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.

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