Up and out of the shelter of the dunes at Holywell the wind was sweeping Kelsey Head under a pearly sky. But when is it ever not windy in Cornwall?
Windswept, rugged, remote… words of such over-applied cliché that almost cease to have any significance either inland or on the coast in this neck of the woods. Cee and I were talking about ravens as we walked. They like that sort of thing – windswept, rugged, remote – last time we’d seen one had been at the top of a Cumbrian mountain. We wondered if we’d see any here, tumbling and cronking over the cliff-tops.
“What I’d really like to see is a chough”.
I pointed out that we’d come to the wrong side of the coast: since their self-initiated reintroduction to Cornwall in 2001 the iconic birds had taken up residence on the Lizard peninsula, which is as far south as you’ll get either in Cornwall or mainland Britain. Next time, we decided, we’d head over that way and see if we could spot any.
We walked into the wind and around the headland, the sea churning below us. Ahead was a smattering of jackdaws picking about in the grass. Two of them were larger than the rest of the group.
“What are those bigger ones there – could they be ravens?”
“No they’re not” I replied, “but look what they are…”
It was like we’d conjured them up, these two magical birds trying to disguise themselves amongst their smaller corvid cousins, unmistakable in their red stockings like they’d just stepped out of our imaginations or a book of heraldic beasts. We watched in near-disbelief until, aware of our scrutiny, or bored with their pickings, they flew off, flicking their fingered wings, a strange cazooing call that neither Cee nor I were expecting them to utter. Continue reading
Date: 23rd May 2014 Distance walked: 10.6 miles Total distance: 110 miles
The tide was further out on my return to Coverack than it had been when I had arrived there on foot from Helford two weeks previously. The sort of beach of sand and stones that suggests it would have been a lot sandier before this winter’s storms stripped most of it back to reveal the underlying rock and pebble mix – a familiar sight along the beaches of south Cornwall so far this spring – was exposed. I was impatient to stride out, having spent far too long sitting on a bus then waiting at Sainsbury’s for another bus on which I sat for an even greater length of time in order to get here. Continue reading
A flit of movement catches the corner of my eye as I sit in the back window to write. The bird is the same colour as the bare tree branches, the back fence, the garden table, the floor outdoors: the base colour of winter under a uniform sky that’s trying to rain. Is it…? I wonder, scrabbling for my glasses to get a better look, but even before I put them on I see the flash of its russet frontage. Only a robin after all. Continue reading
The rain stopped. The cloud came down and sat over the land like a guilty conscience. We parked at the beach and ate our picnic off the dashboard whilst consulting the road atlas as to our next move.
“I want to go somewhere we can see something,” was Cee’s primary request.
I looked up. Strictly speaking we did have a sea view. Beyond the windscreen it was as though someone had drawn down an opaque grey blind cutting off the cove and sky not much beyond the breakerline.
I looked down at the map. “How do you feel about a little meander across the countryside? There’s somewhere we could go that I think you might like.”
It’s not a long way as the corvid flies from Maenporth to Gunwalloe Church Cove. Continue reading
I woke just past 4am.
Dry throat. Drink water. Try not to register too many awake sensations so I can drop back into the black of sleep.
Turn over to find the cooler side of the pillow. The more comfortable twist of the quilt. My shoulders are cold. My legs are hot.
The window’s open. Perhaps I should shut the window. But that would mean getting out of bed.
I can hear the seagulls. It must be near dawn. The gap in the curtains gives a glimpse of night sky already fading. Continue reading
That is what it looked like: a bird’s foot. A triangle almost the same colour as the path on which it lay, with an appendage at the apex that could have been the ankle, or the leg.
It should belong to a seagull, a foot of that shape. It is nature’s paddle, flesh instead of toes to propel its owner through the waves. Continue reading