Wednesday 24 August 2016

Five Go To Kernow (Part Four)

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's lovely to see you.  This is the final instalment of my holiday adventures in Cornwall. 

On the south coast of Cornwall, westward beyond The Lizard Peninsular, just a few miles before the end of the land, the great granite cliffs sweep back to form a bay which has been counted among the ten most beautiful in the world.  I caught a fleeting glimpse of it once, more than thirty years ago, and have sometimes wondered whether my memory is true.  Was the sand really that shade of creamy white?  Was the water really that shade of blue?  I went to have another look this time, and I can confirm that my memory was not playing tricks on me.  This is Porthcurno -

If you click on this photograph to enlarge it and look very carefully at the right hand side, you may be able to see the steep steps hewn out of the granite which go up, up, up to the top of the western cliff.  Those steps were made by Miss Rowena Cade, who owned the headland, Minack Point, and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, in the 1950s and there are about ninety of them - she needed them so that she could carry sacks of sand up to the cliff top for her building project on the land at the top.  At the end of every day's labour she would go down to the beach, fill her sacks and carry them back up the ninety steps so that the sand was ready for work to begin the following day.  Once, she found twelve wooden beams washed up on the shore, each one fifteen feet long, and she carried them up those steps one by one!
Rowena and Billy began her building project in 1931 when she was thirty-eight years old and she worked on it for almost fifty years.  From 1953, she and Billy were assisted by Tom Angove, who she called "Builder's Mate" - he carried on for about thirty years after Billy died in 1966.  Three people, six hands, built this extraordinary place.  Sometimes, Rowena would become dissatisfied with what they had created, blow it up (literally) and start again!  Do you know what they built?  Have you been?  It' open-air theatre! 

The first production, Shakespeare's The Tempest, was held here in the summer of 1932 and there have been many since.  Its inaccessibility means that all scenery, props and costumes have to be passed down by human chain and we saw this happening while we were there -
On the day we visited there was a storyteller who assumed the role of Billy Rawlings and told how the theatre was built.  He was very good and held his audience in the palm of his hand as I watched from above - you can see him in the centre of this picture -
Rowena couldn't afford to build the theatre entirely of granite so she developed a way of casting in concrete, using an old screwdriver to inscribe designs into it before it set -

Every year, the turf is skimmed off the top of the seats, the compost within is renewed and fresh turf is laid on top - 
I first visited this unique place on a crisp, sunny February day and found it spellbinding.  That hasn't changed, but it's altogether a better day out now: there is a café (where we were able to purchase our obligatory daily ice cream), there is an excellent exhibition centre which tells the story of the theatre's creation, there are viewing galleries for those who find all the steps difficult and just over twenty years ago, subtropical gardens were carefully planted to ensure that there is something in flower during every month of the year.
This was another memorable day out for the Best Beloved, The Mathematician and me.  The sun shone (most of the time) on the theatre, the cliffs, the sand and the sea and the colours and my happiness were intense.  Do you remember that I said that the headland is called Minack Point?  Here is Minack Rock, its extremity -
Minack means "rocky place" in Cornish.  And the theatre, of course, is the Minack Theatre.
If you would like to know more about Rowena Cade and how she built the theatre, this is quite good.  I find her endlessly fascinating.
So that was the last day of our family adventure to Kernow.  In the first of these posts I said that Cornwall owed me Big Time due to some absolutely appalling weather encountered on previous visits.  Well, Cornwall, you have redeemed yourself, the debt is repaid, in a whole week we had only two hours of rain, while we were driving to see a friend, and for the rest of the time, we had glorious sunshine.  You showed us your best side and wowed us all.  I also explained in that post that my relationship with Cornwall is complicated.  Not any more, it isn't.  You have given me some fabulous family memories which I shall treasure forever. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 22 August 2016

Five Go To Kernow (Part Three)

Hello, thank you for calling in.  As always, I am pleased to see you, and firstly, I should warn you that there are twenty-three photos in this post, so you might want to make yourself comfortable before you read any further.  And while I am on the subject of photos, I should give the credit where it's due as several of you have commented on them: the Best Beloved took most of them, I took some and in this post, Flashman and The Mathematician each took some.  There.  Honour should be satisfied. 

