The Potager, Constantine.

I’m determined to find all there is in my local area, west of Penzance, and so I don’t travel far beyond the end of the line unless I’m on a long journey.

Mother lives in Redruth though, and so now that The Cornish Way is finally based in St Just I’ll be seeing a lot more of her, and today, Father’s Day, was a great day for us to go out together.

Like any true Cornish woman, mother is a dab hand at making pasties and so when she offered to knock our a couple for our picnic lunch I was happy.

We ate them at Port Navas, a delightful little hamlet on an estuary of the Helford River where we sat happily bantering on a bench for a good hour or so. It was so quiet, we didn’t see a soul.

Just one of the many houses I desired at Port Navas.

Just one of the many houses I desired at Port Navas.

We’d headed to the Helford to find a garden, The Potager, that my sis had recommended, and we wound our way through a load of lanes before we found it, eventually realising that we’d driven within a hundred meters of it a couple of times but missed its overgrown sign.

Simple, beautiful.

Simple, beautiful.

The Potager is the resurrection of an abandoned plant nursery. It’s a gorgeous place to spend a restful afternoon in simple, not overly structured gardens. It offers civilised games such as badminton, table tennis (in the glass house so be ready for the hottest game you’ve had in a while) and a tight rope – not so high as to be scary, but surprisingly hard to walk.

Acrobat, in the glasshouse.

Acrobat, in the glasshouse.

We were pastyful (strange, MS Word doesn’t recognise that as a word) and so didn’t partake of the great looking fare in the vege organic Glasshouse restaurant, but I’ll certainly try it next time.

Log wall, The Potager.

Log wall, The Potager.

The Potager is just outside of Constantine and it’s a good excuse for Cornish Way guests to venture off to explore the calmer side of Cornwall. The Helford is sheltered from the storms that batter us in West Penwith, and is perfect for growing all sorts of lush vegetation. The garden is only open Friday, Saturday and Sundays, and while you’re in that direction the gardens of Glendurgan and Trebah are worth visiting too.

Peggy and Kelvin - pastyful!

Peggy and Kelvin – pastyful!

Golowan 2015

Golowan is Cornish for mid-summer, and when the light of mid-summer is bounced off the waters all around Cornwall it’s cause for celebration.

Penzance takes ownership of the longest day with its 10 day Golowan Festival. Once upon a time the streets would be lit with blazing tar barrels and beacons would be set on the surrounding hills – it must have been a wild spectacle and I suspect there were some serious hangovers for a few following days.

Today’s Golowan is hopefully safer, but no less exciting. It builds up to the main event of Mazey Day, this year on Saturday 27th, when there are processions through the streets of wonderfully imaginative masked locals, puppets and sculptures, watched by around 40,000 people. That’s a lot of people for a small town.

Throughout the 10 days there’ll be a lot of gigs and spontaneous concerts around town. Head to The Acorn for the best ones, it’s a great venue with a fab acoustic.

On Friday, Mazey Eve, the sinister Penglaz (grey head in Cornish) Obby Oss is set free to roam the town. With a horse’s skull for a head the Oss should put the fear of God into anyone with the misfortune of meeting it in one of the town’s back alleys.

The final wind down of the festival is Quay Day on the Sunday where the fair continues and there’s all sorts of great produce being cooked up.

Not forgetting the election of the Mock Mayor.

And the firework display to close the festival on Sunday night.

In the harbour the maritime aspect of Golowan sees traditional craft descend on Penzance such as luggars, grafters, gigs, ketches, crabers and toshers. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? Best get down to the quayside and see what’s what.

Open Studios Cornwall 2015

OSC15Logo

 

West Cornwall has long attracted artists, you’ll read of the St Ives School, the Newlyn School, the Lamorna Colony and more.

Today there are more artists living and working in West Cornwall that ever, and who can blame them, if this landscape doesn’t inspire you then what will?

They tend to be an introverted group – working away in their modern day garrets, be that a drafty barn, or a modern studio for the lucky ones.

You might see someone’s work in several galleries.

But how do you get to see the artist? To talk with them, to understand their inspiration, what they’re trying to communicate?

If you’re lucky you’ll get invited to an opening.

Or in Cornwall there’s Open Studios.

Open Studios is a great event that takes place across the whole county where artists open up their studios (often their homes) to visitors for a week in May.

