There is never a wrong time to come to Cornwall. We were flicking through some old photos last night and stumbled on these… a walk just last year around the stunning Loe Pool at Helston. Loe Pool was once an inlet from the sea (or a ria, if you are a geographer)… but a sand bar now blocks the entrance where the beach is, forming a lake. Some think that Helston was a port in medieval times… Wikipedia has a different view…
But enough of that. Walk all the way around. You have to. It takes about two/three hours… or more if you take a picnic. The west shore is very civilised, and the easy walking on the surfaced path takes you past beautiful Penrose House. The east shore is more wild and wooded (we like it best)… we recommend to go clockwise and start on the woody side. That way the walking gets easier as you get more tired. There is easy parking in Helston on the Porthleven road… just past the boating lake on the left.
If you like what you see, come and stay at Chapel Cottage… just minutes away. We have plenty of June availability — when Cornwall is at its best (and before the schools break up:)
We are suckers for cows… these your heifers loved us back…
The pool seen from Loe Bar…
A pathway on the east shore…
Barbara Hepworth eat your heart (or pasty) out…
Passing Penrose House…
We dropped in to Gear Farm ‘down Lizard’ for a quick nose-around on Good Friday… What a lovely sight, and smell! A table laid with hotty crossy bunnies and a fire in the corner. David Web, the proprietor, was busy baking, but not too busy to chat about his passion for all things Cornish, local and organic. If you are missing Cornwall, fear not! You can score a box-full of his most fabulous pasties with a click of the mouse… at www.gearfarmorganicpasties.co.uk Gear Farm is just a three minute drive from our lovely self-catering Avallen Barn… and worth a trip for a light snack from Chapel Cottage too.
We’ve had lovely guests in Swallow Barn over the New Year period… and they wrote such a useful page in the guestbook we thought we’d share it with you. Here goes…
“We’ve loved our little ‘nest’. It’s been a fabulous shelter from the winter wind and rain. Despite the weather we’ve been out and about exploring the area. It’s our first time to Cornwall and there was lots to see and do, and we crammed a lot in! Our favorites have been St Ives, Mousehole and the Eden Project. We absolutely loved Jamie Oliver’s 15 restaurant at Watergate Bay — what a stunning location! Other great meals have been at the Tate in St Ives and Rick Stein’s “Fish” restaurant in Falmouth. On our one sunny day we enjoyed a walk out to St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, well worth the walk! It was on New Year’s day… so a very special way to start 2013. So, we are off home to Northern Ireland with wonderful memories of this special place.”
You can find more things do at the very handy Cornwall-Travel.com...
Cornwall’s Lizard peninsular is not just one beautiful place, but three. The west coast is spectacularly rugged, with towering cliffs and crashing seas… the heartland is a wild and gorsey plateau… and the west coast is swathe of woody creeks and sheltered riverbanks bordered by the Helford, one of Cornwall’s best-kept secrets.
If you drive from Gweek (which marks the westerly gateway to the Lizard peninsula) and head down towards St Keverne in the south (through Mawgan, St Martin and Newtown), you will get glimpses of the water as you wind over tiny bridges. So get the OS map (Explorer 103) and find the footpaths for the real thing. You’ll find it remarkably quiet even at the height of summer… a far cry from the touristy towns and bigger beaches. Not that you’ll be short of beaches when you stay here; some of Cornwall’s best are on the Lizard peninsular… including Church Cove, Poldhu, Kennack Sands and Kynance.
Stay at Avallen Barn, our beautiful holiday cottage on the Helford to explore the area… it’s near Manaccan. Avallen sleeps up to 8 and is self-catering at its best. The photo is of Helford village, courteousy of Jeff Meadows at http://helfordriver.net (which is a very helpful website indeed).
