Thursday, 14 October 2021

Cornwall

Hello there! It's been a while and I feel that I should apologise in advance for what is going to be a rather photo-heavy post. The photos and accompanying rambling are for my own benefit, to remind me of our 2021 'Staycation'.

Last week, R and I rented a little studio flat in Carbis Bay, near St. Ives in Cornwall. Think G7 Summit and you'll get an idea of the place. It was an idyllic week, not too bad weather-wise and full of daily walks, glorious scenery, vegan cream teas (count them, I had 2! :O) ) and very little cooking on my part, which is always a plus on holiday.

The Saturday that we set off was one of the worst days for rain. Never have we driven so far in Bridget with the hood up. It rained for the entire journey, only clearing up once we had arrived which allowed us to walk into St. Ives along the coastal footpath for a chippy tea by the harbour.

'The Studio', where we were staying was lovely - perfectly situated and bigger than I had expected. The main room had a double bed, a sofa, TV, radio etc. and a small kitchen and bar acting as a dining table. There was a separate room for the shower, washbasin and loo.

The dehumidifier in the corner was our first clue that all wasn't going to be plain sailing. The back of the building was set into a bank of garden, so damp was inevitable, I suppose. The biggest problem though was the state of the bedding and towels provided. They had a horrible, rancid smell, as if they had been washed and folded away without being dried properly. The pillowcases were so bad that I didn't actually want to rest my head on them. Luckily, I had taken along extra towels for the beach and so used those to cover the pillows. It was only for a week though, so we coped okay and the view from the patio doors made up for it: 

Sunday was a day of showers - one of those when the cagoules were on and off multiple times. The plus side was more rainbows than you could shake a stick at!

We decided to walk the opposite way along the coastal path towards Hayle, detouring by the beach on the way. I have to say that the coastal views in this bit of Cornwall are superb and I'm hugely envious of the locals. I enjoy Leanne Paxton's (Today's Stuff blog) Instagram account ( Here)  and love her beautiful photos of the area. Incidentally, I actually spotted her in 'Seasalt' St. Ives but was too shy to go up and say hello!

After lunch, we hopped into Bridget and drove west to find Chysauster Ancient Village, a late Iron age/Roman village consisting of 8-10 houses, each with an internal courtyard. Set on a hillside, the views were far ranging and it was lovely pottering about imagining the lives of the people who used to live there.

 Lanyon Quoit was next on the list, a prehistoric monument originally dating from 3500-2500 BCE. In 1815 it collapsed in a storm and was rebuilt in 1824 at a slightly different angle and with the capstone on 3 uprights which were shortened and squared off. Thus, it is smaller than it would have been originally. 

Men-an-tol, a Bronze age holed stone, known locally as the Crick Stone for its alleged ability to aid those suffering from back ache. Having passed through the hole (negotiating the muddy puddle on either side!), I'm not sure that I could have managed it with a bad back. It is also supposed to aid fertility and ensure bountiful crops!

We also called in at Carn Galver tin mine, which operated from the 1830s until 1878. The nearby Count House has quite a history: During WWI, D.H. Lawrence and his German wife lived in the nearby village of Zennor and were wrongly suspected of signalling to German U-boats off the coast. Seeing a light flashing from the Count House one night, a police raid discovered the tenant singing German songs with the Lawrences. The Tenant was fined for breaking blackout regulations and the Lawrences were expelled from Cornwall!

  

After our fill of exploring, we popped back into St.Ives to pick up a Chinese takeaway for supper. 

Monday was, according to the weather forecast, supposed to be the worst day weather-wise of our holiday. In the end, it wasn't actually too bad. Nevertheless, in preparation we had planned to visit Tate St. Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Both were enjoyable but for different reasons! Rather than walk along the coastal footpath again, we decided to take the little local train. It was £2 for a return ticket and the journey took all of 5 minutes!

 

Tate St. Ives is an art gallery mainly featuring works by modern British artists with links to the area. One thing you should know, R and modern art aren't the best combination! There were a few pieces that I really liked - Picasso's 'Head of a Woman', donated in lieu of a tax payment, and a stained glass 3D sculpture by Peter Lanyon called 'Colour Construction' being among them. Then there were  the canvases painted black or with a couple of paint dribbles on them, that sort of thing, which were good value merely because of R's reaction! The explanations and justifications for some of them were also entertaining. :O) Still, it passed a rainy hour or so.

Barbara Hepworth's Sculpture Garden, however, was terrific and I could have wandered round all day. Apart from the sculptures, her studios had been preserved just as she left them when she tragically died of smoke inhalation in a fire. I do love a place where it feels as if the owner has just stepped out for a minute and this was one of them. The gardens are beautifully maintained and I had serious glasshouse envy!

Me trying an arty spider picture!

