Friday, 28 September 2012

An Autumn Day

Waking early, the mist rolling over the fields presents an ethereal view. Everything is still and silent save for the distant sound of the caw caw of rooks. 

The rising sun highlights the very tops of the trees with a golden fire, offering the promise of a glorious autumn day.

Bales of hay scattered randomly across the field appear dark and shadowy through the early morning mist.

As the sun grew stronger the surrounding countryside was bright with vivid autumnal colours - tempting me,


luring me away from everyday tasks such as painting windows (more of that to come)
and outside for a walk.

In the garden - red berries of the rowan tree bright against the blue skies.

At the allotment rosehips and hawthorn berries. 

I headed South to one of my favourite places -

Audley's Castle beside the shore of the Lough

At the foot of the castle is Green Row
a little line of olde world cottages, nestled amongst a backdrop of trees.

Through the trees a brief glimpse of the lough; a smell of wood smoke mingled in the air with the faintly salty tang of the lough.

Climbing higher now, a view through the trees of the other side of the lough.

Dappled orange and yellow hued autumn leaves cloak the trees whilst beneath - the fallen leaves create an autumnal blanket upon the grass.

In the distance a surreal view of The Temple of the Winds against the blue of the lough and the patchwork of fields on the opposite shore.

Little by little the trees discard their leaves - bare branches poking through the remaining rust coloured foliage  like fingers.

Walking further the grassy tree lined lane-way curves to the left 

to the viewpoint of the lough and the village on the opposite side.

As usual I cannot help but gather treasures during my walks and an autumn walk offers plenty. Fallen leaves in reds, oranges and yellows; beech nuts; lichen covered twigs; rosehips and pinecones are gathered en route and brought home to bring autumn indoors.

Walking back a single leaf fluttered and whirled through the air, catching on my scarf. To catch a leaf a message brief! Sure enough when I returned home there was a message letting me know that The Captain had sadly passed away. This is a great loss to our little allotment community and to the Gardening Club of which he was a member. He was an amazing man.

The Captain grew several beautiful Poppies on his Plot, so here is a Poppy in remembrance of The Captain.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

You Reap What You Sow - Or Maybe Not!

The thefts from the plots that I talked about in my previous post The Allotment Year have far from abated and we are becoming increasingly irate about the audacity of the thieves. Our produce has been filched on a radical scale by people who are most probably selling it on. A witness to the raid that included the theft of my Rosemary bushes 

Rosemary Bush??????

saw two hefty men and was able to identify that these thieves were not local folk. In fact they were from the same country as those others who have reportedly been caught shamefully purloining our Royally protected majestic birds; namely Swans, from nearby rivers and lakes to eat for their dinner.

Early morning at the allotment.
The rays of autumn sunlight slivered ethereally through the trees.  

Arriving at the allotment early in the morning, when the sun was still low in the sky and there was an unearthly atmosphere of peace and serenity - a quick inspection of my plot revealed extensive digging had taken place in one of the potato beds - the very potatoes that had suffered blight.

Potato Bed dug by thieves

A lone potato lay on the path as evidence that some of the crop had survived the blight, but not the looters. Beside the potato were a couple of runner beans that had also been left behind. Annoying too was a pile of mud from the digging that had been carelessly tipped onto my bark chipping covered path.

Broken rhubarb stalks

The rhubarb had been crudely broken down and trampled upon where the thieves had either been gathering my blackberries or else skulking from view. Further down the slope, in the middle of the patch of earth where I had recently pulled up the broad beans a large hole had been dug. Happily the thieves were out of luck as that bed is now fallow save for the jumble of horsetail roots lurking below ground - they are most welcome to those!

These looters have absolutely no consideration that what they have dug up in the space of a few minutes represents an accumulation of hours and hours of valuable time; from the initial transformation of the Plot, to the back breaking tasks of digging over the soil and carting heavy wheelbarrow loads of manure from the bays that are a considerable distance away, then sowing the potatoes that have been chitting for weeks not to mention spraying them for blight (albeit a wasted effort this year) and endeavouring to keep the seasonal weeds down.

As dusk fell - so the intruders arrived

Later during the week The Builder arriving at the site in the early evening surprised our intruders who despite departing hurriedly when they spied him, returned again after he had gone. The Builder himself returned later and catching them yet again in my plot gave chase along with Mr Bloom who had also arrived at the site. As the thieves took shelter amongst the raspberry canes in the neighbouring plot, The Builder harangued them to such an extent that The Reluctant Chairman also arriving upon the crime scene dialled 999 thinking that he was being attacked. The Police arrived within minutes and everyone gave chase across the plots.

