Avallen Barn, at Kestle Barton today… we dropped in on owner Karen to discuss plans for next year. The beautiful barn was sitting ready to welcome its next guests, and over a very nice bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (in the guest’s welcome pack this week… lucky them) we talked about art, sofas, how to arrange cushions, customer service (as you do)… and met Liz, the lovely new housekeeper, always good to meet the teams. The gallery is still showing paintings by Jessica Cooper, really nice and still there for few more days.
We spent longer than we meant, so instead of our planned jaunt down to Frenchman’s Creek with the dogs (the had sat patiently in the car and the footpath to the creek is right opposite Avallen) we slipped through the gate into the orchard and wildflower meadow. Glad we did… Karen had the over-rich topsoil scraped from the field to make an ideal wildflower habitat. It’s starting to pay off, with thousands (yes literally, literally thousands) of cowslips stretching towards the warm spring sun.
Forever Cornwall still has a few self-catering weeks available at Avallen Barn this August… and autumn 2013 availability.
Thumb’s up for Visit Cornwall (our beloved tourist board) for commissioning some stunning aerial films. This one takes you on an epic soaring journey starting at Mullion on the Lizard Peninsular, which is a short drive south of our very own Chapel Cottage, then swooshing westwards over Mount’s bay with Newlyn in the distance (where our lovely Kiln Cottage is situated) — finally past Land’s End and around to St Ives Bay. The finishing shot is Gwithian and Godrevy island, where you’ll find Driftwood Beach Chalet. Couldn’t be more appropriate if we’d hired the helicopter to show off our holiday cottage locations ourselves!
We are lucky to get such interesting guests at the Forever Cornwall cottages. And they don’t come much more interesting than seed gurus Peter and Imogen Clements who have just spent a self-catering week at our chalet at Gwithian Towans. If you’ve ever wanted to tun a patch of soil into a bounteous organic veg patch you’ll find their unique website Seed to Plate to be a most helpful place to start. “We know people don’t have stacks of time to devote to their veg plot, so we’ve made every effort to ensure growing is as low maintenance as possible” says Imogen.
Start off with a little inspiration, by using the Plot Designer tool which cleverly tells you what to plant based on the size of your garden (or window box!), what you like to eat best, and the spare time you have available… then flick to the Sowing Calendar to show you when to plant… and finally video tutorials to show you how! The site is designed and presented with all the care and attention you’d expect from your favourite cook book. Very clever… now I’m hungry. Where’s that spade (and credit card)!
If you want to find out more about how to be as eco-friendly on holiday as you are at home, have a look at the CoaST website. It’s the portal for the global (but Cornwall-based) “one planet tourism network”. (Forever Cornwall is proud to be a member).
When you visit Cornwall, whatever the weather and whenever you come, there are two things you will almost certainly do. Go to a beach — and eat a pasty. Now, just as there is good and bad disco music, good and bad haircuts, and good and bad karma — there are good and bad pasties. And to save you the time, trouble and unnecessary calorific intake of testing out all of the types you come across, we though we’d give you some pointers. Following are our current top ten… but first the basics..
A Proper Pasty has to be made by hand. The reason is that the ingredients have to be carefully layered for the flavours to integrate successfully. Specifically the meat has to be on top so that the meat juices flow down though the veg ingredients during the cooking process. ‘Mother’ would very likely have put a knob of butter on top of the meat for added flavour (and cholesterol). On top of the meat, some seasoning obviously… Below the meat there must be onion, followed by turnip which should be sliced, not diced, so that it cooks in time with the potato which is on the bottom. See the logic? each flavour will flow through the next. Make it in a factory mixer and the effect is utterly lost — like trying to make a layer cake without the layers. If follows that if a pasty is hand made it will be hand ‘crimped’ too.
Incidentally the clasic beef for a pasty is either ‘chuck steak’ or ‘skirt’. I have to be honest and say I have no idea what skirt is… plesae do tell if you know.
‘These days’ you will find pasties with all sorts of ingredients. This is by no means a modern idea, as ‘originally’ pasties might have had all sorts of things in them… depending on what was in season, personal preference and so on. And while we are talking history, pasties aren’t actually that old — the thing we recognise as the Cornish pasty today is probably a Victorian invention.
There are various cute stories about pasties, one of the most prevalent is that miners with their mucky hands would hold on to the crimped edge as if it were a handle, and then discard it (also to pacify the Knockers who may otherwise have jinxed the mine). Personally I am more than a little skeptical about this. Dunno about you but I reckon the crusty crimped edge is the best bit, and if I were a hungry miner I’d want the calories and the treat enough to simply give my hand a wipe first and then eat the lot.
