A perfect (early) morning. Gwenver.

I’m sitting at the table in Myn Tea.

It’s midnight and then some.

We’re just in from the garden where a few friends have been sitting out, watching the waxing moon, listening to the sea, and discussing the madness of the Lafrowda Oscars which took place at Cape School in St Just tonight.

It could only happen here.

And I talked about last night.

Waking at 4.00am, and knowing that there would be no more sleep for a long time, and so I’d best make the most of my time.

I got up and gently raised Polly, the dog.

We walked off to the beach in the silvery moonlight.

Sitting on Gwenver at 04.30 in the morning, catching glimpses of the moon off the water, the air still warm, mid-October. No one to be seen.

And feeling that I was the luckiest man in the world.

The air is rarely still here, but it was this morning. Making it all the greater as a gift.

A moment in time.

And only Polly to share it with.

Polly who bravely chased away the foes who existed in her imagination.

Such a shame her chase was sometimes so vocal.

Now I’d best seek that sleep that eluded me last night.

Good night.

Weddings at Tregiffian

It’s always encouraging when guests book to come back to one of the cottages again. It’s the best recommendation we could hope for.

But then when people get as emotionally connected to the cottages as we are then it’s better still.

Back at the end of the summer we were delighted when a lovely couple, Dave and Louise, chose Myn Tea for their wedding party, a lovely gathering of friends and family, pulled from around the country, to a beautiful day at Tregiffian.

Dave and Louise - party at Myn Tea

Dave and Louise – party at Myn Tea

Another lovely couple who stay in New Forge in deepest darkest winter chose to get engaged there in January this year – hurrah, and congratulations Bill and Louise (is there a Louise theme starting here?). The romance of the far west is even stronger in winter, and I’m looking forward to our stays in the dark months this year.

Thank you all our lovely friends.

Thank you all our lovely friends.

Coming up in March another treasured guest is having her wedding party at Myn Tea too.

Perfect end to Dave and Louise's perfect day.

Perfect end to Dave and Louise’s perfect day.

If I were to list all of the honeymoons we’ve hosted this post would get long indeed.

So just to close this off on the wedding theme, Amanda and I aways get to Tregiffian to celebrate our own wedding, which we held on the cliffs at Bosigran, Portheras Beach, and Penzance Arts Club.

Who’s next? I imagine the gardens at Trevena Barn would be completely ideal for a wedding.

Why go to Mont St Michel when you can go to St Michael’s Mount? (after Mark Jones)

The modesty!

We’re a quiet bunch in Cornwall. You need to pass Hayle (Hell?) before you get a hint of what might grace the next bay.

 

The Mount through the mist.

The Mount through the mist.

You know about Mont St Michel from miles away – the brown signs start at least 50 miles before you get a peep of its spires, that’s like having signs for the Cornish jewel out on Bodmin Moor, that would just be showing off wouldn’t it?

Le Mont.

Le Mont.

Now I’m not denying that the French have something to shout about. After all the archangel Michel himself instructed its construction in 708. The saint (St Aubert) he addressed wasn’t too keen on the effort it would have involved, and he chose to ignore the instruction for ages. Old Michel got well fed up about that and burned a hole in the poor saint’s skull with his finger. Can you imagine the HR case if you did that to a subordinate today (even in France?).

Having said that though, Archangel Michael had his burning finger in the legend of the Cornish mount too, instructing a fisherman to build it in the 5th century.

The two were linked as monastic houses for a fair old while, and here our ancient history / legend lessons must end.

As we know, the French get all shouty about their mount. Organisation is serious and impressive. As the most visited single attraction outside of Paris is has to be. There’s regimented parking behind well planted polders that hide the thousands of cars from photos – cunning! Then there’s the quite beautiful new boardwalk that snakes the 45 minute walk from the parking to the Mount.

The boardwalk.

The boardwalk.

We visited this week – already September, and the rest of France seems empty yet still it was heaving. During the season a trip here must be hell. Three million plus peeps climb its narrow streets every year.

The Abbey

The Abbey

The Mont is huge.

