I’m off to Cornwall for three days in September. That may not sound very exciting, but we haven’t had a holiday for over 20 years because of our huge collection of rescued animals. Of course, the featured photograph wasn’t taken in Cornwall at all, but in a mad 24 hour round trip to Somerset all the way from the Kent/Sussex border. I was actually supposed to be taking a FIV+ cat found by a friend, to a wonderful sanctuary where he could live out his life in peace. I had done this run the previous year, but without an overnight stay. The 400 mile journey nearly proved too much and so this time I duly booked myself in to a B&B on my husband’s instructions. Realising that I would only be a few miles from some stunning beaches, I did my homework and looked forward to a pleasant couple of days with the camera.
Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan. The day before I was due to leave, someone “catnapped” my passenger and offered him a forever home. It was too late to get a refund on my room, so I went anyway, but instead of leaving bright and early the next morning, I had to rush one of our cats to the local vet. Purdy had been diagnosed with a brain tumour a few years earlier, but was doing extremely well with surgery and medication. Normally a greedy cat, she was off her breakfast and we couldn’t get her to purr. The vet didn’t think it was anything to do with the tumour and gave her an antibiotic injection, but I asked them to keep her in on a drip as a precaution. I didn’t leave for Somerset until early afternoon, so all my plans to visit other photogenic spots on the way down had to be abandoned.
I arrived at the B&B late afternoon and grabbed a coffee and a biscuit before making the short drive to Kilve beach. As I arrived, dark clouds rolled in and it started to rain. Oh well… I couldn’t exactly come back another day, so I made sure that at least my camera was dry in the rucksack and I headed out along the cliff. The beach is an area of Special Scientific Interest and the cliffs are layered with compressed strata of oil-bearing shale. It is also well-known as a good place to find fossils. The coastline and the cliffs are crumbling and dangerous and the beach itself is incredibly slippery. Having read on forums about other photographers falling and breaking ribs and cameras, I knew I had to be very careful. After walking for about fifteen minutes, I came to the metal steps that led down to the beach. The bottom was littered with boulders and beyond, the rocks were covered with seaweed. It turned out that there was only a narrow strip of sand where I felt safe, so I made the most of what I could see.
Closer to the incoming tide, I found the most wonderful rock pool, but it meant crawling out on all fours. At least there was no-one else around to see my predicament and I set up the tripod knee-deep in water. It was about this time that I wished desperately for a second pair of hands, but I managed to fish the camera and cable release out of the rucksack while keeping everything dry.
I knew I wanted to be at the other end of the beach for sunset, so I climbed back up the steps and watched from the cliffs as lots of little rain storms moved along the horizon. The most bizarre thing about this photograph is that while standing here, a herd of cattle lined up in the field behind me. They must have one of the finest views of any cows in the country.
I settled down on this bench for my first meal of the day – a snack bought at one of the motorway services many hours earlier. I was so engrossed watching the changing storms that I almost forgot I was supposed to be photographing them and at this point the remains of my dinner were thrown into the rucksack as I rushed for the tripod. Not long after this was taken, the camera, rucksack and I were sheltering under the bench.
It was hit and miss as to whether I would actually see the sun before it dipped below the sea, but with moments to spare, I got lucky. I got back to the B&B very late, soaked to the skin, but extremely happy!
The next morning I rang the vet to be told they weren’t happy with Purdy and they wanted her transferred to her brain specialist in Suffolk. I raced back home to pick her up and finally got back at bed time. I had driven 650 miles in under 36 hours. Purdy was diagnosed with pneumonia, but she made a spectacular recovery and we were able to bring her home a few days later.
I hope my trip to Cornwall will prove a little less eventful…