by Harry (BigH) Ryalls.
We meet our first jam at twelve mid-day just sixty miles from Penzance and what should have taken just over one hour turned into a two and a half hour trip, the majority of this just staying still, looking at life slowly passing us by as the other lane moved ahead. Eventually we arrived at Trevair Touring Site where we were staying and were greeted by the owners, Phil and Val Luxford, who showed us to our usual pitches. The next few hours were spent getting everything set up for our stay, erecting the awning and sorting the caravan is no quick task, then it was of to the shops to get some much needed supplies to last us for a few days, mind you the rate that some of the group drink when there’s no diving, this might be very pessimistic estimate. By the time all this was completed and we had enquired about diving from one of the local dive centres in the area, it was time to get the Bar-B going. As there were only a few of us here, the majority of the group coming down Saturday, it fell to me to do the cooking, the rest keeping me supplied with liquid refreshments.
Trevair Touring site is a friendly and homely site where cleanliness and personal service are guaranteed. It is well situated in this area of Cornwall and is just three miles from the A30, one of the main highways of the county, and is set in the peace and quite of a secluded valley with woodland and fields for country walks. The site is a three-acre relatively flat grass field with easy access from the country lane that brings you here. The Farmhouse on site gives general security to the area and any possessions that are on site, with both Phil and Val always available for a friendly chat, Phil can always be relied on to give valuable information on dive sites in the surrounding area if required. The site has clean modern toilets, both with a large sink and drainers with plenty of hot water for washing up; there are also electrical points for hairdryers and shavers. There is a separate shower block with launderette facilities also on site. For those bring caravans or tents requiring electricity, there are electrical hook-up as well. The small village of Goldsithney has a general store, Post Office and two pubs and is just a short drive from the site. The main town of Penzance, about five miles away, offers the facilities of two major superstores (Tesco’s and Safeway) as well as an abundance of smaller stores. The pretty village of Marazion and the famous St Michael’s Mount is also a short distance way. For those looking for other interests, this area offers much to entertain you. From visiting the zoo or the seal sanctuary, to old tin mines and other different historic sites. The Goonhilly Earth station to Entertainment Parks such as Flambards or Lands End and the likes, these can all be found within a short drive from this site. For the more adventurous, helicopter flights to the Scilly Islands can be purchased from the local airport just outside Penzance and with a flight time of less than thirty minutes the islands can be enjoyed in all their splendour. A word of warning though; flights to and from the islands can be interrupted if the weather deteriorates and there is no clear view of the landing area, as we found out to our costs. (See Scilly’s report on our web site)
As some of us were staying for two weeks and no one was able to tow the club boat to this venue, the only diving option left to us, other than through one of the dive centres (£15 per dive), was that of shore diving. So the first few days were spent looking at the options available to us. There was Prussia Cove, but this has a long hike from the car park to the beach, Sennen Cove nr Lands End, Lamorna Cove nr Mouseall and Skilly Bay nr Newlyn.
These sites were within a short drive of our base, others open to us entailed a longer trip, Portkerris Diving Centre nr Helston being the one that interested us the most. As it turned out the only sites that we did not use was Prussia Cove and Sennen Cove, the rest were tried and enjoyed by all. Skilly was exciting due to the access from the main Newlyn to Mouseall road, we had to duck under a natural archway formed by the bushes to get to this site, but once there it turned out to be a very interesting and enjoyable dive. Lots of gullies, large boulders, kelp forests (near shore) and sandy areas all to explore. The reports back justified the access problems. The only thing we forgot was to bring the B.B.Q for a beach snack; this foresight was demonstrated to us by another group of beach users, who has theirs and the aroma of cooking was torture.
One of the attractions, already mentioned, that was of interest to our small group was a day trip, via helicopter, to the Scilly Isles and the isle of St Mary’s in particular. Although some of us had already had a helicopter ride recently, it was with mixed feelings that we booked the trip. Little did we know of the experience that we were to have from this trip, many of you would have received Tim’s graphic details of our ordeal of this trip via smartgroups.
For those who did not, here is what happened.
