I’m quite partial to a ginger beer and most times they just don’t quite hit the spot when it comes to its fieriness. Well the stuff we had didn’t disappoint! Belvoir Ginger Beer was advertised as being 100% naturally brewed and wow did it pack a kick, so good we had a second round.

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Later that evening three of us ventured back up the Tor to see if we could see the sunset. Unfortunately a bank of clouds were loitering close to the horizon and not willing to move along. It was still a nice evening with the moon rising behind a thin blanket of low clouds. Getting back down proved slightly more tricky when you have to rely on someone’s torch on their phone to navigate the seemingly endless steps but we finally managed to roll in around 10.30pm.

Wednesday had been reserved for visiting family so we just went to Wincanton and spent most of the day there catching up, drinking wine, falling through a garden chair… You know family stuff…

On Thursday I decided that we were going to visit the town of Avebury and look at the stone circles that ran through the village. From my research I had heard Bill Bryson complained that he was “ripped off” of some £30 by the National Trust before he even saw the stones. Well needless to say we didn’t fall victim to that. Parking for the whole day costs £7 which isn’t a King’s ransom and is worth it if you spend at least half a day there.

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I had been thinking of Stonehenge but the National Trust have made it such a commercial venture that these days I hardly think it’s worth it unless you have an NT or English Heritage membership. It’s not like you can even get close to the stones, the closest you can get is looking at them from a perimeter rope fence some 100ft away. Avebury on the other hand doesn’t suffer this problem as you can walk right up to the stones and touch them. Which is how I think people should interact with historical sites, as long as its not mindless vandalism or the local idiots carving their girlfriends names into them. Making the physical connection to an object that was touched by our distant ancestors thousands of years ago can be a powerful feeling. On the way back we saw the first spots of rain, which were welcomed as it would freshen up the remainder of the day. The rest of the week was cloudier and it was obvious that the “mini heatwave” was now over.

The Middle…

Well Saturday morning arrived and it was time to check out of the Travelodge and make our next journey down towards the Cornish coast. As expected we hit the dreaded delays on the A30 just outside Bodmin. For the most part of the way we were stuck behind four women in a red Peugeot 206, the stupid young woman driving was at times so slow to move that she had left a gap larger than two cars in front of her allowing other drivers to casually “slip in”. At one point she took out her phone and posed for a selfie the stupid cow! Well that really pissed me off so I honked my horn and started tailgating her making sure I was riding her ass all the way until we hit the next stretch of dual carriageway and promptly burnt her off at 80Mph.

Eventually we arrived in Mullion about an hour later than we had planned which on the face of it wasn’t too bad. After getting unpacked we ventured to the local Spar in the village and picked up some supplies and a meal for the evening. As a result of having car problems and paying out for road tax just before going away. We were somewhat poorer until payday so had to make the most of “cheap meals” at home instead of dining out. Sometimes you have no choice but to do this when you’re on holiday though I’d have preferred having more cash available instead!

The bungalow “Deu Try” was situated on what looked like a smallish estate and judging from its décor was probably lived in by an elderly resident. One of the nice features was that of a serving hatch in-between the kitchen and living/dining room which was perfect when you needed a brew!

For most of the week we ventured out and about the Lizard Peninsula. On Monday we went to Cadgwith which started off a bit cloudy but by the afternoon blue skies made their appearance and so did another dose of sunburn. I really should now better than to go out unprepared, still serves me right all the same.

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The following day (Tuesday) was a bit of a “lazy day” as I had a rough night sleeping with both my arms and head on fire with sunburn (ouch!) so decided to stay indoor and recover.

Wednesday brought us back to The Lizard where we had a short walk along the South West coastal path stopping along the way to setup the telescope & tripod and look at the boats out at sea as well as people watching over at Kynance Cove which was amusing. When we reached Lizard Point we then started looking at the local birds and we eventually spotted several seals in the water either just coming up for air or swimming towards the rocks. As far as stargazing went the first night was the clearest and in my mistake I chose not to setup my scope, so as my punishment I was rewarded with heavy clouds for the remainder of the week. Thankfully having a 45 deg erecting prism for my telescope at least allowed me to use it as a spotting scope for general viewing which was handy.

