A ‘secret beach’ adventure
Our third trip to the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall was firmly marked on the calendar when I opened the Sunday Times travel supplement the week they featured the best beaches in the UK. Unsurprisingly there were a number of Cornish beaches included and my husband and I eagerly scoured the pages and made meticulous notes as to which of the featured beaches we would attempt to include in our week long trip. We were very keen on the idea of the beach feast at Porthcurnick but were sad to discover that the dates fell outside our trip and so we searched on. Our top favourite beach Kynance Cove was included but was already an immediate entry into our itinerary so I began to look for the more obscure entries, stumbling finally on one in the ‘Secret Beaches’ section which was not far from our Cornish base. I duly added it to the ‘places to go in Cornwall’ list and the planning continued.
Fast forward 5 weeks and you find us on day 2 of our holiday in Cornwall, relaxed and happy after a sunny day at Kynance Cove and ready for a new adventure. Sure the sky was cloudy and the forecast spoke of showers, but that did nothing to deter us from our planned trip to Lankidden Cove. According to the Times instructions, the challenge lay in finding the roads and so, arming ourselves with a Landranger map of the area, we set off, confident that our insider knowledge would lead us to discover a gem. Of course, as the children quickly pointed out, the very appearance of the beach in the Sunday Times might have led to a popularity hike and we could find ourselves late to the party, but we were optimistic and the promise of tranquility made it worth a shot.
Negotiating the route via a combination of the newspaper instructions and our trusty Landranger map, I swelled with pride when we made the last turn off the road and neared the coast. When the promised ‘car park’ failed to appear, our confidence faltered slightly, but we parked by a heap of gravel and hoped for the best. The ‘two minute walk’ to the beach seemed optimistic as we trudged down a winding country lane through the intensifying drizzle, and when we reached the headland and saw no clear sign of a path down the steep cliff, we started to realise that -regardless of its newly appointed Sunday Times honours – it was unlikely that this beach would be over-run; making it there at all was clearly going to be our well-earned reward!
Finding the path down the cliff proved to be the first challenge and we made a couple of aborted forays into the brush trying to seek out the elusive route down. At one point we almost gave up, but the joyful laughter of a child coming from the beach below renewed our motivation and convinced us that it must be possible to actually descend the mighty cliff. Finally, after consulting a number of walkers, we hit on the path and were reassured by one knowledgeable passer-by that -though it might seem a little steep – the route was perfectly manageable for the whole family.
And so the descent began. Nervously slipping on patches of parched brown earth, we slowly made our way closer and closer to our promised Nirvana, ignoring the brambles that tore at our bare legs, the gentle rain that drizzled on our heads, and the nagging internal voice telling us to turn back while we still could.
Eventually, we reached the final hurdle: a (seemingly) sturdy length of rope attached to the rocks from which we could half climb, half abseil the final few metres to reach the beach. Adding to the pressure, our endeavours were observed from below by the current beach occupations: an athletic looking family now waiting to ascend (clearly they had heard our pitiful bleating on the journey down and were making a quick getaway!). Naturally, the audience made us all more conscious of the mixture of fear and inherent clumsiness that made our rocky descent so painfully slow, but finally – triumphantly – we were down and, as the departing family made their way up the cliff (considerably faster than we had managed to come down), we marvelled at our achievements and drank in the wonder of a sandy beach all to ourselves.
Giddy with excitement we made a show of ‘choosing our spot’ on the beach and giggled at the notion that we could literally go anywhere. When the voices had faded into the distance and we knew we were truly alone, we dived into the water (well, inched cautiously, at least- it was chilly!) and splashed joyously before throwing caution to the wind and playing tag across the width of the beach to dry ourselves.
For a brief moment, the freedom and adventure was exhilarating and we were all enthralled, but all good things must come to an end and, as the drizzle steadily increased and the wind picked up, we hurriedly tried to eat our picnic lunch before quickly realising that there was little in the way shelter in our beach paradise and lunch and towels alike were gradually becoming sodden.
In the end, the rain made the decision for us, and we reluctantly decided to cut our losses and escape the beach before we were washed out completely. Thus followed a mad dash to gather in our belongings, change into our now damp clothes and shove our sandy feet into our inappropriate leather sandals. Unsurprisingly, with two children less than enamoured by the turn of events, this task was rather less speedy and rather more stressful than we might have hoped and it took a great deal of cajoling, some patient de-sanding of feet and eventually (I am ashamed to admit) some thinly veiled threats to leave one or both of them behind on the sand, before we were finally able to hoist ourselves up the rope and embark on the long trek back up to the clifftop. Without the buoyant excitement that had carried them down, both children found the upward journey more of a struggle and spent much of it on all fours scrambling up the path so that, by the time they reached the top, their hands were ingrained with rust red dirt and mud smeared their cheeks. It was this sight which greeted a group of walkers who sat in the sun (the drizzle having evaporated rapidly during our upwards trek leaving us regretting our haste to abandon the beach) discussing whether to attempt the climb down with their two dogs. The sight of our weary band was clearly enough to dissuade them and, as we trudged onwards, they continued their march across the clifftop.
The secret beach was not finished with us yet however and as a final flourish (perhaps a prank by the Cornish piskies, to keep strangers in their place and protect the secret beaches of their stunning coastline) Faith’s attempt to rest awhile on a passing fence had a ‘shocking’ conclusion when she jumped back in alarm having received an unpleasant surprise from the unexpectedly electrified fence. Despite my empathy and concern, I couldn’t help but chuckle slightly at this turn of events compounding my general view that this little adventure had gone the way of most of our family adventures: Exciting? Definitely. Enjoyable? In places. Without a hitch? Well, maybe not!
As we approached the car, the rain started once again and an almost biblical swarm of flies descended on us. Leaping into the safety of our trusty Skoda, I spied the Sunday Times supplement and, as Mike started the engine and we made our escape, I idly flicked through the pages and browsed for Cornish beaches. So maybe this beach trip had had more drama than a day time soap opera, but we were out for adventure and adventure we had found. The next secret beach had better be ready, the Clarkes were on their way!