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Thanks go to my chief Cornish correspondent in the capital and my Cornish-by-conviction friend Chris for alerting me to the fact that Penlee House Gallery‘s walls must be looking a little bare at the moment, thanks to a major retrospective exhibition of Cornish art currently showing at Two Temple Place in London.
What with it being 308 miles away – and by First Great Western’s calculations a £110 journey – I haven’t yet been. But I can see from the reviews that it has some winners from the Newlyn School – paintings that I never get bored of. One of them is ‘A Fish Sale on a Cornish Beach’, pictured above, by Stanhope A Forbes, dated 1885. This sort of industrious beachside scene might be a thing of the past but the bearded guy would not look at all out of place nipping into the Swordy for a pint of something murky of a Friday.
I have to admit that for me there is something slightly jarring, or rather confusing, about the title of the exhibition – Amongst Heroes – but this is clearly a fine slice of Cornish art in a wonderful building. Admission is free, and there is an extensive roster of Cornwall-related activities. Gedon.
‘Amongst Heroes: the artist in working Cornwall’
Two Temple Place, 26 January – 14 April 2013
2 Temple Pl London, WC2R 3BD
In partnership with the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday – Saturday: 10.00 – 16.30. Wednesday Late: 10.00 – 21.00. Sunday: 11.00 – 16.30, Closed on Thursdays
I’ve been stealing SD cards again – this time from my friend and keen photographer Chris Pierre, who has been taking a séjour in Penzance this past sunny week. I was flicking through his Canon Ixus and enjoying all the unusual details he had picked out of the Cornish landscape with fresh eyes. I particularly like the railings on the Jubilee Pool, the sofa in a field, the monterey pines and the prettiest cow on earth. Thanks Chris – I will continue to apply pressure for you to start a photo blog.
Cornwall cried when the beautiful Pandora Inn on the banks of Restronguet Creek was destroyed by fire last year, and cheered when it rose again a year later. The age-old pub looks only a little different for its ordeal I discovered and the pontoon is still an eye-wateringly gorgeous place for a pint on a sunny evening.
(It also has a golden letterbox! thanks of course to a certain Mr Ainslie.)
‘Heartlands’, in case you hadn’t heard, ‘is the fruition of a long held ambition in the community to redevelop the Pool area of West Cornwall which was left largely untouched following the demise of the tin mining industry and final closure of the mines in 1998, after nearly 400 years of activity.’ And… it is finally open.
I went at the weekend but it was only a quick tour so I didn’t really have time to get to the ‘heart’ of the matter. All the same, here are some first pics from this freshly opened ‘cultural playground’ in Pool, between Redruth and Camborne.
As you can see it’s a slick-looking and multifaceted new ‘zone’ encompassing an adventure playground for kids (hundreds of delighted squeals), the Red River Cafe (sensitively designed, reasonably priced, standard cafe fare), a shop (a rather curious mix but did at least contain Hager Vor hoodies and Natalie Bonney’s lovely ceramics), workshops and an exhibition centre, plus – most importantly – the carefully restored mining remnants and buildings that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As per, Cornwall Council couldn’t resist slapping a pay & display car park on something trumpeted as a free attraction for the community. Still, that won’t stop most locals parking for free on one of the many surrounding streets of the industrial estate instead. Baker Tom’s little oasis in the desert is also just round the corner – weekdays only, mind.
The Tinner’s Arms – trading in the simple pleasures in life since 1271.
Tinner’s Arms, Zennor, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 3BY. www.tinnersarms.com
I have a great appetite for old photos of Cornwall – particularly of parts I know and love. Charming as they undoubtedly are, we’ve all seen the classic black and white photos of Penzance in the Frith series around and about, so it’s exciting that Penlee House has recently acquired a collection of long-buried pictures of Penzance and Newlyn.