Finally, and while we are talking history, the etymology of the word ‘pasty’ goes back to old French and thence Latin. The same root word as pastry, pasta, patty, pate, patas etcetera. Now, for that highly subjective list! (… which focuses unashamedly on West Cornwall).
1. Trevaskis farm shop pasty in the restaurant — at quiet times of year they may let you have one to take away, worth the ask
2. Anne’s in The Lizard village. Literally worth the drive from almost anywhere
3. Horse and Jockey in Helston (by The Bell public house in Meneage Street)
4. Strawberry sandwich bar in Penryn — they just make a few every day, awesome
5. Philps in Hayle or Praze-an-Beeble — a big maker but absolutely the real deal… join the queue in the summer and eat on Hayle quay
6. Rowes — made in Penryn and about the biggest chain in the area with ubiquitous yellow shops. Very good nonetheless
7. In the cafe at Geevor Tin Mine — dunno who makes them but they are just ace
8. Berryman’s in Redruth — a little plain but a delight
9. The village butchers in Mylor Bridge — it’s traditional in Cornwall for butchers to make pasties for obvious reasons
10. Choaks in Falmouth (at the top of ‘the Moor’) — see them being made in the shop
Forever Cornwall says: Want to read more? Try this pasty blog from Cornish Casio rappers Hedluv and Passman
Close to the Forever Cornwall HQ, and just a 30-minute walk from the Swallow Barn along the meandering bridle path takes us to Polcrebo Downs, between Crowan and Nancegollan. Polcrebo mine was active in the 1860s, mining tin and copper, and the records seem to show that it struggled to break even. The remaining chimney set on ragged down-land is a fine building nonetheless, and is grade II listed, to prove the point. In spring and early summer the downs bloom purple with heather, and the gorse is vivid with golden flowers even now in midwinter. The mine shaft was capped in 2003 by the local council.
Mining for tin, copper and other minerals shaped the landscape and history of much of Cornwall, and in 2006 numerous mining landscapes in Cornwall and West Devon were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring that they will be preserved for future generations.
To find out more about the history of tin mining and the World Heritage mining sites of Cornwall and West Devon visit The Cornish Mining website. When you come to Cornwall take time to visit the Royal Cornwall Museum or the fab Geevor Tin Mine where you can go underground yourself.
Newlyn was the home of Cornwall’s first artist’s colony, so it is fitting that the very wonderful Newlyn Art Gallery www.newlynartgallery.com should be hosting a major retrospective of the work of Breon O’Casey (1928-2011). Breon O’casey came to Cornwall in 1959 and was a contemporary of Peter Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Bryan Wynter, John Wells, William Scott and others. This major exhibition will feature many of his iconic bird and fish paintings, as well as notebooks, photographs and artefacts. Newlyn Art Gallery 14th January – 28th April 2012. In the summer Kiln Cottage makes a great base for exploring Newlyn and West Penwith — or at any time of year Newlyn is just 25 minutes drive from our delightful self catering cottages Chapel Cottage and Wildwood.
We have Driftwood beach chalet to ourselves for a few days after a few particularly busy Forever Cornwall weeks. It has been time for some TLC — all of the window hinges have seized up after a few winters of thrashing by salty Atlantic winds (a day of ‘fun’ with screwdriver, wire-brush and marine-grade grease has worked wonders). So by Sunday it’s time for a well earned break. Poppy, Midge and I head out for a long beach-combing session, while Maria sleeps off a birthday celebration. And it’s one of those perfect winter days in Cornwall. You are aware of texture everywhere, accentuated by the crisp light from the low sun. The marram grass, the sand, the black-golden-granite cliff face, the surf with sets of curling glassy waves, peeling left and right from the offshore rocks that make the surf work at high tide down below the Lifeguard hut, even the sky itself seems newly etched onto the retina. With the tide high, we walk ‘down’ the coast towards Upton Towans, over the dunes, following the meandering paths, St Ives and Carbis Bay beckoning us across the bay. After half an hour we descend to the beach, now revealed pristine again with footprints washed away by the ebbing tide. We are able to make it back to the chalets at Gwithian by slipping from cove to cove, dodging the rushing foamy tongues of spent rollers as they race across the hissing sand. I’m glad to have a camera in my pocket, glad to have the privilege of West Cornwall as a neighbor, and the sea as a friend.
You can get up-to-the-minute surf reports for Gwithian and all of Cornwall’s best breaks at magicseaweed.com
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.