Cornwall March 2012

It hasn’t really felt like winter’s as I remember them, but then again I do remember some pretty grim winters. Miner’s strikes cutting power to damp cities, shoes that never seemed to dry out, England and I are in a better place now.

The thing that has really exorcised the ghost of winters past for me has been my daily swims in Tooting Bec Lido; the realisation that our bodies not only survive more extreme temperatures but can actually thrive, the support of people when they see you going through this process, almost religious but without the dogma, a healthy cult where the pay-off is seeing that light of realisation, of trust in oneself and the environment. How lovely, how truly and simply lovely.

Visiting Cornwall, swimming in the blue Atlantic, felt a little like taking this new found thing on tour. A test away from the safety of the sauna, leaving clothes on rocks to wade into the sea still restless from Winter.

On my first day I took a swim from Battery Rocks at the back of The Jubilee Pool in Penzance. I was lucky enough to meet up with Frederic, a journalist, who was willing to taste the chilly waters that morning, the tide was high and the water fresh. We bobbed along and chatted then parted cheerfully leaving me to enjoy a coffee in Penzance before heading off around the cliffs to a beach recommended to me recently called Prussia Cove.

I stopped just before my destination in a gem of a place called Pixie Cove as I could see from the cliff-tops that the sand reached out into the sea even when the tide was nearly out. The water here was around 10 degrees, which felt like a bath compared to some of the water this winter at the lido and, perversely, I found myself thinking that I must stay in a little longer to enjoy the chill!

I walked on the Praa Sands where I caught the bus back to Penzance, spent from a days walking and swimming.

The next day I headed to St Ives as this time of year is best to avoid the crush of summer.

The train St Ives has wonderful views. You pass by the Hayle Estuary and St Ives bay which are worth the journey on their own, but at the end you come to the chocolate box pretty St Ives which is one of the more wonderful British seaside towns. Here I stayed in the backpackers which was a wonderful place to meet other folk – the artist Marion Harding and her son Ruan as well as the climbers Adam, his young Padawan Rufus and their sleepy buddy.

Marion and her son had wonderful tales to tell about their journeys around Europe selling Marion’s work, at times sleeping rough as they were living off of the proceeds of her painting sales. I’d love to chat to them both more and am sure we’ll meet again.

In St Ives I swam off of the small Porthgwidden Beach with it’s perfectly neat little empty changing chalet’s waiting patiently for summer to breathe them into life. I was applauded by some people watching from a cafe window which surprised me as the water in the beach next door was full of surfers. With such perfect sand and clear water this felt like home, no diving boots, not gloves, no wetsuit, just tumbling about in the water feeling great.

It wasn’t too expensive to stay to travel to Cornwall this time, the most expensive bit being the return train at 48 quid but you can get a megabus there for 8 pounds which sets off at 5.30 pm and arrives early am. The YMCA in Penzance has night staff so you can book a room there, I had a whole dorm to myself as it’s not as oversubscribed as the YHA.

Next week I’m off to Australia, I’ll miss my beautiful home while I’m away.

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