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Cornish outdoor clothing brand Finisterre has opened a shop! It’s aptly located on a wind-battered Cornish headland, next to their Wheal Kitty workshops and HQ of Surfers Against Sewage. Anyway, I just bought the most expensive hat of my life there – the merino Cable Beanie pictured above. Fortunately, after the initial layout, it has turned out to be the sort of hat that manages to turbo-heat your whole body. Pure wool yet zero itch, and ample ear coverage. Good sale rail at the shop too, by the way.
Cable Beanie, Finisterre, £30. www.finisterreuk.com
Cafes don’t get a whole lot smaller than Genki in St Agnes, which is to all intents and purposes a painted hut with a few cosily packed tables, occupied on my visit by Finisterre-clad surfers. But this particular little beach hut has a few other strings to its bow: a sweet Zen-style cafe garden inspired by the owners’ time in Japan, free wifi, and a serious smoothie menu.
Smoothies are often the most expensively disappointing thing on cafe menus in this country – insubstantial and never cold enough. But something told me to try my luck on the Mavericks Mocha Smoothie (£3.50), which contains banana, cocoa, peanut butter and espresso. It was stupendous – thick, ice-cold, filling, sweet not sickly. Crap cafes of Cornwall, take note.
Quay Road, St Agnes, 01872 555 858. Follow Genki on twitter here.
Despite being a fisherman’s daughter – there again, maybe because of that – my fish filleting skills are often a pitiful sight involving gut-spattered youtube videos and too much fresh Newlyn fish flesh in the bin. Still, the situation has improved recently – mainly thanks to a commission to write an article for coast magazine about a course at the Rick Stein Cookery School in Padstow, combined with use of Mitch Tonks’ ingenious iPhone fish app.
I attended the classic one-day Seafood Cookery course and it was the business – a highly intensive course introducing beginners/improvers to all elements of seafood preparation and cooking.
The snag is that it is pricey (£175 for the day), which might explain why there was only one other Cornish resident on my course. But should you chose to splash out, that does include about five lunches and wine throughout the afternoon, and access to the minds and tips of some of Britain’s finest dedicated seafood chefs for a whole day. And obviously – this being Stein – Read the rest of this entry »
Thought I’d post the link to an article I’ve written for the Guardian about cheap eats along the north coast of Cornwall – it’s part of a bigger interactive online Guardian guide to Cornwall, with lots of top 10 lists, from family days out (written by p&c friend Hayley Spurway) to campsites and B&Bs.
List journalism has its critics but when it comes to easy reading, no one can resist a nicely focused top 10 – if only to gripe about all the better places/things YOU would have put in instead. My brief was lunch for £10, which turned out to be a tall order along the north coast of Cornwall – somewhere that relies on the tourist pound, the sea view and the cornered market.
Still, I think I found some gooduns – from the St Kew Harvest, a sourcing-savvy farmshop cafe, to Blas, everyone’s favourite gourmet burger, via Relish, probably Cornwall’s best coffee. I had to kiss a few frogs along the way – supermarket-style bread in expensive places, limp pasties, dusty falafel – but am resisting the temptation to name and shame ;)
Read my complete top 10 here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/mar/14/top-10-budget-restaurants-north-cornwall
This is extraordinary. Apparently taken on the north coast. Gone off the idea of that cliff walk now?
It’s a strange coincidence that I was going to write a post today about my very un-Newquay holiday near Newquay last week when into my inbox landed an email about a new video promoting a more positive image of the much-maligned seaside town. Fair enough – but ‘the British California’!? Come on, let’s not get carried away. Well, perhaps, but only through lack of other contenders.
Think of Newquay and we all think: surf, first, then projectile vomiting, stag dos and vile clubs. At night, it’s a war zone.
But the thing about NQY that no one can take away is that it Read the rest of this entry »
I interviewed Andy Appleton, head chef at Fifteen, some time ago for Food magazine – interesting guy, very keen to place the emphasis on Fifteen’s charitable status, which can often be lost in the Jamie factor and the general desirability of the place.