I’m meeting Dave, the owner of Kiln Cottage in Newlyn. He wants to show me how fab his Smeg range is… but first we’ll put the world to rights on this wintersunny Cornish Saturday. We meet at pretty Perranuthnoe, at the Cabin Beach Cafe. The village is just east of Marazion, a few minutes from the main road towards Helston…the cafe is great. Literally by the beach, it offers food, drink and a happy welcome every single day of the year except Xmas day — breakfast to teatime (which can vary from 8pm in the summer to 4pm in the winter). The beach is a little gem… not big or small but lovely sand and great snorkeling along the rocks to the sides. At high tide the sand does disappear, so check tide times when you go there. When it’s working it’s a pretty good winter beach-break at low tide as well, you surfers.
A few surfers are in… it’s not really big enough, but they are clearly enjoying getting wet anyway. We amble along the beach eastwards, and scramble over gorgeous boulders. After twenty minutes of this we find a place where the cliff-path meets the shore and stride up to join it… then turn back towards the village by path, as the sun sets magnificently beyond Land’s End. The visibility amazing — crystal clear to the horizon, where you can clearly see Wolf Rock lighthouse four miles off Land’s End, where the Penwith peninsula reaches out beyond Newlyn and Mousehole. (Well we can see it with the naked eye… the camera lens can’t get it!).
Back in Perranuthnoe at 5.15 we are gagging for a pint… and hoping for one at the Victoria, but it’s shut. Winter time the pub opens for food at 5:30, damn… the menu sounds good too but hey ho. Let’s cook something up back at Kiln Cottage.
We drop into the amazingly cute Trevelyan Farm Shop and pick up ingredients for a risotto, all locally grown (well, except for the rice). Try to find it… just pull in to the little lay-by and have a look… it’s on the A394 just on the Penzance side of Rosudgeon.
Then, still craving that pint, we drop in to the Godolphin Arms in Marazion. The Gig Bar downstairs pulls us a couple of nice ones… Dave has a pint of Skinner’s Betty Stogs… and I, the new Harbour Ale… two of Cornwall’s finest. Note to self: must do a blog on the best of Cornish breweries! The sun obliges us by silhouetting St Michael’s Mount in fine style. In the photo, you can just see the amphibious ferry on one of its last runs of the day. Then back to Newlyn, light the woodburner, put on some Jazz, risotto-a-go-go.
… oh yeah Dave, the Smeg is a bit of a beaut.
You can stay at Kiln Cottage in the summer. Self catering the way it should be, for groups or up to four, dog friendly.
Thursday afternoon, checking in for the Skybus flight to the Isles of Scilly at Newquay airport. The grey overcast sky promised little… but when the little De Havilland Twin Otter buzzed up into the sky (with just the two of us on board) and hopped over Watergate Bay we were in for a surprise. The patchy sun spot-lit features of the Cornish landscape in dramatic style that a lighting artist would have been proud of… now a beach, now a hill-top… now a church-tower, now a newly ploughed field. And then a real treat… we were passing one of our very favourite spots, Godrevy Island, with the stunning three-mile Gwithian beach reaching all the way to Hayle… and then Porthkidney beach and Carbis Bay… and Porthmister beach and Porthmeor beach at St Ives. I grabbed a quick photo on the iPhone… you can just see the little group of chalets where Driftwood and The Bees Knees are situated. On past St Ives, passing Penzance and over the patchwork field systems of west Penwith… half an hour later we bounce down into the grass runway on St Mary’s… reminded of how jewel-like Cornwall appears from the sky. A day trip to Scilly would make a fantastic day out when you are staying with us… not cheap at around £100 return by air… but a whole family can do it by sea on the Scillonian for less than it costs to get in to the Eden Project… so well worth investigating! You’d never forget it. Have a look at Isles of Scilly Travel for more info.