Rachel Jefferies' studio

Rachel Jefferies’ studio

It has been running for 11 years and Amanda and I usually take advantage to meet a few old friends, and ideally buy new and exciting art.

In 2015 it’s on for the week 23 – 31 May, and judging by the number of enquiries we’ve had for that week Cornwall will be busy.

Take advantage – see some great work, and I hope you’ll be inspired to buy something original as a memory of a great holiday in the far west.

More of Rachel's work

More of Rachel’s work

There are a few favourites that I recommend.

No. 8. Paul Lewin a northern lad down west, you’ll see Paul’s work in the Roundhouse in Sennen too.

No. 9 Hugh Lucas works near St Buryan and creates wonderful simple wood works, you’ll see his work at The Appletree Cafe at Trevescan near Lands End.

No.137. Rachel Jefferies, owner of the fantastic Trevena Cross Barn near Porthleven. Rachel is part of a show at The Lifeboat Gallery in Porthleven until 22 May. Her work currently on sale ranges in price from £40 to £800.

P1000989

With 232 to choose from, and many workshops too, there’ll be something to please most tastes.

Look out for the catalogue that looks just like the logo above in galleries across the county.

The Archavon Project

We set up The Cornish Way with the aim of creating the best little self catering business in the far west.

For the last five years we have managed the business from both Tregiffian and the north west.

But we’ve always known that to do it properly we have to be where the action is at – west of Penzance.

For both of us life is about to take a big leap. Significant change is imminent.

And here’s the story…

From June 8th The Cornish Way will be based in St Just, the most westerly town in Britain.

The ancient performance space (thanks to Historic Cornwall).

The ancient performance space (thanks to Historic Cornwall).

But it’s not as easy as simply moving west.

We bought Archavon, our house on Market Street, St Just in October 2013.

It wasn’t an obvious purchase.

Archavon certainly isn’t pretty. It came with its own problems.

Not the prettiest house!

Not the prettiest house!

But it has a great location. Slap bang in the centre of the characterful former mining town that clings to the edge of Britain.

It backs onto the Plen an Gwarry – an ancient monument where miracle plays were performed of old, and indeed recently as well.

Archavon, from the PLen

Archavon, from the Plen

The Plen is the heart of the mad, exciting Lafrowda festival too.

In fact it’s the centre of the universe.

We needed to make Archavon tenable quickly for our top friend Dom to move into when his tenancy ran out on his flat above what is now The Square pizzeria and sandwich deli.

The initial work involved removing all the upstairs walls and moving the living space upstairs.

We'll have those walls out please.

We’ll have those walls out please.

It looked great when it was done, but we really should have started with the roof, and maybe a hint of insulation.

Upstairs - a great space, filled with light.

Upstairs – a great space, filled with light.

We’ve learnt from our errors, and Dom has put up with Archavon’s foibles. Now it’s time to put it right.

Charly Griffiths at Studio West Architects designed the ever popular New Forge Cottage for us back in 2009, and he has put pen to paper again to draw the office that will take up half of Archavon’s small garden.

But before we get excited about new buildings, the house needs some love.

Our old friends The Cornish Builders, Nick and Ben Rawlinson and Colin Bates will be here on June the 8th to start work on the old girl.

First job is to replace the roof.

Next up we’ll insulate the outside of the house and slate hang the top half.

The back bedroom needs to be tanked, insulated and redecorated.

Then for good measure we’ll lose the conservatory and move the front door.

Easy!

Hopefully we’ll have some of that done by Lafrowda 2015 on 18th July.

Then.

When the job is complete we’ll launch ourselves headlong into creating the business we want.

A small holiday lettings company offering the best service and local knowledge.

We don’t want to be a Cottages 4 You, or even an Aspects.

We plan to look after a maximum of a dozen cottages for owners, plus New Forge and the house that started it all off in 2000, that’s Myn Tea.

We’ll offer fantastic properties, superior knowledge, and great value, to guests.

We’ll be there for owners, optimising their occupancy to ensure that their precious homes are looked after and loved. Much of that will involve helping our audience realise just how wonderful a break in the far west can be in winter.

We won’t be cheap, but we’ll be bloody good.

To me that’s what value is all about.

The Cornish Way. Here’s to its next stage!

Here's how we hope to look by the autumn.

Here’s how we hope to look by the autumn.

What to do in Cornwall in the rain.

We are lucky to enjoy a milder climate in the far west than most of the country, but mild doesn’t necessarily mean dry.

