Friday, 13 April 2012

The Final Chapter

Falmouth and The Lizard.
It was Saturday afternoon when I arrived into Falmouth. I was sure what to expect. The plan was to try and get to the southernmost point of mainland  Britain, a placed called Lizard point. The peninsula's geology is the best preserved example of an exposed ophiolite in the United Kingdom. An ophiolite is a suite of geological formations which represent a slice through a section of ocean crust (including the upper level of the mantle) thrust onto the continental crust. It is said that this peninsula broke off the Land mass now Africa and was pushed up towards the British Isles. I had heard alot of good things about the Lizard form folks all along my trip. And I was now so close that I thought 'Why not? Could be interesting.' I walked around Falmouth looking for a place to set up camp. The town centre is situated on the coast where huge and commercial ships dock. The town was fairly crowed. I was continuously swinging and swerving to avoid knocking people over with my large rucksack. I decided to ask for help at one of the many B&B's on the hill near the town centre. The manageress was very pleasant and helpful. She offered me a map of the town, and pointed me in the direction of a caravan park. It was a nice walk to the park. I took the South West (S.W.) coast path towards Swanpool Bay. I met a man collecting seaweed on the beach and offered to help. I managed to get a lift with him to the caravan pack, which was over a very long and steep hill. To get to the site I had to climb over barbed wire fences, trek trough brassica fields and across a small fast flowing stream. This wasn't the marked out route but it was the quickest.
I arrived at the site from the back and had to climb over an old stone wall to gain access to the site. There were caravans parked up in rows, not being used. Further on there were more caravans and further on still small cabin-like structures with the symbols indicating male and female toilets, showers and drinking water. As I wondered through the site I came across the lady who runs the place. I explained my situation and was allowed to pitch my tent for a few nights, free of charge. I spent most of Sunday roaming around Falmouth. It's a nice little town with a fairly large student population. I visited the docks, enjoyed the beaches and hung out in the woods overlooking Swanpool nature reserve. There wasn't much going on in town so I began to look into the best way of getting down to Lizard point.
Sunrise on Monday morning I woke up, cooked breakfast, packed my day-pack then headed into town to catch the bus to the Lizard. It took about an hour to get to the Lizard via bus. I had decided that I was going to walk along the coastline for as far as I could until it began to getting dark. Dead end. The bus stopped, emptied, turned around, then headed back up the road it came. This was truly the end of the line. The most southern point of mainland Britain. I began walking down a narrow muddy track then soon came upon an open field grazed by Shetland Ponies. Behind them was a breathtaking sight.
I walked along the cliffs heading north. All along my journey I was presented with beautiful views of cliff forms, gorgeous beaches, and amazing land forms. I stumbled on a group of ponies grazing on the steep side of the cliffs. At first they all kept their distance. Then one of the females began walking towards me. She came right up to me, bowed, then began rubbing her snout up against me. 'Strange.' I thought. These ponies are tiny. She was one of the biggest in the group but she was barely over 5ft. She followed me for about 300 metres before she got bored with me. I walked for hours until I got to Mullion Cove then began to head back inland. I got as far as Poldhu where I caught the bus back to Falmouth. The next day I woke up very early. Packed up then headed into town. I began feeling a bit unwell so decided to take the train to Penzance which was the last stop on the mainline railway system. I was now very close to the end of my journey. 

