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.



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.



The bay is rather special too.

The bay is rather special too.

Our mascot gets a haircut

We love our four legged friends at The Cornish Way.

Today our very own mascot, Polly, went through her annual transformation from bear to svelte poodle like creature.

Four hours in the barber’s! Now I know my follicles have been challenged for some time, but even back in my hairy heyday my barber (and dad)  would be finished within 15 minutes.

Polly bounced from the barber’s chair, or grooming table, and bounced and jumped and ran for the next hour, shouting her joy, jumping into the river to cure herself of the lovely shampoo smell.

I love her hairy, but I particularly love her reaction to be freed of all its weight.

At The Cornish Way we welcome dogs at most of the cottages, and better still, the beach down the lane, Gwenver, is dog friendly all year.

Polly the bear.

Polly the bear.

Lighter, faster, happier. The svelte new Polly burst forth.

Lighter, faster, happier. The svelte new Polly bursts forth.

Welcome Home Ross Poldark

I was a lad, just reaching double figures, when Poldark first hit the screens. That was back when anything worth seeing on TV was a family event, and I suspect that we all sat down to each of the 29 episodes.

The original was filmed extensively on location, and much of it in the far west at Pendeen, Trewellard, Lamorna, Porthcurno and Lands End. The iconic Wheal Coates near St Agnes got its fair shame of exposure, and so it should have, as the author, Winston Graham, lived much of his life in nearby Perranporth.

I have a memory that the engine house was rebuilt for the first series, and then taken back to its pre-filming state, although I can’t find anything to verify that, and the oracle (mum) isn’t answering her phone.

I don’t remember my folks location spotting, but I bet they did.

We’re delighted to have a new series on now, bringing some well deserved attention to Cornwall, and even if we didn’t see many real locations in the first episode, the countryside looked great.

On Thursday 8th March the first of the new eight part drama was screened on BBC 1 and didn’t the cast look good?

The dark and brooding Irishman Aidan Turner must have raised a few eyebrows, and thankfully he didn’t make any embarrassing attempts at sounding like a West Country lad.

Demelza, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, managed an incredible transformation from downtrodden scumbag to costume drama totty with little more than a cold water lice wash to effect the change. Even her dog perked up with Ross Poldark around.

Having been enchanted by the BBC’s adaptation of Wolf Hall I was looking forward to a similar level of drama, delivering its impact subtly, yet effectively. Poldark certainly doesn’t demand the cerebral involvement of Wolf Hall, but what the hell, it looks great and the cast is stunning. Even the dirty and revolting villagers look like they’ve just stepped from a TOAST shoot.

There’ll be the usual moaning that it wasn’t all filmed in Cornwall. The market scene that could so easily have been Walsingham Place in Truro was actually filmed in Corsham, Wiltshire.

But so long as Botallack’s Crown Mines looks authentic and we see a bit more of the far west I’ll not be complaining.

Right then, best go warm up the set, it’ll be on in an hour.

Wheal Coates (borrowed from I love this unusual view that doesn't show the sea.

Wheal Coates (borrowed from I love this unusual view that doesn’t show the sea.

Crown mines, Botallack.

Crown mines, Botallack.

Aidan turner - yeah, I don't know what the fuss is about!

Aidan turner – yeah, I don’t know what the fuss is about!

Happy St Piran’s Day 2015 – Gool Peran Lowen

Happy St Piran’s Day!

What’s that all about then? What are we supposed to get up to?

Well in the past drinking was the order of the day. In fact down Newlyn way you might still hear utterance of the phrase “Drunk as a Piraner” referring to the miners who’d have a holiday on their saint’s day and celebrate in the best style they knew – I wonder if they had Spingo* back then?

Looking back on legends of saints and miracle workers is rather charming when taken with a pinch of middle age cynicism, blended with the love of a good story.

Old Piran had a dubious start in life, upsetting the king in his native Ireland and, as punishment he was cast into the sea tied to a millstone. That’s not only a harsh way of getting rid of someone you’re suspicious of, but an expensive one too – imagine the cost of a millstone!

Piran had little to fear though, as he floated (!) on the millstone and was eventually washed up on Perranporth (Piran/Perran…). I wonder if it was as windswept there then as it is now?

At Perranporth he set up an oratory in the dunes and preached the power and beauty of God, and here’s a lovely detail – his first disciples were a fox, a badger and a bear.

Now a fox and badger finding religion I can accept, but a Perranporth bear taking the word of our Lord?

Our Cornish patron saint was beloved of miners too, not only did he like a tipple, he is also credited with discovering tin. Apparently he noticed the white metal melting across the black ore of a stone in his fire.