Though it pains me to admit it, sometimes the rain falls in Cornwall just like the rest of the country, although I like to think that it tends to come and go faster.

Many guests at Tregiffian actually enjoy a spell of bad weather saying that it gives them the chance to take advantage of all the books, and the fact that the cottages are great no matter what the weather.

But I know from my own experience that the joy can wear thin.

I intend to write a comprehensive list of things to do when the weather isn’t at its best. I’ll put each under the category of “What to do in Cornwall in the rain” so that you’ll be able to read each piece consecutively rather than needing to search for them.

Here’s the first. It’s obvious, but it can also be life changing.

Go surfing.

It's so tiring on the beach.

It’s so tiring on the beach.

If your children learn to surf they’ll never care about a wet holiday again.

If you too learn to surf you may give yourself a new lease of life.

For years I’ve been recommending Dave Muir’s Sennen Surfing Centre. Over the past few years I have sent so many families Dave’s way, and always received great feedback.

Dave is based under The Beach, now Ben Tunicliffe at The Beach, the rather smart restaurant at the end of the first car park in Sennen Cove.

You’re unlikely to learn on one of these though.

 

Yellow Duck Belly Board

I bought this fabulous looking belly board from Paul Marshall at Yellow Duck Pine. Paul makes some great outdoor furniture, and these boards. I’ll tell you more about it once I’ve had a go. This one’s in New Forge for guests to use, there’s one in Myn Tea too.

If I love it I’ll encourage all the cottage owners to invest in one.

Where to spend the night en route from Cornwall – Corton Denham.

Many of our guests travel a long way to get to Cornwall.

We have regular visitors from Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland, as well as one off visitors from much further afield.

The Europeans who drive to us often ask where they should stay on the way home to make the most of their holidays.

I usually suggest Somerset or Dorset. My sis lives in Castle Cary, Somerset and I love visiting there, and family holidays in Dorset as a lad secured its special position in my memory.

Now though, I’ve found the perfect place to recommend.

The Queens Arms in the tiny village of Corton Denham is a dream location.

The Queens Arms.

The Queens Arms.

We arrived this afternoon, a little too early to get to our room, so we headed off up the imposing Corton Hill, and sat on the top in the sunshine for an hour or so marveling at the view. The hill is only 196 metres high – but that’s a heck of a height when everything for miles is completely flat. I reckon that we could see 20 miles or more today, and almost all of it Somerset Level.

Corton Denham

The pub has stood here since 1861, originally a cider house. Farm workers would queue at a hatch to collect their weeks wages, then shuffle along to the next hatch to spend it all on cider!

Today there’s a good range of ales and wines, even Amanda’s favourite Sierra Nevada, although most are considerably more local.

If you happen across this place have a pie and a cider. We were hungry after a good walk and shared a pie to save ourselves for dinner. It was the best pork pie in years – ranking right up there alongside the ultimate that I remember from The Shambles butcher in York.

Great pie! Good cutlery too.

So the beer is good, the room is very comfortable with a great bed – it’s time to stop writing and find a table for dinner.

The Queens Arms. Corton Denham. Just a few miles off the arterial A303. And half way between Ashford International (for the Channel Tunnel) and the cottages at Tregiffian and Porthleven.

Is Pedn Vounder (Treen) the best beach in the world?

Pedn Vounder, borrowed from wildthingspublishing.com

Pedn Vounder, borrowed from wildthingspublishing.com

The West Briton, one of the group of newspapers that covers Cornwall, published an article at the weekend on the best rated bits of Cornwall. They used Tripadvisor ratings and it’s hard to argue with the results, especially given that to have a high Tripadvisor rating a place has to be popular.

Rather than go over their ground again I started thinking about my own favourite Cornish beaches, with a heavy bias to the far west of course.

Top of the Tripadvisor haul comes Porthcurno, with its neighbouring Minack Theatre a well deserved second.

There’s no doubt that Porthcurno is a stunning beach, it has rated as one of the world’s best in Condé Nast surveys many times. That does bring the cost of being rather popular. It’ll be busy at the mere hint of sunshine.

My ultimate favourites are either side of Porthcurno. Both have accessibility issues, and what a joy that makes them.

None of the beaches below have any facilities or lifeguards. Please be careful, take everything you need, and leave nothing but your footprints.

