Saturday, September 22, 2007

Coasting In Cornwall

So I've made it back to Britain at long last, though, to my mum's consternation, my trip isn't over just yet. I arrived in Plymouth, and seeing as I was down in a corner of the country that I had never seen before I decided to have a quick look and see what my own country has to offer. Cornwall is a rural idyll with a dramatic coastline, quaint, little villages, esoteric bric-a-brac shops and cream tea. Honestly, seeing the number of signs advertising cream tea, for some people (old ladies with knitted bonnets?) it must be the sole reason for visiting the place. Many people dream of Cornwall as an escape from the urban rat-race, a place where the community spirit still lives and thrives. And then there are others for whom the main reason is the waves - the Cornish coast is the surfing mecca of Britain. Before I had thought that it was only a small, hardcore group of individuals who would brave the blustery elements of the English seas, but even on weekdays many beaches were crawling with people carrying their boards and trying to look as cool as if they were in Hawaii or California. Though you certainly need a great deal of dedication (as well as a very thick wetsuit) to endure the cold water, drizzle and unpredictable waves.

I took the opportunity to explore the western tip of Cornwall, from the charming town of Saint Ives all the way past Lands End. Saint Ives is a strange place as, although it used to be a fishing village, supports itself exclusively from tourism and art. Every shop in town is either a souvenir shop or an art gallery. The latter are in such abundance that the town has almost become a pastiche of the Bohemian artists colony that it once was (and still is, although with a far greater commercial aspect). And although it is regarded as an exceedingly pretty town my attention was far more captivated by the mythic South West Coastal Path that skirts the entire Cornish coastline along precipitous cliff edges that plunge sharply into the sea, making it undoubtedly the most beautiful walking trail in England. Although the weather wasn't particularly favourable I still really enjoyed myself traipsing along the empty, windswept paths as the waves boomed into the rocks below. Every now and again I would come across old, abandoned tin mines that once formed the bedrock of the Cornish economy, but now left to decay because they are no longer profitable.

Unfortunately not all is as it seems in this rural paradise as the area is one of the most deprived in the country: no jobs, small salaries, high cost of living and little for youths to do all lead to social problems simmering below the surface. And so, after having travelled the world for 3 years and visited so many so-called 'dangerous' countries without feeling the least malice or danger from the locals, I came back home only to be threatened by some yobs whilst out at a club with friends. Rest assured that nothing happened to me, but it is sad that in this country, my home, renowned for its good manners and etiquette, that I should have such a run-in during my otherwise blemish-free (more or less) trip. Perhaps it serves to illustrate that it is easy to find faults in others when in fact we should try and look inwards first.

1 comment:

Ex-Shammickite said...

Welcome back to UK, sorry to hear that the yobbos didn't give you the welcome you expected. Cornwall is a beautiful county, but before going home to Mum, make sure you take a trip through North Devon, that's where I'm from, hence the favouritism.
Spectacular cliffs, the rolling moors of Exmoor, heather, wild deer...