We are delighted to be offering this amazing self-catering cottage from 2013 on. It’s barn conversion, and so good that it’s won architectural conservation awards last year, from RIBA and Green Apple. Avallen Barn doesn’t just impress architectural judges though; it’s a delight to stay in, with a foodie’s kitchen, generous wood-burners, underfloor heating, and a games console and table football for days in! But there are two other things we just love. First, you can stroll along a footpath from right by your front door to Frenchman’s Creek (yes that’s the Frenchman’s Creek of Daphne du Maurier fame). Second, Avallen Barn is part of a restored and converted farmstead that includes one of the hidden gems of Cornwall’s art world, the Kestle Barton gallery. Click on the links, or email us, to find out more.
If you don’t know the area, have a look at www.helfordriver.net — a most informative website indeed. Here is one of Jeff Meadows’ stunning photos of Frenchman’s Creek, from it (thanks Jeff).
“We think we might have an old forge — do you want to have a look?” said Lisa Harrison’s friends when they bought Trevone quarry near Falmouth three years ago. Quite bit of luck for a Blacksmith looking for somewhere to work. The building had trees growing through it, but sure enough, a forge it surely was, complete with chimneys and hearths. Situated in the midst of the granite quarries of Mabe, it once would have been the place where quarrymen’s tools were made and repaired. A new roof, a power supply and an array of mysteriously named tools later, and Lisa the blacksmith is so settled in that it looks as if she’s been working here forever.
We are at Smythick Forge for the day; it’s Harry’s tenth birthday present, and a complete surprise. Our mission is to make a sword the hard way. Lisa throws Harry in at the deep end. This is no have-a-dabble experience.
After fitting us with safety glasses Lisa lights the coke fire, to enable it to reach the 1200 degrees needed to work steel. While the electric fan hums and the forge spits and cracks, the design for the sword is discussed and quickly roughed out on paper. It’s to be a single-handed short sword, with a ball at the end of the handle.
Suitable mild steel is selected and cut to length and the smithing begins. Soon the building is ringing and Harry and Lisa settle into a working rhythm; heating and hammering on blade on the huge anvil, cooling the handle-end in a trough.
After a couple hours, lunch is a pan-full of chipolatas a-la-blacksmith, eaten by a flooded quarry adjacent to the smithy. While Harry tries out a tightrope we talk about life as a blacksmith. Lisa always knew she wanted to work with metal, and travelled widely to find out more, even working in a silver mine before going into higher education. First a diploma, then silversmithing at Birmingham School of Jewellery, and finally a year’s training at the only dedicated school of blacksmithing in Europe at Hereford. “That meant I could be useful to a smith — but you really learn by watching and helping”.
After lunch Harry moves on to “cold work” with hacksaw and file, tower drill and rivets. I worry that the treat might be turning into too much like hard work. “That’s it, I’ve finished it” says Harry after five minutes of filing the pommel. No you haven’t says Lisa “keep going!”. But his enthusiasm does not wane, and nor does Lisa’s. “Wow that’s perfect” says Harry of the slowly forming T-bar”. “I’d expect nothing less from you,” retorts Lisa.
Lisa’s stock-in-trade is functional, sculptural or architectural ironwork for interiors and exteriors, which she creates at all scales. You can find Lisa’s work from Canada and North America to France and all around the UK. She is also happy to take on (very) small groups of up to two in the smithy so if you’d like to experience real smithing while you are on holiday in Cornwall you can. Please contact Lisa through her website www.smythickforge.co.uk — but do make the arrangement well in advance! Smythick Forge is 30 minutes from our self catering cottages The Cosy Cow Shed and a little closer to Chapel Cottage.
We awake to hammering Cornish November rain. I mean stair-rods. Horizontal. “Are we still going?” asks Georgia. “Well c’mon… what’s the worst that can happen?” say’s I, annoyingly optimistic as usual.
Well, we could get very very wet. You see, we plan to head for the Lizard for the day, to walk the most southerly section of the South West Coast Path, and this is not a good start. To be fair, rain is forecast all week.
