I was six when I first visited Cornwall. The promise of daily ice creams was enough to spark joy in my young heart, but little did I know that it would be the start of a long-term love affair with the most beautiful corner of the British Isles.
The journey was four hours, an unfathomable distance for my younger self. We trundled down the A30, our green-windowed caravan in tow, as my parents tried to keep my sister and me occupied with ‘eye spy’ to get a break from the complaints coming from the backseats. I imagine we were just about ready to kill each other by the time we got there, but as we came over the brow of the hill, that first look at the glittering sea of Newquay’s Towan beach was enough to make it worth it.
The qualms of the car ride were soon left behind as once we were settled on the pitch that would be our home for the week, the entire holiday was effectively spent beach-hopping. First it was Perranporth: the one with a swimming pool in the rocks, then Fistral: waves so big they would have swallowed six-year-old me up, and finally Holywell Bay: the one with a river that led from the top of the beach into the sea. Each of them became construction sites for my dad’s infamous sand sculptures, the most notable being The Speed Boat, which was precisely engineered to cut through the strongest Cornish winds, and always included seats that just allowed room for our small bodies (the other children were always jealous.) When we weren’t digging viciously into the sand, we splashed our way through the bitterly cold Atlantic, covered head-to-toe in neoprene in an attempt to lessen the numbing of our limbs. We carelessly flung ourselves at the waves with our bodyboards as we tried to land on top of one to carry us back to the shore. Being a young child I was never very successful, but just existing in the water, hair frizzy, tongue burning from the salt, I was having the time of my life.
When my parents were able to encourage us away from the beaches, we ventured to the quaint town of St. Ives. Arriving on the train carrying us along the coast from St. Erth, I was greeted by an unforgettable scene of slanted buildings and cobbled streets. They were filled with tourists, but away from the high street there was a rabbit warren to explore. That particular visit did have a minor hiccup in the form of a battle with a seagull over an ice cream (I lost), but the yet-to-be-bettered pasty from S.H. Ferrel & Son did make up for it, and that event hasn’t deterred me yet (even if I do still cower slightly at the sight of a seagull.) That’s just one memory amongst a dozen others, and if we survived a bird attack together, there can be nothing that breaks us apart.
I doubt I realised I was falling in love at the time, but that holiday was the start of a lifetime of windswept walks, evenings on the harbour, and a yearning to be back in the grasp of my beloved Kernow.