This is the third post about my holiday in Cornwall, except that this post isn't really about Cornwall.  You see, the Best Beloved and I organised a surprise outing for the (grown-up) children and ourselves.  We asked them to keep the day free, to wear comfortable clothes and shoes and to be up and ready to leave the campsite by 6am.  We had laid a good trail of red herrings and they were quite sure that we were all going quad biking, but they were wrong, we were actually the Isles of Scilly!
Even when we arrived at Land's End Airport and parked the car, The Teacher thought we were going quad biking.  We actually had to spell it out for them!  Mind you, it's so unlike us to do anything this extravagant that I can quite understand why it didn't cross their minds.  So off we flew at 8am on the first flight of the day, a 20-minute flight westwards in a 17-seater Twin Otter aircraft.  We were all so excited.

After landing at the airport on St Mary's we took a taxi into Hugh Town.  The sky was overcast but the air was warm and anyway, our girls' happiness and excitement was radiating as brightly as any sun.  After an enormous, delicious breakfast in the Kavorna Café and Bistro we set off to explore the an 8-seater electric golf buggy!  I am sure we must have drawn many passing stares, and the two of us who sat on the rear seats, facing backwards, tried very hard to avoid eye contact with the drivers of vehicles behind us!
So we spent the day bimbling around St Mary's, stopping wherever the fancy took us to get out and explore.   

This is Bant's Carn Burial Chamber, dating from the Bronze Age

Halangy Down is an Iron Age village
This is Porthloo Beach, looking across to Hugh Town and its harbour.  We had a long pause here as the (grown-up) children explored the beach and Newford Island.  The Teacher declared that the white sand was "as soft as talc".   Our next stop was Old Town, where the sand was golden and the water was crystal clear.  I liked its sleepy atmosphere very much.  By this time, the cloud was thinning and the sun was trying very hard to break through.
Former Prime Minister Sir Harold Wilson is buried here in the churchyard.
Flashman went off to explore the headland while The Mathematician played in the water and the rest of us lay on the beach.  I could have lingered there for much longer, it was a very soothing place.  Next stop: Porth Hellick Down Burial Chamber, another Bronze Age site - I'm afraid I can't show you any pictures of the chamber itself, but I can show you the views.  By this time, the sun was winning its battle with the clouds -
It was after 2pm when we left Porth Hellick and we were feeling a bit peckish so when the Carn Vean Tea Garden came into view, we pulled in.  This was a delightful place, made more so by the very tame sparrows which ate the crumbs off our hands!  If you ever go to St Mary's, it's worth a visit.


Suitably refreshed and revived, we set off back to Hugh Town and our final stop, Porthcressa Beach.  Oh My Goodness.  I think this might be my favourite beach in the whole wide world.  The sand here actually sparkles, as if there are flecks of glitter in it.  We had well over an hour to spend here and frankly, we could have done with another two.  Would you like to see why? -
All too soon we had to leave that idyllic spot and make our way back to the airport for the flight back to Cornwall.  However, there was another treat in store: the views as we flew over the Scillies, now bathed in sunshine, their golden sands and clear, turquoise waters -
- and back to Cornwall.
We had had another wonderful day, one to remember always. 
I'll be back soon with the final instalment of our Cornish adventure.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday 21 August 2016

Five Go To Kernow (Part Two)

Hello, thank you for popping in, it's lovely to see you here.  This is the second of my holiday posts, and I promised to share with you some of the magical places we visited in Cornwall.  If you have read my last post, you will know that the Best Beloved and I spent a week camping there with our (grown-up) children and after two days of beach rest and fun, we were ready to go exploring.
The (grown-up) children took their own cars on holiday so that they could go off and do their own things while we were there and on the Thursday, that's exactly what they did: The Mathematician went off for another day with her friend in Truro, The Teacher and Flashman went to St Ives and the Best Beloved and I set off on a little tour of Cornwall's south coast.  Our first stop was Cadgwith, a tiny, picturesque, working fishing village which hugs a small cove on the eastern side of the Lizard.  Fisherman go out every day from here to catch crab, lobster and fish, pulling their boats back up onto the beach when they return.  The sun was sparkling on the sea when we arrived.