Plan-it Earth
I had made arrangements to volunteer at Plan-it Earth eco project in Sancreed which was a few miles from Penzance. I took the bus to Sancreed and arrived at Plan-it earth and met David and Paddy. The three and half ache site was set up by David and his wife Rachel to be an inspiration and educational tool for sustainable living. At first I was a bit taken aback by the site. I was expecting a community of individuals all living together. Instead it was the home of David and Rachel, their two young children. The aim of the project is to provide the opportunity for any and everyone to learn and/or experience low impact living. The project is open to the public and people can book eco holidays, of rent out the space for events, etc. Paddy is a volunteer at the project and was down to help with the new straw bale building that was going to be erected. We made our introductions, had a cup of tea then had the tour of the site. I liked the site and enjoyed seeing all the interesting eco elements built into it. The bog composting toilets were among my favourite. Basically an above ground shit pit with a shed on top surrounded by trees. No need for clearing out the contents as the trees eat it up faster than you can fill it. I met Rachel later that evening and we hit it off really well. I pitched my tent in the in the young coppice woodland near the wetland sewage treatment system. Didn't smell at all. On Thursday I went walking down to the Drift reservoir. It was beautiful. I found a really nice trail which lead to the wild side of the reservoir, sat up a tree hanging over the water with a clear view of the little stream emptying into the large enclosed mass of water. Than evening at Plan-it earth two new volunteers arrived and would be staying for a while. We got on well, Nie, Sandy and I. The next day we all began working on the platform which was to hold the straw bale building. Later that afternoon, together we built a raised bed out of old tree branches and it looked great. That night was very wet and windy. On Sunday I went for a long walk and got within 3 miles of Lands' End. I hadn't realized how close I was to completing my journey. I reached a a place called Chapel Carn Brea which is an elevated granite outcrop standing approx. 200 metres above sea level. From here I could see all the way back towards the Lizard, from where I came, and right out to Lands' End, where I was heading. Mondays were communal dinners. For the first one I made a Caribbean influenced meal of jollof rice and a spicy beef stew. It was very well received. The next day David took us to a place called Millennium Woods. This is community planted woodland near Hayle in Cornwall. The mission was to collect some hazel poles to be used in the straw bale house construction. it was a nice experience and I learnt a lot. Back at the Plan-it Earth site we continued work on the straw bale round house. Later that evening another volunteer joined us. Chris, a friend of Sandy and Nie, an interesting feller who seemed to be working out some issues. We got off to a rocky start but as time went on we got on great. During my time at Plant-it Earth Rachel took us to visit a friend of hers in Hayle. This guy built a food forest garden on a sand dune. One of the most inhospitable places to grow food, but somehow he managed to pull it off and the site is thriving. I enjoyed looking around the site and thought it was raining for most of the day it was both very interesting and inspiring. The rain continued well into the late evening and back at Plan-it Earth we were greeted by the arrival of yet another volunteer. It was a full house now. I, Nie, Sandy, Jenny and Gabe were the volunteers staying on site. We had loads of fun.

Lands' End
On Friday 24th February I set off from Plan-it Earth and began walking towards Lands' End. I walked along the public footpath, which passed through lots of open farm land and rouged hills. It was wet and misty when I began my journey. As the day went on the mist got thicker and within an hour of walking I could no longer see more than 15metres in front of me. I began to panic a bit. The route I had chosen had no distinctive tracks and they was no sign of civilisation. I could no longer see where I was going nor where I had come from. My map reading and navigational skills were now being put to the ultimate test. I managed to work out where I was on the map and took a heading with my compass and began following it. The mist was so thick at this point that I could taste it. I walked for what felt like ages. Climbing over stone walls and thorny hedges in an attempt to keep my heading. It was difficult to tell the time as the sun was complete consumed by the dense mist. The terrain was swamp-like. At one stage I was ankle deep in pig manure, which some farmers would spread on their land to increase fertility. It was not a pleasant experience but one I had to endure If I was to get to my final destination. I could hear the crashing of waves in the distance. I was getting close. The plan was to get to the coastline just north of Lands' End then follow it all the way round. I got to the long staircase which leads down to Gwenver beach. I could hear the sea but couldn't see it. Even when I got to the bottom of the stairs and sat on the lovely fine white sand beach I could only just make out the ocean. The rain had held up but the mist was just as thick as ever. As I sat on the beach admiring the sounds of the wind on the ocean and the tumbling of the waves on the shore, a bird of prey suddenly appeared out of nowhere, grabbed a hold of a smaller wood pigeon. An explosion of feathers occurred on impact and in seconds it was over. I had never before seen such a thing in real life. The bird settled down on an rock pile, no more than 10metres in front of me, and began tearing the flesh from its' prey. I think the mist had helped to conceal my presence and allowed me to witness this amazing event. Having had its' fill the bird elegantly glided off the edge of the cliffs disappeared into the mist. I continued my walk along the cliffs   heading south pass Sennen cove and arrived at the Mayon cliff. Here I noticed a small castle looking hut on the top of the rocks and so began climbing. The view at the top was somewhat dampened by the cover of mist, but what the mist could not hide was the sounds around the cliffs. I was surprised to hear, what I could only describe as whistling. I scouted the entire area for the source of the sounds and was amazed at what I discovered. The cliffs were singing in the wind. I continued walking and soon got to the legendary Lands' End. The mist had begun lifting and I could, for the first time, now see the out to sea. There were small rocks rising out of the sea and sitting on one of them was a lighthouse. The waves crashed onto these land masses and created a waterfall effect as the white foamy salt water tricked down the sides. I spent a bit of time wondering around the amusement park and hotel and wasn't too impressed so continues walking south along the cliffs. There were some very interesting rocks shaped by the continuous bashing of waves against their bodies. Some had arches carved through them. Others were shaped like mushrooms. It was a beautiful place. Very wild and rouged, cold and windy. Darkness began to fall. I began to look for a place to spend the night. Earlier during my walk I came across a cave on the side of the hills overlooking the cliffs. I started heading back and soon found it again. After a quick inspection I cleared a spot and lay down to sleep. It was cold, wet, dark and very uncomfortable. During the night I was woken up several times by the thunderous sound of wave thumping against the cliffs. The entire hill side shock. I was scared. I climbed out of the cave at around 3am. The moon lit up the sky. It was magic. I climbed half way down the cliff face and sat on a rock extended out over the sea. The splashes of the monstrous waves were inches away from me and I could taste the salty air. Sitting there suspended over the mighty ocean, time stood still. I felt alive, I felt a sense of accomplishment ... I felt free. The sun came up and sent a beam of light into the cave. It was time to start thinking about heading back to London. 

The Journey Home
I began walking east inland and soon came to a main road. I managed to hitch a ride into Penzance where I, coincidently, met up with David and his kids at a environmental event at the town hall. I went back to Plan-it Earth and decided to stay a few more days. All the other volunteers were still there. We played cricket, went skipping (dumpster diving), completed the floor of the straw bale house, did a fair bit of gardening, had a lovely fish BBQ, and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises ever. On my last day at Plan-it Earth I helped make a live willow structure then we all had a nice communal dinner. We said our goodbyes and I headed into Penzance. It wasn't long before I got a lift from an interesting feller who was leaving for South Africa the next day. We had an interesting conversation and he gave me some very good advice on where were the best places to hitch-hike in Cornwall. He took me to a place called Chiverton Cross, a roundabout on the A30 heading out of Cornwall. I waited here for about half an hour then a black van with blacked out windows pulled into the lay-by. I was a bit suspicious at first. I walked over to the van. The window came down. In it was a skinny looking guy wearing the darkest sunglasses ever. 
'I am heading to London.' I said.
'I am, heading to London.' He replied with a smile on his face. 
'Great. I'll just grab my stuff.' 
I got my bags, loaded up the van and we were on our way. The drive took 5 hours, and all along the way we chatted about his work, we shared travel stories and I told him about my trip. Here I began to think back to some of the adventures I had during my trip: Sleeping in the woods in Southampton, squatting in Bournemouth, surviving the storms of Allaleigh, ballooning through a rain forest in St. Austell, and sleeping in a cave in Lands’ End. I had experience so much during my trip. I learnt loads and met a lot of interesting people along the way. I look forward to the next epic adventure. As we drove into London we both noticed a huge dark grey cloud hovering over the city. It was difficult to tell if it was rain clouds or smog. We both began expressing how much we would rather be in the lovely unspoilt countryside of Cornwall. He dropped me off at Kings Cross in central London. It was rush hour when we arrived and there were people everywhere. I climbed out of the van and was engulfed by the swam. I felt my hearth race faster and faster. I felt lost, disorientated and even a bit sad. It had only been a few minutes but I was already craving the peace and tranquillity of the countryside. I dropped my bags, sat down on the pavement, closed my eyes, took a deep breath then exhaled.
It’s done. My trip was now complete. London to Lands’ End and back again. It was fun, exciting, scary, and interesting all in one. Sitting there on the pavement outside Kings Cross station I thought back to all the people and places I had visited. It brought me real joy and a feeling of accomplishment. My hearth steadied, I opened my eyes, rose to my feet and began to make my way home.