What a dude. He thereby invented the industry that was to launch Cornwall into the industrial revolution, making it a globally important centre for mining, and gave us our distinctive black and white flag.

No wonder the miners celebrated with a drink or two on his saints day of 5th March.

Today there’ll be processions through the streets of many towns, especially Penzance and Truro. While mother, Peggy Collins, will probably toddle off to the sand dunes in Perranporth for the annual play re-enacting the arrival of our main man on the beach there.


St Piran's Dawn at Newlyn (borrowed from Dick Straughan)

St Piran’s Dawn at Newlyn (borrowed from Dick Straughan)


The faithful. The curious. And a few dog walkers (thanks to

The faithful. The curious. And a few dog walkers (thanks to

St Piran - bewdie!

St Piran – bewdie!

*Spingo has been my downfall at many a Helston Flora Day. Brewed at The Blue Anchor it’s served in several strengths and styles. The 6.5% ABV Special is only as strong as many of the so called craft ales available today, but back in my teens Heineken was about 3% and so a half a Spingo (as I’m sure it was sold) was enough to knock you sideways.

The Blue Anchor claims to be Britain’s oldest ale house brewing its own beers. As it has been going for about 400 years I doubt many will dispute it.

I haven’t had a Spingo in ages, but writing this has caused me to make a mental note to get over to Helston in the next few weeks and see what I think now.

Porthledden House. One of the finest homes in West Cornwall goes up for sale.

Cape Cornwall is one of my favourite spots in the far west. Perhaps anywhere.

You can’t really call someplace wild when it has a golf course behind it, yet the Atlantic weather hits the Cape full on, and it’s where I tend to head when there’s a storm blowing.

I’ve often dreamed of converting the lobster pot shed below Cape House into a simple over night shelter in the spirit of a Scottish bothy. Trouble is I’d want to be there all the time myself.

Or, even better, how about taking the concrete hut that’s fast falling into the sea (see below) and putting a great big glass wall on the seaward side, roofing it and putting a single comfortable chair inside. It could be a day retreat for anyone needing contemplation time. A sanctuary where dreamers could connect with the sea without getting wet. A haven to help a person realise that their concerns, no matter how grave, are insignificant in the scheme of things.

Let’s swing to the other end of the scale.

Right now one of the finest houses in the far west is on the market, and it’s right above the Cape.

It’s a little out of my price range and there are a few too many windows to clean for my liking, but those minor details aside, Porthledden House is quite magnificent.

Porthledden is the name of the little visited cove to the north of the Cape, worth visiting for the interesting mining remains there, and it lends its name to the house that overlooks it.

We all remember the place as something of a haunted house before the current owners took on a monumental restoration from around 2004. I’m sure hundreds of people dreamed of taking on the project, but thankfully the couple that finally took the plunge had both the vision and depth of pocket to do it properly.

A century after it was built by one of Cornwall’s most successful and respected mining captains the house was rescued by the enterprising couple that set up

The said mine captain – the captain was akin to a managing director and next most important person to the mineral rights owner – was a fellow by the name of Francis Oats. He hardly got to spend any time there as his success earned him the notice of De Beers and he spent much of his career in South Africa. At De Beers he rose to be chairman of the diamond mining business, succeeding a rather notorious fellow by the name of Cecil Rhodes.

It’s often said that where’s there’s a mine there’s a Cornishman at the bottom – it’s good to know that now and then there’s also a Cornishman at the top!

Following his death in South Africa, Oats’ son took on the house and opened it as a hotel, surely that is what this stunning property is destined to be again, but after 30 years of trying that business failed.

The current owners oversaw a fitting and beautiful restoration – 200 windows in bronze frames, that huge roof that took a year to replace using slate from the original Westmoorland slate quarry, granite from the original De Lank Quarry near Bodmin. But now it seems, it’s time to move on for them.

I’m not in the business of helping the people to sell their house. But I am interested in this magnificent property and its successful future. Were it to stay in private ownership and be maintained as it is now that would be exciting. Then again if the right hotelier were to take it on and thereby make it accessible for more people I’d be delighted too.

Flick through the sale photos and you’ll see some of their fabulous art, from the Kurt Jackson that dominates the main kitchen to more classical pieces. Much of the furniture too are craft pieces to admire.

Here’s a link to the sales particulars.

Gaze on in envy, but then delight in the fact that thanks to The National Trust (and, strangely, Heinz) Cape Cornwall is free for us all to enjoy, for a stormy spot of wave watching, or for the delightful swimming out of Priest’s Cove.