Supper was a Mexican salad bowl for me and an 'All Day Vegan Breakfast' for R  at the Tretho Lounge, before we caught the little train back to the flat.

Tuesday was the only day that we had planned well in advance. I had booked tickets for the Minack Theatre for the evening and so the idea was to spend the day in the Penzance area. Looking on 'Happy Cow', we discovered a cafe called 'The Honey Pot' which made vegan cream teas. It was a done deal! :O)

Wandering around, we found a fantastic plant shop and went in for a nosy. It was glorious but I didn't feel that transporting a plant home in an open top car was a viable option, so we came away empty handed.



There were also plenty of charity shops to explore. I'm on a bit of a Daphne du Maurier kick at the moment - my holiday reading was 'My Cousin Rachel' which I loved and it also seemed appropriate to the setting. I was hoping to find a copy of 'Frenchman's Creek' which I haven't read and thought would make a nice souvenir. No luck, though I did buy copies of G.K.Chesterton's 'The Napoleon of Notting Hill' and D.H. Lawrence's 'Sons and Lovers'. I can recall reading bits of the latter at school but can't remember much about it. I shall think of him singing German songs while I read it!

Lunch was a salad at a small cafe called 'The Front Room'. The best bit of the visit was the toilet where everything was upside down. In order to wash your hands, you had to turn a tap situated near the ceiling to make the water came out of the washbasin down below. I'm glad that R went first and warned me otherwise I would have been totally confused! The mirror situated at floor level so you could see yourself whilst sitting on the loo was slightly unnerving too!

We bought a couple of pasties to have later as a picnic supper at the theatre and then headed off to Mousehole. We had been here before but it was nice to revisit. We sat on the sand near the harbour and enjoyed tubs of Booja Booja ice cream.
We walked up the hill to visit the bird rescue centre but, sadly, they are not open to visitors at the moment owing to Covid. The view was lovely though.
View of St. Michael's Mount from the car park. We also spent some time watching dolphins swimming about. I got very excited!
Still with some time to kill before the theatre, we stopped off to see 'The Merry Maidens' stone circle, dating from 2500-1500 BC. Legend has it that they were local girls turned to stone for breaking the rules and dancing on the Sabbath.
We weren't going to see a play at The Minack, it was actually a sort of 'Last Night of the Proms' concert, complete with flags, singing, car horn and a spectacular firework finale. It was brilliant and I'm so glad that we got to see it - I just wish that I had mugged up on the words to 'Land of Hope and Glory' and 'Jerusalem' before going! I had been worried that either it would rain or we would be freezing - it was quite a chilly evening. We were lucky, however, as the rain held off and it was surprisingly cosy sitting in our stone seats near the front. Both sets of our neighbours were coincidentally on their Honeymoon! We enjoyed our pasties - nearly everyone had brought them :O) - before the concert started.


Wednesday started with a cup of tea in bed watching 'Dawn's rosy fingers':
We spent the morning at the Gweek Seal Sanctuary. Again, we had visited before with the girls but it's always worth a return visit. The seals were adorable, as were the penguins. They have also introduced 3 beavers along an enclosed area by the river. We didn't see Twiggy, Barbara or baby Norbert, but we did get to appreciate the dam that they had built.
The afternoon was spent exploring Pendennis Castle near Falmouth, built by Henry VIII to protect the country from invasion. 
Dinner was an Indian takeaway enjoyed back at the Studio.
The following day we decided to walk along the coastal path near Godrevy lighthouse. This was one of my favourite bits of the holiday as, after seeing the seals at the sanctuary the day before, we got to see them in their natural habitat. First, from a distance on the rocks below the path and then later we were able to stand in the surf on the beach and watch them playing about 10 feet away. They kept popping their heads out of the water like aquatic meerkats. It was absolutely magical and we wondered if the locals ever get used to the sight or if it's always that thrilling. It was difficult to catch an in focus photo of them in the sea. Eventually, I gave up trying and just enjoyed the moment.




We drove into Hayle for a late lunch - specifically to go to the Vegan Coffee Caravan situated in the Asda car park. We sat outside facing the river and drinking coffee - mine was a soya pumpkin latte which was delicious and much less sweet than some that I've tried - and eating a 'BLT' bagel (me) and a Mexican wrap (R). It was a blissful moment - despite the fact that we were basically sitting in a supermarket car park! After lunch we wandered down to a few shops that we could see on the main road. There was a charity shop (no treasures though), a plant shop and an interesting emporium containing lots of vintage items and things made in India. I splashed out on a chapatti rolling pin (I think it's called a velan). I often make them and I'm hoping that this will help me to make a perfect circle!

