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Summer Solstice at Kynance Cove

As I write this we're celebrating a week since our move back to Cornwall, so it seems rather fitting to be sharing photos from one of my favourite local beaches. My family moved to Cornwall when I was twelve, however for as long as I can remember we holidayed on the Lizard, spending most of our days at Kynance Cove. Kynance is our family happy place. It's more rugged and wild than a lots of the other popular local beaches, however it still has a cute cafe where you can settle down with a pot of tea during the daytime. In the summer however we tend to visit in  the evenings, when the beach is at it's quietest. It so happened that on Summer Solstice low tide fell at 9:30pm, so it was the ideal setup for a beach barbecue. We headed down around 7pm and toasted up a feast of chipolatas, bacon, and brioche.

I feel like I grew up at Kynance. I remember building sandcastles and paddling in rock pools when I was very small, before graduating to solo rock climbing adventures when I was a bit older, finding hideaway caves and ledges where I would listen to my walkman and read the Harry Potter books as they were released. However, as fun as these memories are, it's a different kind of memory I wish to reflect on. The summer before I was due to start secondary school, we visited Kynance on a day when the sea was a bit more rough. We were all confident swimmers, so my mum and I didn't think twice before deciding to go in and play in the shallows. We slowly drifted deeper, and when we decided it was time to head in we were unable to. The water kept taking our feet out from underneath us, pulling us further out until we were out of our depth. There are no lifeguards at Kynance - and we'd been caught in a rip current.

The waves were bigger and more aggressive further out. When we realised we were in danger, we clung to each other treading water, however every twenty seconds or so a brutish wave would knock us underwater and away from one another. When we surfaced, there was barely enough time to draw breath before the water pushed us under again. We fought to stay together but it was near impossible. Not only was it physically exhausting to keep dragging ourselves back to the surface, but the feeling of our lungs being starved of oxygen combined with the odd accidental gulp of seawater and sand burning our throats and noses was agony. I remember trying to claw my way upwards, the sunlight on the surface feeling a million miles away. Talking afterwards, we both admitted that we reached a point where we thought we were going to die, and were almost praying for it to be over.

Thankfully, there was a lull in the waves. We were able to wave our arms to signal to the people on the beach that we were in trouble. A group of men spotted us and joined together to make a human chain and pull us out. I never learned any of their names, but I think of them often. They undoubtedly saved our lives.

I got away with a nasty throat infection from the amount of sand I'd swallowed, however my mum was hospitalised later that night when her condition went downhill. In her desperation to help keep me afloat, she'd managed to get seawater in the lining of her lungs, and ended up in intensive care. I hated seeing her in that state, but the important thing was that we'd both survived. My mum was back in the sea the next summer, however she is a little more wary now and favours lifeguarded beaches more than she used to. I was more affected in this sense. I was adamant that I didn't want to go in the sea for a good five-six years, and that I hated Kynance. I decided I hated everything about it.

In some ways, it may seem backward that the year following this incident our family decided to move from the Bath/Bristol area down to Cornwall, a stone's throw from Kynance. I think for my mum, in some ways, it was the final push she needed after debating the move for years. It was a reminder that life is unpredictable and fleeting. After I made the decision to move back up to Bath for university when I was eighteen, I unexpectedly started to miss Cornwall, and over the four years of my degree I found a new appreciation for the sea and the coast. I did a lot of growing up (and also underwent counselling and medicinal treatment for my anxiety and panic disorder), and soon found myself being the first to suggest visiting Kynance and going in the sea when visiting family in Cornwall.

Although I now once again love the sea, I certainly have more respect for it. There will still be the occasional film scene or novel passage depicting drowning that will affect me, for example the first time we watched Moana (which, for the record, I adore) I had to close my eyes during a scene where a character finds themselves trapped underwater. Aside from that, my relationship with the sea and Kynance Cove is the best it's been since I was a small child exploring rock pools and caves, hence our idyllic Summer Solstice walking it's homely sands and dipping my toes beneath the oh-so-familiar shallows was the best possible way to start this next chapter of our lives.

3 comments

  1. That sounds like a very humbling experience. You are your mum are so strong

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  2. You look wonderful in these photos. I relate to your story, I also nearly drowned when I was younger and it affected my relationship with the sea, but now I have regained my love of it xx

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