Category Archives: Cornwall

Up, up and away

My daughter Jenna gave Ian and I a hot air balloon ride voucher for Christmas. I was pretty horrified and put the voucher out of sight and the whole idea out of mind.

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I have rather an odd fear of heights. I am perfectly happy on natural structures like mountains and rocks. I am also good on ladders. However, I am irrationally fearful of man-made structures like piers and bridges. For example – walking across the Golden Gate Bridge defeated me once I got out above the water. Ian is no good on rocks or ladders but is fine on piers and bridges. So between us – this was going to be a challenge.

Towards the end of August and with a strong application of Rule 5 we went on the Aerosaurus website to book a flight.

Since a hot air balloon has no direct means of steerage or control the weather is an all important factor when deciding whether or not to fly. We were lucky on our 3rd attempt.

Our 3rd booking meant travelling from Dorset to Launceston, but we were so pleased that this happened as it meant that our pilot was Arthur Street who is an absolute legend in the ballooning world. Arthur counts his balloon flights in tens of thousands after 25 years of piloting.

We met at Homeleigh Garden Centre near Launceston at 06:30 along with 12 other passengers. The ground crew, Matt and Marianne (Little and Large) dealt with everything in a very professional manner, but also somehow very relaxed and reassuring. It was all very workaday and routine for them. There was obviously no reason for any anxiety.

We travelled in the Aerosaurus vehicles to the launch site near North Petherwin with the basket and envelope on a trailer.

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

The ‘envelope’ is huge – much larger than we expected. The passengers all help to get it inflated on the ground.

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

At this point I asked myself whether I would be disappointed if I was going to be a spectator rather than a passenger. The answer was yes. It was very exciting!

Arthur gave a comprehensive briefing – and informed us that the most difficult thing we would face would be climbing into the basket. (There is an option of being in the basket while it is on its side and being gently scooped up if physical disability prevents a passenger from clambering in). So that was alright then.

Clambering into the basket

Clambering into the basket while Arthur continues to heat the air in the envelope

The basket is actually a steel cage with rollbars and a solid floor. The wicker work is really just for aesthetics.

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once inflated and heated up (quite noisy) the tether from the land rover was released and we were off – up, up and away. We gained height extermely quickly.

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

There were a few moments of ‘wow this is quite high’ – but that was all. We just really enjoyed being up there. Arthur was fantastic and gave us 360 degree panoramic views and information about what we could see. We had total confidence in him.

Arthur opening the champagne

Arthur opening the champagne

Early on in the flight the champagne was opened which Jenna had thoughtfully included in our voucher. I’m sure this helped to contribute to the relaxed convivial atmosphere on board.

Cheers!

Cheers!

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

The A30

The A30

Arthur negotiated the obstacles of the A30 and Roadford Lake with great skill – but it did mean we had a few extra minutes up in the air. The landing was gentle with just a slight bump.

Marianne and Matt had tracked us from the ground and were there to help with packing up. The farmer was very cooperative and helped us all out of the slightly boggy field we had landed in.

The huge envelope gradually deflated as the air cooled down and we helped to guide it so that it could be folded up again.

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

But he needed help

But he needed help

It was amazing just how quickly that huge envelope was packed back into the bag and stowed back on the trailer with the basket.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

Highly recommended. It is not at all scary and just a wonderful experience.

 

Boscastle to Daymer Bay

The North Coast of Cornwall is fully exposed to the prevailing weather and the North Atlantic swells. It does have amazing coastal scenery with innumerable coves, inlets, caves, waterfalls, reefs, offshore islands and stacks. From the sea kayakers perspective the coast is wild and committing. The climate is warm but strong winds from the south west and the Atlantic swell are a constant concern.

The trip from Boscastle to Daymer Bay on the Camel Estuary is exceptionally scenic. The sea was calm and we knew that we could get into Port Isaac for a break en route.

Boscastle harbour is a drowned river gorge.

Boscastle

Boscastle

Boscastle used to be a busy port handling the ores mined hereabouts. Boscastle was flooded in 2004 but there are few signs of that now.