Cadgwith was quite busy while we were there - it's on the South West Coast Path and so popular with walkers as well as kayakers and seafood-lovers.  We lingered to soak up the sun and the atmosphere before getting back into the car and driving on westwards and as the road followed the broad sweep of Mount's Bay, the magnificent sight of St Michael's Mount appeared, rising out of the water.  We parked up and got out of the car to wonder at it - and photograph it, of course!

Then we got back in the car and carried on round the bay, past Penzance, through Newlyn and Paul until we reached Mousehole...pronounced Mouzle!  Mousehole is a tiny fishing village which huddles around its harbour, which is protected from the sea by two stone piers.  When the tide goes out, there is a golden, sandy beach in the harbour and the sunshine turns the shallow water turquoise.  It was absolutely enchanting.

 We sat there in the harbour for a while, watching children playing in the shallow water and the light playing on the sea before walking round the sand and up the steep steps to The Ship Inn to find a late lunch.  Would you like to see my lunch?  It is the most expensive sandwich I have ever bought -

It cost £11.95!  Yes, it came with a decent salad and a plate of crisps, but £11.95!!  The filling was Newlyn crab and I have to tell you that it was worth Every Single Penny.  I shall dine out on the memory of that sandwich for a long time.  Then we wandered round the corner to Jessie's Dairy in Fore Street and bought delicious ice creams which we took down to the harbour to eat in the sunshine.  Actually, that's not quite true: the ice creams certainly were delicious, and we did eat them down in the harbour, but we didn't buy them: I left the Best Beloved in the queue and snuck off to have a look in a little shop I had spotted on the way to Jessie's Dairy.  Seawitch Stores was lovely and sold all sorts of tempting treats and treasures and I could easily have spent a long time in there, but I knew that I had to be out by the time the Best Beloved appeared with the ice creams, so I was very restrained and bought only these two postcards to remind me of a wonderful day -
We made some special memories that day: magical places, sunshine, delicious food and two adults in love with each other.  Thank you, Cornwall.
I shall be back soon with Part Three, the day we gave the (grown-up) children a huge surprise with our most expensive day trip EVER.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 19 August 2016

Five Go To Kernow (Part One)

Hello, thank you for dropping in, you are very welcome here.  I have been on holiday, a whole week, for the first time in several years, and it was fan-bloomin'-tastic.  So if you fancy a peep inside my holiday album, here is where it begins.

At the beginning of the year, when the grief caused by his mother's death was still quite raw and he was counting his blessings, the Best Beloved said that he would like us to go camping for a week this summer with our (grown-up) children and that he would like us to go to...Cornwall.  Now then, Cornwall and I have a complicated relationship: when I was ten years old, my parents rented a small, damp cottage in Portloe for a fortnight and although I remember the pretty, narrow lanes of Mevagissey, tiny ships in tiny bottles, finding my first painted top shells on the beach and my father building a huge sandcastle with his four little girls, my overwhelming memory is of relentless rain, so much rain, in fact, that we packed up three days early and drove home, a journey which took twelve hours.  It was the thunderstorm and its ensuing power cut which broke the camel's back.  When I was thirty-two we tried again, fourteen of us across three generations, just one week this time: the rain poured down for the first five days, on the sixth the sun shone and we had a picnic followed by an idyllic afternoon on the beach, building sandcastles with our children and watching the dolphins leaping in Plymouth Sound.  On the seventh day we drove home.  Our last attempt was when I was thirty-seven, just our little family of four, an eight-day camping holiday: yep, you've guessed it, it rained every single day - not all day, so we were able to enjoy some exciting family outings which our girls remember very fondly, but every day.  It was so miserable that one day, the Best Beloved asked if I would cook a comforting stew for dinner!  So you see, Cornwall owes me Big Time.  Tucked away between these holidays are some beautiful memories of Cornwall when I was a student and my boyfriend was studying there, so a couple of times a year I would visit and my memories of that time are bathed in sunshine, rose-tinted by young love and played to a background of guitar music and surf.  As I said, Cornwall and I have a complicated relationship.