We should have called it a day there; it would have been perfect. Instead, we decided that we had some time left to go and find Zennor Quoit. Missing the turning on the road near Zennor, we stopped and asked directions from a woman walking her dog. She explained that we could either go back into the village or, if we had walking boots, there was a lovely walk from where we were. We donned boots and set off following her directions. What she had failed to tell us was that the walk to the quoit was 4 times the distance than if we'd gone from the village. The path was also brambly, narrow and extremely muddy. Eventually we found the quoit - a megalithic burial chamber dating from 2500-1500 BC - took a quick photo and set off back. By this time, a sea mist had rolled in and it was starting to go dark. R navigated using the map on his phone but I was anxious that one of us would slip and turn an ankle and then we'd be stuck. Eventually, we found our way back to Bridget - accompanied by a sheepdog that appeared out of nowhere. He had no collar and followed us back to the car and lay down. There were houses nearby where I assumed that he belonged but we were rather sad to leave him; especially as he started following the car up the lane as we set off.
We had intended to go out to dinner but at this point we were exhausted, sore and absolutely filthy. Instead we popped into a small Coop, bought a tin of baked beans and had beans on toast back at the flat. In retrospect, I'm glad we did the walk it as it's an interesting memory but I was less than amused at the time! 

On Friday we decided to pop back into St. Ives. We had a few things we wanted to do: a 2nd vegan cream tea at 'The Market Place' (not as nice as the one in Penzance but greatly appreciated nonetheless); buy a present for our neighbours who had looked after Hamish and the house whilst we were away and to visit the Leach Pottery Studio.
There was also a craft shop that sold yarn, so I bought a souvenir skein of locally dyed DK wool which I think I may make into a cowl. 
The pottery studio was a fair walk up quite a steep hill. We hadn't Googled it beforehand and, typically, the museum itself was closed on Fridays. The shop, however, was open and the bits of the museum and studio with potters working that we could see were brilliant and I was sorry to have missed a proper tour. Not as sorry as another customer in the shop though. Apparently, she had Googled it and the site informed her that it should have been open on Fridays. She gave the poor shop assistant quite an earful about the length and difficulty of the walk up the hill and the fact that the visit was intended to be the highlight of their holiday and they had deliberately left it until their last day. Poor chap, it was hardly his fault and I did feel sorry for him as he kept apologising. 
I have had a spate of Emma Bridgewater mugs that have lost their handles recently, so I bought a Leach mug as a replacement. I'll take a photo for next time.
We had a late lunch of chips #2 by the harbour and then drove to St. Just for another walk. The views were glorious and we sat on a stone bench watching the sun sinking into the ocean and butterflies being buffeted about by the breeze.
I think this is a Fox Moth caterpillar, although I'm perfectly willing to be corrected!

We drove back through Penzance and had a delicious Thai curry for supper at the Chinese Sea Palace restaurant.
Saturday was an early start as we had to be out of the flat by 9am and needed to pack and clean the place. We had planned to call in at Wadebridge on the way home as there is a lovely antique shop where we bought our Grandfather clock many years ago. We have been wanting a stick barometer for a while and thought we'd pop in and have a look round. It's a fascinating place with furniture, clocks and barometers galore. We found one that we liked and rather than pay the quite high delivery cost, I decided that it would be no problem for me to hold it upright in front of me in an open top car for the 5 hour journey home! We try to avoid motorways when we're in Bridget and A and B roads take a lot longer. The barometer couldn't just be laid flat in the back for the journey as all the mercury would have leaked out. So, with a final pasty to fortify ourselves, we set off. We stopped only the once, in mid-Wiltshire to put on extra layers as it was getting quite nippy, but eventually we, Bridget and the barometer made it safely home.

It was a wonderful holiday and we were incredibly lucky with the weather, given that it's October. It was nice to be home though; the plants all survived our absence and Hamish was very pleased to see us. It was also blissful to get into a  bed with sweet smelling bedding!

Toodle pip for now. x

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

The Kestrel (?) and the Kingfisher

I don't claim to have the cleanest of windows; not by a long chalk. We do, however, have many trees which throw their reflections on my grimy panes and confuse the local bird population no end. Usually, it's just pigeons that hit with a loud thump and fly off again, leaving me with a pounding heart and yet another birdie print on the glass. Some of the prints are quite beautiful but the eyeball imprints turn my stomach somewhat! A couple of weeks ago, we experienced another thump. This time, on going to investigate, I discovered a rather dazed looking kestrel on the patio. At least, I think it's a kestrel. I'm more used to recognising them hovering in the air, not sitting looking bedraggled on my flagstones. Can any ornithology enthusiasts out there identify it? It was quite small, hence why I thought it was a kestrel, but it may have been a young something else.

