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Coastlining 10.1: Falmouth

[Pendennis Peninsula to Swanpool]                 Date: 8th May 2014    Distance walked: ~2miles

I leave the house half an hour before sunset and walk through the quiet residential streets of Falmouth town and up onto the headland that curls out southeastwards into the Fal Estuary. The road passes high above the docks which shelter in the northern lee of this spit of land where the water is deep, tidal and yet protected from the moods of the open sea. Continue reading


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Ronseal’ Sundays. A joyous thing in a winter of rain and clouds that follows an autumn of rain and clouds that followed a summer of much the same. 2012 seemed almost seasonless in its monotony of precipitation.

Except for this Sunday, last Sunday and New Year’s Day have been the only breaks in the cloud of 2013 so far – where I am living anyway – and for some considerable time prior to that. According to the Met Office the sunshine levels for December 2012 were 120 percent of the national average. However they also recorded 257.3mm rainfall for the month (178 percent of the ususal) in the South West and South Wales region, which equates to 23 days of rain. Continue reading

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River Fal 13: Fin

– Place to St Anthony Head (where?)

The final – or maybe the first, depending on which way round you look at this – creek to join the Fal estuary is the Percuil River whose own mouth forms St Mawes harbour and whose course separates the St Anthony headland from the rest of the Roseland, creating a peninsula on a peninsula. The almost-isolation of its geographical situation is echoed in the quiet countryside clothing these shores. After Place House, the one-time ancestral home of the influential Spry family, the near-hidden cruciform of the 12th century church behind the mansion is the penultimate footprint of manmade construction before reaching the very tip of the land. Nestled in the midst of a conservation area and flanked by overhanging trees and rampant wildflowers, St Anthony’s church feels somehow more sympathetic to its rural surroundings than the slightly pretentious facade of its neighbouring mansion.

I turn a corner and suddenly I’ve left behind all trace of woodland and meadow that have exemplified the latter stages of this journey downstream. The flora becomes edgy and littoral: thrift instead of cow parsley, sea campion replacing red. A sharp drop to my right reveals a secluded cove at the cliff base. There is no more river now. There is no more estuary, even: I have reached the Cornish coast of the holiday brochures.

St Anthony Head beach picture credit: Trinity House


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River Fal 2: Docks and Monsters

– Falmouth Docks (where?)

Early morning. Falmouth is uncharacteristically still, except for the docks who make their presence known through metallic clanks and rumblings, the whine of a siren, the baseline whirr of an engine throbbing low as the subconscious. Like the estuary on which their livelihood depends, it’s doubtful whether the docks ever sleep at all. As one of the major ports in the south west Falmouth plays host to an international clientele with nautical visitors from all over the world. Lian Xing Hu, Flinterbright, Chambulk Savannah, Mar Elena, Triton Osprey: floating hulks of steel from China, Norway, Spain incoming and outgoing at all hours of the day and night for refitting and refuelling, making best use of rise and fall in the water levels in order to navigate the narrow channel of the harbour entrance. Continue reading

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River Fal 1: Fal / Mouth

Articles in this series form part of a longer piece on the tidal section of the River Fal in Cornwall. In it I imagine what it would be like to start at low tide at the river mouth, travelling upriver to the highest tidal point at high tide, and returning back to the sea, by exploring the locations on and around the river and making my own ‘tidal journey’ inland and back out to sea. There are thirteen parts to the series. They can of course be read in order, but you don’t necessarily have to start with part 1, it being a cyclical journey there is no definitive start and end point. Each section can also be read as a stand-alone piece.

– Pendennis Point, western bank of the Fal Estuary (where?)

Waking to a Falmouth alarm call, the sound of a hundred seagulls breaks into my consciousness from the pre-dawn still. All night the full moon has been troubling my repose, and now it’s nearly day I’m exhausted but wider awake than anyone has the right to be at this dead hour.

Water is said to be the moon’s element, and the tide, ebbing and flowing round the clock, neap-ing and spring-ing to the lunar wax and wane, washes the moon’s watery influence into mankind’s perception visibly and tangibly, and altogether outside of human control.

So I go to look for the tide. Continue reading