After a lengthy period of rain, the weather faired up just in time for the long drive south. Mostly motorway, the drive was a long one with two accidents and general congestion turning a 3.5 hour journey into more than 5 hours.
We broke up the trek with an overnight stay at the Black Horse in North Nibley. Some reviews of this place had not been very favourable, but new tenants had apparently taken the place over so we decided to chance it; not a wise decision. A friendly enough welcome, but the place was run down and pretty grubby, with dark brown stains around the sink taps and shower base clearly showing that cleanliness and hygiene was not a priority here. Evening meals and service were both very poor, with insufficient staff struggling to cope. Breakfast was marginally better though the table we were sat at still had sticky stains from last night’s beer. The only redeeming factor was a reasonable choice of cask ales which we ended up not being charged for as they weren’t added to our room tab! I think Jill might normally have fessed up about the oversight but under the circumstances we thought it a fair deduction for a pretty poor experience.
Despite North Nibley being a small village, it did have a huge monument to William Tyndale, a former nearby resident who suffered an untimely death in 1536 due to religious persecution after his translation of the New Testament. We walked for nearly a mile up the steep and muddy Nibley Knoll, before climbing the 120 winding steps to the top of the tower, passing a nervous nesting pigeon on the way. Our legs were killing us but the breathtaking views made it worthwhile, and the exercise helped work up an appetite for the disappointing meal which was to follow.
A warm and sunny morning greeted us as we breathed a sigh of relief at our exit from the Black Horse, with 3.5 hours to go on our Journey to Bude. More boring motorways; we tried to find an alternative route but it would have taken far too long.
When we reached the cottage, we found it on a narrow road with very limited parking. It was a bit of an ordeal finding a space to pull in and unload in baking heat, and by the time we had finished and squeezed the car into a dodgy spot at the corner of a junction, we were in need of a beer so headed off down to the local.
The Tree Inn could have been a really nice pub, an old coaching inn with a lovely courtyard, let down by seemingly unfriendly locals who kept glancing over to where we were sat. Shame because the beer was great.
We tried the Kings Arms just a little further along, an empty pub with no atmosphere, and a quad of lager drinkers in the beer garden. At least they were friendly though, but after an average pint we headed tiredly back to the cottage for the evening, a little disappointed so far with our first experience of Stratton.
The cottage was very old and rickety, it could have been lovely, but an all pervading smell of damp and decay let the place down, along with grubby furniture covers downstairs.
And the rain was back with a vengeance.
Looking for something to do in the wet, we headed to Bude where we spent an hour or two wandering around the heritage centre at the ‘castle’.
It was largely dominated by the story of its former owner, an inventor and man of many talents going under the fabulous name of Goldsworthy Gurney. Among other things, he was credited with the invention of the first steam driven road vehicle, the radiator, and the lamps used in lighthouses. The guy was a bit of an all round genius but apparently never received as much recognition as he deserved.
A brief visit to Widemouth Bay followed, where we only left the car to pay an equally brief visit to the Bay View Inn to decide whether it was worth going there to eat later. Fish pie was it’s speciality, but we decided to head for home and make our own as the continuing rain claimed the rest of the day.
Heavy rain was forecast again so I picked my thickest hat, and we set off for Port Isaac. Traffic was slow, and on the spur of the moment we took a detour to a small place Jill had seen in the guide called Boscastle.
It was a small but extremely picturesque village, a river ran through it into a turquoise harbour lined with slate hills. We couldn’t believe how many visitors there were. We spent an hour or so taking in the views, and did a bit of shopping to get myself a weatherproof jacket before heading off to Tintagel.
Tintagel Castle was closed but I still wanted to take the walk up to see it, just one of those things I wanted to tick off the list of things to do.
The town itself was teeming with people, and for the second time that morning we had problems with idiots blocking car parks, showing a complete lack of awareness to what was going on around them.
Buying the waterproof jacket did the trick, despite the forecast it turned into a blistering hot and sunny day, and not one for climbing steep hills. The walk up to the castle was tiring enough, but the long uphill haul on our return to the town saw us both gasping for breath and feeling pretty nauseous.
Port Isaac was our next port of call, with a very challenging drive including a hairpin bend into a very steep incline as we left the ‘main’ road where I had to swiflty engage 1st gear to keep going as Jill nearly wet herself in the passenger seat!
Port Isaac was another very hilly place, the town had lots of narrow winding streets, but we were too tired to explore much, and after a short wander round settled for killing time relaxing in the Golden Lion where they charged us £6.30 for a pint and a half of Proper Job.
It had been a long and very tiring day, but an enjoyable one. After a bit of shopping for tea we were more than surprised to see it was already 8 o’clock when we got home. Baths were forgotten about as we cooked ourselves a quickly knocked together tapas meal before crawling tiredly into bed.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan at Megavissey was our aim for today, this time equipped with sun hat and shorts. Once the home of the wealthy Tremayne family, Heligan began to fall into decline after the first World War, it was later abandoned altogether until the 1970’s when the house was sold and converted into apartments.
It wasn’t until 1990, that the overgrown and lost gardens were rediscovered by Tim Smit and John Willis who was a descendant of the Tremaynes. They endeavoured to bring the gardens back to life, and employed John Nelson to begin the work.
The gardens are now almost back to their original best and cover a large area with a number of different themes including my favourite ‘jungle’ where you could easily be fooled into thinking you had stepped into a tropical rain forest (at least on a hot day). We manged to find some more hills to climb, a Burmese rope bridge to cross, and spent over 3 hours exploring. Heligan is well worth a visit.
We took a brief detour on the way back, stopping for an hour or so at Charlestown, another picturesque harbour with tall ships at anchor. A location featured in a number of film sets apparently.
