No, not the number of the Beast-and-a-bit but the number of miles from the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan to St Ives and back - with a quick detour to Padstowe. (Seen below early on Friday morning when we were the only grockles about. How peaceful and serene. Only seagulls and a garbage truck disturbed the air.)
We had spent the night in part of Rick Stein's empire - in his B & B above his Cafe in Middle Street. Very comfortable too and only a short walk from his eponymous fish restaurant - passing both his Gift Shop and Patisserie en route and reminding ourselves to visit his Deli the following day....you get an idea of the scale of his enterprise here. Another excellent dinner at The Fish Restaurant....
We left Padstowe for St Ives to see 'A Continuous Line', an exhibition of work by Ben Nicholson at the Tate. Hard to get totally involved with what is hung on the walls when the bigger picture is framed by the Gallery's windows - a magnificent ever-changing seascape of golden sand, crashing surf and seal-like surfers launching themselves into the waves.
Nicholson? The famous and pivotal 'White Relief' was there - cutting edge artwork in 1935. It seemed smaller and less important than I had imagined it would be. We stalked through the galleries; dark stuff from his Cumbrian days, naive Alfred Wallis inspired St Ives compositions, abstraction, relief and back to figurative work again. A case of dog-eared black and white photographs and correspondence, part of the Tate's collection of Nicholson's papers throw a little light on the personal life of the artist as a man. Husband of Winifred Nicholson, husband of Barbara Hepworth - can't for the life of me think who was the 3rd....All part of the little colony/coterie of artists who gathered in this little Cornish town. It still seems to attract that sort of folk.
Interesting I suppose - in as much as given the opportunity one should never stop looking and learning. But worth the detour? Worth 333 miles? For me? Probably not.
We leave, quitting the infuriating midget streets with their mysterious one-way systems and take to the highway - sweeping A roads that take the traveler from one end of the Cornwall to the other. I would say effortlessly but there's always some snail in front living dangerously at 30mph. Grrr.
A while later at the other end of the County, when I've had enough of driving, we leave the main road and creep through winding lanes where spring flowers - bluebell, stitchwort, campion and fiddle-headed ferns fall against the car as we pass. A bucolic riot of colour; pink, white, blue and the freshest green in the world.
We head for our friends' home on the banks of the Tamar near Cothele. Their windows also frame a waterscape which is never still. We watch the river, a short distance away, as it ebbs and flows. This evening the tide is out and the river only a narrow stream. Soon, as sure as night follows day the tide will rush in again, and we will have a new view to study. We talk long into the evening, sitting round the table enjoying supper and each others' company. So much to catch up on and so much to share.
Then it's time to drive again. We leave our Cornish friends in some fine Cornish drizzle and head for home. Through the lanes with their wild flowers, tearing along the busy A38 and onto the satanic M5 - counting counties: Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and finally Montgomeryshire. Phew. We plough through a countryside suddenly cloaked in a myriad of greens, amazed by the swathes of cowslips on the motorway embankments.
In our 3 days absence the top of our low mountain has greened up nicely; swallows are now swooping into the top of the old silo they have chosen as the perfect nest site. I do a short tour of inspection, glad to have stopped moving. All seems well with our world, perfect in fact. Hurrah for that.