Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cornwall Day 3: 365 Doodles Day 276

Tuesday - No more flies but now the cottage seems to have a surfeit of spiders so the old cup and paper technique has been used a lot. Today I decided to do one of my favourite walks from Helston to Porthleven through the Penrose estate, a National Trust property. The walk is around two miles long and follows the contour of Loe Pool, a freshwater lake fed by the river Cober. Once upon a time, Helston was a port but the estuary silted up in the early 19th century leaving a swampy woodland of moss covered trees and it's these you pass first before you get to the lake.

When I was a kid growing up in the town, the council hilariously built a swimming pool on land adjacent to the swamp and were then surprised when, firstly, a crack appeared and all the water drained away and, secondly, when the pool itself sank into the ground. How we laughed. A lot of the area has been drained now and turned into a car park and amenity site. I started my walk and it wasn't long before the swampland gave over to the first glimpses of Loe Pool. And this mysterious pair of underpants left on a bench ...

The halfway point of the walk is marked by Penrose House itself and the stablehouse clock. Then it's a bit of an uphill walk through pine woodland into which the National Trust has added a whole series of 'Green Gymns' using mostly local natural materials. Clever idea. Wasted on me though.

I often did this two mile walk after school with my friends as Porthleven and Loe Bar (which you'll see in a minute) were the nearest beaches to Helston. We always knew we were getting close when we passed one of the two granite lodge houses that mark the boundaries of the estate. When the sun shines on this bit of the coast, it's tropical hot and many plants grow here that you won't see anywhere else in the UK. Arriving at the lodge also means that you get your first glimpse of sand and sea.

Loe Bar is a geological curio; a narrow strip of sand that has a freshwater lake on one side and the sea on the other. I believe that the only other in the UK is Chesil Beach in Dorset. The sun was really warm by now so I determined to get onto the beach and get a photo of myself on the beach in October. If I'd had a windbrake I could easily have sunbathed. Extraordinary weather.

Then it was back onto the coastal path and up and over the cliffs and down into the pretty little fishing village of Porthleven. On the walk down I passed an art studio that boasted work made entirely from refuse washed up on local beaches. Then, I enjoyed a splendid bit of fresh fish in a local restaurant before catching the bus back to Helston. It inspired today's doodle ...

Back in Helston, I couldn't leave without a pint of Spingo in the Blue Anchor. The Blue, as we called it, was my local throughout my teens and I've spent many a happy hour in the back bar playing folk music and silly drinking games. It's a 15th century thatched pub and has been brewing its own ales for a staggering 600 years. The beer is brewed on the premises - it even has its own well - and comes in several grades; most people drink Middle or occasionally the Bragget. Amazingly, the same guy who ran the brewery when I lived here is still at it! Tim is now in his 90s but still oversees the whole process.

Helston was even more depressingly run-down than the last time I visited. Such a shame. It was a vibrant little town in the 70s. However, it has nothing for the tourists and with the loss of the tin and copper mining, a downsizing of the Porthleven fishing fleet and the general state of Cornish farming, the place seems to be a mess of pound shops and charity shops these days. I cheered myself up with a drive back to Penzance, stopping off at several studios and potteries on the way. Of special note was the studio of husband and wife Nic and Jackie Harrison near Ashton. Nic's pottery was wonderful but I guess it should be as he trained at the Bernard Leach pottery. Jackie's tapestries and rugs are likewise beautiful and way to expensive for my budget! Nice people. I then drove on to Marazion and skimmed some stones on the beach by the magical St Michael's Mount (being careful to avoid hitting the lugworm diggers).

Final stop of the day was supper at the Dolphin Inn in Penzance, reputedly the most haunted pub in the UK. I took the opportunity to question the licensee about the pub's ghostly reputation. 'Put it this way', he said, 'I've been here six years and I haven't heard or seen a thing'. I said that I expected that he got a lot of visits from ghost hunters. 'All the time', he said. 'And, frankly, it's all I can do to keep a straight face some days. But they believe it all, bless them. And they buy my beer. So they can keep coming all they like.' How we laughed at the idea of a spirit world!

Got back to the cottage. Power cut.

Damn you poltergeists!

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