A choice selection from the archive is currently on display at Penlee House Gallery and this week is the last chance to see it. I just loved the ladies Read the rest of this entry »
At one point, while camping near the pretty peak of Lanín in Argentina I think it was, I harboured vague aspirations to climb up high stuff. Since then I have had three hip surgeries, and live with the lingering pain of hip impingement syndrome, so it’s a very good thing for me that the peaks of West Penwith are measured in hundreds rather than thousands of metres – and take on average 10 minutes to climb. Ideal for those with motivation impingement syndrome too!
Herewith, documentation of my first 2012 peak of Penwith: the Iron Age fortification of Chun Castle, atop a bloody great hill near Pendeen. It’s a bit rubbly now, as you might fairly expect after 2,400 years, but the circular hillfort and its granite gates are still perfectly clear and impressive. No longer needed for spying approaching enemies perhaps but for me a useful vantage point from which to decide on my favourite remote Penwith property…
Click for more pics: Read the rest of this entry »
Lest anyone think I only portray the sunny side of Cornwall, here are some photos of what a cold, damp Sunday in the dead of January looks like in West Penwith.
Stopping at a random spot on the St Ives-St Just road, we made a stab for the nearby coast, with visibility at about 10 metres. Porthmoina is what we found at the end of the path, a properly stirring spot, with the remains of a water mill that formed part of the Carn Galva mining operation. It had something of a Machu Picchu about it in the mist… Look, like I said, it is January.
More pics Read the rest of this entry »
The church on the beach at Gunwalloe on the Lizard – a beautiful, little-visited spot on the Lizard.
I’ve just realised that I don’t have a picture of the church itself set against the sandy beach, so this post will have to serve as an incentive to visit for the full scenic effect. It is just down the road from the Barefoot Kitchen, subject of my last gushing post.
This is one of my favourite carols, the St Day Carol (or Sans Day Carol), thought to originate from St Day, near Redruth, in the 19th century. It was translated from Cornish roughly to the lyrics of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ – and I think the melody has a lovely lilt, as demonstrated by these charming chaps with stunning ‘taches.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas. May your days be laden with Rodda’s and lit by gently flashing fairy lights. And may your mornings-after be quickly and painlessly cured by sea breezes. See you in 2012 – thanks for reading my Cornish miscellany. Back dreckly.
There’s been a bit of an atmosphere of ‘don’t mention the harbour’ ever since the potent and divisive controversy surrounding the proposed Option A development for Penzance Harbour.
The Council’s plan, known as Option A, was to seriously compromise an area of historic beauty and build a coach park in one of the most scenic parts of town – which they tried to push through at all costs without adequately consulting members of the local community. Thanks in part to protest but in reality mainly due to the recession, this pricey project was overturned.
The aim now, though, isn’t to rake up old bitterness (though if you want to read my feelings about it at the time, you can here) but rather to celebrate a promising new forum for development along the seafront, planning close consultation with local people. It goes by the name of the Penzance Seafront Forum, and it is organising its first public meeting for next Thursday, 17th November at 7.30pm in St John’s Hall. Spread the word.
If you can’t attend, but have thoughts to air, you are encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org. http://penzanceseafront.com
If you didn’t catch this week’s episode of Grand Designs, in which Kevin McCloud follows the renovation of a dilapidated Cornish enginehouse from beginning to near-end, you should definitely watch it online here, where it will be available for the next month.
Apart from being a fascinating insight into the demands of turning one of Cornwall’s crumbling mining remnants into a home, with the attendant historical and physical challenges, the programme is a lovely little portrait of how things work in a Cornish community.
Mind-bogglingly multi-skilled stonemason Adam Purchase manages to make it all happen on an improbably small budget. He achieves this mainly by being generally adaptable and creative but also by calling in favours from neighbours and friends with skills (while giving out favours just as generously), mate’s rates, and gentleman’s agreements. At one point, one of the helpers says ‘Who needs that cash stuff, eh?’ and I think that’s my favourite line of the show. Well, it’s a good job really, since there’s bugger-all of it in these parts!
Did anyone work out where it was? I didn’t.
I think few would deny Cornwall this honourable title, such is the quality of the mizzle the county produces. Many people make the mistake of classifying it as rain, but this is incorrect. It’s a refreshingly mild offspring of rain and mist – I barely notice it.
