28 April 2020
At that stage I didn’t know where I would be staying the following night, the final night of my trip. I had left this in the capable hands of a colleague back in the office. It later transpired that she had found me a bed in a B&B in Newlyn, just round the bay from Penzance, so off I trotted on one last day’s exploration of Cornwall’s branch lines.
Back along the Maritime Line I went from Falmouth Docks to Truro, joining the mainline again westwards towards Penzance, the end of the line and the end of England station-wise. I had one final detour to make first though. After passing Redruth and Camborne I reached St Erth, a junction station with access to the St Ives Bay branch line, which is short but most definitely sweet. Make sure you sit on the right hand side and get yourselves ready for the immediate pleasures of spectacular Carbis Bay, with a coastline of golden sands to warm your soul. In just ten minutes the train trundles into St Ives, with beaches, harbour, boats, quaint shops and art galleries. There are few places more pleasant.
Back up the line to St Erth to rejoin the mainline, the train trundled along the final ten minutes of track into Penzance, the last station in England, but not before allowing more than a fleeting glimpse of mysterious St Michael’s Mount offshore on the left hand side, a great end to the day. Well, not quite the end of the day, as I made my way to Newlyn and my B&B.
“Would you write something in my guest book?”
I had only just arrived and plonked my bags in the hall. Why would I want to write in her guest book? I hadn’t even seen my room. Hell, I hadn’t even been given my key yet. What did she want me to put? The crazy Cornish landlady’s rule seemed to be, “Write in my guest book, then you get your room key!” so I wrote something bland in her guest book. She wanted to know everything about why I was in Newlyn for one night, but didn’t read the signs that I was at the end of my working day, just wanted a pub meal and a pint by the harbour, then forty winks. I was a long way from home. Just about as far away as it was possible to be on the mainland. But I just needed the room key that was still firmly in her grasp. Having been given a lengthy briefing about everything I could do in Newlyn, Mousehole and Penzance, had I not been staying just the one night with work, still the key remained elusive. Having been recommended a local “medieval banquet night” where you are served mead, having nodded along politely despite having no intention of going out in medieval garb to drink mead with strangers, finally, finally the room key was mine. Oh, for the easy come, easy go anonymity of a room in a hotel.
The following morning, with Penzance’s small selection of hotels ruled out for one reason or another, I began my journey home. I had decided to fly from Newquay to Leeds Bradford for ease and so rejoined the Cornish mainline at Penzance, retracing my tracks as far as Par, before switching to the branch line marketed as the “Atlantic Coast Line” to Newquay, a coast to coast journey in its own right.
Par brought back memories of a childhood holiday in Cornwall. My parents had just got into caravanning and hitched their new (well, second hand but it was new to them) caravan to the back of the car, completely underestimating how far Cornwall is from Yorkshire. The following week was punctuated with statements like, “We’ve got better scenery in Yorkshire,” or “It’s not as nice as Whitby.” I seem to recall we came home early, so disillusioned were they with the delights of the Duchy. I loved Cornwall though!!
From Par the Atlantic Coast Line trundles through the Luxulyan Valley and across Goss Moor, with visible traces of tin mining history amidst the pleasant, if not spectacular, scenery. The Atlantic comes into view, but there would be too little time to sample many of Newquay’s pleasures. The beaches, the waves, the seafood, Newquay has something for everyone, with groups arriving for that weekend. The weekend was here for me too. In no time the wonders of aviation would transport me back to the beloved old Yorkshire my parents had craved for whilst in Cornwall. The wonders of aviation then went missing, with hours of delay and a re-routing to East Midlands. I could have got home quicker in dad’s caravan! But I really wish I’d taken the train instead.