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.

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 stagnes.com). I love this unusual view that doesn't show the sea.

Wheal Coates (borrowed from stagnes.com). 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 stpiransday.com)

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

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 hotelsdirect.co.uk.

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.