After rushing back to the cottage for a very quick change, we headed to a nearby village for a meal in the Gate Inn. Service was good, food okay, but choice of dishes very limited.
A misty murky start to the day, but warm weather was forecast, so it was straight into shorts and down to Polperro.
It was quite a journey, with most of the way seemingly taken up with the narrowest of winding lanes with banked up sides making for a very limited view ahead. Thankfully we didn’t encounter much oncoming traffic and only had one episode where another driver had to stop and reverse.
Cars are generally not allowed into Polperro, there is a car park on the approach where they charge the princely sum of £5 for three hours. There is a shuttle service which some places might include as a park & ride package, but not here, it’s another £2 if you want to use it, and then they have the cheek to charge 20p for using the toilets!
It’s a very pretty town, with many narrow convoluted streets around its harbour, lined with quaint cottages. We spent around 2 hours exploring, had the obligatory Cornish pastie for lunch, and visited a small local fishing history museum.
By now the heat had really built up and we were badly in need of refreshments. There were a number of pubs to choose from, we opted for the Three Pilchards, were we enjoyed a rather nice glass of Sharp’s Sea Fury on the roof terrace (£6.70!), while being entertained by Herring Gulls, on the look out for left over food from the diners.
We briefly thought about going somwehere else, but instead opted to head back home via Morrison’s, with a view to enjoying a glass of Leffe on our non-sun terrace followed by a home cooked meal.
The Ups & Downs of a Walk in Cornwall.
We had already realised that Bude wasn’t the best place to use as a base for getting around the county. It was a long and often arduous drive to reach places we wanted to see, and that contributed to us both feeling pretty much worn out. So we decided to stay local and have an easier day. It didn’t work out that way.
Jill found some walks including a circular one from Crackington Haven; it was supposed to be around 3.5 miles, with the going described as ‘moderately difficult’.
It was very windy and very hot… and very, very hilly. We ended up walking almost 5 miles with some very steep climbs, some up roughly hewn steps, with another so steep that the path had to zig-zag its way to the top which seemed forever out of reach. When we finally reached the peak though the scene was stunning.
We spent a little while enjoying the view, trying to enjoy a small picnic while hanging onto everything in case the wind carried it away.
The last leg of the walk was much cooler through the shade of a forest, and although we were both really tired, we agreed the walk had been well worth the effort.
Back in Stratton, despite our earlier reservations, we decided to risk the Tree Inn for our evening meal. Didn’t pay off, the beer we had enjoyed had gone off and the food was very poor.
Despite Bude being our nearest town we really hadn’t spent much time there, so we decided on an easier circular walk along the cliff top and spent some time around its town centre.
We took a wrong turn on the walk but missed out other parts of it, but somehow managed to rack up nearly 10 miles in the day. The heat hit 27 degrees and we were both pretty much exhausted, and were ready to head back.
However, while walking through the beach car park, I happened to spot a wheel cover on the back of a Land Rover advertising a micro pub that we had somehow missed. So I extended our online parking payment and we turned back into Bude in search of The Barrel. Of course, we took another wrong turn that made a short walk considerably longer, but eventually found a cracking little bar where we enjoyed a glass of Atlantic Blue, the first dark ale we’d come across.
After that, we treated ourselves to some fillet steaks from Sainsbury’s and returned to Stratton for our last night in the cottage.
Saturday 29th Worcester
Much cooler today and the excitement begins with Jill driving on the wrong side of the road as we leave the village. I get my head down and start blogging!
Apparent closure of the M5 on the approach to Bridgewater turned the journey into a bit of a nightmare, we tried a number of detours, all equally unsuccessful. The long delay was frustrating especially when we got back onto the motorway to find it had never been closed. An estimated 3 hour journey took 6.5, although 45 minutes of that was spent waiting for ‘fast food’ at a KFC service area!
Worcester was basking in 32 degrees of heat when we arrived, the heat reflecting from the paving outside our Travelodge was almost unbearable.
In search of refreshment, we set off on an 18 minute walk (mostly uphill), past the Worcestershire cricket ground to find the Bull Baiter’s Inn on Malvern Road. Listed as a Worcester’s first micropub, the Bull was in a fabulous old building from c1500. Old buildings such as this, for some reason are often cooler in the heat, but not today; and for some stupid reason I’d decided to put my jeans on. We retreated to the sizable beer garden where there was a slight breeze at the bottom end to enjoy a ‘paddle’ of three different ales. There was also an outbuilding for use during the pub’s beer festivals. I think the term ‘micropub’ may not necessarily apply to the Bull, as it certainly wasn’t small. The garden was apparently awaiting work, and I’m sure it will look fabulous if and when it is completed. The Bull Baiter’s could have been a great experience, only let down by the landlord who I have to say was rather abrupt with some of his customers. He was a good old fashioned ale stalwart and was determined to show his disapproval should anyone dare ask for something untraditional in that respect!
Back into the town we made our way to the Oil Basin Brewhouse, not far from the river on Copenhagen Street. Small but perfectly formed, this place served a limited but good range of both cask and keg ales, and they also had a pizza kitchen upstairs where we chose to dine for Jill’s birthday. The pizza was great accompanied by a nice hoppy IPA from downstairs, but how the chef’s coped with the heat in that kitchen I’ll never know. The wood fired oven in a small space greatly added to the already hot evening, and the heat was overpowering.
Sunday 30th Worcester
Next day the heat had thankfully subsided, and we spent the morning and early afternoon strolling along the banks of the river Severn, and visited the superb Worcester Cathedral. That rounded off our Cornish holiday, and all that was left to do was hit the hideous M5 once again and head for home.