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Sentimental journey

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today I take the train to Cornwall. No, scrub that, I actually take the train to Plymouth. I won't write about the first bit of the journey because it's boring. For me. Anyway the train buzzes along till it gets to Exeter (the county town of Devon) and just beyond Exeter slows down and stops for a bit.

Mixed reviews for this situation. On the one hand, we are sitting looking at the sea and it's gorgeous. On the other hand, how much delay are we getting exactly? Those of us getting a connecting service in Plymouth, the Penzance train that goes the length of Cornwall, know that the timing is pretty tight for catching this one.

But then again, there's that view. This photo doesn't do justice to it. I thought my camera was packed in the middle of my luggage then belatedly found it in a pocket, so you get this one, taken through the window of the train. A large part of the journey between Exeter and Plymouth goes right along the coastline. I mean literally RIGHT along the coastline. At one point there's the track, a low wall, a public footpath and a sheer drop of about 10 metres with the sea underneath it. And this is where we sit and wait while the driver explains about a problem I don't catch with the line. People on the path wave to us. The sea has red sand in it so it looks pinky, and when we start to move again, we go past a tiny cafe called the Red Rock. I want to get out and explore, and the journey's only half done.

You can read about this bit of railway here:

Just look at the sea splashing up there! Which I'm guessing is the problem with the track today - I've just had a look at the tide tables and sure enough we had a spring tide yesterday and I'd guess the sea's been over the tracks and left some debris. Spring tides, for all the landlocked Americans, occur once a fortnight in line with the moon's cycles. Instead of an ordinary high tide you get a much higher tide. If it coincides with strong wind (and there's a stiff breeze today) you get Trouble.

The train proceeds with caution. It is capable of going at 125 mph, but not on this track. The track is actually one of Brunel's fantastic feats of engineering, built in a place that everyone said was impossible. And that's the issue. It's the only track into and out of Cornwall and it could use upgrading but if it were to get updated it would be out of action for months and months. So, beyond Exeter the trains crawl but we get to admire the scenery.

I'm trying here not to go too far off on my own personal hobbyhorses. One hobbyhorse I cannot avoid however is my 'Cornwall is God's own country' hobbyhorse. There is nowhere like it. Nowhere. It's fantastic. A wonderful place. Being relatively inaccessible (one railway line in and out, one motorway in and out, six hours' train travel from London to Penzance at the end of the line.) means it is also less developed than most of England. This is good if you want somewhere picturesque for a holiday, bad if you need a job. Unemployment is high down here.

Where was I? We get to Plymouth. Plymouth is where Sir Francis Drake was allegedly playing bowls when he was told the Spanish Armada had been sighted on the horizon and finished his game before going off to polish off the Armada. This was 1588. Brits are proud of his sangfroid. He was in fact a pirate who got away with a lot because he was good mates with Liz I, but history is written by the victors and we won the war against the Spanish so you don't get taught the pirate bit at school. Plymouth was bombed flat during WWII and is utterly hideous now, a complete concrete jungle.

The driver gives us a message, the gist of which is 'If you want the connecting train for Cornwall, we're holding it for about two minutes at Plymouth station so head for platform 4 as if you were greased lightening.' This we do. I'm the first person off the train and the third person on the connecting train in spite of the fact that I'm wearing a backpack weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. It has already occurred to me that this is about the weight I have lost this year (I lost some before joining SP). So I used to carry it about all the time. Now, although I am much fitter, I am buckling under the weight.

How on earth did I manage to do anything at all?

Beyond Plymouth is some fabulous scenery again, and the river Tamar.

Once you cross the Tamar, you are in Cornwall.

I think this is the Tamar but I must confess that we cross about four river estuaries in 10 minutes so it's confusing! In summer, there are masses of boats on the water which is bright blue and glittery.

Today it's raining. I don't care.

For those of you who are still awake, an hour or so later, I hop out the train at St Erth, and on to the branch line that goes to St Ives. You thought the bits you've seen so far were scenic? Well they are on a good day, it was cloudy today. But this last little branch line, a ten minute journey, has scenery that belongs in a mirage.

Get to St Ives, nip down the steps at the side of the station car park, take more photos of the sun setting

walk along to my B&B. Dump back pack. It's practically dark but I want to wander round and have a look.

More about St Ives tomorrow. I'll leave you with the Christmas lights.

Late addition: this one's for Lexie. Brunel's bridge over the Tamar (I think anyway), taken over my shoulder after we'd crossed it:

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    You never disappoint with your descriptions of your jaunts!

    I hope you see this. This is what I know of "hoppy horse"

    I also know when I'm on my high horse about something, I'm ranting and raving about it.

    And when I'm on my soap box, I go on and on offering my opinions about something, usually to deaf ears, or at least to people who listen politely but don't care. Originally politicians stood on a wooden soap box to be seen and heard when they were campaigning in US, anyway.

    So, could you set me straight about your hobby horses?
    1920 days ago
  • DR1939
    Beautiful. We had a similar situation from Llandudno to Chester and they held the connection in Chester for us. The train (L to C) came from meeting the Irish Ferry and was jammed.