The time seemed right to give Cornwall the opportunity to redeem itself.  I woke very early on the day we were due to travel and, after creeping downstairs very quietly, I opened the front door and watched the sun rise; it was a suitably spectacular beginning for our adventure - 

I didn't wake the others because I really like being the only person up during that quiet time, gathering together my thoughts and my things for the day ahead without interruption.  It was doubly delicious that morning because of the promise that day held, the promise that by the time the sun set, I would be in Cornwall.

And so I was.  After a drive of almost seven hours the Best Beloved, The Mathematician and I arrived at The Lizard Peninsular, the most southerly point of the British mainland, and pitched our tents.  This was the view from my dining table -

You see that little slice of deep blue above the trees?  That's the sea.  THE SEA!  I love to be beside the sea and there it was, only a mile or so away.  Had I not been so worn out by the journey, I don't think I would have been able to sleep for the excitement!

And so the next day the Best Beloved and I made our way to Kennack Sands while The Mathematician went to visit a university friend in Truro.  It did not disappoint.  There was sand, rockpools, cliffs, surf, toilets, a café and a little shop - these last are important because when we have a family rule that when we are on holiday, we have an ice cream every day, and where better to have an ice cream than on the beach?!  I was struck by a strong feeling of nostalgia because all around us, there were families enjoying the beach together: a woman was playing bowls with her young grandson; a group of teenagers were playing cricket, their fathers acting as fielders; a laughing runaway baby was racing down to the sea, Mum in hot pursuit; a man and his granddaughter went off to the rockpools, she carrying the net and he the bucket, returning in triumph a bit later with eight shrimps.  "Cancel tonight's restaurant booking," he called to his family, "We've caught the dinner!" as she beamed beside him.  There were children building dams and castles with the sand, surfers and bodyboarders in the waves and everywhere, the click-clack of bat-and-ball played by adults and children of all ages.  The fact that families still enjoy an old-fashioned bucket-and-spade day at the seaside made me feel very reassured and very happy - the world has not gone to hell in a handcart, after all!

I lay on the beach and intermittently read my book while the Best Beloved wandered off to suss out the lie of the land before returning for a gentle snooze on the sand.  I knew that he was keen to go and play in the surf but he wouldn't do it, not today.  "We'll come back tomorrow with the (grown-up) children," he said.  Bless him, he was missing his playmates!  We stayed there for about five hours before he reluctantly dragged me back to the campsite - and yes, the ice cream was delicious, thank you. 

The Teacher and Flashman arrived that evening and the following day, the sun beat down again as we all went to Kennack Sands, which looked a little different as an enormous amount of kelp had washed up onto the sand overnight.  The day panned out well: there was a walk up to the top of Caerverracks (pronounced "Gavrocks") to look at the views and feed the girls' Instagram habits; the girls played in the surf with their father - to be honest, it's always been impossible to keep The Mathematician out of the sea; Flashman covered The Mathematician in sand and transformed her into a mermaid, a strongman and, finally, a centaur!  There was rockpooling, snoozing, reading and ice creams.  It was wonderful, and much more relaxing for me than it was before the children were grown-ups!  As we made our way back to the campsite at the end of the day I remarked to the Best Beloved that even if it rained for the rest of the week, it wouldn't matter because these were the two days that we would remember, these two hot, sunny, happy, family days on the beach.


I have more to share, next time I'll show you some of the other places we visited in Cornwall, magical places where the sun twinkled on the water and warmed the stone to mellow.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x