It sat there for ages, with R and I peering worriedly through the glass. Our neighbours have a couple of cats that we're always having to chase away from the bird feeders. Whilst this bird looked maybe a little too big/aggressive for the local moggies to have a go at, you never know and it was extremely visible and vulnerable sitting there in the rain.
After a while, I rang the local bird of prey rescue centre. The chap answered and said that he was currently in the New Forest, but would be back in the evening. Apparently, kestrels (if that's what it was) will sit there for hours when stunned. If we were worried, we could throw a towel over it, put it in a box and he would call in on his way home and collect it. Otherwise, we were to keep a distant eye on it and, hopefully, it would fly off when it had recovered sufficiently. 
So, that's what we did. I went about my business nonchalantly, like Winnie the Pooh not looking at the bees. Thankfully, after a couple of hours, off it flew.

A few days later, there was another thump on the glass. Glancing up, I saw a pigeon flying away and thought that that was the cause. On getting up, however, I saw a very sad sight indeed. There was a kingfisher lying on the patio. We have the River Lambourn at the bottom of the garden and, if you are very quiet and lucky, you will occasionally see a kingfisher darting along the water. They are the most beautiful sight and I was heartbroken that our patio doors had been the cause of its death. It's neck was broken; possibly because of the length of its beak. At least it would have been quick. I couldn't bear to just throw it in the bin, so we buried it by the edge of the river. 
R commented that many taxidermists would have loved to get their hands on it. He looked it up and, apparently, flying into glass is how they get most of their specimens. For £250, we could have had it stuffed, but I don't really know how I feel about stuffed animals. I've admired stuffed dodos etc in museums along with the next person, but there is always something tragic about them, with their sad, glassy eyes. So, I'm glad we let it rest in peace. We have since seen another kingfisher whilst having the last BBQ of the year, so at least we weren't responsible for the death of the only one in the area. I just hope it wasn't its mate!

Other events this month:

An antique and brocante fair at Shaw House. It was nice to potter round, but very expensive and a lot of it was modern:

The Southern Wool Show at the racecourse. This was my first yarn show since the whole Covid fiasco and it was lovely to smell those yarn fumes again. I went with 2 things in mind - a skein of sock wool and a sweater's quantity of yarn for Joji Locatelli's 'The Easy One'. I found both!

The sock yarn is the 2021 Christmas yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners. I'm not a huge fan of stellina yarn, but it's become a bit of a tradition that my Christmas Eve cast on is with WYS. I was torn between the green sweater yarn and a burnt autumnal orange/brown. The stall owner actually took my photo holding both up to my face to help me decide. Between us, we thought that the green suited me better, so that's the one I bought. I haven't cast it on yet.

Other yarny endeavours this month include a pair of spiral wrist warmers. I initially intended them to be socks. The pattern has no heel and, after knitting so far, I tried it on and decided that I wasn't keen. Luckily, the wrist warmer pattern was the same number of stitches, just shorter, so that's what they became instead.

There was enough yarn left over to make a proper heel flap and gusset pair of socks, providing that I do a contrasting toe and cuff:

This photo is for the lovely CJ. She kindly sent me some pilea peperomioides babies in the spring and they are now much bigger and producing babies of their own. I'll leave them in situ until next spring and then try separating them:

Various walks have taken place. The one below was a circular walk starting in St. Mary Bourne. We went there specifically to pick blackberries as the ones we picked last year were fantastic - huge and with an amazing floral flavour. Sadly, conditions this year were obviously not as ideal. They still had the same flavour, but were much smaller and quite hard. In addition, I managed to get my walking boot caught in a bramble and ended up flat on my back in a patch of nettles. Adding insult to injury, as I fell my arm shot up and my collected blackberries flew far and wide! I'm not sure that the resultant pie was worth the bother:


Cow on Greenham Common walk:

Circular walk at Pewsey. Unfortunately, it poured down when we were about halfway round and we were soaked. We had a slightly damp picnic under a tree and waited for it to ease off:

A heron, spotted whilst walking back along the towpath. We also popped into an amazing charity shop. You know, one of the actually cheap ones! I bought a lovely terracotta plant pot and a copy of 'The Complete Father Brown Stories' for 50p each. :O)

An elephant hawk moth caterpillar. Looking at our local neighbourhood website, these are very common at the moment:

A couple of marrows found hiding in the veggie patch. One is now soup and I have my eye on the other for a curry:

A trip to the Watermill Theatre to see a play about Amy Johnson:
It was brilliant and the actress kept up a beautiful Hull accent throughout. Having listened to a recording of Johnson speaking, however, despite being born there she sounded nothing like that!

Another trip to the theatre. This time to see 'The Comedy of Errors' at Stratford. It was an outdoor performance (Covid again!) but, luckily, the rain kept off and a fine time was had by all. 


Shakespeare's grave:


Lunch at an amazing vegan cafe. We returned later in the afternoon to sample their cakes too! :O)

Well, that's all for this month. I'm just off for a swim and then to tackle the supermarket run. Anything exciting going on at your end?

Toodle pip for now. x