Kim and I went blackberrying today to an evidently not-so-secret spot near Constantine Bay: our source heavily pre-picked by the look of the denuded brambles.
It had been chilly when we left the house, passers-by in puffa jackets and woolly hats, but by the time we pulled up near Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park the cumulous clouds had ameliorated providing plenty of clear blue sky and from it some much appreciated late season warmth.
Our first pickings were slim and a fraction of the over plump fruits that Kim converted into blackberry and apple jelly this time last year. Back then we had had the brambles to ourselves whereas this weekend we were watched by a steady stream of curious ramblers. Happily the quality our pickings improved the closer we got to the beach. (You’ll notice that I am being purposefully vague as to our precise whereabouts).
Less than a month ago friends and neighbours were looking forward, as we all do annually, to the schools going back and the area returning to a more peaceful normality. A well deserved end to the annoying people dodging on the slow climb up from St.George’s Well with The Camel twisting lazily to our left. This time of year on Constantine you would reckon on fewer than a couple of dozen walkers: weekenders among diehard cold water surfers and stout hearted locals. But this is what they keep telling us is the new normal and on this stretch of coast it translates into holidaymakers in their droves long after they would normally have been expected to home. Narrow lanes of trails of timidly driven cars, restaurants and b&b’s booked up and pedestrians in town and elsewhere oblivious to the new social etiquette.
In fareness most people seem to be behaving responsibly whilst there is a good deal of hugging and handshaking still going on. In Mole Valley Farmers in Newquay nobody challenged those wondering around without masks and in the Wadebridge branch of Aldi I was almost sent flying by a thirty-something couple who evidently put speed above medical courtesy. Here in the Padstow supermarket I’ve grown accustomed to ducking and diving away from those young and old and many with masks around their chins oblivious to the impact of the their actions. You have to have sympathy for the long suffering staff.
Of course Constantine was as lovely as ever, maybe more so with a tame north wind clearing a path for the sun. The big difference being no children and an absence of family paraphernalia. Instead there are couples and a deeply blue surf peppered with shiny black dots. I didn’t count how many people were on the beach but it had to be hundreds. The holiday season, possibly because fewer of us going abroad, hasn’t ended here in Padstow and its environs close by – it’s just matured. The car parks still full of expensive 4x4s but the people behind the wheels that bit older or a tad trendier.
This Covid thing is impacting on our stretch of north Cornwall in a variety of ways. Despite social distancing and a 10pm curfew there are queues of thirsty masked tourists outside every pub and bar and you’ll be lucky to get an allocated table in a restaurant for longer than 90 minutes.
Then there is the sheer number of properties for sale. At a ballpark guess more than were for sale when Kim and I first came looking in 1993. And not the sort of homes work-at-home-city-quitters are looking for having just en suites, a single kitchen living room and gardens not big enough to swing a kitten in. Things are evidently changing, it’s just not clear how?
We won’t know the longterm impact of this virus on Padstow for some years to come by which time we will be able to factor in chlorinated Brexit too. There are expensive development projects afoot but without exception each instigated long before age and underlying health issues became the defining medical issues of the 21st century.
Happily Constantine remains magnificent, a broad crescent bay where the elements coalesce to heart stopping effect. Two days later I am emptying its golden sands from my jeans, the aroma of jam permeating every corner of The Red House.