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Cornish Zen

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April ’05

Journey to Land’s End, Cornwall.

I flew into Birmingham, UK, home to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest but, I was seeking a different kind of British heavy metal. Rain streaked the jet’s window as we came in for a landing. Never a good omen. I hopped on to an east bound train to Nottingham to reunite with my Triumph Thruxton. Together, we set off towards Land’s End at the furthest tip of Cornwall.

It was 3 P.M. when I was finally loaded up and ready to go. I was hoping to get some miles in before dark. I fired up the Triumph and headed southwest. I chose a road built by the Romans now named Fosse Way. As were most Roman roads, this one was built straight and to the southwest. Just the direction I wanted to go. While it looks arrow straight on the map, in reality it does have some nice bends in it. This only proves that Romans enjoyed a good cornering session in their charriots just as much as we do 😀 By 6 P.M. I was well into the Cotswolds. This is the tourist heart of England as it is chock full of achingly quaint villages. I have my suspicions that the English had them purposely built to attract Japanese and American tourists. Here are some pics of the village of Bourton-on-the-Water.

I found a nice hotel in the town of Stow-on-the-Wold. Enjoyed a nice dinner with the accompanying ale. Does anything look more at home in an English village than a Triumph?

The next morning I woke up to more rain. Drat. By the time I had finished breakfast though, the rains had stopped and the skies began to brighten a bit. I rambled a bit through the Cotswold Hills before setting my bearings to the southwest again towards the Roman era town of Bath. Leaving Bath, I took one of my many wrong turns and ended up getting lost a bit but, no worries. After an hour I was back on the way to the West Country.

Entering the county of Somerset, I had been dodging and weaving between rain clouds all day. I was fortunate only to have been sprinkled on for about 15 minutes. I love it when the weather is threatening yet, somehow you manage to get lucky and dance around it. Approaching the town of Minehead, I caught my first glimpse of the ocean…or rather, the Bristol Channel. I could just make out Wales on the other side. I got lucky and found a lovely hotel that was formerly a hunting Lodge. Very friendly staff and they speak the same language…sorta

After a restul night’s sleep, I awoke to a bright blue sky. Things were looking up! I headed out west along the top of the boot tip that is the southwestern peninsula and through the Exmoor National Park. Thatched roof houses? We got yer thatched roof houses buddy right here in the Exmoor.

I encountered a “toll road”. The toll collector must have been off checking on his sheep so, he just put up a sign.

The Somerset coast…

Many English backroads are lined with tall hedges. This makes it impossible to see what’s around the bend…a tractor hauling hay? or an oncoming 18 wheeler? Pick your line carefully and go for it.

It was turning in to a cracking (Brit lingo) day! I continued progressing to the southwest. After the town of Bude, the coastline becomes more dramatic. Unfortunately, the road stays well inland making views of the coast fleeting at best. I guess the Romans or whoever built them didn’t count on tourism, huh? Here is a view of the coast somewhere near Boscastle.

By late afternoon I had entered Cornwall and reached the colorful fishing port of St. Ives. Before the advent of the railroad in the nineteenth century, Cornwall was the most isolated region in England. People here lived a hard existence.

Looking west along the Cornish coast…

I finally reached Land’s End right around 5 P.M. I’ve always had a strong attraction to places like this. Those “end of the world” type places. Going as far as one can go on land makes you all introspective and mushy inside making you look back on where you’ve been and where you will go from here. Unfortunately, someone put up a kitschy theme park right on the tip but, it didn’t blemish the view too much. As it was late and I didn’t have a hotel room yet, I didn’t stick around to watch the sunset.

Here is a shot a little further down the coast looking eastwards.

I got lucky and found a nice friendly hotel in Marazion. Right off the coast was the spectacular St. Michael’s Mount. Originally built as a Benedictine monastery some 800 years ago. There is a causeway to it that is underwater at high tide.

Heading back east along the bottom of the boot toe, I made my way through picturesque fishing villages. I saw a sign for Prince Harry’s Ferry. Instant detour. I always go out of my way for ferrys. Notable among the coastal town was the port city of Fowey. What a charming place! The roads in the old part of town are barely 8 feet wide! Beautiful. I continued eastwards through the Dartmoor National Park. As soon as I entered the park a shroud of mist enveloped me, giving the moors a stark spooky look about them. I loved it but, I didn’t love the 40 MPH speed limit. I sorta went faster than that.

Continued eastwards until Sherbourne where I nabbed another hotel room. The next morning, the weather was still holding up. I timed it perfectly as, the TV news said Land’s End was receiving bucketfuls of rain. I love it when a plan comes together. Heading off northwards now, back towards Nottingham, I stopped by Stonehenge for a few quick pics. This monument marks the spot of the last great battle between the Mods and the Rockers

Here is another typical shot of the roads I travelled. 90% of my trip was on backroads 2 lane roads such as this one. Good stuff…custom made for the Triumph’s parallel twin 🙂

Still continuing north, I couldn’t resist going through the Cotswolds one more time. Beautiful countryside dotted with fairy tale villages.

It’s easy to see why the British bike industry never saw a need to build a more powerful mill. The torquey twin suits the tight twisty English back roads to a T.

mileage: about 1000 miles in 4.5 days.
cop sightings: 1
gatso sightings: 2 (they were these spooky looking things like something out of the prisoner TV show).
pucker moments: 0
wrong turns: 25