But one other, smaller thing also stuck in my mind from our chat: he was very excitable about Read the rest of this entry »
Seeing as it’s scorchio outside and I’m feeling more deckchairy than bloggy, I’m going to be brief and post some pictures of sunset from the Porthmeor Beach Cafe at the weekend – all in all, a pretty smug-making Read the rest of this entry »
It’s not just our Fishy Friends who are busy being creative in Port Isaac, you know.
I saw this illustration by Anna-Louise Felstead this morning thanks to a friend of mine in Buenos Aires called Emma (a wonderful blogger, even if she frequently makes me Argentina-sick with her posts about Palermo designers and gorgeous, fading San Telmo architecture).
Back in Cornwall, this lovely picture is of the view from the Smuggler’s Rest garden in Port Isaac, and is currently hanging in Somerset House. I like the uncompromisingly blue palette – seems nicely wintery and watery, and reminiscent of the forecast that popped up on my phone this morning for the next seven days.
For more of Anna-Louise’s illustration work, visit www.alfelstead.com.
God, I love the first line of the new Fishy Friends’ single: ‘Come all jolly fellows who delight in being mellow’! As the most mellow pop stars on the circuit, it’s a brilliant opener.
The new single, out last week on iTunes etc, is called Farmer’s Toast – an old English drinking song basically about good honest folk who work the land (ploughing and things) and, when they’re done for the day, like a quiet pint. As we have come to expect of the unlikely shanty-singing celebs from Port Isaac, the single combines clear, unaffected vocals with a rousing instrumental chorus and a gentle blast of Cornish village pub rowdiness.
Now I like this sort of thing – I’m into shanties, male voice choirs and dusty old Cornish folk music that draws a blank on Amazon and youtube – but the thing that keeps taking me by surprise with the Fishy Crew is how many other people seem to like them too. Sell-out shows, a film being made about them, label-mates with Amy Winehouse…
And with the local food movement in full force in Cornwall (watch out for Cornishfoodmarket.co.uk, a hopeful online competitor to the big four), looking like it actually might be more than just a passing trend, this song is old-fashioned yet also rather timely.
They have just announced a date at the Minack for next May – better be quick. Also, a Christmas single is on the way, so I heard.
www.fishermansfriendsportisaac.co.uk. Click on the links for my previous blog posts a) reviewing the Fisherman’s Friends album and b) harping on more about their mellowness when they first burst on the scene.
Newquay has something of a vomit-spattered reputation at present (unless you go to posh bits like Watergate Bay or Scarlet territory like Mawgan Porth). But amid the tales of stag nights and lap dancing, I always seem to forget how big and impressive its cliffs and beaches are.
I was forced up to Porth the other day to write about a restaurant and took the short stroll out to Trevelgue Head. It’s a fantastic spot, despite the apartment complexes on the horizon and the presence of a couple of rottweilers growling next to me. Click on the image for the full, screen-filling effect.
Twitter is many things, not all of them 100% productive. I can personally confirm that it is the most spectacular time-waster EVER for self-employed writers. But since entering the world of retweets and 140-character missives, I have made no end of Cornish discoveries. There are so many sole-trading creative types lurking in the coves and crannies of Cornwall and twitter seems to attract them like moths to a flame.
Last week in the Cornish twitter village, I discovered the talented Mat McIvor (http://twitter.com/matmcivor), a Penzance-based artist, t-shirt and poster designer, muralist and blogger (and, judging by his twitter feed from the last few days, acting manager of the Crown pub on Bread Street in PZ?).
Check out Mat’s uplifting, pop art-tinged interpretations of the Cornish coast – the first two are of Newquay and the last one is the view over the rope bridge at Land’s End and out to sea.
Thanks for kindly lending me these rays of sunshine for Monday morning pasties & cream, Mat. See you in the Crown one day?
Mat McIvor blog: http://hardworkwiththekids.blogspot.com/
Ben Skinner riding the Cribber off Newquay – up to 40ft – plus mini interview. Too cool.
Last night I watched The Wrecking Season on BBC4, a wonderful self-portrait of the late Cornish playwright Nick Darke, shot not long before his untimely death. I just found out that you can’t watch this back on the iPlayer, but I was so taken by it, I’m going to post about it anyway.