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With our holidays there is something of a tradition of children acting more mature and parents acting their shoe sizes and not their age. Well we had one of those days! I ended up walking the coastal path in the mist to clear my head. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what the disagreement was all about… cheese! (See you didn’t believe me)

On Friday we spent most of the afternoon at Poldhu Cove where the kids went wave boarding. I spent some time by the waters edge trying to get a good shot of the surfers riding the waves as well as the kid’s attempts at catching the waves. I got caught out by the incoming waves as the first few were just above my ankles before the next one went over my knees!

The End…

The final week of our stay in Cornwall began at the weekend when we visited Falmouth on Saturday. After a 50 minute drive we arrived at Falmouth and used the park and float service on the banks of the Penryn river. The weather forecasters predicted that there would be some sunshine over the duration of the weekend before the cooler and damper weather front moved in from the sea. The sunshine on Saturday was glorious and I also discovered the true meaning of the term “blistering heat” as by the end of the day I had several large blisters on my forehead and scalp, the perils of being bald and not applying sunscreen or a hat. We took the ferry from the car park and sailed down the Penryn river before joining Falmouth harbour where we got off. I’ll say this… if I had won the £61 Million lottery jackpot I would have bought a luxury motorboat. There were some seriously nice boats and yachts moored in the harbour.

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While we were walking around we stopped for a break and I noticed a very pretty girl sat down looking at her mobile. Given how close we were sat to her I thought that she would make a great candid portrait shot and did my usual trick of appearing to aim the camera elsewhere while getting the focus just right and quickly taking the shot. I think she did make eye contact so we’ll see what the results were like*.

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To get a brief break from the sun we visited the Falmouth Art Gallery which had an exhibition of illustrations from the books about the cowardly pirate Captain Pugwash. Seeing not only the illustrations but also the actual articulated artwork using the in the 1975 BBC adaptation of the cartoons brought back memories of my childhood. I don’t think kids today can appreciate the simplicity of the animation coupled with the comical storylines not to mention the urban myths surrounding some of the characters names.

I also suffered a major setback as my Canon EOS 600 decided to completely pack up and not function at all. Fortunately Heather had her Pentax P30 with her and didn’t mind me using it. I have to admit that I was quite annoyed as this *always* seems to happen to me when I need my camera, I had this happen to me 2 years ago with my previous Canon body just dying on me. This time, however, it looked to be more than just a suspect battery as I had tried an unopened battery and got the same results.

The Pentax had only one test roll put through it before we took it with us so I’m hoping that it will be alright. I know that some people may be wondering why I haven’t gone digital, well I did have my Nexus 4 with me and I have had a Samsung compact camera in the past but have never been satisfied with the overall quality. Lucky for me that my wife said that I should treat myself to a newer camera and stop relying on old camera’s that pack up just when you need them. We’ll see how she reacts when I tell her how much I am thinking about spending…

On Sunday we thought about trying a different beach for surfing, having heard about Gunwalloe Cove we made the trip up towards Helston before taking the long and winding road (that’s a great title for a song…) before arriving at the National Trust car park. Gunwalloe is something of a game of two halves. The first half nearest the car park is very pebbly and not suited if you have someone who is unsteady on their feet. I learnt from Alex that the waves on that side were not as good as they were too shallow (close to the shore) and that there were large rocks underwater which he slammed his knee into, that kind of put him off boarding for the rest of the day. They wanted to go back to Poldhu Cove again so I said that I would go and have a look at how far it would be to get there as I could see the Poldhu Care Home near the top of one of the cliffs. On my way down a short path I came to the second part of Gunwalloe which was the more sandy beach so we moved there and found a nice shady spot to escape the blazing sun. It was a nice beach and there were a few nice babes to look at so I was happy!

Well what a difference a day makes… Monday brought damp, misty conditions to the coast. Mullion was covered in a blanket of mist with the average visibility around 300 yards. Like everyone else we were looking for something to do on a wet day. We went down to Mullion Meadows to visit the chocolate factory and also drop in at Anthony Smith’s Gallery as Heather wanted to show off some of her artwork she has been doing (anime/manga). Unfortunately Anthony wasn’t in that day as he had been busy over the last week and needed some much needed time off but we took advantage to looking around the gallery as I had set my heart on picking some art up on this stay.

