Roseland and the end of a good week away

So, last day and we decided to head Roseland, a quiet part of Cornwall, south west of St Austell.

We started off in Mevagissey, one of those small fishing villages that you think you’ve been to before, but haven’t. It’s very pretty, as they all are and once we had dried out from the heavy rain shower, the harbour is most attractive.

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Then further south, we found St Mawes, which is… You’ve guessed it…

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Returning northwards, we called into St Just in Roseland, which has a really attractive church in what must be a unique setting. The graves are all set in what might as well be botanical gardens – beautifully kept. Maybe some photos next week when my film gets processed.

Finally, called into another village called Portloe. Hidden away, it’s very quiet and with a nice looking hotel cum restaurant that would be perfect for a real hideaway holiday.

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We have been very fortunate with the weather, especially given the forecast at the end of the week. With big outdoor events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Wimbledon and Glastonbury on this weekend, it’s always a shame when the weather spoils things that people have been looking forward to. Thankfully, we seem to have got away with some lovely sunshine between the showers, even if Glastonbury did get struck by lightning…

And then it rained. A bit.

We knew that the weather wouldn’t last and to have had such good weather at the beginning of the week was a bonus. But this is still England in the early summer and such good fortune doesn’t usually last.

So we decided to chance our luck and visit Port Isaac, the village on the north coast where we had spent a couple of holidays when the children were very small. It hasn’t changed very much, but has been a bit blighted by the fact that a television series has been filmed there over the last few years, so there is some TV tourism in evidence. It’s always been a touristy place, though.

The harbour is just the same, although the council have banned people from parking their cars on the low tide, as too many didn’t realise that the tide comes in…

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The narrowest street in England, known as squeeze-belly alley is still there of course.

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And by the time we got back to the car, the rain really was coming down with a vengeance…

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Passing through Padstow at lunchtime, we ended up at a vineyard just outside Bodmin. The wines produced there are exceptional, but they seriously need to get their PR sorted with regard to customers and visitors with dogs. Dogs are not allowed out of the owners’ cars UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, the small sign by the visitor shop says.

I complained to the owner, via Twitter, last night, but he was pretty dismissive of the issue. Given the time of year, I think an email to the local branch of the RSPCA might be in order…

The Lizard, Kynance Bay, Trebah Gardens and a fabulous view

As always when in the office and discussing holidays, friends offer suggestions of places to visit when in a “new” area. Two such suggestions from one friend made for a fantastic day today.

We started at Lizard Point – the most southerly point on the English mainland. To be honest, it’s only really worth visiting for bagging rights, but it’s a nice place to spend half an hour. The old lifeboat station from 1914, now abandoned, stands forlornly just beyond the point, slowly dissolving into the English Channel. Would be a good place to visit in stormy weather, but for today, this photo shows what is left of the station.

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Just around the corner from Lizard Point is Kynance Bay, a National Trust owned beach that is just fabulous. I can imagine that it gets very busy during the main holiday season, but today, it had a few families with young children and a few pensioners sitting on the lovely sand. The cafe there serves a decent cup of tea and flapjack and the whole surroundings make this a perfect spot. If you want “just” a quiet day at the beach, with great sand, clean sea and a cup of tea, I am struggling to think of anywhere better.

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Leaving the bay, we called into Cadgwith, only because there is a photo of the harbour on the front of the OS map. An unspoiled little working harbour, with a shop that sells today’s catch straight to your basket, the likes of which you normally only see in period TV programmes. Well worth a visit.

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Then, on to Trebah Gardens. A little hard to find down some very narrow lanes, it is well worth the effort. These are beautiful gardens, well looked after with the perfect attitude towards dogs (I am getting obsessed with dog-friendliness this week) this is another great few hours that I wouldn’t have had without my friend’s advice. So thanks go to them for a great day!!

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Finally, called in to see an old boss of mine who has retired to the coast down here and had a most enjoyable tea time with him and his wife. The view from his deck was just stunning. It was good to catch up with him and see him enjoying his retirement.

All in all a very good day.

Now, let’s have a glass of English fizz to round things off.

Skip to the Looe – and back

At the suggestion of the cottage owner, we walked to Looe yesterday. We passed maybe two cars on the whole walk and no more than half a dozen other walkers. Apart from the biting insects in the forest section, it really was a lovely walk.

When we got there, we bought a hat or three (one had to get donated to Cancer Research within 15 minutes of being bought…) and then decided to walk back via the coastal path and Polperro. By this time it was the heat of the day and Betsy did get into full trudge mode by the time we finished the path, but it was a very good walk. Bus back to the cottage, though. Roughly 13 1/2 miles all in.

Despite this, went to find a dog friendly beach after supper and walked back into Polperro on the way back. A completely different village when the hoards of tourists have all gone home. There is much more of a feeling of what it would have been like before they arrived.

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A day of two saints

Headed down to St Michael’s Mount yesterday morning, making the mistake of choosing the St Austell road (three saints) and then through to Truro. We should have taken the A30 as suggested by the sat nav, as the roads are really crowded, even at this time of year.

