Location: St Michael’s Chapel, Rame Head
- Date: Wednesday 15th March
- OSGrid: SX418483 (E252987 N080141)
- Travel: 40 minute drive 10 minute ferry 10 minute walk
- Style: Tent & Bivi
This week was to be the tenth Wild One Nighter since the project began in January, and we wanted to try something a little different. Last year, as part of our training for Oxfam Trailwalker, Paul and I hiked the coast path from Looe to Plymouth; a route that took us past the old chapel of St Michael on Rame Head. On that occasion the chapel was shrouded in a thick mist, and although we couldn’t see more than 10ft in any direction at the time, it was obviously a fantastic spot, looking out over the ocean. Sheltering in the evocative remains we both knew we’d be back, but hardly imagined it would be so perfect.
Rame Head is the headland at the southern tip of the Rame Peninsula, it extends out into the English Channel and is bordered by Plymouth Sound to the East. The whole of the Rame Peninsula, also known as Cornwall’s Forgotten Corner, is designated as an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and it’s easy to see why.
The exact date of construction of the chapel on Rame Head is unclear; although is known to have been licensed for Mass in 1937. Prior to this, evidence suggests it was the site of an Iron Age fort, and in more recent times, was used as a gun emplacement during WWI and II. Its prominent position on the headland made it the perfect place for keeping an eye on the waters around Rame, but has been superseded in that respect by the Coastwatch Station a little further inland in recent years.
The last time Paul Joe and I had discussed the site choice for this week was a few days previous, and I’d made a few suggestions but we’d not pinned anything down for definite. I decided that I would see what we everyone turned up with and make a decision based on that and the weather. Joe had a bivi, Paul brought his tent, and I had a hammock and a bivi in the car. The weather was set to be fine, so I turned the car West and we headed to the Torpoint Ferry.
We got super lucky on the way over, and drove straight onto the busy Torpoint Ferry. The ferry runs regularly through the day and night transporting vehicles and foot passengers across the River Tamar between Devonport, Plymouth, and Torpoint, Cornwall. Passage into Cornwall is free, but there’s a £1.50 charge for cars coming back to Plymouth.
Once in Cornwall we stopped off at a smaller than usual shop to pick up some food, and an uninspiring selection led to a flash of inspiration; it was a longshot, but I dashed out to check the adjoining petrol station and was delighted to see what were presumably the end of last year’s line of disposable BBQs on the shelf. Things were looking up!
The road to Rame head is long and winding but a pleasure to follow – Military Road, which contours along the cliff edge above Whitsands Beach is a gorgeous journey overlooking and endless ocean vista. Eventually we arrived at Rame Head, and left the car parked at the Coastwatch Station. From here it’s a short walk of 10 minutes to the Chapel.
The Chapel is every bit as stunning up close as it is from a distance, and we were really pleased to have such a beautiful backdrop for our tenth WON. The original plan was to camp out on the concrete gun installation platform on the southern edge of the Chapel, and move inside if the weather turned for the worse. As the sun dropped lower in the sky and we did our best to capture the incredible views and atmosphere cast by the light, we stumbled upon a second, hidden camping option. By following a narrow path down the southern slope you may find your way to a large flat grassy platform easily big enough for 5 or 6 tents looking out over the ocean!
Determined not to add to the damage caused by short lived campfires, we were careful to find a spot of protruding rock on which to place our BBQ, and within minutes we were cooking on coal! Neither Paul Joe nor I eat meat, but a BBQ is still a real treat – Veggie Sausages, haloumi, mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes went down super well… so well in fact, we later realised there was one inevitable consequence of feasting in the wild – pooing in the wild!! As mentioned, we’re really keen on following the leave no trace approach to camping on WON… I’ve read a few suggestions on different forums concerning toilets on wild camps, but in the end we agreed to just wait for the urge to pass – this being a popular spot for families and no-one having a spade or being overly keen on the idea of pooing into a bag and bringing it back with us!
As night descended we prepared the camp; Paul took the tent and Joe and I got the bivi’s out. Despite some initial concern about the astonishingly high number of giant slugs wandering about, I have to say, on this occasion, the bivi was absolutely the right option. The night passed without so much as a drop of rain or gust of wind, and as the sun rose in the morning, looking out over the water was an incredible way to see in the morning.
The alarm sounded at 06:30 – we’d set it a bit earlier this time to ensure we’d get back ok on the ferry, none of us having any idea what the queue would be like before 8am. In the end we made it back to work in great time, which was lucky, because Joe had a massive day ahead of him, and it’s been British Science Week at the Aquarium, so I’d been a little apprehensive about WONing at all. Where there’s a will there’s a way, as the saying goes 🙂
Paul. A little exploration and flexibility led to a brilliant and unexpected site. Well worth a visit but could be busy in summer!
Joe. Nothing soothes the soul like being near the sea. And having it surround you on three sides is an added bonus. Whitsands bay is my favourite place in the world and this has just raised the bar even higher.
Stu. Fantastic spot! I’m really happy we ventured off Dartmoor for this one. Permission should be sought if you’re hoping to spend the night, making it a little trickier, but well worth the effort. So pleased to have the first BBQ of the year under our belt too!
Top tips from the trip
Don’t use a BBQ on bare grass, or have open fires as it leaves a scar on the floor
If you cook a lot of amazing food, bring toilet paper!
If you use a bivi, putting the rollmat inside the bivi traps more warmth, but stops you curling up into a ball – it’s a trade off
Don’t forget to factor in possible delays when taking ferries or public transport
When you get to a site, don’t just pitch your camp immediately; take a look around – you never know what’s just round the corner (or down the hill!)