Driving down to The Lizard we did the tour of the gift shops looking for things to take back. In one shop I had noticed that there were some small paintings done by Kit Johns which had caught my eye back in Easter. As there were only a few small ones there I didn’t find the one I was looking for. Spotting one of his works painted on driftwood my wife got chatting and I found out that this particular piece was around £60 which was a little outside what I was looking for, she then drew my attention to another seascape that she had strategically located in front of her as she though it was a lot nicer and for some reason was cheaper £28.50. Well I was sold on it and bought it on the spot. Not everyone is drawn to art the way that I am. Like many people the art we hang up is usually a reproduction of a more famous painting and while there is nothing wrong with this I can’t help but feel the desire to own an original piece of artwork, especially one done in either oils or acrylic as there is a particular three dimensional quality with paintings on canvas that is lost when reproduced.

From the writer that didn’t bring you “Sleepless in Seattle” comes the Cornish coastal drama “Flat Battery in Penzance“. I’ve never been to Penzance before and had been hoping to use this as a springboard to visit some of the nearby stone circles in the area. Sadly the weather on Tuesday was damp and misty so we settled for a walk around the town and the shopping centre. Penzance is probably less of a tourist area and more like a normal town centre with the awkward parking and getting in and out of town. I’m sure that on a nice day it can be a lovely place but after nearly 3 hours I was looking forward to going home when I discovered to my horror that I had accidentally left my side lights on and the car wouldn’t start. Thankfully another visitor came to our rescue and gave us a jump start, at least when he could find where the battery terminals were on an Audi! Thank God for jump leads! Driving back was scary in that the only thing that was going through my mind was “I’m not stopping for anything!” all the way back to Mullion. Luckily the run on the way back gave us enough charge to keep the car ticking over.

Later that evening I went out for a walk down to nearby Polurrian Cove to see if I could catch a sunset (I’m kinda obsessed about it when I’m taking pictures!). The mist was quite heavy and there was little chance of seeing the sun set though. In fact there were several guys there trying to bodyboard at 9pm in the evening with strong winds and pounding waves hammering the nearby rocks. Talk about crazy or what!

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As we were nearing the finale of our holiday we went to Porthleven again on Thursday to wander around and pick up some souvenirs. Firstly as the weather was so much nicer we made our first stop for a much needed coffee at Nauti But Ice and the kids got back in touch with the internet. I ventured into the Waves Gallery which has features the unique photography of Mike Lacey. I’ve been here before and each time wished I could have bought one of his photographs. The hardest part was which one? I settled for one called “Cornish Heart” which shows a heart shaped wave which is something you don’t see every day. We stopped for lunch at the Blue Haze restaurant, I had been planning on trying out Rick Stein’s place but no one could decide what they wanted so we settled on this place. I wasn’t disappointed as the food was great and decently priced. On our way back to the other side of the harbour we spotted the Google Maps car right next to us so we decided to “strike a pose” and who knows we may appear in Street View at some point in the future. We also went to visit Carla Regler’s gallery, for those who may not be familiar with her work one of her pictures of the storms battering Porthleven was syndicated worldwide by the news agencies. Her work is simply stunning and provided me with some inspiration for my photography. I spent part of the afternoon exploring the other side of the harbour and tried to catch some shots of a surfer riding the waves before he wiped out.

The penultimate day arrived and on Friday we went back to The Lizard and picked up some beers (St Austell Proper Black, HSD and Lizard Ales Horseshoe Special Reserve) and some things to take back with us. We spent the afternoon packing up our stuff and getting as much as possible loaded into the boot in advance of our departure and had a quiet meal in. After being away for some three weeks we didn’t want to go home but knew that a long journey awaited us.

Travelling back wasn’t quite as bad as most of the queues were on the A30 going into Cornwall but we still managed to get stuck in some slow spots on the way to the M5 with congestion present. It still took over six hours driving. Looking back it’s hard to think that we’d been away for 3 weeks but it didn’t take long to get back into the normal routine.

As far as holidays go I think 2016 was probably the most memorable having been able to take the family away twice in a year to make up for not going away the previous year. As for 2017 who knows?

*As you can see the Pentax P30 came through with the goods! Not bad for an £8 buy from eBay!

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