The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesCornwall In Winter 2017

My Guided Tour

By Ren Withnell

Monday was wet, Tuesday started out wet but cleared in the evening. Today, well today so far appears to be glorious sunshine. No, nope, nah this can't be right? Sleet and snow, high winds, light rain, heavy rain, mist, drizzle, dark clouds and even light clouds are acceptable but clear blue skies and the big yellow shiny thing? This is confusing. As such after my shower I optimistically hand wash a change of clothes and hang them out to dry on my bungee cord washing line. Bright it may be but it is cold, I don't hold out much hope of my clothes drying but we shall see.  

Ren's washing hanging from some bungees between trees while campingTrees and couple of bungees equals a washing line. Sorted.

Damn! There's a broken tent pole. Not to worry, I whip out my tools and my spares and it is soon replaced. As I re-erect the tent SNAP! Damn and blast! Another one of the super lightweight yet also super brittle trick aluminium poles breaks. Begrudgingly I replace this one too. That was my last spare, if any more break I am doomed. Careful Ren, nice and easy, steady, push gently...and into the hole...thank goodness for that. 

The tent has a peculiar angle due to the broken pole, there's an inset of the snapped aluminium tubeDammit! I'm not sure how good these ally poles are.

Today I am going to meet Mark and Nina. Back in November I posted up my intention to visit Cornwall this winter (Thinking About Cornwall In Winter). I soon received an email declaring that he and his wife have been reading the Bikes And Travels website for a while now and that they live in Cornwall. They kindly offered me a warm welcome, a bacon butty and and a look around the garage. Bacon butty you say? Sign me up, give me your address and get the kettle on, I'm all yours.

A 20 mile ride sees me into Camborne and Google maps sees to Mark and Nina's unassuming house. As I lock the bike I hear "Hello Ren!" Mark greets me with a handshake and guides me into their warm homely kitchen filled with the smell of bacon. The sun pours in through the windows as I strip off my layers, I feel immediately comfortable. 

A regular street in camborne complete with houses and sunCamborne seems nice enough, just gotta find Mark and Nina's place now.

The bacon is slightly crispy, perfectly so. I slump further into my chair with each bite while Mark shows me pictures of the local biker hangouts and Nina offers me more tea. Outside in the shed there's a handful of scooters and small capacity motorcycles to peruse. I sense Mark really wanted to meet the CBF125 rather than my 500 and Nina would like to have talked to Sharon about curmudgeonly test examiners. However I still feel most welcome so with sunshine, bacon and tea inside me there is nothing I want for right now.

"How about we take you to a few local spots? We're at work later but we've got a little time." Local knowledge is by far the best way to explore an area so Mark hops onto his MSX125 Grom and Nina onto her Lexmoto 125 scooter. With a whoosh we're off! They may be into their smaller machines but this doesn't mean they're into dawdling, the 500 is getting a workout down these country lanes. 

In a matter of moments the narrow twisty lanes drop down into the small town of Portreath. Fabulous, this is what I came to see. It is quiet but, contrary to my imagination, it is not empty or devoid of life. There are cars in the car park, people going about their business and the odd well wrapped up walker strolling along the broad beach. If the temperature were 20 degrees warmer it would be perfect. Of course when the temperature were 20 degrees warmer it will also be filled to the brim. Catch 22.

Portreath beach leading out to the sea with steep cliffs to the side and a couple of people walking alongPortreath is lovely, all the better for not being too busy.

Mark leads us up a steep hill with a switchback and parks on the roadside near the RAF base. "You want a quick ride on the Grom?" Hell yeah! I whizz the little beastie down the hill and back up. In my short 1 mile experience I learn the following. There's a lot of engine in these things with grunt all over the rev range. Considering how small they are they still feel roomy, how did Honda do that? The steering is incredibly sharp compared to a 500, it almost caught me out. They're a hoot to ride, total HOOLIGAN tool. That was fun.

Ren in his high visibility jacket sat on the small but perfectly formed Grom 125It's hard to be a high visibility hooligan but I've pulled it off.

Another brief blast along the twisting country lanes sees us to Hell's Mouth. We park at Hell's Mouth cafe which is closed for the winter I guess. Mark walks me to the actual Hell's Mouth which is a horseshoe shaped cliff face falling steeply to the ocean way below. Apparently this is a local suicide spot. Why? It's beautiful and if I arrived here and saw this surely I'd change my mind? Mark suggests I imagine it on a dark and stormy evening in which case yes this could be terrifying and lonesome place. Sadness and beauty, the human condition is a complex thing.

Hell's Mouth is a steep rocky cove in a tight curved shapeI've been to the mouth of Hell and it's quite pleasant actually.

Godrevy (pronounced "Godj-reevee" by Mark and Nina) is our next stop. There's an enormous beach that runs down to a gentle sea and a craggy island with a lighthouse atop. It is once again quiet here but far from empty. We park on a grass field which I'm told in summer would be filled to the brim with cars, the beach would be packed and there would be queue upon queue to get here. Again I think if it were 20 degrees warmer... More pictures and Mark sets up the timer on his camera to get us all in for once. 

The broad and almost empty beach at Godrevy
Wow! Spectacular Godrevy Beach.
Mark Nina and Ren stand beside their motorcycles at GodrevyMy hosts and myself and our transport. Thanks folks.

Back on the main roads Mark and Nina bid me farewell, they have to be away for their respective jobs. Once again "thank you" doesn't really seem enough. Thanks for the bacon butty and the chance to warm up. Thanks for knowing these local places and taking me straight to them. Thanks for the local knowledge and the stories that bring these places to life. Thanks for making my day! 

