At the weekend, under heavy grey skies, I set off with friends from Feock for Tolverne Cottage on the eastern side of the Fal, via the King Harry Ferry (free for pedestrians). It’s a serene part of Cornwall – and you can cut through on a footpath through the woodland attached precariously to the banks.
On arrival at Smugglers’ Cottage, we found what was once one of Cornwall’s most eccentric teahouses looking considerably more dapper, having been taken over by Tregothnan of tea fame.
‘Oh,’ said one of our party, ‘It’s been Farrow and Balled’.
That pretty much summed up my unedited response to the new understated colour scheme and smart garden furniture. Gone was the endearing eccentricity of the place (though all the nautical curios that once hung from all available spaces will appear in a soon-to-open museum) and in their place was a National Trust look, silver trays and lots of beige.
I think I am probably taking out my frustrations about wider issues on this one, ultimately very pleasant spot – it’s hardly like Starbucks has just pitched up in the woods on the River Fal. There is nothing wrong, and plenty right, with tasteful aesthetics and high-quality cream teas but, like all forms of gentrification, in large quantities it starts to feel like it’s endangering the very character of a place – ie the bit people liked in the first place.
I feel that on some level this is what is happening with Cornwall. Where it was once a novelty to have a pricey cappuccino in chic surroundings by the beach, it now seems to be an essential part of the business plan of every beach, cove or garden – and I can’t help thinking that if I’d really wanted to be drip-fed lattes after every muddy walk, surf and wild view, I wouldn’t have moved to England’s most remote county!
On a similar note, I heard on the West Cornwall grapevine that the wonderful cabin at Perranuthnoe, previously featured on pasties & cream, is to be closed (Correction: just found out that the Cabin Café is in fact moving up the road to the arts & crafts centre in the village so all is not lost) and replaced with – you guessed it – a beach restaurant. Hm.
Getting back on subject, please don’t let my grumbles stop you going to Tolverne Cottage – it’s a fascinating spot on the Fal, surrounded by thick woodland (used by US troops as an embarkation point for the D-Day landings) and accessed easily by ferry. Tregothnan tea is delicious, the Victoria Sponge superb, staff friendly, and the new owners committed to maintaining green boat links from the quay outside. I’m just a grumpy old woman before my time!? (Discuss.)
Smugglers, Tolverne Tea House www.tregothnan.co.uk