    We've never been to Cornwall but have wanted to. Perhaps your pictures will inspire us.
    1920 days ago
    When a need a mental escape, I go on web cabs in Key West, Fl. where I was married. Now I also look forward to your blogs for an escape! Thanks for sharing!
    1920 days ago

    nice journey
    1920 days ago
    Have a great time in Cornwall!
    1920 days ago
    Ooooohhhh! Beautiful pictures, and fascinating dialogue. I also enjoyed the "Visit South Devon" link. Beautiful, beautiful! I imagine it's quite 'exciting' to be on the train when the water comes up and over the bank!

    Thanks so much for sharing.
    1920 days ago
    Beautiful! Wish I was there.


    1920 days ago
  • KIPPER15
    emoticon Can't wait for the rest of the journey!!
    1920 days ago
    Wow! Great pictures.
    1920 days ago
    Wow! Great pictures.
    1920 days ago
  • LINDAK25
    The first picture in your blog is stunning! I love the picture of the sun setting. It's hard to a good one! St. Ives looks interesting. I can't wait until the next installment. Thanks for taking us along on vacation.
    1920 days ago
    Hope the weather clears up a bit for you. Enjoy exploring! Good for you for running carrying a 50 lb knapsack...amazing you!!
    1920 days ago
    Very beautiful, even cloudy and kind of grey. I hope you really enjoy your time off in such a beautiful place. I hope your cats will be OK without you!
    1920 days ago
  • KAREN91
    Thanks to you England has joined my list of places I want to see. I enjoy your blogs very much. You have a gift of making us all feel like we are with you, seeing these places too! Im looking forward to your next blog. emoticon emoticon
    1920 days ago
    Beautiful places. Give a nod and a wave to Merlin when you see him.
    1920 days ago
    Oh, how I love o go off on these jaunts with you! Thanks for posting!
    1920 days ago
    I love the way your blogs make me feel as if I were right there. Thanks for the trip to Cornwall; I needed a vacation. emoticon
    1920 days ago
    Lovely, I'm always amazed how the tide can go right out and leave the boats on dry (muddy dry) land and then come in again, amazing

    thanks for taking me along emoticon emoticon
    1920 days ago
    I've always wanted to visit England and your wonderful blogs make me long for that trip even more! Enjoy your time in Cornwall.
    1920 days ago
    WOW!!! WOW!!! WOW!!! What a lovely Christmas present! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1920 days ago
    1920 days ago
  • JACKIE542
    Great pictures, just beautiful. Another great adventure. You have a great time. emoticon
    1920 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    Very lovely ! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us!
    Have a great time. Can't wait to see more of the trip during the day. emoticon
    1920 days ago
  • HOLLYM48
    Very lovely ! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us!
    Have a great time. Can't wait to see more of the trip during the day. emoticon
    1920 days ago
    Feel very connected with these blogs Christmas in Cornwell almost a name for a song!!
    Have a fantastic Christmas peace and joy,good health and happy sparking for the New Year
    Sue from down under
    1920 days ago
    what a lovely journey! Makes me want to go to Cornwall.

    Your lines about packing in a back-pack the weight you've lost makes me think of some Biggest Loser TV series episodes I've watched. At some point in every competition, they make the participants pack the weight they've lost so far in some creative way. It is quite amazing. If you don't get the Biggest Loser in the UK, it may be worth watching an episode or two from the internet. Really inspired me that I can do more; however, I must also remember... the participants are full time working on their health, fitness, and diet. Us ordinary folk have to hold down our jobs and/or tend our families!
    1920 days ago
  • LEXIE63
    What! No pic of Brunel's Bridge over the Tamar? That bridge is the equivalent of a neon sign saying 'Welcome to Cornwall!' LOL

    Got stuck right on it once. I lived in Cornwall but went to college in Plymouth. Was travelling back to college one Sunday evening and the train broke down right over the Tamar on Brunel's Bridge. We sat there for way over two hours because they had to drive an engine all the way to Penzance, turn it round, and then send it back up our track to push us to Plymouth!

    Glad to see you got to St Ives safely. Jealous much? You betcha! LOL

    That stretch of coastline you mention with all the red rocks and stuff is the most beautiful stretch in the country to my mind, and I never mind the go slow through it. I'd hate it to rush by in a blur. :-)

    Enjoy your trip. :-)
    Lex xxx
    1920 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/16/2012 4:14:58 PM
  • DARJR50
    Great pictures. Have a fun trip and return home safely
    1920 days ago
  • MARYBETH4884
    Thank you for the beautiful pictures! Your trip may have been delayed but with the scenery who cares!
    1920 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/16/2012 4:03:52 PM
    I am pretty much land-locked--right smack dab in the middlle of the US. I have visited both coasts and I love to look at the ocean. It has a strange power, both calm and dangerous, and I always manage to feel a connection, a kind of reverie.
    Thanks for sharing the wonderful pictures--they make me want to write poems.

    1920 days ago
    1920 days ago
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