Trip Report by Jonathan Hood
To the Lighthouse (geddit?)
Many a wet holiday camping in the fine persistent rain Cornwall specialises in plus the interminable drive down following caravans being towed at 25 mph on narrow roads has somewhat prejudiced me.
However now chauffeured by my people (Guy and Jackie) I was wafted to Cornwall in about 6 ½ hours along fast roads in bright sunshine. Blue skies (mainly) transform Cornwall; its beaches are stunning.
Bliss was not to last; Jackie had unwittingly booked us into a flop house which made the Bates Motel look Michelin starred. However better not dwell on that; it was at least handy for our point of departure, Penzance inner harbour.
Our rib driver was none other than Charles Hood (no relation) who in his spare time seems to spend as much time underwater as Guy, plus writing ceaseless equipment reviews for Scuba Magazine. A font of local wisdom taking us, a gorgeous sunny and above all calm day and the “right time of year” to see the basking sharks, dolphins, sun fish, coelacanths etc which infest the coast this time of year, meant we were clearly not going to have to fall back on Steve’s ‘money back guarantee if you don’t see the sharks’ which we all had relied on in agreeing to his trip.
Off we set. Jeremy and Justin both with identical little hats on, up front with Steve. Whilst lounging about in the back Jackie, Guy, Greg and myself.
We travelled right round the sticky-out bit of Cornwall, via Longhouse Light off Lands End, to Cape Cornwall.
Cornwall from the seaward side is more beautiful than ever as it rolls by as a succession of sumptuous, very quiet golden beaches and coves with countryside coming down to the sea. The villages look just as they ought from the sea. We stopped off and had fun with barrel jellyfish. I took a picture of Guy trying to catch one to take home; however it proved too big to get a grip on. Snorkelling in a dry suit was initially rather concerning. I hadn’t appreciated that I would need so much weight to become vaguely neutrally buoyant. I wish I had tried it at Crystal Palace pool. A degree of nervousness at plunging into the fathomless deep with no stab and over-weighted, added a certain edge to the first roll off the rib. The viz was as it should be; none of our faintly squalid 4 inches as we feel our way round some rotting hulk off the South East Coast. Instead here viz could be measured in yards.
Next stop, after a shore stop for fine Viennese coffee and strudel supplied by Jackie, was Longships Light. By this time Charles was desperately scanning the horizon (having scoured the inshore waters) for movement; any movement. Longships Light sits on a rocky reef a couple of miles out. Low, long and doubtless lethal in poor weather or at night, it is now the home to many a fine ship. The unmanned lighthouse somehow manages to cling on despite winter storms. However its attraction now was a colony of grey seals who regard it as home. So much so that Jackie was given a playful nip on the leg as she swam amongst them uninvited. I know it was playful as she still has her leg. Her shriek still rebounds around the rocks. Guy however found the moment photographically irresistible.
Swimming with seals is a lovely experience; for the first time you appreciated how fast, agile and strong seals are. As for how they achieve all this breathing air like us is a mystery of nature. (check out our Facebook page)
After the seals a leisurely run back. Despite Charles’s very best endeavours and constantly roaring off to investigate any odd patch of sea, the sharks proved elusive; as befits animals of mystery. It will make the occasion when I do finally catch up with them that much sweeter.
Back on dry land Steve, when pressed on his guarantee said ‘terms and conditions applied’; that’s the trouble with oral contracts. As he was living in a tent he’s probably not worth pursuing.
Plenty of very good local ale and fine food in a fine pub Greg had found in the very photogenic Porthleven village. The meal was civilised by the presence of both Mrs Rust and Nina (who Steve had inveigled to live in his tent despite, doubtless, her being offered fine hotel accommodation).
We packed a lot in a very short period of time. 5 stars. Well done Steve for organising it.