But, an hour later we are bouncing down the A3083 from Helston and things are starting to look up.The Southerly horizon brightens, and hey-ho, the grey blanket cracks open to reveal a bluecrystal sky-scape. We shouldn’t be too surprised, for one thing we are at the point on mainland Britain closest to the equator, and for another… well, the Lizard peninsular does have a micro-climate after all.
Out intended walk is not a conventional one. Yes we aim to take in one of the most dramatic stretches of coastal scenery in Cornwall, in fact anywhere, and hope we might spot peregrine falcons, or better still, rare choughs — but we are also following up rumours that harriers have been spotted somewhere near. Of the jump-jet variety.
We start the way a Cornish walk should— by picking up pasties. In this case from Anne’s famous shop in The Lizard village (are they the best pasties you can buy? We think that they might possibly be, unless of course you know differently). We then roll down to the big car park adjacent to the lighthouse.
Heading West from Lizard point we pass bird watchers with impressive lenses on their very expensive-looking cameras. They’ve seen choughs an hour earlier, on the Easterly side of the peninsular. Choughs will have to wait for another day. And anyway, we are not disappointed for long, as we soon stumble upon a posse of Shetland Ponies who make up in friendliness and sheer damn cute-ness what they lack in scarcity value. Natural England does great work managing the habitat down here, and the ponies are all part of the strategy. They munch and trample tirelessly to create open conditions that encourages the pink thrift, blue squill and yellow vetches to grow, creating the perfect conditions for those choughs to thrive. (But don’t expect to see the ponies in the summer, they are seasonal helpers, and reward winter walkers only!).
Of course the real draw here is the landscape. It’s always beautiful. Today it is jaw-droppingly so. Passing Kynence Cove Atlantic rollers pound the granite cliffs a hundred or more feet below. Black crows and white gulls soar while kestrels hang motionless on the stiff breeze.
En route Georgia modifies her footwear. Those Scarpa boots are really really good, luckily.
Soon we near our top secret destination. Sorry we can’t tell you where it is for, ummmm, reasons of national security…
Anne’s pasties survive three hours in a rucksack very well. We retrace our steps. Thanks to Georgia for the better photos!
Our walk takes five hours in all, at a very easy pace. This walk is about 10 minutes drive from Avallen Barn on the Helford River — 20 minutes drive from Chapel Cottage near Helston. You can stay self-catering at either at any time of year.
Our self-catering cottages are all in the West of Cornwall, so when you visit by car you will very probably have crossed Bodmin Moor on the A30, passing Bolventor and the famous Jamaica Inn. The road cuts through the heart of Bodmin Moor — off to the North you will have seen Brown Willy (Cornwall’s highest point at a ‘whopping’ 420 metres) and Roughtor on the skyline, and out of sight to the South you will have skipped past Dozmary Pool, fabled as the place where King Arthur received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (and where the sword was returned as Arthur lay dying).
We had a fine day walking in early October, starting at the car park in Minions. First we headed for the ‘Cheesewring’ – dramatically sculpted from granite by wind and rain, taking in Daniel Gumb’s ‘cave’ en route. Daniel Gumb was a stone-cutter on the moor in the very early 1700s – he was also a self-taught mathematician. Rather than paying to rent accommodation in Minions village he made his home right by the quarry in a series of cave-rooms that he chopped into the hillside of Stowe’s Hill, on which the Cheesewring sits. Here, they say, he had three wives and nine children. His name and the date 1735 are carved into one of the stones, and on this roofing stone is inscribed a proof of Pythagoras’s theorem.
… perfect territory for Poppy. Lunch was late summer Cornish tomatoes (black ones!), Baker Tom’s foccacia bread (possibly the best outside Italy) and some wonderful Blue Horizon cheese from the Treveadoror Farm at St Martin’s, which happens to be just moments from our very own Chapel Cottage...
