Flying With Falcons On The Road To Manderley

From time to time you find yourself on a spontaneous adventure which comes out of nowhere. We parked in the wrong place which made the trip so much better than we anticipated and caused us to walk much further than we’d imagined. It turns out that the parking for people visiting The Gribbin is at Menabilly Barton, however, we found this out by parking at Coombe Farm and adding some unnecessary but beautiful K’s to our walk. Now, for the seasoned SW Coast Path marchers our little trek would be neither here nor there. We saw plenty of them too, skin tanned to the texture of a distressed leather sofa, vest tops and walking boots, ski pole or poles. These folk mean business and stride past with an urgency and precision that’s done-the-maths for: remaining hours of daylight against mileage to go to yonder Youth Hostel. Well that’s not us, we have two small kids in tow, both enthusiastic but with little legs that get tiredy-wiredy.

…skin tanned to the texture of a distressed leather sofa, vest tops and walking boots, ski pole or poles

The route from Coombe Farm skirts cornfields (without sign nor sight of a wayward politician frolicking) and drops through wooded valley, past pretty coves and up the hill that is The Gribbin! We keep getting sidetracked by the array of wild flowers, butterflies cross our path and dream homes come into view. All the while, at sea, yachts and speedboats idle at anchor with crew sprawled on decks either worshipping the July sun or cut down by marauding pirates moments before we got there. Who knows? After all we are deep in Du Maurier country, close to Menabilly, the inspiration for Manderley in Rebecca…

We discover coves that only exist in wild swimming books. The ones that you flick through in National Trust gift shops, here they really are, and we never even bought the book! People swim (wildly) and the water looks clear and warm.

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But we are on our way to The Gribbin so pause only momentarily before heading onwards. At the daymark, we stop to catch our breath. It’s a warm day and a fair old walk up the hill to the top of the cliff where the tower is. A lovely lady informs us that her husband is at the top and between them they appear to be running a pretty tight ship. Using two way radios they are guiding visitors up and down the 84ft tower which it turns out is dark inside and has 96 stone steps up to a wooden ladder of 13 steps at the top. If you don’t like dark spaces or heights forget it! The kindly lady issues torches and instructions before radioing her other half up top to announce the assent in perfect radio-speak including the ‘over and outs’ etc. Our 4 year old daughter (who is still with us) is surprisingly enthusiastic and up for the challenge as is our 7 year old son. We all have our torches and we make our way up. It becomes clear what the chap passing us further down the hill meant when he said “feel the burn!” the calf muscles work hard and I can feel plenty of burn.

At the top you sort of flop out of the top of the access hole into another world. Suddenly it’s all worth it. The gent at the top is helpful and informative without being intrusive. He points out some things that are hard to believe.

At the top you sort of flop out of the top of the access hole into another world.

Out to sea, it turns out, you can see The Eddystone Lighthouse which is about 20 miles away. We watch a passing warship, then the kids spot a pirate ship leaving Fowey! You can see Brown Willy and Caradon Hill and off towards Plymouth!

 

 

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By far, the stars of the show were the hunting Peregrine Falcons gliding, patrolling and hovering on the updrafts along the cliff edge. Ordinarily, if somebody pointed out a Falcon up in the sky I’d be pretty amazed, so to see them at eye level going about their falcony business is off the chart. Just amazing!  …eye-to-eye with the fastest predator on earth!

 

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The way down the tower and back down the field from The Gribbin is easier and, elated from our adventure we all enjoyed the walk home. We stopped for ages at the first cove we came to where we skimmed the best skimming stones I’ve ever known and collected some sea glass. We don’t have nearly enough already clearly!

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This trip wouldn’t have been complete without seeing for ourselves The Birds, possibly The Birds that inspired The Birds! (Or at least their descendants). A menacing flock passes by on its way back to the woods at Menabilly, Du Maurier and Hitchcock together in one fleeting fly-by. The day is complete.

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