Our hotel the night before was a funny place with a cheap room, yet we had a Mont view when the fog lifted.

44 people live on the Mont full time, about the same as on the Mount, but while the National Trust has a shop, a cafe, restaurant, the French have a whole thriving town.

So why should we go to St Michael’s Mount?

As I started, its modesty is charming. The crowds rare. The gardens stunning (no room for many plants on Le Mont). But moreover, you’re in Cornwall, and why would you want to be anywhere else?

The case for Le Mont? Well, I guess there’s the crêpes, the cider, the wine, the accent, but beyond that, what is there? Enjoy a pasty from Philps, a pint of Doom Bar and a choppy boat ride and get over to St Michael’s when you get the chance.

(to be updated, I haven’t been to St Michael’s in ages and need to remind myself why I love it so.)

En route to Mont St Michel

Tonight we can see Mont St Michel from our room – hopefully we’ll get there tomorrow and I’ll be inspired to write “Why go to Mont St Michel when you can go to St Michaels’s Mount.”

We ended up staying two nights at La Bristellerie. When you find something that good you need to make the most of it. Today though we need to get at least a bit closer to Brittany.

First stop Carteret, from where you can get a ferry to Guernsey, but for us it was just a walk around the Cap.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

On south to the quite lovely Coutances, where the soaring cathedral dominates the view from miles around. Most of the town was closed – except a good little crêperie where we lunched on galettes and cider.

There’s a stunning park/gardens, somewhat unimaginatively called Jardin des Plantes, entered through an arch under one of the more grand houses.

Coutances, Cathedral

Coutances, Cathedral

 

A. Minty. Collins.

A. Minty. Collins.

 

Yellow

Yellow

Now, having looked in on Granville and thought it was a bit like Newquay en France, we’re in our room in a funny little hotel, but overlooking Mont St Michel and just above the strangely named St John Le Thomas.

The Cornish Way in France.

We love learning, and when it’s combined with drinking fine wines, calvados and cider, and eating the best imaginable foods then the whole experience is better still.

View from our room to the gardens

View from our room to the gardens

Yesterday we caught the ferry to Cherbourg from Portsmouth and woke up after a rough crossing in La France.

A short drive to our first mason d’hôtes, La Bristellerie, in the hamlet of Hardinvast, and a wonderful welcome from Jan and Marie. A quick bag drop and we’re back downstairs in their huge and comfortable converted barn sharing stories and excellent wines.

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Dinner at Jan’s friend’s restaurant in nearby Les Pieux was excellent, washed down with local cider. It’s called Le Petite Bourg.

Later, back to the house for a superb sleep in our room that’s a similar size to the flat we rent in Manchester. Slipping between the sheets and breathing in the wonderful smell of French linen before a sweet oblivion descended.

The house is in there somewhere

The house is in there somewhere

It was hard to find the house for a photo from the calming gardens – but here’s a try.

Pussycat on tour - again

Pussycat on tour – again

Saturday’s weather wasn’t amazing, but hey, we were tired, and doing little was ideal.

A short drive around La Hague, Port Racine for photos.

Port Racine

Port Racine

 

The girl - Port Racine

The girl – Port Racine

 

Port Racine

Port Racine

Back to the house for dinner in the garden, simple – cider, great red, cheese, saucisson, great bread. Perfect.

 

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Now it’s Sunday morning, the sun’s shining, and we can’t wait to get out there. But just a couple more photos from La Bristellerie…

Gourds - La Bristellerie

 

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Levant, its working beam engine, and rugged coast.

We’re delighted to be back in the far west after too long away working.

There’s an old Sunday school for sale in Trewellard, and I flirted with the idea of a big project. I dragged Amanda to see it earlier. We concluded that my madcap schemes would be too much to layer on top of everything else right now, but it’s always exciting to look at a plot, or dilapidated building, and let the creative juices flow.

The Sunday School also meant that we stopped off in Trewellard instead of just driving through, and that’s well worthwhile.