Pushing on Northwards past grazing sheep, granite slopes, and marshy stream-beds we came upon a bizarre abundance of mushrooms…
… followed by stumbling across a Bronze Age village — as one does…
The final push, back in a straight line and over Twelve Men’s Moor. The precarious rock-stack on top provided a welcome respite, although musing over the kinetic potential of several hundred cubic metres of granite may not suit everyone.
Walking Bodmin Moor is worth a drive especially on a fine day in Spring or Autumn. It’s very different from cliff-path walking though, if that is what you are familiar with. Very few paths are marked, and whilst you can just wander if you wish, you will be rewarded by getting the OS Explorer’s map of Bodmin Moor (no. 109). History ooozes from every rock and blade of grass, and you can easily plan a walk that takes in a bronze are burial mound and some hut-circles, a deserted Medieval village, and 18th century mine workings… not to mention some of the most breathtaking views anywhere in Cornwall.
Wear stout boots, take a rain proof, make sure your dog behaves, be prepared to cover far less distance than you think you will… and go make some memories! Oliver Howes has an information-rich website Oliver’s Cornwall that will whet your appetite more and help you to plan.
All photos are by Harriet, except this last one of Harriet on Twelve Men’s Moor — which is why it’s the worst one!
We strike out with two dogs, thick socks and a camera on Sunday afternoon and head for Godolphin hill. It’s one of our favorite Cornish walks at any time of year and usually it is the panoramic view that takes in a sweep of the far-West from Mount’s bay to St Ives bay and Gwithian that draw us. No today though, as opaque Autumn mist steals up from Land’s End like a sea-ghost. Today we are just after wind-on-skin, and space. We are not disappointed.
We start our walk in the National Trust car park for Godolphin House (OS map ref 600/318). The house itself, a fairly recent NT acquisition is a gem — but we’ll visit another day. The hill oozes history, with over 400 separate archaeological features from Bronze Age enclosures to 19th-century mine buildings. We proceed gently over farmy fields then climb gently over styles and between windbent trees.
On the way home (and moments from the Swallow barn) a red Ford Fiesta rolls around the corner.
“I have cows comin!” announces the woman within, with a Cornish country smile. She sure does. And they’re lovely. We tuck the car into a gateway, wishing we had some ground clearance and four-wheel-drive.
Daisy aged three-and-a-bit, brought her grandparents all the way to Cornwall from Cheshire for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Here are her shrewd and honest tips for things to do in Cornwall.
“The Eden Project is a bit of a drive but worth it – if you tick ‘gift aid’ then annual membership costs the same as a day ticket. You can’t see the whole place in a day so it’s worth the extra visit. Mullion village and bay are beautiful. Lappa Valley steam railway – not just a steam train but a lake with canoes, a play-park, walks and small trains that run around the park. Land’s End was so misty that we saw nothing but it added to the eerie atmosphere. If you love ice cream go to Roskilly’s at St Keverne on the Lizard – take some bread and feed the ducks…. On the way you’ll pass Goonhilly radio telescopes (but don’t go to the visitor centre!).”
So the kids want to take their new scooters/skateboards/bikes/roller-skates on the Forever Cornwall family holiday to you-know-where? Now, instead of saying “there’s no room in the car” or “you won’t find anywhere to scoot/skate/ride/roll” instead you can say “great idea kids, we can spend some time at Mount Hawke Skate Park.” If you are wheel-minded it is just pure unadulterated heaven. And even if you are not then an acre-or-so of indoor space and kids meals for £2.50 might just tempt you. Mount Hawke Skate Park is about 15 minutes drive from Wildwood cottage, Driftwood Beach Chalet or the Swallow Barn. Hit their website for more information, and get down with da kids.
Tony and Jean from Leicester stayed at Chapel Cottage — they loved the train ride from St Erth to St. Ives, and say it’s the best way to visit the town: no parking worries, and better for the planet. Thanks Tony and Jean. The Forever Cornwall team.