Porth Chapel. To the west of Porthcurno Porth Chapel has good parking behind the pretty St Levan Church, and then a pleasant 10 minute walk down the valley. The cliff is a challenge, although dad used to make it until the end of his days. Your effort is rewarded with a small, pretty beach that’s washed clean by the tide. It’s dog friendly too.

We used to go to Porth Chapel when I was young and I remember great swimming, and belly board surfing.

Porth Chapel - borrowed from the bbc.co.uk

Porth Chapel – borrowed from the bbc.co.uk

Pedn Vounder: To the east is Pedn Vounder, often referred to as Treen for the little village where you park. Treen has the quite wonderful Logan’s Rock pub, great after a day on the beach.

I can’t imagine anywhere holding a candle to this beach for the sheer joy of clean, golden sand, slightly warmer sea than on the north coast (probably just perception), the dramatic Treryn Dinas cliffs and space. Loads and loads of space.

It’ll never win a national award though.

The small drawback (for some) is that it’s recognized as a nudist beach.

The big drawback is that when you have succeeded in finding the path, the final drop to the beach is a proper clamber. You won’t want a big bag of beach gear, children who still need carrying, or even a nervous dog. It faces south east and the cliffs are high, so the sun is off the beach early in the evening, but what a place.

Pedn Vounder - borrowed from the guardian.co.uk

Pedn Vounder – borrowed from the guardian.co.uk

Priest’s Cove. Cape Cornwall: This isn’t much of a beach, but it’s one of my all time favourite places at any time of the year. In the teeth of a storm it’s as wild as you could hope for, but in the sunshine it’s a different kind of bliss.

It’s a great swimming spot too.

If you’re feeling strong how about trying the annual Brisons Race – the Brisons is/are the lump/lumps of rock about 1200 metres out to sea. Competitors head out in boats, leap over at the sound of the lifeboat’s foghorn, and give it hell all the way into Priest’s Cove. It can be pretty rough and it’s not for the faint hearted. It happens in August and word seems to just spread as to exactly when.

Priest's Cove.

Priest’s Cove.

Prussia Cove: Again a less obvious choice, but one that I love for its secluded quietude. The name comes from the Carters smuggling family, known as The King of Prussia. There’s not much here, just little rocky coves and a shale beach. No facilities, no lifeguard – yet absolutely worth the effort.

Borrowed from prussiacove.co.uk

Borrowed from prussiacove.co.uk

Portheras: My list couldn’t be complete without Portheras. Amanda and I had part of our wedding celebration here after a service on the cliffs at nearby Bosigran. Again it’s not the easiest to find, and we all love it that way. You can park at Pendeen Watch and walk the long way across the top of the cliff above the beach, or there’s a field car park. To find it head for Morvah from St Just and take a left just before Morvah where there’s a homespun sign for Rose Valley.

A lovely shot from chyprazefarm.com

A lovely shot from chyprazefarm.com

You’ll dream of living at the farm you have to walk through, usually it has pigs, geese, ducks and more running around.

The walk down to the beach isn’t easy, but it is more accessible than Porth Chapel and Pedn Vounder. It’s big by the standards of this list, but still it remains quiet most of the year.

Facing due north it’s one of the best for a barbecue in the evening waiting for the sunset. Don’t forget to take everything home with you though please.

I’ve quickly realized that I need a beach section on the blog so that I can write up all of them.

I haven’t even touched the beautiful Gwenver/Gwynver yet, and that’s on the doorstep.

Don’t hold your breath, it could take me a while!

So back to the question. Is Pedn Vounder the best beach in the world?

It’s utterly subjective. If you want bars, loungers, or even simply an ice cream van then it’s probably not for you.

If you want a stunning beach, few people, beautiful sand with a dramatic backdrop and you don’t care about the scramble down the cliff then it may tick your boxes.

For me there’s no doubt. It rocks!

Hayseed Dixie to headline the Porthleven Food and Music Festival

This year's Portleven Festival - quite a bill.

This year’s Portleven Festival – quite a bill.

The Porthleven Food and Music Festival is new(ish), this will be it’s seventh year. I’ve been known to get a touch sniffy about every village fete up and down the country being called a festival these days, but the Porthleven is a beauty.

The principal is straightforward.

Pull in some celebrity chefs (guess who is on the bill given that he has opened his latest venture on the west pier only a few months back).

Add a few decent bands with a reasonable following.

Then hope the sun shines and your success is nigh on guaranteed.

Last year saw 18,000 visitors on the Saturday according to the West Briton and with the names on this year’s bill it could be even bigger.