It might not seem that there’s a lot to Trewellard, but at night there’s the attraction of the Meadery and the pub with its huge collection of whiskeys, and of course the coast. There was no drinking to be done today though, not yet at least.

Trewellard Sunday School

Trewellard Sunday School

After staring in awe at the stonework of the Sunday school, and dreaming of the plot’s potential, we walked down to the cliffs, stopping off at Old Bal engine house, and then taking a few quick phone shots of Levant mine, before lying in a sheltered spot and loving the sounds and smells of the sea.

Higher Bal, Levant

Higher Bal, Levant

Levant was worked from 1820 to 1930 and is perched right on the cliff edge, with its workings going out a couple of kilometres under the sea. Back in the early 1990s a gang of dedicated engineers restored the beam engine to working order and it now steams regularly. Amanda wasn’t likely to want to spend time with a smelly old steam engine, but I made a note to return soon (Mr Orton?).

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The cliffs here are not the highest, but it’s certainly a rugged stretch and interesting with its mining heritage from hundreds of years ago, right up to 1990 when Geevor finally stopped extracting ore.

Thinking of the beauty back home – The Brisons.

I’m sitting on a train from Manchester to London, I’m lucky today, first class on the Virgin pendilino was cheaper than standard, so the air is cool (if a little smelly), the wi-fi is free, and I might even get a sandwich later.

The Cheshire countryside is good, but my thoughts soon turn to the far west of Cornwall.

I was browsing through photos of our last few days at Tregiffian, Sennen and realised that I haven’t loaded these onto the blog yet, so here goes, a couple of shots of my favourite place.

This is the rugged and simple Cape Cornwall, Priest’s Cove, and the Brisons, the evening shot was taken on a walk back from the Kings Arms in St Just. Big news from the Kings – they also own The Square, the new pizza deli next to McFaddens. Pizza is good, and you can take it to the pub to enjoy with something wet.

Through campion hides the Cape and Brisons.

The fisherman’s huts at Priest’s Cove seem to be breeding again. There are a couple that have been fixed up, and even one that’s a tiny piece of beachside architecture. I just wish I could somehow take on the crumbling concrete hut right on the front and create a small single room retreat there.

The Brisons. Late evening. Mid-summer 2014.

The Brisons. Late evening. Mid-summer 2014.

Life’s always better with a shaggy dog photo – here’s Polly, adjusting to normal life after her taste of stardom, about to join me in the sea at Nanquidno.

Polly at Nanquidno.

Polly at Nanquidno.

It’s gratifying to read of guests at Tregiffian who become as captivated with the far west as we are. We have just started taking bookings on 2016, and winter is getting more popular too.

I dream of when we’ll be in the wild west through the crazy months of winter.

ARCO2 and Umbazi

Anyone who has scanned the shelves at New Forge will know I love great architecture.

Hawkes Point, Carbis Bay

It’s the simple buildings that most appeal to me. The shacks in the middle of nowhere with harpy a facility beyond shelter and a wood burner, the purity of Pawson, or the concrete joy of Tadao Ando.

I hope that New Forge achieves that simplicity, it was what we were seeking when Charly Griffiths and I worked on its design back in 2009.

This week I had an absolute treat when we visited Hawkes Point to see the ARCO2 building being realised there by Umbazi. Umbazi is an interesting build team working with young local lads on a project fuelled by passion and great design, that has seen more challenges than Kevin McCloud could possibly fit into just one programme of Grand Designs.

The site is about 150 metres from the nearest road drop off point, and down a very steep slope. This means that every single item, from a box of essential tea bags, to huge windows, or a wood burring stove, has had to be carried, by hand, to the steep sloping site.

The house will be a private home to some very fortunate people. It offers views that will be up there among the best in the world. You can only really see it from the beach, and it’s worth a trip to this little known beach just to stare up and dream of what it’s like inside.

Porth Kidney, Hayle

I didn’t feel envy – rather I felt inspired, and now I want to create a project for The Cornish Way that involves the beauty, simplicity and honest practises that the design and build team have achieved here.