Sadly the two burly ruffians escaped and unaware of the recent developments I arrived at the plot the next morning to find my gate lying open once again. A large footprint at the base of a gooseberry bush beside the fence provided an obvious clue that they had accessed the plot belonging to Mr Production from mine.

Gate into the Allotment from Sweet Pea Lane

Mr Production arriving simultaneously discovered that every one of his tomatoes including those that were still unripe had been picked and put in sacks which had been left outside his greenhouse. Evidently the interruption of The Builder, Mr Bloom and The Police had prevented the thieves from taking the sacks with them.

Upon learning of last nights developments I fervently set to digging up my potatoes, picking raspberries, blackberries and runner beans.

Autumn Raspberries

Juicy Blackberries

Word travelled fast through our apprehensive little community about the events of the previous evening. One ardent plot holder enthusiastically suggested that all we plot holders lie in wait for the thieves and conduct a citizens arrest.

During my childhood I avidly devoured a wholesome literary diet of Enid Blyton's Famous Five and other such novels like Emil and the Detectives - books where right always prevails over wrong and good triumphs over bad; so I have been instilled with a strong sense of justice from an early age and therefore I saw absolutely nothing wrong with this idea and had in fact briefly considered disguising myself

Scarecrow in a neighbouring plot

as a scarecrow in order to catch them in the act - possibly a little far-fetched I admit,  as my nerves most certainly would not stand the strain, never mind the question of my own safety - but lawlessness and injustice does at times tend to provoke me to lose sight of rationale.

Anyway I digress:

Unfortunately the ardent plot-holder copied the Council into her e-mail to the rest of the plot holders. The councillor in charge of the allotments was panic stricken and his anxiety was apparent through the grammatical errors in his hastily sent reply not condoning what he termed would be deemed as vigilantism.

Since the night of the chase our looters have been keeping a low profile, so we can but hope that they have been frightened off for good by their night encounter with The Builder and Mr Bloom. Or perhaps they have been made aware of The Allotmenteers new invocation;


I sowed
and Nature willing
so I shall reap!
You steal
and I catch you
so you will weep!!

Whilst this unpleasant turn of events was unravelling at the plots, something rather more poignant was happening in the background - The Captain who has been a plot holder for many years was very ill and had taken several nasty falls. This sadly meant that he would have to give up his award winning allotment as he could not continue working it.

Due to physical limitations The Captain has had to manage his beautiful plot on his hands and knees for some time now and is an example to those of us who are more able-bodied as to what can be accomplished if we put our mind to it, whatever the circumstances. He is a reminder of what allotmenting is all about - focusing on the positive rather than the negative side of life. We will miss him from our little community and despite the recent situation, the rest of us shall continue to persevere on with our plots - digging and sowing and hopefully in the future we will do the reaping and not the weeping!

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Cornwall has always held a fascination for me. My visions over the years of Cornwall have been somewhat coloured through books such as Daphne Du Mauriers "Jamaica Inn" - with tales of the rugged coast-lines and coves of the Northern coast - home to bands of wreckers and smugglers; and the more gentle coast-line to the South depicted in her other book "Frenchman's Creek", with silent secret creeks, wide rivers, stately homes, beautiful gardens and dashing pirates!

Frenchman's Creek Novel

I had visited Cornwall but once many years ago, when I spent the Christmas holidays with a friend at her most hospitable parents beautiful historical home - Nansough Manor in Ladock. 

Nansough Manor

I always intended to return but somehow had never got around to it, so when the opportunity arose unexpectedly to visit Cornwall again for a short break, I seized it with both hands; taking a much needed break from events at home and at the allotment.  

This time we stayed in the exquisitely picturesque quaint fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) in an adorable little fisherman's cottage beside the harbour.

Mousehole Harbour

View across Mount's Bay

Gull's eye view of Mousehole through a shimmering early morning heat haze

Mousehole is an artist's dream, with tiny winding narrow streets and pretty little alleyways; steps carved steeply into the hillside temptingly leading uphill to narrow grassy lanes with spectacular views over the rooftops and harbour of the village.  

Leafy narrow passageways with ivy clad stone steps where perhaps smugglers once made their way down to the caves tucked away along the shore.

Intent on exploring the surrounding scenery we set out on a walk from Mousehole along the coastal path towards the tiny hamlet of Lamorna.

The Sunshine Coast

Coast line around Lamorna Cove

Path leading down towards Lamorna

Lamorna Cove

The rugged cliff-top path leading westwards away from Lamorna

Tater-du Lighthouse

From Lamorna we walked west along the cliff path that leads to a point called Carn Barges. I noticed a private gateway as we walked along the path, but ironically it was only the day after I returned home that I realised its significance. 