On Friday night the irreverent and quite hilarious Hayseed Dixie headline with support from the excellent local Penzance bluegrass outfit Flats and Sharps.

That’s enough to get me there.

What attracted me to the Saturday was the name of the headliners – The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co deserve respect for that if nothing else. I can’t pretend I’d heard of them, but I’ve now spent a happy half an hour watching their videos and making sure that I can be ‘up north’ on the 16th of May to see them play in Lancaster as well.

The Cadgwith singers will bring a change of tune and tone. I used to love singing along with those boys (and girls) at The Cornish Pirates matches when I did a stint working with the rugby team.

That’s not all either – there are many more, check out the full line up on the festival’s site.

I haven’t mentioned the cooking.

Well there’s Mr Padstow Rick Stein, Anthony Worrel Thompson, Dominic Chapman, and others.

Look out for the lovely Caroline Davey from The Fat Hen Foraging and Cookery School. That’s a proper job place that’s down our way too.

It’ll be a fabulous few days from 24 – 26 April.

The week is still available at the wonderful Trevena Cross Barn – get yourself in there, it’s just up the road.

Creativity with a lens – Joe Smith, photographer, at The Cornish Way

I’m privileged to have many photographer friends, and I love the fact that they find inspiration, as well as rest, in the far west.

Collage.

Collage.

This week we’re playing host to someone special. We’re pleased to welcome Joe Smith.

Joe has a cracking name for a photographer. Every day, yet with stand out.

Joe is 15.

And his “holiday” is purely educational. He’s there to learn to shoot.

The family making the most of the British weather. Sennen.

The family making the most of the British weather. Sennen.

He’s the guest, and student, of one of our much loved regular hotshots Julian “Jay” Marment. He’ll be put through his paces, having to consider the context of every shot, think of the lighting, and remember what kit he used and be able to explain why.

We think of a Cornish holiday as one of sunshine, the sea, beaches. Much like many of the photos I post here. But Joe has had an interesting challenge up until today – the sun refused to shine, the fog fell, yet that didn’t dissuade Joe.

Bernard G through the fog.

Bernard G through the fog.

Towards the end of the lane, Tregiffian.

Towards the end of the lane, Tregiffian.

When you’re used to the far west the fog can be interesting,haunting, it utterly changes landscapes and becomes a thing of beauty itself.

You shoot first. Louis Marment by Joe Smith.

You shoot first. Louis Marment by Joe Smith.

Thankfully last night’s wind has helped to clear the fog today though, Joe has faced that challenge, and we want the sun to shine so that all our lovely new guests at The Old Dairy and Myn Tea see the far west at its very best.

Joe's mum. Sennen car park. Remember when we used to try to get everything into a shot?

Joe’s mum. Sennen car park. Remember when we used to try to get everything into a shot?

Thanks Joe and best of luck with your course.

The lure of the old fishing boat.

Hull, Camaret.

Hull, Camaret.

I’ve loved the sea since I was first introduced to it (apparently), yet I’ve rarely felt the pull to get out onto it on any kind of craft smaller than a cross channel ferry.

I intend to remedy that somewhat this summer and try a sea kayak.

We did a little kayaking when I was at school and I remember it being tremendous fun, with the sea presenting much more exciting challenges than the slow genteel waters of the Truro River at Kea.

Since then it has been ferries, and the occasional boogie board.

What I do love though is old boats, and their sad decline.

They’re often propped up in the mud, where an owner left them with good intentions to repair the minor thing that had gone wrong. But then time takes its toll. And an engine fault migrates to hull damage, perhaps some vandalism, and suddenly the project no longer makes sense.

Holed hull. Camaret.

Holed hull. Camaret.

We saw some lovely old French trawlers in Camaret back last summer – here are a few shots we took then.

Castel - Din. Camaret.

Castel – Din. Camaret.

And just before I started writing this little blog I thought I’d look at old boats for sale. One I found was this 1953 trawler.

1953 trawler for sale.

1953 trawler for sale.

Yours for £47,500 from MJ Lewis Boatsales. I thought 1953 was pretty darn old for a ship of the sea, but it seems not, it’s a mere pup compared to some of the craft on the site.

More of the Din.

More of the Din.

Pitch boat house. Camaret.

Pitch boat house. Camaret.

Chunky!

Chunky!

The bay is rather special too.

The bay is rather special too.