Well done everyone – and that includes the client, without their faith this wouldn’t have been possible.

 

Evening sun, wine, friends – does it get better than this?

What an amazing day.

You arrive at Tregiffian, buoyed on by the adrenaline that helps you forget just how tired you are from weeks of working too many hours.

You’re excited.

Next day comes the dip. And for me this time it was a big dip. Yesterday, despite knowing that I was in my favourite place in the world, I could barely drag myself along the ten minute walk to the beach. I had to let my lovely friends go to the pub without me.

In bed just after 10.00pm on the longest day. What’s that about?

But then a big sleep. A really big sleep.

And this morning I woke refreshed.

Did the Gurlands Farm walk this morning, across the fields from Tregiffian, up to Gurlands, and on down to Gwenver. A beautiful, if short, walk. Joined for a while by Paddy, the huge lurcher who lives up at Gurlands.

Here are the fluffy Gurlands cattle with their magnificent view.

Highland cattle at Gurland Farm, over Gwenver.

Highland cattle at Gurland Farm, over Gwenver.

During the day we walked over the cliff tops to Cot Valley, looking its very best with so many blossoms, and now the heady sent of honeysuckle too. Skinny dipping at Nanquidno (sorry anyone who may have been offended by a man naked, but for his big beard!). Oh the joy, water just cool enough to make you smile, not cold enough to make you smart.

Naked Man at Nanquidno!

Naked Man at Nanquidno!

Then spent the evening on the balcony at Myn Tea. Friends and neighbours Mark, Wendy and Emmi came over for a bottle and to admire the view of views.

Can we stay here for ever?

Can we stay here for ever?

Now at 10.15 it’s getting a little chilly, and soon we might go inside and close off the best day of the year so far.

Sunset from the balcony at Myn Tea.

Sunset from the balcony at Myn Tea.

Myn Tea might not be the real world. But it surely is a good world.

Nanquidno - joy!

Nanquidno – joy!

Come here at any time of the year and you’ll experience a different view on your own life.

Back in the far west.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been fortunate to visit some gorgeous places for work and pleasure. A night at The Devonshire fell followed by a long walk up the River Wharfe in North Yorkshire prompted me to say to Minty “Cornwall will have it’s work cut out trying to impress me next week.”

Here’s the bridge at Burnsall Village by the Red Lion, from here there’s good swimming to be done, or diving off rocks a bit further along for an unexpected adrenalin rush in such serene surroundings.

Bridge at Burnsall

The Devonshire Fell was a top place to stay, a super comfortable bed and this view to wake up to. The competition was on!

From The Devonshire Fell

After that work took me through South Wales, filming at Best Western Aberavon Beach hotel followed by The Maldron in Cardiff. Our Polly will be a star in one of the adverts we were working on as the Abeeravon Beach is a dog friendly hotel – and the beach is right outside.

Polly at Aberavon.

Next up was another favourite county, Somerset, and off to the stunning Best Western Swan at Wells. This has the best hotel room I have seen in years, quiet luxury, comfortable not flash, with the best view of Wells Cathedral.

Driving through the A roads from Wells to Salisbury made the thought of motorways  seem brash and angry, we really should get off them more often.

Then came Cornwall’s big testing moment. Would it. could it deliver? Just after Crowlas on the A30 you get the fairytale view of St Michael’s Mount, today sitting in a sparkling azure sea, dotted with sailing dinghies, windsurfs and a visiting tall ship – special already.

Turning down the lane to Tregiffian had tears of joy pricking at my eyes.

The hedges are huge and full of colour, teeming with life as a thousand chicks take unsteadily to the air for their first flights, the sea looks so tempting, and at the end of the lane there’s Myn Tea.

Life is good.

The enchanting path to Gwenver

The visitor’s book is open to a quote from the last guests “As Samuel Johnson may have said, When you tire of Myn Tea you tire of life”.

Gwenver

Perfect!

Myn Tea

That then leaves the question, Yorkshire, Somerset, or Cornwall?

If I can’t have it all then I’ll just stay put where I am thanks.

Kernow kensa!