I take myself off to St Ives and as I ride I think. I think of ALL the places I've "seen" but where I would have "seen" so much more if only someone like Mark and Nina were there to show me around. I think of all the coves and villages I've ridden right past because I never knew they were there. Imagine having a local guide to show you the best places to eat, the best campsite, the prettiest hamlet and to tell you the fascinating history of an ordinary church that you would otherwise have ignored. 

Let me say this, there is absolutely NO substitute for local knowledge.

St Ives appears to be specifically designed to discourage tourists such as I. I find it to be a small town with the one way system from hell and any road that leads to the harbour is blocked to unauthorised vehicles. I go up and down, round and around, through and in between all to no avail. Then as if by magic I'm suddenly by the harbour. Rather than stopping to enjoy this moment I fear I may have slipped by another sign banning my unauthorised access and I am in danger of being accosted for my trespass. I get the hell out of town. I wonder if I'm on CCTV somewhere and I'll get a snotty letter in the post soon? St Ives - if you don't want tourists just say so will you?

The street beside the harbour wall at St Ives Cornwall. Just a quick snapshot before I head offI'm not sure I'm even supposed to be here. 

Back at the campsite I can feel a problem coming. It's been cold all day, I'd guess around 5 or 6 degrees even with the sun. These clear skies will mean tonight will be cold. Fear not for I have my super duper Vango sleeping bag, rated to -3 comfort and -28 extreme. After an evening watching a little TV through my tablet and the WiFi I slip into my sleeping bag. There's already frost on the tent and the water in my pan has a veneer of ice upon it already. I am not at all convinced this sleeping bag is up to the task. 

Why Oh Why Oh Why? Ren explains why he thinks it's a good idea to travel to a UK holiday destination in winter. Kind of like asking a madman why he's mad really.
Eating The Elephant It's the first two days of Ren's brief jolly to Cornwall in January. Motorways, could anything interesting possibly happen?
My Guided Tour The winter sun is out in Cornwall and Ren gets a brief yet perfect guided tour of one area. What more could he ask for?
Familiar Faces, Familiar Places It's the fourth day of the Cornwall expedition. After hypothermia comes sunshine and the chance to catch up with an old friend.
Devonian Delights It's another cold cold morning as Ren starts the journey back home. He's expecting a rather dull ride today but there's a few surprises in the countryside.
Meeting Ian Before Ren returns home to end his Cornish expedition he meets a certain Mr Ian Soady.
What Did I Learn? After returning home from his Cornish adventure Ren is asking himself what he has leared and was it all worth the effort?

Reader's Comments

Pocketpete said :-
Not quite as mad as your trip to scotland. But still mad ish.

Went to work on the bike this morning in sympathy to the bikes and travels cause. Omg was bloody freezing the roads were greasy. Couldn't see a bloody thing after following a bus and wagon for a mile or two. Just how do I keep my visor clear

Cornwall seems far away on my list of attractions on a bike at this time of year.

I think the log burner and a cup of tea seem more of a safe bet.
23/1/2017 9:56:18 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yes the roads are greasy at present an salt on the visor ruins visibility.

Rule number 1 - slow down! If you can't see and there's no grip I can't think of any other solution.

Washing the visor regularly helps, obviously. Don't breath, it only causes misting. Other than that it's just a fact of winter motorcycling.
24/1/2017 7:28:07 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The best thing I've found for visors is Pledge spray-on furniture polish. Clean the visor thoroughly with plain water then apply the polish - spray on, leave for a few seconds then spread out and finally polish with a very soft cloth. This is excellent for rain which just beads up and runs off, but not much use for the muck of which you speak. You do have to be careful not to get it on the inside of the visor where it will promote misting.

For this, the old trick is half a tennis ball wired to the bars with a bit of wet sponge in it. Not perfect but better than nothing as you can give a quick wipe at traffic lights etc.

Whatever you do don't try to wipe it with a gloved finger, v-wipe etc as these will just scratch it.
24/1/2017 11:44:01 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Right - I think I've found the new BAT product. Handlebar mounted sponges on a string for visor cleaning on the go.

Let me think about this. Retractable coil - enough tension on the string to return the sponge to the holder but not so much it's hard to grab and use the sponge. Expensive branded visor washing fluid for continuous sales when cheap Aldi washing up liquid would do. The BAT logo on the holder for additional marketing and kudos.

Marketing. It's got to be mounted on a BMW GS1200 with a dashingly handsome adventure type chap riding through a far flung and other worldly city scene. He's about to crash because his visor is covered in dead flies and lipstick kisses from a busty oriental lady. He reaches for his BAT visor sponge and all is saved as he dodges a truck. He then turns a corner and parks outside the house of different busty and leggy oriental lady. They embrace and kiss...blah blah blah...

SHARON! Fear not sweetie, we're going to be millionaires this time next week.
24/1/2017 7:40:28 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
You do realise of course that as I've made public this product (and the lightweight fork gaiters) I have the copyright.

I am of course prepared to transfer it to you on receipt of appropriate compensation......
25/1/2017 4:09:08 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You do realise of course that I have the "delete" and "edit" button on this website Mr Soady.

I am of course prepared to acknowledge the small part you played in the creation of my fortunes by allowing you to say "I've met him!"
25/1/2017 6:14:34 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The internet never forgets.......
web.archive.org/web/*/www.bikesandtravels.com/...
26/1/2017 10:11:20 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Dammit!
26/1/2017 5:07:44 PM UTC

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