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Mousehole and Mallow

Mousehole and Mallow

It wasn’t perhaps the best time for a bit of a break but the other week we popped down to Cornwall for a few days. Ideally I wouldn’t leave my plot, garden, greenhouse and ever-growing number of pots in late June, but it was Wellyman’s birthday and we both needed to see the sea.

The rigmarole of making sure everything survives whilst I’m away does sometimes make me wonder whether it’s worth it. I’m reluctant to ask neighbours and friends to look after the plants because I know that can be a bit of a pressure for some, especially if they don’t have ‘green fingers’ or it’s very dry and they have enough of their own plants to cosset. I did once leave lots of emerging seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse but slugs got to some of the plants. I felt bad for my friend who clearly had been worried about the whole thing. She’d rushed out to get organic slug pellets and I think had dreaded my return and having to break the news. Now that I need plants for photo shoots I’d rather leave it up to me, then at least I’ve only got myself to blame if they shrivel and die. It does of course mean trying to make sure everything will get enough water, and it’s surprising how quickly pots and plants on a sunny windowsill can dry out, even if you’re only away for 4 days.



The prolonged dry spell we’d had prompted us to hunt out the irrigation system gathering dust in a cupboard, which we bought 8 years ago but never got around to using. It’s a straightforward hose with sprinkler attachments and timer on the tap. The fiddly bit is getting the water to soak into the compost and not to spray everything else – greenhouse windows, paving, me. We spent a few days adjusting the settings and initially massively over-estimated how long we’d need to leave the timer on. Bearing in mind the water only trickles out we thought 10 minutes would be about right. It turns out this would have drowned them and 2 minutes was more than sufficient. Pots were gathered together in a shady spot and given a good soaking, windowsill seed trays were given a base of sodden kitchen roll, and the plot and garden were treated to a mammoth watering session.

Ironically by the time we set off it looked like we needn’t have bothered with all the watering. It seemed we’d time our get away with the glorious weather coming to an end as we headed into mist and gloom hanging over Devon and I shivered in my shorts and tshirt. Wellyman, always one to put a positive spin on life, said at least I wouldn’t have to worry about the plants drying out…….

Breaking up the journey we called in to see the lovely Becca and Maz at The Garden Gate Flower Company near Fowey. We met through Twitter and it was lovely to meet them in the flesh. I’m very jealous of their flower farm perched on a hill with the sea only minutes away surrounded by beautiful flowers, incredibly photogenic outbuildings and their polytunnel. After a few hours of wonderful flowery-chat we left them to tend their roses and continued on to the fantastically named Mousehole, pronounced by locals as ‘Mauzal’. It’s a classic Cornish fishing village with whitewashed cottages, tiny narrow lanes and a pretty harbour. And what’s more the sun came out. With all the technology at their finger tips the weather forecasters could have only got our four days in Cornwall more wrong if they had suggested it would snow. As it turned out the predicted four days of rain turned into glorious sunshine from start to finish.

A detour to Constantine Bay, near Padstow, on the way home.

A detour to Constantine Bay, near Padstow, on the way home.

We got to marvel at glistening turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, watched gannets plunge into the Atlantic and were delighted by the seal which popped up at Sennen Cove just as the sun was setting. The water was so clear at St Ives we watched as a seal swam torpedo-like under water to join a group of surfers. We chased it the length of the beach watching it come up with crabs in its mouth. It would disappear for a few minutes and we would scour the surface of the water waiting to see its head bob up again. I’ve seen seals in the past but generally they have been from boat trips to specific seal colonies. Great as these are there’s something much more special about these chance encounters we had.

I have never been to Land’s End, mainland Britain’s most westerly point. We have been close enough before but I’ve always been put off by the visitor attraction which has sprung up on this spot. I’d rather celebrate the dramatic beauty of this coastline by enjoying the peace and tranquility of the place rather than spend it at a petting zoo or being treated to tales of Arthurian legend. Something made me want to see the actual Land’s End though and I’m so glad we did because whether you want to pay to see a 4D movie or stare out to sea for free there’s the space for both types of visitor to co-exist.

Land's End

Land’s End

We took the coastal path out of Sennen and walked a well trodden path along the cliffs for a few miles. The view was spectacular with the Isles of Scilly just visible on the horizon and the Longships lighthouse a mile out to sea. Sea thrift was fading but wild carrot was putting on an impressive show and there were choughs soaring above us. A red beaked and legged member of the crow family this is a rare bird with, it’s estimated, only 250-350 breeding pairs in the UK . Colonies exist in North Wales and Scotland but it’s with Cornwall that this bird is synonymous, featuring as it does on the county’s coat of arms along with a tin miner and a fisherman. But for nearly 30 years, from the 1970s to the start of the new millennium, choughs were absent from Cornwall – the population whittled down over the centuries by trophy hunters and changes to their habitat until their were none. Then a pair, believed to be from Brittany, set up home in Cornwall in 2001 and successfully bred and choughs returned to Cornwall.

And, of course there were plants but I think I’ll save those for the next post.