Note: I wrote this in mid-February when the current times felt like only a remote possibility. It’s easy to be prescient in hindsight but around this time I was starting to take the approaching pandemic, which I had previously only kept one eye on, quite seriously. Not that I envisaged a total lockdown of course and I hope that anyone reading stays healthy and safe, also that any fellow explorers find ways to offset the tedium. I am aware that it is a very minor bleat in the scheme of things but it is an ironic cruelty to British people that a shutdown occurs the instant the weather improves. Hey ho. I am also keenly aware of my fortune to be living with land and sea within walking distance.
A harsh winter this one. Feeling the weight of it I took a short walk to Rame from Tregonhawke Cliff, taking my chances in the endlessly capricious weather. Today held an incessant screaming westerly, whipping in angry hail squalls between brief doomed periods of sunshine. For a while I watched racing black curtains of ice over tumultuous, wind streaked seas, soaking those already sodden valleys of south Cornwall.
The walk to Rame is a familiar and easy one but the church here is a special place. In my list of favourites, it is pleasingly remote and the services in Winter are candlelight only. I always imagine a few elderly parishioners listening solemnly in a golden light each week.
The unusual Norman tower blends into rudimentary spire and is stolid and barren with only a small slit window of broken, angled slate to let in light and let out bell tolls. As I neared it, crossing the threshold into the graveyard, two large crows squeezed out from between the slates and flew off arguing, a portent. This is how my mind works when it is anxious in some indeterminate way, I see omens and portents in animals, trees and insects and have to constantly reason them away. Anyway, Rame church is a building perfectly designed for its position, vernacularism at its finest, built from local stone, perched atop cliff with nothing but space and water between it and America.
Through the heavy doors though and all is tranquil, a sudden respite from the shout of the storm winds. Water dripped peaceably from some neglected leak in the belfry in a lick of green slime down the exposed rock, a grand organ sits atop of a dangerous looking wooden plinth and (delicious) local apple juice is sold for 50p amongst the various informative leaflets (these leaflets are amazing and labours of love, with detailed history and little illustrations, nearly all churches have them and I collect them haphazardly).
What brings me back to Rame though is the pervasive sense of welcome, friendliness and openness not oft found in the rough Cornish churches, along with St. Gennys, St. Clether and Fowey, it just feels nice. I don’t think I can describe it better than that, just intuitively pleasant. That said though I do like the timelessness, with its small lancet windows set in bare stone walls, Norman architecture and unusual lack of electricity.
Sun through the windows drew me out to the graveyard while I still could where I think some distant relative is buried somewhere, not that I know who I’m looking for. After a short time, I felt rather than saw another squall as a looming presence behind my shoulder so I made my way to the porch, with its wood-wormed, age-bleached rafters and twee village notices and peered out over the new daffodils. Soon this yard will be alive again with spring flowers and wild garlic.
The squall looked to veer north to miss me, so, restless and impatient, I paced through the tiny farmyard hamlet of Penmillard and across the bare cliff back to my van. As the road curves out onto the exposed clifftop, I saw that my calculations were quite incorrect and an intimidating mass of dark grey was bearing down on my exact position. I felt momentarily unnerved. A dark mass coming straight at me and the already heavy wind intensifying dramatically.
I walked on, bent into the wind, I was safe enough of course but some elemental trepidation remained. Then came the first inevitable hard tap of hail stinging my cheeks. The taps intensified considerably swiftly and very soon I was engulfed and extremely grateful for my hood but cursing myself for being dressed casually in jeans and a corduroy jacket. Within seconds the sides of my body facing the wind were drenched. Seeing my van as a white fleck in the distance I started to laugh and continued to do so as I walked, then ran, heavy legs pushed sideways by an angry wind. It was fun. Seeing how long I could hold my face to the elements before the sting become too much. I tried to take a picture but that was hopeless, my lens and fingers ravaged by pellets of ice. I sprinted to my van and ducked behind it, cold, very wet, but laughing, somehow happier for it all.