Cottage-in-the clouds

Welcome to our magical cottage which overlooks Lamorna Cove in mystical,wonderful West Penwith,Cornwall.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Hidden Cornwall

You would be forgiven for thinking this was a tale about smugglers' coves,mysterious caves and long-stashed booty. In fact it is about a vast area of Cornwall that few residents or visitors ever see or are even aware of. I have been coming to Cornwall all my life but this was my first experience with this magical,hidden world.

I was sitting in the garden of The Magazine one sunny day last May enthralled by the antics  of Sammy,a large Atlantic Grey Seal who was cavorting in the cove,herding a big shoal of mullet. when bored with this game he would dart amongst the panicked fish,seize one,gleefully toss it into the air repeatedly,playing like a cat with a mouse,before despatching it with a quick bite to the head.he would then lay on his back and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the calm,sun-dappled blue waters of the bay.

As often the case there were divers about in scuba-gear; huge hulking black forms,air tanks hissing,staggering down the jetty into the sea and the odd one in snorkel and fins clip-clopping across the beach.

I had done a fair bit of scuba diving and snorkelling in other parts of the world but until then never thought about doing it here in Lamorna.What could I possibly see beneath the cold Atlantic waters off a wild Cornish coast? Nothing,or so I thought.

How wrong I was!

So,that glorious May morning squinting against the sun-kissed sea watching Sammy,I made a decision that ultimately opened up a whole new beautiful and aweome world to me. More wonders to behold in this place of wonders.

The following morning I was huffing and puffing,pulling and sqeezing,cursing and laughing as Elaine and I forced my reluctant frame into a very tight wetsuit.Eventually hot and sweaty but excited,with giggles and words of encouragement from Elaine I scurried down the lane to the beach,eager to be in the water.

It was another gorgeous West Penwith day with sunlight glistening on the placid azure sea. Sammy was in the cove and appeared to be keeping a close eye on me. I hurriedly donned flippers,snorkel and masy and clopped along the white sand to the sea edge and into the welcoming waves.I floated serenely out and sank beneath the surface. It was chilly but I soon forgot about the cold.

For the next hour I drifted slowly and paddled around the cove,head under water,eyes wide open in astonishment behind my mask at the wonderous world below me.

The ocean was alive with vibrant colour,all illuminated from above by shimmering shafts of sunlight.The sea bed was a mix of bone white sand,massive boulders and giant quarried slabs of  granite the size of cars.Limpets,Whelks and Mussells were everywhere on the subterranean strata and large fronds and fantastically-shaped leaves of yellow,brown and red Wrack and Kelp wafted to and fro on hidden currents.

I glided through huge shoals of silvery Sand Eels who were marshalled along by a foot-long Garfish. Great schools of blue grey Pollack swam leisurely past,curious and unafraid. Thick-lipped Grey Mullet eyed me suspiciously from the gloom and shot away as I approached. Ten feet below me Common Wrasse foraged in the canyons and rocks,Yellow Wrasse peered with large eyes at me from their homes in the crivices of large rocks and amazingly a three foot long Cuckoo Wrasse,stunning in it's brilliant multi-coloured coat of green,red and blue,wafted imperiously by,ignoring me completely,safe in it's under water world. Large red Spider Crabs and foot across scuttled on long spiney legs across the sandy bottom. Common Starfish and Brittlestars like giant red spiders themselves lay inert below me; yellowish Periwinkles covered age-old cracks by their hundreds. I saw something glinting in the distance and paddling over I gently poked a tentative finger at an astonishing jewel of the sea,a Strawberry Anemone. I thought I had spotted a dreaded Lions Mane Jellyfish and my legs pumped in unison with my heart as I kicked quickly away and once again resumed my slow reconaissance and paddled slowly about,fish darting here and there,fish swimming serenly uncorncerned by my presence,others going about their daily routine.I was entranced by it all! 

I caught many glimpses of the Atlantic Great Seal,Sammy.He seemed to be swimming around keeping a close eye on me,perhaps hoping I might play with him,always majestic and at ease in his watery kingdom.He would approach me staring with huge limpid eyes circling slowly perhaps inviting me to join him before with a casual flick of a fin he would roll langorously and disappear into the gloom.I was told later that for a lot of the time Sammy swam about ten feet away from me,tracking my course.Whatever his motive it was a delight and a privilege to be in the water with him and to share his world.

I have repeated the swim many times since.It is yet one more wonderful experience to be savoured in this place of of infinite wonderful experiences but that first time,when a whole new world was opened up to me,a magical world enhanced by my sleek,mysterious,enchanting seal-friend Sammy will remain forever in my memory.

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