I took these pictures of the first mizzle of winter up on Ding Dong Moor at the weekend. I think you’ll agree there’s nothing for it at this time of year but to embrace it.
This photo blog post has come in today from Mexico care of p&c hermana Jen. Far away in the Mexican province of Hidalgo, there is a little corner of Kernow called Real del Monte, twinned with Redruth. It’s a community steeped in Cornish culture, thanks to the pasty-munching influence of some 350 Cornish miners who ran the local mines in the early to mid 19th century.
Most of the photos in this slideshow were taken in the local cemetery, which contains hundreds of Cornishmen, many of whom died at alarming ages. My Mexican correspondent tells me that Read the rest of this entry »
What do you make of these pics? Not mine, sadly.
It’s great to see this crisp, modern new website that has been launched to educate and inspire people about Cornish Mining World Heritage – it’s so good, it was even ‘site of the week’ in New Media Age last week.
I’ve noticed that most things to do with mining history in Cornwall are accompanied by a crappy low-res website that hasn’t been updated since, well, the beginning of the internet, and grainy, uninspiring photography.
And it always strikes me as a bit of a shame, since mining heritage of Cornwall is not only scenically pretty mind-blowing but also internationally highly significant, yet it seems to get rather overlooked by all but those with a corduroy-trouser specialist interest. Myself included — the insufficiently informed Cornishwoman, that is, not the corduroy wearer.
It is with kind permission of Cornish Mining that I am able to publish these superb images on p&c. Picking them out from their image gallery was a task that I indulged in for way too long to the detriment of paid work, and in the end I went for some classics such as Wheal Coates near Aggy and Botallack from above [er, wow], as well some little-known sites such as Wheal Trewavas and South Wheal Frances. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did — there’s tons more gold ore on the website.
Time to click on the ‘Delving Deeper‘ tab perhaps!
The Cornish sardines stacked on counters in Newlyn fish shops at the moment are a spectacular bargain: five for £1. Fresh, meaty, good for you, supplies not about to expire. Pan-fried, slice of lemon, sprig of parsley – delicious.
That is all.
Being a bit of a tin geek, I approve of this vintage-chic new tin of Cornish Fairings care of Furniss (official makers of the Cornish Fairing – they nabbed a trademark a few years back), which has been designed to celebrate their 125th anniversary in business.
The requisite embossing and retro styling is in place, as well as a motif of a pan-Cornish lighthouse, all brought up to date with some nice pastel colours and tactile matt gold.
In a classically west Penwith moment the other month, I got an email from Sara Priddle of the Zennor Wayhouse Museum, telling me about their newly restored 19th-century watermill and the flour they were producing. She had got my name from one kind pasties & cream reader (thanks, if you’re reading), who said – correctly – that it would be right up my street.
I told the story of these accidental millers in the food & drink section of Cornwall Today the other month and thought you might like to read it. If you are sitting comfortably, then I will begin.
In the timeless village of Zennor, Sara and Bob Priddle are quietly busy reviving a long-dormant corner of Cornish history. Ten years ago, the couple left their careers in publishing to purchase Cornwall’s oldest private museum, the Wayside Museum in Zennor, as part of their long-term plan to retire and try their hand at something ‘completely different’. What they couldn’t have predicted when they bought the museum was just how different their new line of work would turn out to be. 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 »
…make it the Anchor in Newlyn.
Open to the public for the first time this year as part of the Open Studios event, this wildly atmospheric studio in Newlyn was once the workplace of 19th-century Newlyn trailblazer Stanhope Forbes and has, it would seem, changed brilliantly little since. It’s all overgrown outside Read the rest of this entry »
Cornwall is in the spotlight on Google today – check out Richard Trevithick’s google-ised steam loco, to commemorate his 240th birthday.
