A week in St Ives

It is that time of year again, the Bagnall summer holiday.  You may recall that last year the four of us headed to the Canary island of Tenerife, this was to erase the memory of a rather wet Kent from the year before.  With Ezra only three months old and not in possession of a passport a return to Tenerife (which is something that  we would like to do as we thoroughly enjoyed our week there last year) was not on the cards.  Thoughts therefore turned to the UK and after eliminating some worthy resorts we opted for St Ives Bay Holiday Park and a six berth static caravan.  Somewhat misleadingly (but nevertheless geographically correct) St Ives Bay Holiday Park is not in St Ives itself but Hayle on the eastern side of St Ives bay.

Lucinda and I have previously visited St Ives, although not since 2005, and St Ives was the Bagnall exotic holiday (every three years or so) when I was a child so it is a place we (especially me) know quite well.  Cornwall is a peninsular county in the South West of the UK usually warmed by the Gulf Stream, the warm Atlantic current that keeps the UK warmer than its latitude should dictate, therefore, it seemed a good bet to provide the best weather for a UK bound holiday, especially since the week we chose didn’t coincide with Wimbledon or Glastonbury.  However, as seems to be new paradigm for the 2010’s (what is this decade called?) this summer has so far proven to be cold and wet would it be for our week away?  More of that later.

Our holiday started on Saturday and the early start that we had planned went by the wayside.  Trying to usher three children into a car with all the associated paraphernalia is tantamount to herding cats and so we left two hours or so later than we had wanted.  St Ives is close to 270 miles (435km) from Stanwell Moor and so with three small ones there was a need for a major pit stop. Rather than 20 minutes or so at a service station we decided on a familiar haunt:  Lyme Regis.  It is a town we know quite well and coincidently approximately halfway.  This, in turn, dictated the route we would take to Cornwall.

We didn’t quite make it to Lyme Regis.  The weather was poor, Ezra was crying (he was hungry), the girls needed the toilet and we had been caught in heavy traffic so with another familiar haunt five minutes away we took the detour to Hive Beach café in Burton Bradstock.  A stretch of the legs, a refuelling and a walk along the beach that certainly blew the cobwebs away we were back on the road next stop Hayle.  We arrived in Hayle at around 1800 and after checking in and unpacking there was only time for dinner before turning in.

We awoke to heavy rain, caravan technology has certainly improved since I last spent a night in one for in the older style one would have heard every single drop.  It was also Father’s day but with the poor weather we decided not to head too far and instead headed to the local supermarket for supplies and scope the surrounding area.  Driving through Hayle we spied Salt, a restaurant/ café/ bar that Lucinda had seen on t’internet that had received rave reviews.  Father’s Day dinner was sorted and we headed there early.  On our return to the holiday park we decided to check out the entertainment:  Mr Bamboozle the balloon magician.  The girls enjoyed it especially receiving a balloon creation at the end of the performance.

The weather was still poor Monday morning, so we decided to take advantage of the on-site swimming pool.  However there was a break in the persistent rain in the afternoon so we decided to venture further afield and headed to Penzance.  Not the prettiest of Cornish venues but the journey through the Cornish countryside certainly made up for it.

Tuesday was altogether a little brighter, not exactly blue skies but the rain did hold off and so we headed into St Ives.  Now for those of you that have never been to St Ives, it is a beautiful seaside town that grew up as a medieval fishing village (the Sloop inn claims to date from 1312) but expanded in the late Victorian age due to the St Ives branch line from St Erth.  It was this branch line that proved to be the most convenient way for us to arrive at St Ives.  Medieval fishing villages were not built with cars (especially S-Maxes) in mind, hence with the car parked as Lelant Saltings station we took the scenic route (the railway line runs along the coastline and has to be one of the prettiest views from a train line, certainly in the south of England).

With buckets and spades we spent most of the afternoon building sandcastles and running into the sea (it was freezing), then as the skies turned threatening (although it still didn’t rain) we went for an obligatory ice cream and a mooch around the shops.  On our return to the holiday park we decided to check out the facilities and after Éowyn challenged me to a game of table football and air hockey we tested out the adventure playground.  It was there that Éowyn met her new best friend Lila (not sure that I have spelt that correctly).  They were inseparable and played together most nights for the rest of the holiday.  Indeed the next day we decided not to venture too far from the park just down to the beach so that if Lila was about Éowyn could play with her.  Unfortunately we didn’t meet up with them until the evening, we had somehow been missing each other all day for Lila’s parents had had the same notion.  When we were at the club or adventure playground they were at the beach; and when we were at the beach they were at the club.  It was possible we were both on the beach at the same time but with over 3 miles of golden sand it would have probably been more luck that judgement that we would have bumped into them.

We did however leave the park for an hour or so to go for a cream tea at Green Pig farm.  Half way between St Ives and Penzance it not only served a fantastic cream tea (and ice cream for the kids) but from its lofty position you could see St Michael’s Mount and the Lizard peninsular.

