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Happy times in Cornwall



Ben

You might have been wondering where I went again….. but in this case it was just another manic week. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to get down to dreamy Dorset on Thursday… albeit Charlie and I were nursing tender hangovers after a delicious and bonkers supper with Rita Konig on Wednesday night. We were all feeling a bit the worse for wear but I was glad I wasn’t her friend James, who managed to be taking his driving test at 11 o clock that morning.

I had Dorset meetings all day, and got home to dramatic clouds and bright sunshine… high spring.  The veg garden sparkled. I’ve been away for so long that we have almost missed the great glory of Charlie’s tulips, bucketloads of which he’s been taking to London each week for sale to florists and friends, but luckily the garden was still looking amazing. Tulip-time; my favourite.

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Mavis has been getting enormously long in the last three weeks. She is growing up fast.P1000124 P1000129 P1000130 P1000131

And is proving to be very helpful in the garden….P1000137
But early on Saturday morning, we got up and drove to Cornwall. We were staying with our friends Henrietta and Toby – Henrietta is one half of the wonderful Land Gardeners, who regular readers of the blog will already know about…. and their children, Willow, Lilac and August. Bunny Lytle, daughter of Lulu Lytle (who as VERY well-informed readers of the blog will know introduced Charlie to me) was also staying, bringing her own brilliant touch of wit and humour to the proceedings.

We met at a very strange event, a Horse Trials – at Port Eliot, the beautifully decaying, dreamy estate down in South Cornwall that briefly made the headlines last year when it seemed that the Prince of Wales might buy the splendid, timeworn house (for some reason, which I know not, nothing came of this).  I am not a regular at Horse Trials. I have never seen so many Horse Trucks in my life.
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That’s Bunny on the left, Lilac on the right. I was very taken by the blankets.P1000163 P1000164

You don’t say:P1000166

Here is the front door of Port Eliot, reminiscent of a slightly terrifying prep school. There was a big sign at the entrance gates saying “HOUSE OPEN TODAY 2-5pm” but when I opened the front door the place was completely deserted. P1000176

On further enquiry in the Estate office yard it turned out that meant every day apart from Saturdays. Oh well.P1000178 P1000182 P1000185

The place is dreamy.  But I was glad when we drove north and ended up home at Toby and Henrietta’s beautiful farm on the North Coast, sparkling bright coastal light glowing with the light of the nearby sea. Here is an extraordinary wall of their great 16th century barn, in the garden:P1000221

A corner of the farmhouse. On the site once stood a much larger, grander Tudor mansion, now all gone. But the place has the feel of history.P1000228

Mavis was in heaven, and, for moments now and again, was very well behaved.P1000237

On Sunday the weather came in wet and dank, as is completely normal in Cornwall ( I can say this, being Cornish, of course). We went for a great walk along the cliffs at Pentire Point, that inhospitable coastline just north of Rock and Padstow.P1000242 P1000244 P1000252 P1000255 P1000256 P1000260 P1000262 P1000267 P1000269 P1000273 P1000274

What an amazing year for primroses it has been…P1000278

I suffer from terrible vertigo, as you may know, and from time to time I was quite freaked out on moments of this walk. but I face my demons by peering as close as possible over the edge as I dare. P1000280

Wet Mavis, wet Henrietta, wet Charles:P1000281 P1000286

Carpets of bluebells just beginning.P1000289

The beautiful farm is now all owned by the National Trust.P1000291

Someone was rather glad to be home:P1000305

Today, more rain, sweeping across country. Henri, Charlie and I went to Trerice, which I have longed to go to ever since finding the wonderful Rena Gardiner guide book to the house written in the 70s, which I blogged about here.

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Incredible plasterwork; beautiful rooms:P1000315 P1000318 P1000321 P1000323

But while the house was a dream, it utterly lacked the magic of Rena’s beautiful illustrations, presented as it was by the Trust as a bit of a theme park, inside and out. My heart slightly wept, and I dreamed of how easy it would be to clear out the clutter of the dreadful gift shop and the amusing ‘tat’ designed to entertain kids throughout the house, and then felt a bit guilty for being such a killjoy. But seriously. Ridiculous volunteers dressed in daft ‘tudor’ costumes are not necessary. The house would have been so much more special presented quietly. We have imagination; no one has more imagination than a child. We don’t need ersatz “history” rammed down our throats.

Outside, beautiful mossy walls and damp green paths.P1000332

But we were not really in the mood to try on a Tudor Costume I am afraid.P1000334

The house is a dream, a magical place.P1000335

but we breathed a sign of sadness, and relief, as we left.  Bad things have been happening in parts of the garden too, where a beautiful ancient apple orchard has made way to a rather strange and curiously alien “Tudor” garden. Someone is trying too hard here.

Incidentally, maybe this is the moment to let you know that my great friend David Burnett of the Dovecot Press has beautifully republished Rena’s wonderful guide to the Isle of Purbeck.  You can buy it from us here. A brilliant book, and so exciting that it is at last republished – the original being rarer than hen’s teeth now.

We got home and, as the end of the Bank Holiday approached, the clouds lifted… with incredible, some might say, cynical, timing. Sparkling sunshine filled the house and garden once again. Here are Charlie and Henri in the cutting patch.

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We are still at the house, which feels incredibly quiet and still and ancient after all the shouting and laughter of the weekend. Tomorrow, I’m in Newquay and in Truro, looking at some of our housing projects there, which reminds me that one of these days I’ll post a blog writing about some of the projects in the office. It could be interesting. For now, we’re gently enjoying the setting sun in Cornwall, half an hour later at least than London, so far west are we.

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The magic of this place is incredible – like a dream. I cannot remember sleeping more deeply, and dreaming more intensely, for years. I love Cornwall, and it’s been the happiest of times.

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