Porthledden House

Porthledden House

KC's retreat (in his dreams).

KC’s retreat (in his dreams).

Architectural net lofts in Priest's Cove.

Architectural net lofts in Priest’s Cove.

Swimming at Priest's Cove.

Swimming at Priest’s Cove.

The Cape from Kenijack Castle.

The Cape from Kenijack Castle.

Some of the mine workings between Porthledden and Nancherrow.

Some of the mine workings between Porthledden and Nancherrow.

Winter holidays In West Cornwall.

Perhaps it’s the mellowing of age, perhaps it’s a necessary defence against the unpredictability of the British weather, but whatever it is I rather like winter.

I’ve spent most of this winter in York and Manchester where it has been cold, but rarely bitter. It has been mainly dry too, which helps.

But the best days have been spent in the extremes, in Scotland at Christmas (see the post Into The Wild), and in Cornwall.

I know that I’m liable to pull on my rose tinted specs when talking about Cornwall. I know that having grown up in the far west that it holds a special place in my heart. But even taking both of these into account, I have been lucky to enjoy some stunning winter days around Sennen and St Just.

Apart from the Christmas Swim on Sennen Beach big gatherings in winter are few and far between. There’s Montol in Penzance, a growing winter festival with a good procession around the solstice, and there’s the charming Tom Bowcock’s Eve in Mousehole, but beyond that the beautiful emptiness of Cornwall is there to be enjoyed.

Find a great self catering house. Ideally with a wood burner. Bring some friends. Layer up to spend sunny crisp days on the beach, before coming home and getting the fire going. Enjoy hearty home cooked meals and great nights in.

If you have to go outside in the dark you may be lucky and get a crystal clear night for a Milky Way shot like the one below.

After all that comfort food the night before, stay in bed late – the sun rises a little later in the far west after all.

Feel alive in a way that the city will never inspire.

Polly on Gwenver. Christmas.

Polly on Gwenver. Christmas.

Velandreath, early March.

Velandreath, early March.

Long horn neighbour

Long horn neighbour

Winter beard, Porthleven.

Winter beard, Porthleven.

Shell covered mast on Gwenver

Shell covered mast on Gwenver

Long winter shadows.

Long winter shadows.

St Just to Tregiffian. A winter’s walk.

Sometimes I feel so lucky.

Last week we were at Tregiffian in the best winter days I could imagine, clear sunny days with amazing visibility, and freezing cold star filled nights.

Today I’m back and spending a couple of evenings at Archavon, in St Just, and the weather is perfect again.

Having driven hundreds of miles this morning I didn’t feel like getting back into the car, and so Polly and I walked over to Tregiffian.

Across the fields it took 50 minutes, and that included time to take a few photos, and find the dog’s ball when she was distracted. Good job dad was watching.

It’s a good walk with plenty of options. I tend to take the longer cliff top route on the way out, then the shorter fields route back, especially if we’ve stopped in The Star or the Kings.

Across the fields, leaving St Just via South Place, you’ll pass through the top of Cot Valley and you should see these two great houses (below), both alongside the path. Cot Manor is a charming large self catering house that’s on the market at the moment, and Cot Mill is special too.

Further along you’ll pass in front of the little hamlet of Trevegean, home of well known gardener and artist Penny Black. There’s a collage of Penny’s at New Forge from 1996.

From there cross a few fields, under Gurlands Farm and you’ll soon be at Tregiffian.

I won’t try to direct you, each time the crops change the chance of going the wrong way alters – take a map and you’ll be fine.

Today I walked back along the cliffs, this took more like an hour and a half, and it’s a whole lot harder – but the rewards are even better views.

Nanjulian, Cot Valley, The Cape. Perfect.

Try both ways. You’ll have earned your dinner!

Cot Manor

Cot Mill

Cot Mill

Across the fields to The Brisons

Across the fields to The Brisons

One of the most lovely houses in the far west at Nanjulian.

One of the most lovely houses in the far west at Nanjulian.

The Brisons again, just a couple of rocks, but so evocative.

The Brisons again, just a couple of rocks, but so evocative.


A cracking day in Porthleven.

Porthleven is Britain’s most southerly port. Over the years it has been important for its fishing fleet, exporting of china clay from Tregoinning Hill, and importing all sorts including coal, lime and timber.

The port was built between 1811 and 1858 to provide a safe haven in Mounts Bay after a number of wrecks, in particular the HMS Anson that sunk in 1807 with the loss of 130 lives.

Now though it’s one of Cornwall’s most charming port destinations.