The weather forecast for Thursday was for heavy rain so we looked for something close that would entertain the kids yet at the same time provide shelter should we need it.  Paradise Park in Hayle seemed to fit the bill.  A wildlife park specialising in birdlife, mainly parrots, penguins and birds of prey with the added bonus of the Jungle barn a huge indoor softplay area for kids of all ages!  We arrived just in time for the bird of prey display which was excellent.  The Eagle Owl flew between the rows of seats not more that a foot (30cm) off the ground (as you can see from the photo below).  Amélie and Éowyn were both fascinated with them and when they asked for volunteers to hold a barn owl both wanted to but were disappointed not to be picked, I promised them that when they are older that we will do it (any excuse for me to do it again!).  As we were leaving the arena they had bought a male Bald Eagle for a close up photo opportunity, Amélie had other ideas: ‘I want to hold it‘.  I explained that it was bigger than her but she was very insistent, so I took her as close as I dared for fear that she would try to stroke it and the eagle may have an unscheduled snack of her fingers.  There seemed to be a mad rush at the end of the performance for places at the café and so to avoid the rush we walked around the mini farm and the girls fed goats and sheep.

In hindsight it was the correct decision for after lunch we headed into the Jungle Barn.  We thought that we would be there for an hour or so and then finish off walking around the rest of the enclosures.  No chance, the girls loved it that much that it was about three hours later before we left with two very tired girls straight into a downpour.  Seemingly as soon as we had entered the Jungle Barn it had begun to rain and hadn’t stopped all the time that we were in there.  Amélie was so tired in fact that she fell asleep in the car and didn’t wake until the next morning (good job she had had a large lunch).  Éowyn on the other hand woke when we returned to the caravan and wanted to go and play with Lila.  So after something to eat Lucinda took Éowyn to find Lila while I looked after a sleepy Ezra and a completely zonked Amélie.

Unfortunately Lila was not about but instead of returning to the caravan Lucinda and Éowyn decided to check out that evening entertainer: Wishy-Washy the magician.  I am not sure that Wishy-Washy was entirely glad that they had.  Wishy-Washy needed an assistant and Éowyn was the first to put her hand up and volunteer and so was picked.  She thoroughly enjoyed being a magician’s assistant and thought that Wishy-Washy was hilarious and I think that Wishy-Washy was enjoying having such an euthusiastic assistant, indeed when she wanted to go to the toilet he paused the show so that she wouldn’t miss anything.  Éowyn got so engrossed in the role that when she thought that Wishy-Washy was being too silly she would smack him on the bottom with his magic wand that he had entrusted her with – much to the embarrassment of Lucinda.  Unfortunately they could not stay to the end of the show (they did leave at 10pm) as Ezra was due a feed.  Éowyn was full of her role as a magician’s assistant and told me every little detail on her return, I think she was quite enamoured with the glamour of the limelights.

Our final full day came far too quickly and we decided that we would return to St Ives.  We decided on a change of plan and that was to park at St Ives train station and spend the day on Portminster beach in the shadow of the train station.  Unfortunately, the car park was full and so plan two was put into action, catch the train into St Ives again and then head to Portminster beach.  This time however we parked at Carbis Bay train station.  As we parked I decided to contact my mom’s school friend Teresa who lives in the area, to introduce my family and arrange to meet up in St Ives. By sheer coincidence we didn’t need to go too far for she only lives a stone’s throw from Carbis Bay train station and quickly walked down to meet us.

Friday was probably the best day of the week and we all thoroughly enjoyed another day building sandcastles and splashing in the sea.  Again the girls were completely worn out and Amélie fell asleep in the pushchair as we walked into town missing out on an ice-cream;  Éowyn had the good sense not to fall asleep until after she had eaten hers.  Even though both girls were very tired Éowyn was determined to go to the adventure playground to see if she could see Lila for one last day and give her a picture that she had drawn for her.  Fortunately Lila was of the same mind and the girls played together for one last time and both were upset that they would probably never see each other again.  I am sure that Éowyn (and Lila) will get over it (as Éowyn did over Brooke who was her best friend that she met in Tenerife) but it was quite upsetting that she got so upset about leaving her friend and wondered if we returned next year whether Lila would be there.  Bless.

We had to leave the caravan by 0900 Saturday morning, so most of the packing was done on Friday night and we were only 30 minutes late (well within the one hour grace period).  Again to break up the journey we decided to head to Lyme Regis for we thought it would be nice to see Lyme Regis in the summer.  To be honest I would prefer to see Lyme Regis in the autumn!  There was a gale force wind (maybe a slight exaggeration there) blowing and it was bitingly cold, the British summer!  After a brief stop and a bite to eat we were back on the road home and the holiday was over.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cornwall and I am sure that we will return, possibly even to St Ives Bay Holiday Park for caravaning has certainly changed in the 30 years since I last caravaned.  I think I have bored you enough (if you thought the last update was long this one is 20% longer!) so I will leave you with a selection of photos.

Peace and Love