An Illogan boy, and engineer at Ding Dong mine (yes indeed, this is partly an excuse to type out ‘Ding Dong’, my favourite place name in Cornwall, pipping Praze-an-Beeble to the post), Trevithick is Read the rest of this entry »
Ruth Watson – she of never-ending supply of bold necklaces – takes her cut-the-crap business sense to gorgeous, but struggling Trereife House near Penzance, a ladylike Queen Anne pile on the outskirts of Penzance.
Interesting show – and an insight, as ever, into just how much effort it takes to keep a house of that scale and history alive – and some stunning aerial pics. All the best to the Le Grice family with their new ventures – yes please to more literary events btw.
According to the narrator, a PZ renaissance of cool is in full swing! I’ll be looking out for that ;-)
As surely as night becomes day, we all turn into our parents while we’re not watching. And so it is written in the genes that I shall collect old, obscure books on Cornwall. One of my recent acquisitions is the sweetest little book on shell collecting in Cornwall – published by Tor Mark Press in the 1970s.
I’ve always had a soft spot for shell collecting, unable to resist any vaguely good-looking treasure on the shoreline – and I know enough to feel lucky if I find a cowrie. But I don’t really do identification, much less labelled display cases. This book is so geeky about it all, it’s Read the rest of this entry »
Sorry for the long radio silence. I’ve just been in for another round of hip impingement surgery, this time involving some gruesome bone-cutting and slicing (gross). The list of post-operative restrictions is five pages long – and has a scary bullet-point heirarchy – but nowhere in there does it say ‘thou shall not blog’, so expect special attention to west Cornwall venues furnished with comfortable chairs standing at exactly 19 inches in height.
There’s a charming photography exhibition on at the moment at Penlee House Gallery called ‘The Marvellous Everyday’ – a celebration of Penzance’s long-standing quirkiness. Read the rest of this entry »
…If You’ve Got Long Hair.
People seemed to enjoy the video I posted the other month of Penzance in the 1960s, so here’s some more grainy black and white footage of Cornwall that’s come my way – this time with some fairly surreal narration.
As some of you will know, pasties & cream – as well as being the name of my humble blog – is the title of a seminal Cornish folk album (and song) by the late, great Brenda Wootton.
A folk singer from Newlyn, born with an extraordinary, pure voice, Brenda is to the county of Cornwall what Edith Piaf is to France, or Mercedes Sosa to Argentina. Clearly Cornwall is, ahem, a lot smaller, and those singers are infinitely more famous, but the stories and music share a number of similarities.
Brenda has been gone some time – she died in 1994 – and fans like me had to make do with her old, classic albums, most no longer even in production. Until, that is, a sound engineer in Porthleven unearthed a box of previously unheard, master tapes in his loft of a concert Brenda Wootton gave in the Bobino Theatre in Paris in 1984.
Against the odds, the tapes were in amazing condition and, after being remastered, have just been released as a new album entitled ‘All of Me’. I got given a copy for Christmas and… Read the rest of this entry »
Warning: this photo should only be viewed full screen! (Click on the image to make it bigger.) This amazing image was taken by Hayle-based master thatcher and photographer Sam Carnell. It captures the unreceptive cliffs at Botallack getting an extreme battering in the storms of 2008.
Sam entered it in the Lloyds TSB Insurance Weather Photographer of the Year competition, along with 10,000 others hopefuls, and made the final twelve. I couldn’t help wondering what conditions the valiant photographer was working in to get that shot: ‘That day the wind was gusting at around 100mph at exposed spots,’ he told p&c, ‘and the sea had over thirty foot of swell, so not the most pleasant of conditions. But worth it!!”
Reckon so – very cool.
Check out more of Sam’s shots at www.samcarnell.co.uk.
They were sounding so chirpy on Radio Cornwall about the lunar eclipse this morning – the first total lunar eclipse to take place on the winter solstice since 1638 – that I felt spurred to get out of bed and try and catch it. It was cold and I couldn’t see no bleddy moon but it was an incredible sunrise all the same. Anyone else have any lunar joy?
Today is of course the shortest day of the year and in Penzance that means everyone goes a bit pagan and marches up to the beacon with lanterns to stand around a large bonfire and sing. Montol as a festival was revived here four years ago – it’s devoid of bells and whistles (burger vans, candyfloss etc), but I think that’s the idea. Procession starts from St John’s Hall at 5.45pm this evening.
