Would you think me weird if I said that I miss a wall? Not any old wall, but one that is built of mighty slabs of granite and has ferns, moss and a plant with the tiniest of pretty flowers, which I’ve no idea what it’s called, sprouting from crevices and adding a splash of colour to stone the colour of a leaden sky and that is strong and ancient and of which much of Cornwall is built from. The wall in question surrounds a bijou garden which is nothing more than a garden path bordered with agapanthus, crocosmia,roses and other plants whose names elude me and which leads to a pocket-handkerchief sized lawn where on sunny days you can sit under the shade of a magnolia tree.
Looking at that wall whilst relaxing in the garden or from my favourite spot in the conservatory of our gorgeous holiday home-made me feel very content with life and grateful to be alive after very nearly losing mine earlier in the year. That wall played a part of my healing process. To some, chicken soup is good for the soul, to me it is a wall in Cornwall.
To be honest, the real reason why the wall had such a profound effect on me, is not only because it was particularly beautiful but because of where it is. Cornwall is my happy place and has been since being a little girl when we set off in the middle of the night for the long journey on A roads to arrive at a caravan by the sea in time for a late breakfast of crispy bacon sandwiches. I look back with a nostalgic fuzzy feeling of holidays of days of endless blue skies, a sun that shone relentlessly and turned our skin pink, wide sandy beaches and a sea that was actually blue. A far cry from the muddy brown waters of the Bristol Channel at Weston Super Mare where we used to visit on day trips. Our days were spent camped out on the beach surrounded by all the plethora of things needed for a day of sandcastle building, rock pool exploring, salty swims and picnic lunches. Money was tight and holiday treats were few and far between, but who needs to buy treats when the biggest free treat of all, the beach, was just a few steps away from the caravan. I’m sure in reality there were days when we sat in the cramped ‘van sat staring out of the window as rain ran in rivulets down the panes and wishing we didn’t have to make a dash to the chilly campsite loos, but we never remember the rainy days of our childhood summers do we, only the days of constant sunshine. I wish I had some photos to share with you of those idyllic holidays, but sadly my parents rarely recorded anything on film. I’m not even sure if they owned a camera.
Do you believe that places that were special to you as a child remain special to you for life? Do you like me get excited the moment you cross the border into a county or indeed country that is that special place? You should see me in the car as we approach the Welcome to Cornwall sign on the A30 just after you cross the river Tamar . It’s not difficult to miss the mad middle-aged woman bouncing up and down and waving her hands wildly in a black Audi driven by a man looking faintly embarrassed.
All of Cornwall is rather special, but for me, the area of the country that holds a special place in my heart is Penwith at the very far west where rugged ancient moors studded with neolithic sites and abandoned tin mines are often shrouded in mist. Ragged cliffs tumble down to the sea where mighty rocks are relentlessly pounded by huge inky blue waves. This is a windswept land; trees and shrubs lean landward from years of taking a battering from fierce sou’westerlies and yet there are days when the wind drops, the sky is cloudless and the light is just wonderful. It’s no wonder that artists have been drawn here for centuries. There is a certain rawness to much of the area, especially the further west you go. This is hard-core Cornwall, but Penwith isn’t all moors that tumble over craggy cliffs, there’s a softer, lusher side too. Lamorna Cove is reached by travelling through a densely wooded valley that’s really quite magical. Narrow lanes kriss cross the countryside almost lost between steep ancient banks carpeted with wild flowers nearly all year round. My dad used to drive cautiously along the lanes, tooting his horn at every bend whilst my mum urged him to slow down whilst gripping the dashboard. You need to keep your wits about you driving on these narrow lanes and be prepared to come face to face with plenty of tractors. There’s the fabulous gardens at Trengwainton, Trewidden, the Minack Theatre and Tremenheere to explore and of course don’t forget the amazing beaches at Sennen and Porthcuno where the sea is the colour of jade. Who can fail not to be bowled over by the likes of St Ives, Mousehole and Marazion amongst other picture postcard villages and towns, but I prefer Penzance, Newlyn and St Just. Grittier, working towns with a sense of community and where not every other house is a holiday home.
Apologies, I didn’t mean this blog post to read like a travel guide but I just couldn’t stop myself once I got started. I could write reams about my favourite area of Cornwall but maybe that can wait for another day.
To me Cornwall is special to me because it evokes special memories. I love that it has its own identity and whose people are proud to call themselves Cornish. It’s a mystical, beautiful place that inspires the creative and is a mecca for the adventurous. And of course there’s the delicious food and drink and amazing places to eat. From the traditional pasties and clotted cream to tea, wine and gin!
My favourite memory of my Cornish adventure this summer? Sketching in that little garden on a hot sunny day and from afar came the sound of Cornish folk songs being sang from where I do not know. At that moment I couldn’t have been happier.