The day started in the early hours with a heavy storm, thunder and lightning was followed by a overcast day, we were not sure if the flight would happen due to this inclement weather, but when we arrived at the airport at 7:00am, we were assured that all was well. Out flight was at 7:30am and it did all go well, with the pre-nerves displayed by some of the group coming to nothing during the flight, in fact everyone enjoyed it – if not to much. Having a hearty breakfast at ’The Mermaid’ public house started our stay on the island of St Mary’s; the down side was the bar was not open, so we had to make do with tea and coffee for refreshment. The Isle of St Mary’s is not very large and has only nine miles of road; some of this was explored on foot, dragging the ladies out of the many shops as we went. The scenery around the town of St Mary’s is very beautiful and idyllic and would make a good base for another expedition. So whilst here one job was to seek out any dive operators, both of which were located and chatted to during the day. After spending a few hours trekking around the island, we decide to take the easier option and do one of the guided bus tours. The only problem with this was the next one was at 1:30pm, so we all headed to the nearest hostelry for lunch
After lunch it was back to the bus stop to catch our tour bus, this turned out to be a very enjoyable and informative choice, with our guide relaying lots of interesting details about the islands to us. A particular topic being the ’Cita wreck’ that happened in the 90’s. This tale kept us all enthralled for sometime and we did not realise that the weather was slowly deteriorating and a sea mist was forming around the other islands, slowly obscuring them from our view. After the tour it was the ladies turn and the shops were calling again, so we turned our weary backs back towards town, the array of shops and the ordeal ahead. With a final visit to the last pub in St Mary’s for the chaps, it was back to the pick-up point to catch the airport shuttle and our return flight. We should have realised something was wrong when we arrived at the airport, there was about one hundred people sitting or standing around the lounge and cafeteria area, with very little seating room for the new arrivals.
Another pointer that should have been noticed was that we were not asked to check-in, but asked to wait to be called. Through the windows the weather did not look to bad, the mist was wafting across the airdrome, with the sun trying to break through. Time slowly moved on and rumours of flight cancellations were being heard, an announcement was to be made and we were told that they were trying to get a helicopter to the island. Sadly, when it was within five minutes flying time of the island, it turned back due to poor visibility and CAA rules about not landing without a clear view of land. Unknown to us at the time was that this mist was slowly becoming fog and was drifting towards the mainland and could cause problems with this helicopter returning to base. When the time for the final announcement had been and gone, we started to make plans to stay on the island for the night, we managed to arrange accommodation for six of the ten of our party and thankfully, because of this the airline found beds for the rest. When we had arranged for our flight back to the mainland in the morning, it was off to find our beds for the night and to get something to eat. Imagine the scene, five men and five ladies, dressed for a planned day trip to the island: shorts and T-shirts and the like, other than money we had nothing else between us. So as soon as we had found our B&B’s it was off to the local shops again for basic toiletries and the like, another problem was all the other people that were stranded had the same thought. For shops that do not have that many customers that quickly, all after the same items, they soon ran short, but we were able to obtain the items we required. Once these needs had been full filled, the next on the list was grub, so it was agreed to meet in one of the local pubs that we had visited earlier that day. Due to the large number of us, the landlord open the up-stairs dinning area and laid table up for all of the others that turned up, this turned into quite a good night and the meal was well received by the hungry hoard. A few beers followed which, including the day’s activities, put paid to any thoughts of a late night and we slowly thinned out as members headed for their beds. Some had to be led back to their accommodation, as navigational skills were impaired slightly, with a reminder to rise early and have a good breakfast before being picked up in the morning. Being in B&B was a nice change and reminded us all of our home comforts, for some it was heaven after spending the past nights sleeping on airbeds / camp beds under canvas. As Julie and myself made our way back to our B&B, we stopped and admired the evening sky and watched the moonlight reflecting of the water in the harbour. Other than the sound of the water lapping against boats moored in the harbour, the night air was silent and we paused for a moment to enjoy the spectacular display of stars in the night sky. This is an idyllic place and as our guide of earlier had stated, a great place to visit and spend a few days or better still to retire to. Seeing this clear night sky gave us hope of getting back to our caravans the next day without further delay in the morning. Cyril and Lorraine were the first to be picked up due to the location of their B&B; the rest of us being picked up on the return to the airport. Although there was a slight sea mist in the morning, it was of no concern and not long after checking in we were soon on our way to Penzance. Little did we know that this was just the start of the problems that we would be experiencing over the coming week? but that’s another story.