More deets at http://www.montol.co.uk/
When weighing up the move to Cornwall a few years ago, I was quite preoccupied with the idea of getting through the winters. In my first week in Penzance, at the start of winter, I noted with deep concern that every light on the street was out by 10pm, and thought my worst fears had been realised. No signs of life!
But it’s funny how wrong you can be because I love winter down here. There are the obvious bonuses like being able to find a parking space, quiet roads and empty beaches, but also the Penwith landscape wears the dark tones of foul weather well.
Here are a few late afternoon shots taken from a beacon near Sancreed (randomly chosen from the OS map – coordinates on a postcard plse!) shortly before the sleet started, at which point we repaired to the Sportsman’s Arms in Heamoor for pints of Trade Winds.
I was touched to receive an old, red Ward-Lock Guide to Penzance as a get-well present from my friend Sarah while recovering from surgery (I’ve started walking btw… like a duck, but you’ve got to start somewhere).
It’s hard to know exactly what date it was published as Ward-Locks apparently routinely omitted a date from all pages in order to look current but I’m guessing first half of 20th century… One can, should one not have a job, go on online forums where people endlessly discuss the possible publication dates of these old guides with impressive anality.
At the risk of romanticising my convalescence, which hasn’t been a walk in the park (literally no walks in the park!), I did indulge in several enjoyable afternoons of reading in the company of this book while watching the boats potter in and out of Newlyn harbour from my bedroom window and a) pondering how little Penzance had changed in the years that had passed since that book was written, and b) amusing myself with the things that had.
My top 10 highlights from the book:
1/ ‘Penzance is the metropolis of the toe of England – a town that has prospered amazingly considering its isolation for hundreds of years’.
–Come on, I don’t think the use of the M-word has ever been appropriate.
2/ ‘Penzance shops close at 1pm on Fridays. On other days between 5pm and 6pm. On market days, some shops remain open later.’ –Well, lucky old people of olden times. Can’t remember the last time I found a shop open a minute past 5.30pm.
3/ ‘To many the charm of the place, and the justification of a journey of some hundreds of miles, is simply that Penzance is–just Penzance.’
4/ ‘Mid-way along the seafront is the Pavilion Theatre, with a café and roof garden’
–ER, HELLO – PENZANCE HAD A SEAFRONT ROOF GARDEN? Who got rid of that and replaced with an amusement arcade?
5/ ‘Mousehole has no claim other than it is to-day as it was yesterday–an unsophisticated Cornish fishing village unreformed by artists and unspoiled by vandals.’
–Thankfully still unvandalised though I think a few artists might be ‘reforming’ it.
6/ ‘After reading the effusive descriptions of the beauty of Lamorna Cove, handed down from writers of the past, many visitors express disappointment when they reach this pretty but over-publicised spot–particularly when they have seen more beautiful coves. Nevertheless, Lamorna is… very fine in its own wild, untidy way but is unfortunate in possessing a beach consisting entirely of granite boulders’
–Ouch! Touch harsh on Lamorna.
7/ ‘What natural beauty Land’s End does possess is usually imperilled by the disgraceful amount of paper, cardboard and other debris of picnics cast aside by careless visitors’.
–Oh well, better that than the unmovable debris of a sizeable theme park, no?
8/ ‘One arrives at Porthmeor Beach, a fine sandy bay, splendid for surf-bathing’
9/ ‘This peninsula combines the soft charms of a genial winter – and is, in fact, an invalid’s paradise, with a summer season of unvarying equability’.
–Looking forward to its soft charms again as winter draws in… is he talking about mizzle?
10/ ‘A century ago, the journey from London to West Cornwall occupied something like forty hours… The world-famous Cornish Riviera Limited now runs from London to Penzance in about 7 hours’
–Nice to see the coming of the 21st century has reduced the travel time by a whole hour. Maybe we’ll get it down to 4.5 hours by 2110.