We’ve been trying to find a weekend to visit our friend Ruth Guilding down in Cornwall for months. Regular blog readers will recall Ruth not only as author of the brilliant and inimitable Bible of British Taste, (and author of serious works of art and social history) but as our regular London drinking buddy in the everlasting search for the perfect dark pub that sells warm, unusual beer, has no TV, no jukebox and no food, but which does have ancient gloss paint on the beaded board walls and ceiling.
We had last visited Ruth at her beautiful cottage in Lamorna way back last summer, in the height of August. You can read about that high summer trip here (scroll to about half way down to reach the Cornwall bit). So it was something of a treat to go back to Cornwall out of season.
Grey skies hung over the West Country while London basked in unseasonable sunshine. The mood felt perfect for ours.
I was glad nothing had changed at my favourite crossroads.
We were here for the meet of the local Hunt, that has been running in these parts since the 1820s. Now, I know that not everyone who reads this blog will love hunting.
But it is still just a way of life in country like this. With the arrival of drag hunting, hopefully, a reasonable compromise has been found to allow the continuity of rural life at the same time as preserving the sensibility of civilised folk who consider the practice “the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable”. Maybe we have reached an acceptable impasse in the politics of the matter. Or maybe we have not. I am not sure.
All I can attest is these are not bad people.
Neither are they ‘high-falutin’. Not down here.
They were meeting for the Saint Levan’s day Feast. We left, and went to Porthgwarra.
Mavis leapt in the water.
We were a bit suprised when we suddenly saw a real seal, not own our little version.
Mavis and Bunny, Ruth’s dog, went mad playing with seaweed.
We drove up out of the bay. We popped in to the Organic Farm shop. One of the things you discover about Cornwall fairly quickly is that the entire county is covered in a golden orange or silvery grey lichen.
The roadside flower stand where Ruth normally buys her dahlias has sweetly scented Narcissus in stock already.
Meanwhile we were dropping off one of Charlie’s buckets of dahlias with the great Rose Hilton, wife of the artist Roger Hilton and herself a marvellous painter. Here we are in Rose’s conservatory with its beautiful vine.
We were on the way to walk the dogs at Botallack, a landscape scattered with the detritus of 19th and early 20th century tin mining, magnificent and austere.
A diagram in the National Trust cafe explains the extraordinary engineering feats reaching the seams of tin ore far under the sea.
Nearby, we drooled over the beautiful Botallack Manor House, currently deserted. This place could be heaven.
In the pub for lunch, I got the pleading eyes treatment. Is it possible to resist?
We set off up to St. Ives.
The Tate has just re-opened its doors, and was free all weekend. But as we arrived, it was clear that there was a huge queue snaking all down the street. We aborted our mission, and stared briefly at the surfers way out at sea, like little flies on the water.
We came back by Mousehole. Last August, the town of my ancestors was so crowded that we’d had to escape the second we had arrived. Mousehole in October is deserted.
One valiant family making sandcastles on the beach.
And the Christmas lights being installed.
We got home to Ruth’s.
Incidentally her perfect cottage may be rented. Visit her website here for more details.
We went to sleep for a long afternoon nap, under scudding grey skies.
We woke to a perfect soft late autumn afternoon. It was time to set off for a little pub crawl. An ancient standing stone on the way:
Followed by a pint at the Logan Rock.
Which was PACKED to the gunnels for the St Levan’s Feast. Look at the food table. Perfect.
So we left the pub and went for a walk, in the gloaming.
Up into the rabbit fields, for Bunny to have a run (Bunny likes chasing rabbits, but they always outrun her). Right in the centre of Treen is the little Treen Farm, selling delicious raw Jersey milk from the side of the road. This is one of the most special things about this tiny corner of West Cornwall. I obsessed briefly about this building, now a cow barn.
A good fug was building up in the Logan Rock Inn. A great night was getting going.
But we were off to Penzance for the second part of the pub run. To The Crown, with its own brewed beer.
Then home for crab pasta.
On Sunday, Charlie and I went for a good walk while Ruth went to church.
Afterward, we were meeting in The Star Inn, St. Just.
We screeched to a halt, on the way, at this amazing road sign, which we’d driven past last summer, but I’d failed to photograph.
St. Just is a wonderful small town.
We arrived before pub opening time, so had a little wander in the church yard.
And then met Ruth, exactly on time, at this best of places.
And after a while, this is how I felt.
All weekends must drift to a happy conclusion, and after a lingering lunch at the cottage we drove home to Dorset, our minds full of the magic of the strange country of Cornwall, and of places that rest deep in my bones. Thank you, Ruth.