The sea spray splattered my glasses and the wind tugged at my hair causing it to stick up in an unusually expressive and interesting manner. I looked like a cross between a mad scientist and just plain mad. I zipped up my jacket.
“Amazing! It’s like something from National Geographic!” Madam shouted above the wind.
She was pointing her phone in every direction furiously taking photographs as fast as she could.
“I’m glad I bought my windproof jacket.” I said.
“There’s no internet!” She said as she peered into her phone.
Posting her selfie would have to wait.
We were at Land’s End. The end of Cornwall and the end of the country. The end of our westward journey. This was as far as we could go. Next stop America, over several thousand miles of ocean.
We had parked the car and walked to the southern side. Steep twisting paths led down towards the cliff edge. We had the area almost to ourselves. It was wild, windswept and desolate, more than we had expected.
Sheer craggy cliffs cascaded down to the wild seas below. Waves crashed against the cliffs below, inaudible over the wind. Boulders were balanced so precariously on the side of the cliffs that it looked like the slightest breeze would send them crashing down into the sea. Windswept gorse and heather gripped the thin soil. Lichens and mosses lined the rocky hollows.
“This… this… this…”
I looked at her expectantly. It isn’t often that Madam is lost for words.
“This alone is worth all that driving! Amazing, magnificent, awe-inspiring, breath-taking!”
I think she liked Land’s End. I was quite taken with it myself.
Small signs reading ‘WARNING – Cliff Edge – Risk of Falling’ were positioned a few yards from the sheer cliff edge. I don’t know about you but I like to think that any adult allowed out without close supervision would have the sense to not stand on the edge of a cliff, peer over and say “I wonder what will happen if I lean forw…”
Do we really need ugly yellow signs spoiling the view? I may sound callous but I think that we might be doing the gene pool a favour if we let people discover for themselves.
But of course, a trip to any destination wouldn’t be complete without checking the tea towels and Christmas ornaments, so we headed to the northern side, past the Land’s End Hotel. Coaches were disgorging hordes of tourists and a steady stream of cars were pulling in to park.
There was the obligatory gift shop of course, but they have added an entire shopping and entertainment village. You can buy a Land’s End Doughnut, visit a small animal farm, watch a 4D film experience, visit the Wallace and Grommit exhibition and check out Arthur’s Quest which uses ‘the latest interactive technology and special effects to conjure a magically scary world.’ Brian Blessed’s voice was booming from the speakers in the entrance.
It was mind-numbingly awful. It was packed with throngs of visitors who seemed to be enjoying themselves. Their children all had the crazed look that comes from a diet of sugar and E numbers. It seemed that people had driven miles to a setting of natural splendour – probably one of the best in England – and then sat indoors to watch a film, eaten junk food and visited the gift shop to load up on tacky souvenirs to prove they had been here.
Even the iconic Land’s End direction signpost was a commercial venture. It was roped off and only available for the official photographer. You want a picture by the sign? £12.50 please.
If we had visited that side first we would have turned tail and given it a miss. What do they think they are doing, and who gave planning permission for this development at such a beautiful site?
Madam rushed to the gift shop. She spent a long time going through the entire shop but managed to restrict herself to two tea towels, both with a map of the shipping forecast areas.
“Um, why are you buying tea towels with shipping forecast areas my sweet?” I asked her.
“I love the shipping forecast!” She said with some vehemence.
You can know somebody for more than twenty years and still discover something new. Isn’t that great?
A small child pointed to my hair and ran crying to his mother.
“Is there anything you need from the gift shop?” Madam asked, eager to check out and do whatever women do with tea towels.
I looked around the shop, ignoring the tea towels, t-shirts and key rings, but was tempted by a snow globe with the Land’s End signpost. I gave it a shake and watched the fake snow fall over the sign. I gave it another shake and watched it again. It was strangely calming. I watched the snow settle, looked closer and the scene grew, becoming my whole world. I felt like it was sucking me in, absorbing me. Another shake and I could become one with a snow globe. My hand reached out then I saw the price tag. £7 could buy me two pints of Doom Bar in Wetherspoons. I lowered my hand.
“No, I’m good. There’s nothing I need,” I replied.