One of my greatest pleasures is walking, and just being, on the North Cornwall clifftops – it was one of the main reasons we chose to move here. Further down on the north coast and all along the south coast is home to all the main ‘lying about on the sand and sometimes getting wet‘ resorts, we have the rougher and tougher, wind and tide battered ruggedness. There are some sandy beaches but the Atlantic feeds them way more energy, so similarly energetic and adventurous pursuits such as Coasteering and Surfing are preferred to the lying about with a summer blockbuster novel here. The north coast is battle scarred, its carved-out black cliffs holding back the wildness of the seas instead of providing genteel bathing opportunities.
Sunsets around these parts can be stunning, as I have already seen many times. Dawn might be as well but that’s much too dedicated for me to be awake for. Daytime walks bring opportunities for experiencing more visible wildlife – the changing colours of the blankets of flora, the spectacular and the more humble creepy crawlies, and meadow, cliff and sea bird watching. There’s also the possibility of spotting some of the ocean’s animal treasures, maybe seals, dolphins or even whales, from the high viewpoints that can stretch away for many kilometres in all directions. I am still gradually getting to know the lengths of the paths most accessible to my home now and I am glad to find we have easy access to some quite breath-taking places and scenery.
This week I have had the pleasure of my son staying with us for a week while on his Summer Holiday. We had cycled the day before, up on Bodmin Moor, and had climbed some stiff hills on the bikes, so my next assault on his energy was to go for a coastal clifftop walk. He only agreed if he could take one of my cameras so he could snap away, just like Dad, so on a day which looked unpromising for the finest weather – it was a little grey but at least it was dry – we headed out to park the car at a layby near to a point called Rusey Cliffs.
As we walked out to join the coast path we had High Cliff up to our right, which we had both walked before, so this time we headed off left, which took us south heading towards Boscastle. Although grey at first, the cloud was gradually getting thinner and the sun was trying hard to break through it. We followed the typical coastal topography for about 3 kilometres of little headlands, plunges down into valleys and gulleys with their marshy streams and then climbing back up to the heights to see yet another stretch of coast ahead of us. The views stretched all the way down to Trevose Head, slate seas with white foam hands punching away at the cliffs which had their own little rock islands sitting in front of them, worn away from the mainland by millions of years of similar beatings.
The boy was doing pretty well and was actually concerned for how I was managing all of the climbing and rough ground, my walking not being one of the most confidence inspiring sights you’ll ever see. After a few kilometres my feet start to give my brain no information about how close to the ground they are and in which exact direction they might be facing (if feet can ‘face’) so stumbles and wobbles away from the generally correct heading get increasingly numerous. After a while it is time for a rest and hopefully a general reboot of the necessary information wiring systems.
We had been approaching a bench, set high up on a viewpoint ahead of us, and had been stopping to watch a Kestrel hovering above it in the updraft of air off the cliff. The bench was looking back towards the black cliff we were coming along the top of and the little cove below had a smaller rock, worn into an island but only with a few metres of gap with the main cliff. Eventually we got to the bench and gratefully sat down. In common with many such benches, there was a name inscribed in this one, a ‘Dick Treleaven’, a pleasantly Cornish sounding name. We both thought that this one was a bit closer to the edge of the cliffs than normal, its position giving a fine view over the cliffs, the little island and the beaches in the cove they formed.
The sun came out fully as we were there, so we sat and watched as Gulls circled and effortlessly climbed on the swirling thermals created by the shape of the cove and used our binoculars to scan the seas, cliffs and beaches. The Kestrel came into view again and up high, mewing away to our right, were a group of three Buzzards. Then we started noticing more butterflies and moths taking advantage of the flowers as the warmth rose. We agreed this was probably a place that even if there was no bench we would have chosen to sit on the ground for a while anyway, just to take it all in. After half an hour of watching, some photographs and then drinks and sweets to fortify us for the return walk up a lane and bridle path roughly parallel to the cliffs, we headed off. If I had been there by myself then perhaps I would have been there for a few hours, getting an eleven year old boy to sit still for the thirty minutes was today’s success though.
When we got home I decided to see if the internet could tell me any more detail about Dick Treleaven and his well-chosen memorial bench site and I found that he was quite the character. It seems he was a local man and naturalist, a well-known, liked and respected expert in Peregrine Falcons with two books published. The bench was placed in one of his favourite spots to sit and watch them and I instantly recognised the place from the photograph in the link, Black Rock. He passed away in 2009, but his memorial bench nicely keeps an eye on his spot, whether anyone is there or not. We never saw Peregrines today, our haul included Wheatear, Skylark and Meadow Pipits among others. I have seen one on this stretch slightly further north of here though and the territory is classic Peregrine with towering cliffs to nest and drop down on prey from. There is no doubt I’ll be back to sit at his bench and watch out for any, and now I know a bit more about who to thank for both a comfortable and a spectacular resting point.