By pure chance, tucked away in a dusty corner of a second hand bookshop, I stumbled upon a lovely book by Derek Tangye - part of a set called The Minack Chronicles, which are a true account of the lives of Derek and his wife Jeannie, who in the 1940s left a glittering showbiz life in London to move to a little cottage they called Minack to start up a flower farm where they would spend the rest of their lives. They first saw the cottage when they took the very same walk as us along the cliff path from Lamorna. The land stretching from the cottage to the sea became known as Oliver's land, after their cat and is now known as "The Minack Chronicles Nature Trust". It is a beautiful place for wildlife and solitude. Jeannie wrote a poem to capture the peaceful aura of Minack;

The Spirits of Minack 
Welcome you,
To their world of forever.
Where life continues
and death is never.

Now that I know what the story is behind that gate, I hope to return sometime to see it through the eyes of Derek and Jeannie.

From there we continued on along the cliff path 

past a little cove with fishing boats

and onwards to Porthcurno Beach.

The entire walk was around ten miles and by the time we were two thirds of the way, our legs were beginning to feel the effects of walking up precariously steep pathways, only to have to descend equally steep steps down another vertical path before once more ascending upwards again. Despite my desire to see the Minack theatre - situated on the far side of Porthcurno beach above tortuous stone stairs carved steeply into the rock face, my feet were weary and I had to admit defeat and postpone this visit for another time. At Porthcurno we were thankful for a bus that took us back along the road through the Seven Sisters and Lamorna to Mousehole where we had a well earned and most delectable dinner at The Old Coastguard Hotel. 

The following day we drove to the Helford River, where we planned a less strenuous walk than the one  from Mousehole to Porthcurno.

Picture perfect Helford River and Helford village

We walked leisurely along the river bank through ancient woods, 

the sun sparkling on the river with Falmouth Bay in the distance

and the crystal clear water reflecting the rocks above

in the tiny hidden coves

shrouded behind the leafy woodland.

From the headland of the peninsula we admired the views over Falmouth Bay before turning at the entrance to Gillan Harbour 

and descending down the slope to the quaint village of St Anthony-in-Meneage. We saw ominous dark clouds brewing up, so we quickened our pace and carried on to Manaccan with it's churchyard and lichen encrusted skull and crossbones gravestones. 

Hunger and fatigue were setting in at this stage - our legs had still not recovered from our walk along the Sunshine Coast, so it was with welcome relief that we arrived in the hamlet of Kestel Barton - a Cornish farmstead where tea, coffee and home-baked snacks were available to partake of amongst wonderful gardens designed by James Alexander Sinclair.

Verbena Bonariensis at Kestel Barton

Swathes of Coneflowers and Verbena Bonariensis

Scarlet Poppies line an old stone wall

With a renewed burst of energy from our refreshments we continued on over stiles and muddy pathways until we arrived at the steep track down to the mysterious Frenchman's Creek.

The leafy canopied woodland path leading down to Frenchman's Creek could have been the very path that in a forgotten century Daphne du Maurier's heroine trod before her encounter with the pirate and his ship La Mouette.

The lonely, eerily silent and still Frenchman's Creek, surrounded either side by dense leafy trees and fallen tree trunks upon the mud-flats - it was easy to imagine La Mouette anchored in the deeper water of the creek.

An old shipwrecked boat at the entrance to Frenchman's Creek

The weather which in the morning was gloriously hot and sunny had now deteriorated and by the time we walked to the entrance of the creek, torrential driving rain soaked through our clothing, running down our coats and jeans and into our boots so that we squelched and squished as we half ran and half walked back to Helford.

Anxious to take in as much of the Lizard peninsular as was possible during our short visit, on our last day we drove past Land's End and on to the stunning Cape Cornwall.

Cape Cornwall

Despite the wild coastal flowers and butterflies, the scenery here was rugged and more dramatic compared with the attractive softer southern Cornish coast

The sea was azure blue as the frothing white crested waves crashed upon the jagged rocks

The Botallack Mine, perched precariously upon the cliffs with pounding waves below

We walked along the cliff path across the heathland; drinking in the spectacular views, until we reached the Botallack Mine, taking care to heed the signs not to stray off the pathway into the bracken for fear of hidden disused mine shafts. At the mine we turned and retraced our steps to begin our homeward journey, feeling content that although our stay was short we had more than glimpsed the magic and the beauty that Cornwall has to offer.