Robert Hampton

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24th March 2012

Means to an End
Posted by at 10.30pm | 1 response | Out and About

Photo of the Signpost at Land's EndI have spent the last few days in wonderful Cornwall, exploring some of the beautiful railway branch lines and the towns and villages they serve. The main reason for visiting was to get some material for my “other” blog, The Station Master, and I will be writing it up there in the coming days and weeks. However, there are other stories to tell which fit better here than over there, so I will write up some stuff here too, beginning with my trip to Land’s End on Thursday afternoon.

I had spent much of the day in St Ives. It’s a lovely place, but on an overcast day out of season there’s not a terribly large amount to do, so I planned a second trip to finish the day off. I had an urge to go to Land’s End, the most westerly point in the UK. I couldn’t come to Cornwall, reach Penzance and then not go the final few miles to Land’s End, could I?

A review of bus timetables confirmed that I could, just about, get to Land’s End and back – although I would only have an hour to spend there before having to get a bus back at 5.30pm. I therefore planned my train journey to get me back to Penzance in time for the 3.05pm departure to Land’s End. The bus turned up at the allotted time and I managed to convince the driver (who wasn’t sure I would be able to use a return ticket) to take my fare.

Photo of entrance to Land's End Tourist CentreThe timetable for route 501 promised that it was operated by double decker buses offering splendid countryside views, but when the bus turned up the windows were so filthy that it was near-impossible to see out. I chose to sit downstairs – wisely as it turned out, as shortly after departure we pulled up outside the local secondary school and were invaded by kids. They weren’t unpleasant but they were loud. Several of them were trying to outdo each other with boasts about how many illicit cigarettes they’d had. They talked about smoking as if it were a really exciting, super-cool forbidden thing to do – which it is, but there are far more interesting illegal substances to experiment with. Apparently heroin hasn’t made it to the South West yet.

The kids left at the next village and we continued onwards. Although Penzance to Land’s End is less than ten miles, the bus journey takes over an hour. We made detours to serve several tiny villages, delicately negotiating our way through narrow country roads as we did so. I was a bit worried about making it there in one piece, but the skills of our driver meant that there weren’t too many hair-raising moments, despite the proliferation of white vans coming the other way, taking blind bends at far too high a speed.

Photo of rock formations in the sea off Land's EndThere were only three other passengers left by now – an older woman, and a mother with a toddler in a pram. After the latter two got off, the driver struck up a conversation with the remaining passenger. He regaled her with a tale about how that mother and son pair had been on the same bus that morning. She had asked the driver if she could leave her kid’s buggy unfolded (despite it being a step-entry bus with no pram/wheelchair space). The driver had kindly agreed to let her do so… and she had left the pram downstairs with the child in it, while she went and sat UPSTAIRS. Some people.

For the final half of the journey, I was the only passenger on the bus. Sadly there were no more irresponsible passenger anecdotes from the driver. We pulled up in the Land’s End car park on time at 4.19pm, where two bored-looking passengers were waiting. The bus departed, and I was left alone.

Well, not quite alone. Even on a breezy March afternoon there were a few souls exploring the area. Land’s End, as you would expect, has been adapted for tourists. There are footpaths and seating areas and a birdwatching centre, but there is also an “entertainment complex” – offering gift shops (ker-ching!), a “4D experience” starring famous celebrity nutter Brian Blessed (ker-ching!) and a children’s farm and craft centre (ker-ching!). In any event, I arrived just as the place was closing up for the evening.

Really, all I wanted was to get a photo of the famous signpost – you know, the one that points to New York and John O’Groats. I found it and grabbed a quick photo. I’d spent the last three days taking self-portraits of myself under station signs, so this was a natural extension. I apologise for the hair, and (even though this is outside my control) for the lack of apostrophe on the sign.

Photo of Robert Hampton at Land's End

Nearby there was a notice stating that this sign is private property and if you want a photo you will need to have one taken by the “official photographer” (ker-ching again). Sadly the official photographer had knocked off at half past three so I had to take matters into my own hands. This did mean I didn’t get the supplementary sign which has the date and the distance to my home town on it. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was taken on Thursday 22nd March 2012 and I’m from Liverpool, 253 miles away as the crow flies.

Photo of sign reading "Dangerous Cliffs"Having got the photo, I wandered around some more. I saw signs for the South West Coast Path, which follows the coast all the way round from Minehead, stopping just short of Bournemouth. The truly hardy/demented can consult the web site for a guide to walking all 630 blister-inducing miles.

The less adventurous can content themselves with the cliff-side paths around Land’s End. The edges of the cliffs themselves are now roped off to protect visitors (Elf’n’Safety Gone Mad, as twats in the Daily Mail like to say) but there are still lots of stunning landscapes to see.

Photo of natural arch in headland at Land's End

I sat for a while and contemplated the view, with the Atlantic Ocean stretching away into the distance. Standing here, at the very edge of the tiny island that is Great Britain, I felt quite small.

Like everywhere else I’d been in Cornwall, it was very picturesque. In better weather this would be an agreeable place to spend some time. On a breezy, cloudy day in March, it was less fun. I’d only been here half an hour and I was starting to tire. Also, the batteries were running low in both my digital camera and my iPhone, limiting my picture taking opportunities. At just after 5pm, I headed back to the bus stop ready to head back to Penzance.

Photo of Atlantic Ocean

The bus stop is located in one corner of the deserted car park. The bus timetable promised that a 504 would turn up at 5.30pm, but I’m never entirely trustworthy of timetables. A lifetime of experience with public transport has taught me that buses have a habit of not turning up when you’re depending on them. I was more anxious than usual as this was the last bus of the day.

Photo of bus stop and empty car park at Land's EndThe temperature dropped noticeably and the wind picked up. I sat on the bench for a while, but felt too cold and started pacing up and down to keep warm. I must have made a fairly pathetic sight, as a man driving away in his car actually stopped and asked if I wanted a lift.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry as the bus arrived on schedule. The return journey was a much faster experience. The last bus of the day does not pick up anywhere beyond Land’s End; instead, it stops “on request” to drop off people already on board. I was the only passenger, so we ran right through to Penzance non-stop using the main roads all the way. The return journey took less than 20 minutes.

So that was Land’s End – one of the “places I must see” successfully ticked off, I think. Feeling pleased with myself, I had some dinner in the local Wetherspoons, then sauntered back to the railway station to wait for my next Cornish experience, the Night Riviera sleeper…

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One Response
  1. Pingback by Penzances with Wolves « The Station Master
    19th May 2012 at 7:32 pm

    […] to Land’s End which I squeezed in while I was in the area. I blogged about it over on my personal site. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. from → Lovely Places, Penzance ← […]