The Knumptywagen has sadly lain dormant for the best part of the year so, as autumn begins to colour the scenery, we book ourselves a week somewhere, to be decided almost at the last minute, subject to weather forecasts, all of which turned out to be pretty damp and grey.
However, Cornwall had always been an ambition and – despite the distance from our north Midlands home – off we set, with high hopes and an extremely expensive tankful of diesel.
On a trek of this magnitude (300 miles-ish to first port-of-call) we’ve previously overnighted on family’s drive in Bristol but, having got wind of our planned route, said family fled to Ireland, leaving the Chief Navigating Officer to find us a half-way point where we might overnight for free.
And what a delightful surprise was Burnham-on-Sea! Come September, according to all the parking signs, no charges were imposed and at the end of the promenade we found a small but friendly cluster of fellow Knumpties gathered roadside behind the shelter of a reassuringly dominant sea-wall. The Victoria Hotel provided hospitality and sustenance prior to a peaceful overnight and a sharp start the following morning back onto the M5, next stop St Ives.
Here, Ayr Holiday Park found us a pitch overlooking Porthmeor Beach and despite some heftily gusting wind, we sauntered down the Coast Path on a voyage of exploration and discovery.
Now, maybe our expectations were set a little on the high side, and maybe a blusterous, grey-skied day in mid-October didn’t provide the best introduction, but some of the properties backing onto the beach looked a little tired – and the town itself, while still busy with well-wrapped tourists, just seemed a tad jaded, assumedly after an exhaustingly busy post-Covid summer?
Despite the proximity of crashing waves all around us, one surprise was the lack of any obvious fresh-fish shop in the town. Thankfully remedied by our accidental discovery of a harbourside fish & chip shop / restaurant with an almost hidden side-slab of marble, we procured a couple of healthy chunks of fresh hake (along with an obligatory tub of anchovies – a guilty pleasure for at least one of us!) and headed back to plugged-in warmth and shelter. A fish-supper was therefore served in-van, rocking like a yacht in the strong winds which – accompanied by always-noisy rain – made for a wakeful night.
The following morning, having felt we’d seen enough of St Ives to satisfy our curiosity, we chose not to exercise our option of further overnights and set sail for Sennen Cove. Still grey-skied and windy, Sennen Cove presented an empty sea-wall car-park; surf dotted with black, seal-skinned surfers and the surprise of a coastal path to Land’s End – which we walked with appreciation and enthusiasm. Land’s End provided a curiously incongruous mix of commercial tourist attractions so we each availed of the facilities and an enjoyable traditional Cornish pasty before setting our heads down against the still-forceful wind and walking back to our point of origin.
Here, despite diligently paying the required fee, we found our ever-so-slightly-overlength Knumptywagen had attracted a parking ticket, which we’d naively assumed we’d avoid, forgetting that the days of avuncular, benevolent and often amateur part-time local councils had been swallowed wholesale by the malevolent, ever-vigilant, camera-watchful, profit-focussed behemoths of private agency.
Downhearted? Of course not! We were on holiday in Cornwall, the sea beckoned and the local surf-shack was knocking out their end-of-season wetsuits at twenty-five pounds a pop. To redress our sniffy sense of imbalance, the CNO was even allowed to take a couple back to her private changing room in the now-financially penalised Knumptywagen and – hang the expense – I’m having the first one I don’t have to squeeze myself into.
Which she did. And then flip-flopped onto the beach, entering the breaking surf with all the confidence, panache and bravery of a cross-channel challenger – and then cavorting like a porpoise for the benefit of her beached photographer, towel- and shoe-holder.