I adore autumn and yesterday was a spectacular example of one of the amazing things about the season; the weather. It was hot and sunny, but with an edge in only that way that this time of year can have.
I had spent most of the morning at home; my jobs list seems to be getting longer and longer at current; what with work, editing the magazine, my communications roles, renovating the house and overhauling the garden, it feels never ending. But after seeing someone walk past the window in shorts and a tshirt however, I decided I had had enough; jobs would wait till tomorrow. So I ditched my list, got in my car and headed to Mullion Cove. I visit the village often, but haven’t visited the cove in at least a year. I drove through Mullion and down the small track towards the harbour, parking in the tiny car park and popping a few pounds into the donations pot.
As I walked down the lane towards the ocean, instead of the sea air I expected to taste, I was met by a different scent; honeysuckle. The smell came in waves, sweet notes meeting my nostrils every time a breeze blew. I passed the quaint cottages that punctuated the lane, each one individual, creating that unique beauty you find in so many Cornish fishing villages.
The tide was on its way in, soft rolling waves squeezing through the gap in the wall and dispersing out over the grey pebbles in the harbour. I wandered towards the wall, planning on taking the crooked coast path on the right up over the rocks. As I arrived, disappointment spread through my body as I saw a Cornwall Council sign preventing access. The path is no longer admissible, it said, it has foundered.
So it was beginning. Mullion Cove has suffered a lot of damage over the years. I love it here in stormy weather, when the wind whips up the waves into an angry, frothy mass, and they crash on the rocks below with heavy force. I have often wondered what it might feel like to swim in there, getting dragged about by the sheer force of the water, mother nature exerting her ultimate power. The wall has been replaced by the current owners, the National Trust, several times over the years after severe storms. But this year, on BBC Countryfile, they announced they would be repairing it no longer. Too expensive, they have claimed, not worth it. A sign in the harbour states they have spent £500,000 in 27 years. Which equates to around 51 pence a day.
I heard this news with a heavy heart. What about the fishermen who work there? The harbour had been built in 1893 to support the pilchard fishing industry and is still used by local fishermen today, hauling in shellfish.What about the locals and their cottages? Or the tiny café which sits on the water’s edge serving cream teas to tourists? The land will slowly be lost to the sea and I am not sure I agree with the Trust’s decision. Still, I hadn’t thought it would happen so soon. That beautiful walk which I had taken so many times before was no longer a possibility.
So now all I had of it was memories, and those would be swept away with the waves of time no doubt too.
I walked further down and heaved myself up over the wall, gazing into the water below. There was no trace of stormy weather today. It was clam, clear, with a hint of rich colour. The sun hurt my eyes as it reflected off the surface. Directly in front of me, taking up the biggest portion of the view was an island, known locally as Mullion Island. Its Cornish name is Enys Pryven, meaning worm island, but I am not wholly sure why. The island is uninhabited. In fact, no one is allowed on there at all. Gifted to the National Trust in 1945, the charity decided to turn it into a nature reserve with no human contact whatsoever. It has been granted the title of Site of Specific Scientific Interest due to the great black-backed gulls, guillemots, shags and cormorants that reside there.
Hopping back down, I sat on the harbour path, legs dangling above the sand, turning my face to the sun. Eyes closed, I just sat for a while listening to screech of the gulls and the movement of the ocean. After some time, I turned my attention back towards the stretch of beach and saw a small pink shape slowly drifting towards the rocks and immediately jumped up, heading quickly in the direction of the slip. I hopped over the rocks and splashed through the rising tide and watched in dismay as the little Portuguese man of war tumbled its way in and got stuck on the sand. I got closer and surveyed the incoming water. It had been coming in very slowly, and I thought I could recall high tide being quite some way off. I moved it with my foot into a nearby pool of water, then panicked as a sudden wave pushed it back onto the sand again. I dug a tunnel for it, coaxing it along to the patch of water, but in doing so, most the water drained away leaving it dry once more. There was only one thing for it; I looked around and found only a small, flat rock. Trying to not get stung, I scooped the little bundle of tentacles up and thrust it as far as I could into the surf. At first, I felt joy as I watched it suddenly get dragged off towards the sea, then realised it looked different…it wasn’t the same one. 4 Portuguese man of war now bobbed around in front of me, all heading towards the sand where they would undoubtedly die.
The next 30 minutes probably looked like a scene from a comedy to an onlooker. It reminded me of that video where the Labrador wastes his time attempting to bury his fish with a small puddle of water. I flipped between the creatures, trying hard to get them back into the water before having to go through the same process over and over as they kept getting pushed back in. Desperately not wanting them to die, I fought against the rolling waves to try and save them. Eventually, it became apparent that this wasn’t going to happen and that I needed to get them somewhere safe to wait for the oncoming tide. I managed to get each one into a different pool deep enough that it would hopefully hold them until the water rose once more. They bobbed around their little pools, soaring with the wind, like children’s toy boats on a pond. Baring to watch no longer, I left to walk up the coast path. On my way out I stopped a couple with their dog, warning them to keep the dog away just in case. When I turned back, the wife was leaning over, camera phone in hand. I turned away, hoping to have done enough.
I slipped behind one of the cottages and took the coast path which led up the side of the cliff. The short grass slowly marbled into the long coastal variety and I marvelled in it, enjoying its springiness like a child, feeling as though each step was bouncing me up in the air. I noticed something which I found intriguing; a couple of sea pinks were in bloom. Thrift finished blooming months ago, so what these little ones thought they were doing I had no idea. Potentially this warmer weather was causing more disruption than I thought….taking a picture, I decided to investigate later.
Continuing, I stopped every now and again, looking out to sea and back over the harbour and the tiny chocolate box cottages below, thinking about how awful it would be to return here and find it all gone.
As I reached the crest, I slowed. My mind kept turning back to the responsibilities waiting for me at home. They were weighing on my mind, slowing me down and finally made me turn, taking one last moment to admire the view, before dragging me back down the coast path.
Upon reaching the car, I could see the grey clouds the weatherman had predicted earlier on the horizon, heading in my direction. I felt myself deflate, visibly crumpling. Not in disappointment, but as I felt so relaxed. The most I had done for ages, in that same way you do after you spend £30+ on a massage.
I drive home as if floating on a cloud.
Above me, a buzzard negated its way over the fields.