May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

South-east Cornwall

Jane joined me for a sisterly nostalgia trip along 'our patch' of Cornwall, the south-east. She was born in Ivy Cottage, Wilcove next to Torpoint where the chain ferry crosses to Plymouth - you can't get much further east in Cornwall. Our father was a Royal Marine in 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks near Plymouth, and our parents bought Ivy Cottage in 1949 from the Antony Estate.
The Gunnera at Trebah
We started at Trebah Gardens on the Helford River which is owned by the Hibbert Family who we were at school with. It is a beautiful garden, sub-tropical and with a private beach on the Helford River. There are magnolias, camellias etc earlier in the year, and we had the hydrangeas and the incredible gunnera. There are spectacular trees whatever time you go, and the garden is open all year round.
It was dark and very foggy by the time we got to Fowey and we couldn't find the campsite we had chosen from my book. Diana, the satnav, took us to a petrol station and the man there said it was always happening, he shared a postcode with the campsite half a mile up the road.
After breakfast we headed for Fowey. This is real Daphne du Maurier country; during the war she rented a house near here called Menabilly which was such an inspiration for her writing. The town is crowded round the most beautiful natural harbour. Among the sailing boats, large ships come up, turn round and are towed to the docks round the bend in the river to collect cargos of china clay. 
Looe Harbour
The Looe Music Festival was in full swing, the streets thronging with people, brightly dressed, pushing buggies and eating – fish and chips, hot dogs and burgers. It was very summery and colourful and it's hard to imagine what these narrow streets were like when Looe was hit by storms and flooding in the winter.
We drove through Downderry and Crafthole towards Whitsand Bay. The roads, and the lanes leading off them, reminded me of my Baa wishlist – 'the van mustn't be too big, and be easy to drive down narrow Cornish lanes'. These roads are so Cornish: wooded either side with oak, beech and hornbeam, curling branches meeting above the road, forming dark, green tunnels, rivers and streams running below. After Crafthole the road to the Rame Peninsular is high and clear with open fields of wheat and pasture.
Whitsand and the chalets at Freathy
We turned right at Tregantle Fort which was built in 1865 to repel the French. There are still firing ranges here which slope sharply down to Whitsand Bay, and then we came round a corner and were suddenly surrounded by handsome young men jogging along the verge and peeling off their wetsuits. Surfers park their cars on the clifftop and climb down to the beach, and we met them as they returned – like Mapp and Lucia suddenly finding themselves on the set of a Rip Curl promotion!
On towards Rame Head, past Freathy, the clifftop is peppered with little cabins with the most stunning views out to sea, which were originally built to house people evacuated from Plymouth during the War. Most of them have been rebuilt and look very chic but planners restricted them to the same footprint and height.
Our home for the night and The View behind
The View, is a wonderful restaurant in something not much bigger than those modest cabins - but the food there is anything but! We first came here last year when the family came to scatter Mummy's ashes at Portwrinkle, and Jane and I decided to treat ourselves again. The joy of Baa is that we parked in a layby hard up against the cliff, and walked to dinner.

No comments: