Well what a spectacular way to end a holiday!
In hindsight it started with a bad omen so i should have known… Having stayed in the van in a car park, there aren’t any readily available services. Now… I get asked a lot, how I go to the loo in the van without a toilet. And today, the lack thereof, caused some serious faffing about.
For men, number 1’s are no issue. It’s not glamorous but we can pee anywhere outside. And even inside the van, a well sized milk bottle does the trick.
Number 2’s on the other hand, are something you have to get good at scheduling if you don’t have access to your own facilities. I had tried to make sure of this the night before and felt confident I could make it to a cafe or something in the morning before the situation became… Critical.
Upon waking that morning, I took the dogs out for their morning dump. They have it so easy… It’s definitely not fair that they can walk around naked all day, shitting wherever they like and no one bats an eye. But if i want to pinch a loaf in the centre of a field, it’s suddenly a crime!
Walking around, I spied the likely cafes and pubs that may open in time. It was getting serious now. The movement of walking was promoting a natural movement and increasing urgency that a solution was found.
Luckily, I found a sign to some public toilets.
I had to get rid of the dogs. I quickened my pace. I must have looked very strange, walking like a stiff zombie. Appearances did not matter at a time like this! I chucked them into the van and limped away back to the loos.
I found them and was distraught when I saw they took 20p! I hadn’t thought to bring my wallet!
There was no way i was going to make it to the van and back. The countdown had begun and I was already cresting the horizon so to speak. I had limited time and limited options. I gingerly climbed into a field. Hid myself behind the wall as low as I could and relaxed.
It was not a proud moment, but the alternative was worse. To have shit myself and then had to deal with cleaning up in front of 2 dogs and Aimi, without any running water, was just too much to bare. I did my best to dig a hole with a stick and bury the evidence. I may have felt guilty about dropping my load in a field but I skipped back to the van feeling considerably lighter.
Aimi was happy to hear there were public toilets available, even if they did take 20p. However when she returned she was pissing herself laughing. I didn’t understand until she said that the doors were unlocked. She hadn’t had to pay anything to use them! It just goes to show how unclearly a man thinks when he is busting for a crap!
We had inadvertently ended up in a place called Tintagel, purportedly the birthplace of King Arthur legend of the sword in the stone, and the site of what once must have been a great castle. There was some interesting restoration working taking place today using a temporary structure like a cable car to crane in materials over the difficult terrain. It was fun to watch them work for a while and look out over the spectacular castle ruins and cliffs. This was also the site of “Merlins Cave” which looked just like any other cave but at least it gave the locals something they could put on a souvenir mug…
But, what a naturally incredible place this is. The coast down here is just magnificent, especially on a wonderfully clear and warm day like today. The waves were lapping at the rocks, cool and blue and impeccably clear. It was hard to imagine them doing anything but smoothly caress the coastline. It was just bliss, sitting and watching the cliffs and the changing light as clouds drifted by casting irregular shadows across the land.
The walk progressed like this for some time. We would do about 500m and then stop and gape at the view ahead of us. Every time we rounded a corner or reached the top of a hill we had a new and wonderful view. We stopped so often that we didn’t cover very much ground but had the best time strolling along hand in hand enjoying the sun.
We headed for the “Rocky Valley” and could see why it was named this. The flowing water had gouged a deep (for England) gorge into the cliff face exposing black rocks. These were broken in rough steps down to the cool flowing water and a dramatic waterfall. The water had cut a circular plunge pool and swirled around mercilessly. I decided this was the perfect place for a nature dip. It was too cold for a proper swim! I quickly shed my clothes and gingerly dipped my toes into the water before plucking up the courage and dunking myself.
It was absolutely freezing and i didn’t stay long, but I love the feeling of natural, cold water washing away the cobwebs. Especially after a long hot walk up and down cliffs, it was very refreshing. Ed and Mel introduced me to nature swimming and it is something I want to do more of in my life.
From here we worked our way up the rocky valley inland, stopping at a campsite to top up our water bottles, to start the return loop of the walk. There were some abandoned houses here that turned out to be mills. The evidence of culverts and machinery were still just visible as mother nature reclaimed them. There were also some ancient carvings in the rockface that sign posted as “Ancient Scheduled Monuments” and proclaimed that defacing the rocks was a criminal offence. Of course this had just invited the usual “idiot woz ere” scratches of morons adding their artistic flare for eternity… Why must people do this, its so depressing. Do they REALLY think that historians in another 400 years are going to pontificate over their pathetic etchings?
A short walk up the road and we were on the path to St Nectans waterfall. Here some industrious people had set up a tea room next to a glorious natural water feature. There was also a spiritual room and in the wooded clearing, a round-house was being built as a wedding venue. It was beautifully styled with each wall being a tree of life pattern. The plan was to cover it in wooden shingles and stained glass and small carved vine leaves to create a magical place. I could already see how this was going to be super romantic when finished.
We had some tea and ate our packed lunch, supplemented with some great cakes from the tea shop. I was absolutely stuffed when we had finished and wasn’t in much of a mood to walk up and down more cliffs. But we did descend to the waterfall along purpose made walkways in the cliff face.
Here we found some more finely broken steps of flat rock that people had used to build tiny cairns, perhaps as an ode to the water spirits that undoubtedly lived in this wooded glade. I couldn’t help but add my own, but as an engineer, I had to make it a bit more interesting. I cantilevered 2 large flat stones out from the cracked face of the cliff and then built a stone bridge between them. It took a lot of messing around with the right rocks and help from Aimi, be we accomplished something small but great. I don’t know how long it stood for, but long enough for a photo.
Down at the base of the waterfall, we took some photos and splooshed around in our waterproof boots. I made another simple cairn and we tied a bright blue bootlace to a tree festooned with ribbons of other travellers. It was a beautiful place.
We took a more direct route back to Tintagel, but I had started to feel a little funny. Maybe it was the nature dip in the water, or the over indulgence in lunch, or just catching too much sun, but I definitely felt a bit off… We didn’t have far to go back to the van buy by the time we reached it, I was feeling terrible and had to sit in the shade with water just feeling weak and terrible.
We had to drive home that evening, so Aimi took the wheel for the first bit. The country roads were very wobbly and uneven. Often being in the van feels a lot like being on the top deck of a small boat, the amount it rolls and lists from side to side can almost convince you that you are on the sea, not tarmac. And so it happened… I ordered Aimi to pull over outside someone’s farm house. I dove out the door and knelt on the grass and heaved up my lunch.
I have no idea what caused it, but I was sick and shivering finishing off what would otherwise have been the best day of the holiday so far. Somehow Aimi managed to drive nearly non stop from Cornwall all the way back to Bedford. I was very impressed and grateful because I was no use.