Bound together by Darke’s gently passionate character, and his inquisitiveness about the great theatre of the ocean, the docu-film explores the tradition of beachcombing (or wrecking) and his fascination with long-haul drift. Incredibly, Read the rest of this entry »
This fantastic drawing of the Hawker’s Hut near Morwenstow is the work of Jerwood Drawing Prize-shortlisted artist James Hobbs.
I don’t know about you but with all the (justified) fuss about the colour and light in Cornwall, I found it refreshing to chance upon this brilliantly unruly black and white drawing, which conjures up the eccentricities of the famous opium-smoking Reverend Hawker against the backdrop of the north Cornish coast.
In his blog post, James says, “Hawker’s Hut is set into the 400-foot cliffs of remote north Cornwall, originally built out of driftwood by the Victorian priest Rev Robert Stephen Hawker as a place to write poetry, smoke opium and watch for passing ships coming to grief on this notoriously dangerous stretch of Atlantic coast. It’s remote and wild, and one of my favourite places.’ Read the rest of the post here.
Mmm, I need to think of a job that lets me write poetry, smoke opium and watch for passing ships…
I also love this sketch by James of London’s planeless skies the other week.
Check out http://james-hobbs.blogspot.com/ for more of his work. Thanks to James for letting me use this image.
A few weeks ago everyone (including pasties + cream here) got all frothed up about the quirky story in which ten low-key Cornish fishermen from Port Isaac hit the big time with a million-pound Universal Music deal. Now the first reviews of the album are rolling in. So, how did the boys measure up?
Well, the Guardian review gives ‘Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends’ three stars, declaring it ‘the folk curiosity album of the year’ and describing the tracks as ‘gutsy work songs, mostly sung full-tilt’, but also ‘a bit plodding and respectful’.
The Indie meanwhile found it a ‘fulsome blend of baritones and tenors’, which ‘brings their repertoire of far-flung seafaring ballads to burly life’.
I agree with a lot of that (phew – I was feeling all protective). This is a hugely Read the rest of this entry »
Trencrom Hill Fort is one of the highest hills in the westernmost Cornish district of Penwith – and I was looking forward to finally conquering this great peak. Ten minutes after parking the car, I had.
The ascent was a little tamer than expected but it was none the less epic at the summit. The views from these granite stacks are incredible – from sand-trimmed St Ives Bay to the north to Mount’s Bay in the south, and the ancient field patterns stretching west across the moors towards Land’s End.
In my Trencrom expedition team were some visiting friends, one of whom enquired about the age of this historic site. I usefully stated it was ‘really bloody old’. Read the rest of this entry »
In the space of three months last year I visited virtually every sightseeing attraction in Cornwall (not as some sort of bizarre personal challenge, you understand, but for the new Time Out Guide to Devon & Cornwall). And of them all, Geevor Tin Mine, on the moody cliffs of Pendeen, was the most rewarding – not least because it came as such a surprise.
Mining heritage centres in Cornwall have a tendency to contain interesting but ultimately very dusty exhibitions, with captions in Read the rest of this entry »
I’m loving the story in the news today about the Cornish shanty singers from Port Isaac called Fisherman’s Friends, who randomly landed a £1 million recording contract with Universal (same label as Lady Gaga) after a music producer happened to be drinking in their local pub.
There is a long tradition of acapella shanty singing in Cornish pubs on a Friday night – it typically involves a group of bearded men with deep voices, a lot of warm ale and much swaying (the pub at Cadgwith even has handles on the ceiling for this purpose).
Inevitably, the lads (aged 50-70) have cleaned up their act a bit for the video (you know, washed the salt out of their hair) but I can’t get enough of the low-key reactions from the singers in interviews.
I heard one interviewed on Radio Cornwall this morning whose expectations seemed nothing if not grounded: ‘If I get a nice family holiday out of it, well, I’d be thrilled.’
And from another:
‘We don’t really know what to expect, to be honest – we’re just making it up as we go along. We are booked in for a few festivals, we’ve got a slot at Glastonbury, but I don’t really know too much about it. We might just be playing behind the bar.’
I’m posting two videos, first the tidied up new Universal video (do I hear a touch of Mumford & Sons?) and the second: shakier, low-definition footage of them singing classic shanty ‘South Australia’ on the beach at Port Isaac.