'Imagination will take you everywhere'
I have been visiting you ever since I was a new-born baby. As a toddler my chubby toes dug deep into your soft sand. Before that, my Granny and Grandad farmed on your rugged terrain, while my Mother rode bare-back across your wild moorland. Photos depict my Mum and her brother jumping cold Atlantic waves as children – the very same that my sisters and I splash in today.
As I got older, swimming costumes replaced skinny-dipping; paddling turned to swimming and body-boarding led to surfing. My family grew and so did I. But every holiday, no matter what, we would return to your northern territory. The mysterious north; the rough, craggy landscape which enchanted Sir John Betjeman, has cast its spell on me.
I will always remember that first breath of salty sea air – mingled with the sour stench of seaweed – after a long time away. Immediately making me feel refreshed, my worries forgotten. Love at first breath.
I remember the piercing screech of seagulls as they soared above your land – looking longingly at our picnic sprawled on the rocks below. The woodland walks which twisted and turned; strolling down quiet lanes – the sun shining on the slate roofs, eating Rick Stein fish and chips with freezing cold hands and cautiously negotiating coastal paths with dangerously sheer drops down to the menacing ocean. That vast expanse of sea, which heaved and swelled – and sometimes was as motion-less as a lake.
There are particular scenes that I associate with the happiest moments of my life: the sunset at Constantine, reflections in Padstow harbour, Port Isaac’s quaint streets, the panoramic cliff-top vista of Bedruthan Steps, white horses rolling into Tregirls, and of course, the never-ending stretch of caramel sand that belongs to Rock beach.
I’ll never forget my first cart-wheel on your sand, the first stone I skimmed across your crystal waters, or the first time I stood up on a surfboard. The memories we shared together are etched on my mind. The photos will act as a time machine; taking me back to those carefree days on a windswept beach. Yes the sky may be a wash of grey, the rain may be lashing down and whipping our cheeks red; but we’re in Cornwall, so what?
Despite the highs and lows of growing up, you were always there. A constant in a fast-paced life. A comfort. Something to hold on to. When the playground and play-dough suddenly morphed into revision and exams, you were always there at the back of my mind. Chemistry today, but Cornwall in a month.
As I prepare for life’s next chapter, I just wanted to say thanks for the memories. But most of all, thank you for welcoming us with open arms, again and again. You made us feel like locals.
Cornwall, you are my true home. My wild spirit is unleashed when I cross your border – your air invigorates me. The definition of freedom is running barefoot across your sand and splashing into your icy waters. It makes me feel like a child again. Maybe one day many years from now, I will watch my grandchildren play in the same sea that has enthralled three generations of my family.
So when I return from university, my holiday destination won’t be up for negotiation. It will always be Cornwall. Always.
Ah! Seaweed smells from sandy caves
And thyme and mist in whiffs,
In-coming tide, Atlantic waves
Slapping the sunny cliffs,
Lark song and sea sounds in the air
And splendour, splendour everywhere.
(The end of Seaside Golf by Sir John Betjeman)