There is a small fishing industry still, mostly landing crab and lobster rather than the mackerel and pilchards of years gone by. It’s a good place to go out on fishing day trips too.

For many though it’s the quaint largely unspoiled village, the lovely south facing beach, and the restaurants, that are the main attractions.

On Saturday we had a good lunch in Amelie’s on the west side of the harbor where you’ll also find Blue Haze (go on a curry night), and the recently opened Rick Stein’s.

After lunch it was down to the beach to see how it’s looking after the big storm in mid-January. On the evening of 14 January the sea washed away a huge amount of sand, leaving the promenade steps just hanging in mid-air, and rocks where the lovely beach was hours before. As happens sometimes, the majority of the sand was dumped back in place by the next tide.

While we usually walk right along the beach to Loe Bar, and then back along the lane, on Saturday the gorgeous sunshine was such a welcome surprise we lapped it up sitting on the sea defenses for an hour instead.

You’re spoilt for choice with so many places to eat in Porthleven. Kota and The Square get great reviews, both at the head of the harbor, but we haven’t tried either in a while.

Rick Stein opening back in November will no doubt push prices up a bit, but Porthleven already commands a premium so it’s unlikely to make such a difference.

If you’re keen on a more active approach to your holidays then Porthleven often offers a good swell for surfers, the wreck of the Ansom is still there providing a good dive site, and the cliff walking is excellent in both directions. Take care swimming to the east, and don’t go in near Loe Bar no matter how strong you are – it’s extremely dangerous with a fierce undertow.

Stay at Trevena Cross Barn up the road in Breage and you’ll have total privacy, with great gardens and plenty of space, and yet be just two miles from all Porthleven has to offer. The tiny little known beaches like Rinsey will be on your door step, and you can walk up Tregonning Hill from where on a clear day you can see both coasts.

Across the harbour to The Ship, Porthleven.

Across the harbour to The Ship, Porthleven.


Along the beach towards Loe Bar.

Along the beach towards Loe Bar.


The Cornish Way's very own Minty. Porthleven Beach.

The Cornish Way’s very own Minty. Porthleven Beach.

The Cornish Pasty

What a subject!

Am I sufficiently qualified to voice an opinion?

Have I ever eaten a pasty?

Oh yes!

Well then good sir – opine to your heart’s content.

The Cornish Pasty has Protected Geographic Indication status (PGI). What a shame it isn’t a Protected Indication of Geography status!

There were protests on the streets when Teflon Dave and his mate Shiny George threatened us with the pasty tax*.

People from upcountry are amazed that we actually do eat Cornish pasties downalong, but of course they’re not called Cornish pasties here, just pasties.

And let’s face it. Pasties rock.

I was minded to write about the pasty in part because I’ve called mother and politely placed my order for a pasty when I pop in to visit on Thursday. And minded in part because the World Pasty Championships are fast approaching at the end of the month.

The pasty is shrouded in myth and legend, but its style and recipe has been determined by the PGI, for now at least.

It’s supposedly only Cornish if it’s made of minced beef (minced?), potato, turnip (that’s the orange one for all you funny up country folk who have a tendency to mix their swedes and turnips), onion, and a good grind of salt and pepper.

Crimping (the join) should go around the side – supposedly to give the miners a handle that they could throw away.

All these rules are very well, but there’re a few missing, in particular relating to how you eat the thing.

So here goes for a few more rules:

  • Eat it out of a paper bag, no knives or forks please
  • Drink a nice cup of sugared tea with it (doesn’t matter that you don’t take sugar)
  • No sharing, no pasty’s so big that it needs to be shared

As for the myth of a traditional pasty having fruit at one end…

Well, my gran was born in the century before last (ages ago) and her gran was about 300 years old at least, and she said “Codswallop!” (except she probably said it in Cornish and I’ve no idea what that might be, skoll perhaps – that means something like “rubbish”).

Anyway here’s the most important bit.

Who makes the best?

Well, my favourite boughten pasty (cut yer and av ee?)(completely incomprehensible unless you’ve lived in Newlyn for many decades) is from Trevaskis Farm near Gwinear, Hayle.

But obviously Mother’s is best (although Aunty Eleanor used to be heavy handed with the pepper, and I always liked that).

Oggy, oggy, oggy.

Proper job! - image borrowed from the Cornish Pasty Association (really).

Proper job! – image borrowed from the Cornish Pasty Association (really).

*(Interesting that. The last time London was invaded from the land was by the Cornish back in 1497, and that was a tax revolt as well, but that’s another story, and I’ll have to dig deep to remember it all).