Monday 29 June 2009

Clotted Cream and Coast Paths

It took six hours to drive from Yorkshire to our much loved campsite at Crantock in Cornwall. We arrived at John's door at Higher Moor spot on noon to be allotted our pitch in a delightful position that caught both the morning and evening sun. We'd asked for the 'Asparagus field' but it was fully booked by a group with enormous tents, big cars, over-proportioned bodies and inflated egos. I couldn't even get a 'good morning' from them! By one o'clock our tent was up and we were enjoying a much needed brew in body-hugging sunshine and a pleasant breeze.
Two hours later, when all our gear was sorted out, we set off on the first of our daily runs around the Common, four miles of undulating paths lined with orchids and a myriad other flowers, where skylarks sang joyously in a cloudless sky and quivering kestrels hovered. In the twelve days that followed we ran another 86 miles, mostly in the early mornings before the heat of the day, and all but one in similar sunny conditions when the whole of nature was bursting into an extravagant fullness of life. Of course, with a combined age of 140 years, we bumbled along at a fairly sedate pace whilst other runners, mainly women, showed us a clean pair of heels, amongst other well shaped bits and pieces!
While washing up one evening I got chatting with a lady called Sue who, it transpired, lives less than seven miles away in Yorkshire. She said her sixty year old partner, Eddie, is also a runner and often runs one of the same routes as me over 'Castle Hill' back home. So I went for a word with him, inviting him to join me on one of my morning runs round the coast path. Whether he'd seen my extra spurt as I re-entered the campsite at the end of one of my runs, I don't know, but he was having none of it. "There's no way I could keep up with you" he said. It was disappointing in a way but, being seventeen years older than him, I took it as a compliment.
By way of training for a half marathon at Masham in North Yorkshire on July 5th I'd worked out a twelve mile route predominantly along the south west coast path but which later veered off through Ministry of Defence property and back by inland paths. It looked feasible on the map. My partner and I were jogging along very nicely over two miles of dunes when we came to a locked gate with razor wire across the top barring admittance. But the funny part was, we were on the INSIDE and couldn't get out. We'd somehow wandered onto a vast Army firing range with the added danger of unexploded shells, bombs and goodness knows what besides. We couldn't retrace our steps quick enough, and very light ones at that!
Our ears pricked up when a motor cycle drove onto the campsite one evening. A glance out of the tent revealed it was drawing a huge six foot strawberry shaped trailer. It stopped, the driver lifted the lid and almost disappeared inside the darn thing, his legs flailing the air like some clown as he delved in to dish out its luscious cargo of Cornish strawberries and clotted cream. We couldn't resist and willingly handed over our £3 for this special treat. They were some of the most flavoursome we've ever tasted and a welcome change from cheese and biscuits to finish our evening meal.
Although we recognize most of the common butterflies around home we're not familiar with some we encounter elsewhere. But we did manage to identify the beautiful Painted Lady that joined the Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells, Heath Fritillaries and Common Blues which brightened up our walks and runs. My partner returned all excited one morning after seeing a fox calmly strolling back to his den in a thicket by the beach before the tourist hordes arrived. Apparently a fox regularly crosses the campsite at night (maybe hunting for scraps), as do four or five badgers which often make an awful mess as they rip up the grass in search of worms. Since a top Government Vet told him they carry all sorts of diseases, John says he'd shoot all the badgers if only it was lawful! Buzzards once nested every year in an enormous pine tree, the young of which used to drink at a fountain in the garden on leaving the nest. Alas, they've been driven away by crows, magpies and marauding gulls. Thankfully, the Buzzards' lesser cousins, Kestrels, still hover around the campsite and over the Common, hanging in the air almost motionless.
For some inexplicable reason the Methodist Chapel was shut when I went to worship at the advertised time on Sunday morning. So I hurtled a quarter of a mile down the hill to the beautiful old church at Crantock and got there as they were singing the first hymn. I fumbled with the door and shortly a steward let me in. I assume the door is normally locked against visiting tourists and sight see-ers while services are in progress so I felt honoured to be allowed in whilst others, later, were turned away. Compared to Methodist services it was quite 'High Church' with much waving of incense and tinkling of bells during the Communion service, but very enjoyable and easy to follow on the printed sheets. So I felt quite at ease. But I gave my knees a nasty bashing when I flopped down all too hard at the altar rail to partake of the bread and wine. Unlike the comfortable cushions in churches back home there was just a thin layer of carpet on a stone step! The Minister was a lady of Dawn French proportions, but of somewhat different intellect, who preached a creditable sermon on the Storms of Life. The stewards, and everyone else, were extremely friendly and welcomed me heartily. I'll go there again. It was collection money well spent!
After being kept awake until midnight by four giggling girls, then by two guffawing cider-quaffing couples till one in the morning, I suggested to John he place notices in all the toilets stating 'STRICTLY NO NOISE AFTER 11PM' - explaining that we geriatric runners have to be up in the morning, so need our beauty sleep. "Who are they? he asked. When I told him he simply said "Well, they're going this morning." The toilet walls remain unadorned.

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