There are many caves to explore.

Huge caves

Huge caves

At this time of year after rainfall there is plenty of fresh water falling down the cliffs making spectacular waterfalls.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

There are many spectacular rock formations – this is Ladies Window.

Ladies Window

Ladies Window

Tintagel Head with the vast King Arthur Castle Hotel on the top of the cliff is a notable landmark.

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Tintagel

Tintagel

The headland has seen a millennia of occupation and the remnants of the past can be clearly seen. Tintagel has historical importance and pottery from the sixth century has been found here. However, many visitors today are interested in the Arthurian associations. It’s always busy and very nice to view it from the sea without becoming embroiled too closely in the tourism.

We paddled on down the coast passing between Gull Rock and Trebarwith Strand.

Trebarwith was a busy quarry port before the tourists came. Another 8km of cliffs to paddle along before reaching Port Isaac.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac

Port Isaac is a fishing village. The drama Doc Martin is filmed here. In Tudor times it was a pilchard fishing port. The inshore lifeboat is housed inside the old fish cellars.

Port Isaac was busy with visitors. We had a welcome break from the kayaks and feasted on pasties, ice cream and tea.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac

We still had a long way to go so we paddled straight across Port Quin Bay. On a more leisurely paddle there is plenty to explore along the coast here. However we made a beeline for The Mouls which is an offshore island at The Rumps headland. There were plenty of Auks (Puffins live here) at the Mouls and the tide was running quite hard which made for an interesting few minutes as we rounded the island and headed for the Rumps.

The Rumps

The Rumps

Rumps point is the site of Cornwall’s finest Iron Age cliff castle and from the water we could clearly see ramparts and ditches constructed to keep out unwelcome boarders.

We continued under massive, impressive cliffs to Pentire Point where once again we encountered some tidal movement but with so little swell this was not a problem and we headed into Padstow Bay for the last few kilometres before reaching our get out at Daymer Bay.

28km in perfect paddling conditions.

Cornish Sea Kayaking Meet

The Cornish Sea Kayaking Meet

The Cornish Sea Kayaking Meet

On the August Bank holiday weekend we headed down to Penzance for the Cornish Sea Kayaking Meet organised by Richard Uren of Paddlecrest Coaching.

The area around Lands End is a magnificent coastline for sea kayaking. There are many small coves to launch and recover from, with varying degrees of effort.

Day 1 launch point - Porthgworra

Day 1 launch point – Porthgworra

On the Friday evening we went to the Minack Theatre and on the Saturday we had a great view of the theatre set into the cliffs at Porthcurno from the sea. Continue reading

Day 2: Tintagel to Tiverton Parkway – Blue skies, sunshine and views.

Steve...a man who likes to eat...a lot!

Steve…a man who likes to eat…a lot!

We knew today was going to be one of the toughest because of the distance and the hills.
77 miles with 6,500 feet of climbing with a strong headwind…hmmmm!

We left the magnificently situated Tintagel Youth Hostel at 07:45 and pushed the bikes up the rough track to the church on the cliff top.  After a pleasant ride through the village we began the 3 mile ascent towards Davidstow.  The view behind us as we left the coastal landscape was beautiful. As we gained height the vegetation changed to moorland as we were now on the north side of Bodmin moor. Continue reading

Day 1: Lands End to Tintagel – Head winds and steep hills

At a blustery Lands End, ready to go

At a blustery Lands End, ready to go

Our LeJog plan gradually came together over several months, but the day of departure came upon us with a bit of a rush, as suddenly it was the 26th April. At 05:30 we picked up Steve and all his kit and set off for Lands End. With little traffic on the road we made good time and arrived at 08:15. It was blowing hard and very cold but this had not deterred Phil, Maggie and Richard turning out to see us off. We got the bikes loaded up with the panniers, pumped up the tyres and posed for photographs at the famous finger post. The Dorset flag was produced for the first time and it acted as a sail in the strong wind, almost lifting us up.
Continue reading