England's shining gem
When you move abroad, I have found one of the most comforting things can be to find a place that makes you feel safe. You know the safe I mean, not quite the warm embrace of your mum, but that hug from a long lost friend that puts your soul at ease.
Cornwall , whilst I have been in the UK is that place for me. It is captivating but calm, mysterious yet familiar, friendly, welcoming and there is more good food, surf and wine than you can find what to do with.
St Just is a small village between Sennan and St Ives, hidden a few miles from the main road. The town is full of Cornwall charm, with little more than a a few pubs, a Co op , a butcher, an excellent cafe and an organic store, because no self respecting Cornish town can go without this. Hidden a mile from town in a an old mining hamlet is the Cote Valley. Imagine the garden of eden with direct access to the breathtaking Coastal Path and you won’t even be close to the beauty this place radiates.
We stayed in Daisy Cottage, a beautiful old stone cottage, complete with wood beams, and a wood burner. The kitchen is stocked with more utensils than I have in my own home, making cooking at this place a great option. Regardless of the season, this cottage is perfect, in the summer there is a private garden and BBQ area with an abidance of native plants and flowers, in winter you can curl up around the fire with a glass of wine and a board game.
The South West Coast path
The South West coast path stretch for hundreds of miles around, you guessed it, the South West of England. It is a breathtaking mix of rolling hills, cascading cliffs and often moody coastline. The part of this path through the Cote Valley is such a small part, but it is an amazing part. One thing that has never ceased to blow me away is the ferocity at which the surf hots the cliffs in England, like there is something to prove. Walking to join the path 100m from the cottage, you pass over abandoned mine shafts to reach the crashing waves.
We headed South towards towards the surfers paradise of Sennan. The route is a manageable 7 miles and passes across dramatic coastline, housing nesting endangered birds from the UK, so be sure to stay on the footpaths where sign posted. The path allows alternate routes depending on the tide, the beach routes are particularly spectacular and there is nothing like feeling the sand beneath your toes. As we rounded the point to Sennen, what made me stop n awe is that this could have been a beach straight from Australia, with its white sand and clear water! The smell of salt lingering in the air, the sound of seagulls floating above you and the taste of the sand just reaching your mouth, they were all the same and all of a sudden I was home.
The Old Success In
As you come up the boat ramp to this sleepy surfer haven, you will find a pub which sits on the foreshore, the food is good and honest and the drinks a reasonable price. What made it for me though was the endearing barman, who lacked certain composure but was kind and willing to try. For the surfers amongst you, Sennan is one of England’s hidden gems. With its vast sandy shoreline vanishing with the tide, the sets role in one after the other when the weather allows it.
The return journey from St Just to Sennan takes a good few hours with plenty of time for a beverage and some lunch along the way. What blows me away is the difference in the landscape on the way home. With the tides rolling in over 10m what was a coastline of white san beaches is now that of a dramatic coast of sharp rock outcrops and sheer drop offs into the rumbling ocean below.
St Ives is one of the larger town on the south west coast of Cornwall and to the north of St Just. It has always been somewhat underwhelming to me as it boasts a busyness that when in Cornwall I am trying to escape. The high street is littered with a mixture of your standard English high street chains and those smaller shops with some beautiful pieces worth looking at. I haven't yet figured out if the boutique is emerging or slowly being taken over by the big boys lets home it is the former.
St Ives does boast a strong art scene with its own branch of the famous Tate Modern, which is well worth the visit. In combination with this the beaches that surround the sprawling town are as you come to expect from Cornwall, near perfection, if not a little chilly.
Minack theatre is a must see and has been painstakingly constructed over decades by a fearsome woman who refused to give up and spent most of her adult life making this magical place a gem on the Cornish coast. Aside from having spectacular views over uninterrupted coastline, Minack theatre has a story to tell. Beginning in the tumultuous years between world wars (1932), This theatre is etched into the side of cliff in the style of an old roman amphitheatre. The story belongs to Rowena Cade who carried boulders up from the beach one by way on painfully narrow natural steps to build this amazing place one day at a time. Assisted by one other, the two worked side by side, in the bitter Cornish winter to create a place for people, more specifically ato house theatre for local people to come and enjoy. What began as a theatre for one Shakespeare play has evolved into full seasons where shows are held many nights a week over the summer.
There is a particularly delightful stage of the story where the Spanish Almata ran a ground off the Cornish coast, losing some of the cargo in the process. This cargo was largely, sizeable wooden beams, perfect for building, approaching her twighlight years, this amazing woman carried many of these beams of wood up the hundreds of sheer steps to assist with the building. When asked by the Spanish if she had seen who had taken the cargo, she replied that she took ‘a couple,’ believing this woman would be incapable of carrying more the Spanish swiftly moved on. I may have actually found a new hero!
Porthcurno, where Minack theatre is located does not disappoint, this is one of the most breathtaking beaches in England. There is little surf here but it is home to turquoise blue waters and white sands set in between two towering cliffs. You can round one these cliffs at low tide and walk along to the neighbouring bays where the seclusion is we worth the walk. I would recommend putting a day aside to spend in this isolated bay away from it all.
Cornwall is the gem in England, which combines amazing surf, great food and a diverse interesting group of people, who all seem to have an interesting story. It may seem to be at the end of the earth when you are coming from London, but that is a large part of its charm and a reason it is worth the trip.