Driving from Dartmoor to Cornwall took me through familiar territory. I drove through the towns and villages where school friends lived, past my old secondary school in Callington and then, on impulse, I turned off to follow the winding back-roads route that my school bus took. Through Golberdon, South Hill and Linkinhorne the houses looked the same but different, maybe painted a new colour, maybe recently double-glazed. At South Hill I remembered the morning old Mr Deeble drove our bus, quite slowly, almost carefully, into a wall. We all disembarked to look at the damage while he sat motionless in the driver’s seat as though waiting for the lights to change. That’s how I remember it anyway, but I also remember him having a wooden leg and one glass eye so the facts may have become embellished over time.
Over the next few days other memories returned like homing pigeons as I travelled through landscapes that were the backdrop to my childhood: the woods at Stara Bridge, The Hurlers on Bodmin Moor and the North coast beaches.
Not that everywhere was familiar, I’d never really explored the far West before and looking for zawns was a good excuse to visit Land’s End. South along the coast path from the visitors centre is Nanjizal beach, a cove bracketed by steep granite cliffs. In one of these cliffs the sea has cut and blasted Zawn Pyg, a narrow slit of an inlet, like an alleyway between skyscrapers.
I had light and tide moving against me as I set of to find Zawn Pyg. The sky was darkening and promising rain and I knew that before long the sea would cut off the bit of the beach I needed to get to to. There is no road access to Nanjizal and with time pressing I decided to try to cut across country via a slightly unclear footpath rather than take the long way round via Land’s End. This was a mistake. As is so often the case, what looked an obvious footpath on a map became a guessing game on the ground and somewhere, perhaps immediately after starting, I left the path and ended up in a field that was half-way to reinventing itself as a slurry pit. My tripod has probed all manner of sludge over the years but this was about the worst of it. Turning back would probably have been the right choice but I could see the waves rolling in and I could imagine the tide cusping over the rocks and so I nervously picked my route, testing with the extended tripod for depth and consistency and eventually found myself, only partly covered in manure, back on the coast path.
At Nanjizal the tide had risen but not so far as I’d feared and waves were thundering through Zawn Pyg and against the fallen rocks half-way along it’s length. The rain held off too and despite my long short-cut I had the time to shoot what I needed.
Harbour seals were swiming in the bay. When I climbed to the top of a large rock on the edge of the zawn I could see their shapes slicking about under the waves. Periodically their heads, dog-like, inquisitive, would break the surface to look back at the beach where a few walkers and their dogs (seal-like) were inquisitively looking back. Apart from the fact that some of the people pointed cameras and phones towards the seals there was no discernable difference in the attitudes of one to the other. It even seemed possible that the seals would suddenly hold up their own smartphones in flippered hands and start to photograph the people.
In part 2: Logans and Gloups