Smaller than it’s probably more famous French cousin, it was nonetheless a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. The development at the base of the hill is interesting enough to occupy the dog-handler, while I went to the top and did the tour of the castle itself. I had previously assumed that the whole thing was a large church or abbey of some description, but in fact the church at the very top is more like a large family chapel than a church. Surprisingly small when you sit in it.

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We left as the tide was coming in and crossed the causeway at the last official time, getting our feet and tummies wet, depending on how long our legs are. Loads of other people were still starting to cross long after we had got to shore, and they would have got very wet indeed. Definitely worth a trip.

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Then onto the second destination of the day, St Ives. A place I’d always wanted to visit, but never had the opportunity; recommended by colleagues at work, this was a “must do” on the list.

I have to confess my initial reaction was one of a little disappointment. We found our way to the harbour beach – the main town beach. It is a nice beach, with clean sand a a sheltered bay, but I was surprised at the number of cheap restaurants and bars that lined the shore road. I don’t know why I was surprised, as every seaside town is the same these days, but I had thought that St Ives was different – I don’t know why.

However, as we got further into town, and past the harbour beach, the charms off the town began to reveal themselves. Sail lofts and fishermen’s cottages and very narrow streets and rope walks. All really lovely.

And there’s Art Deco too…

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We found the Tate Gallery, but couldn’t take Betsy inside, as she’s only interested in old masters, and then walked back to the town centre via “the Island”, finding an interesting school of art on the way. I might consider a course there next spring – will download some details when I get home.

Then returned home having unsuccessfully tried to find a dog-friendly beach. The National Trust have them pretty well locked down during the summer, which, while understandable from a family point of view, does mean that those of us with dogs, including families with dogs, are excluded.

A30 – traffic flowing freely.

Fowey (pronounced Foy)

We left our cottage in Pelynt (pronounced Plynt) at a reasonable hour on Sunday morning and drove to the car park at the top of Polruan, so as to walk into the village and get the little passenger ferry across to Fowey. A steep walk down the hill brought us to an interesting little harbour which was a mixture of working fishing boats, some hauled out for maintenance, pleasure craft and the small ferries which take up to about 20 people (and their dogs) across the river.

There was a pub on the quayside and a tourist nick-naks shop. And that was about it. Pretty unspoiled, I’d say.

Fowey itself is much busier and full of people on a Sunday morning. A pretty place with very narrow streets, from which they should really try to exclude more cars, it had a bustle and a proper working feel to it. But with money attached.

For example, it costs hundreds of pounds a month to leave your little boat tied up on the river. There are fancy shops, as well as touristy ones and it is clearly a place where people from London spend long weekends. This money clearly skews the economy, as it does all over the West Country. House prices are ridiculous here, for example.

Still, the locals were friendly and even managed to sell me a pair of shorts and a new pair of deck shoes. So they must know what they’re doing…

Returned to the cottage via some of the narrowest roads in Britain, via a lovely quiet little hamlet of Lerryn.

Oh yes, the hay fever is something else this year, down here…

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Cornwall – first time in over 20 years

I had forgotten how nice Cornwall is. Have only been here an afternoon, but having done a seven mile round trip walk to Polperro, through traffic-free single track roads and unmade lanes, it really is quite pleasant.

Living in the middle of the country, a 5 hour drive will take me into Cornwall or well into Scotland. The Scottish option has always proven more attractive in the past, since once north of Preston, the scenery is good and the roads clear. Coming south and this isn’t quite true. Firstly, there’s the M6 south of the M62 to endure, then Birmingham and the M4/M5 junction to look forward to. Once through there, you pass the string of service stations that are packed to the brim with the coach parties, with queues 20 deep to buy a cup of coffee. On reaching Exeter, you think that you’re nearly here and, oops, your destination is at least another 70 miles on A Roads…

This morning was a very good run indeed. We left home at about 6:20 and arrived at the rented cottage 3 miles inland from Polperro at about 12:30, which included a brief stop on the M5 and a trip to a supermarket to stock up on essentials. Like gin.

There is a private lane that runs from this property which leads towards Polperro and we did The walk there and back this afternoon. Will have to go back again later in the week.

Long may the sun shine.

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Cholmondley and a pageant

I went to the Pageant of Power at Cholmondley Castle, near Malpas, this morning. For some reason, I’m reminded of a biscuit factory and private railway in Trumptonshire, but maybe that’s just me.

Having been to Goodwood Revival a few years ago, this “motor sport” meeting was a bit of a pale imitation, but it’s probably a bit unfair to compare the two. However, it is clear where the organisers have taken their inspiration from. This year is the 100th anniversary of Maserati, so they were having a bit of an Italian thing going on.

It’s one of those weekends where they have fast and expensive cars on a road driving through the estate as fast as they can go. They have events on the mere and in the air too, so there’s usually something going on. However, it did feel a bit “flat” to me. They basically run the same motoring event three times during the day, with the cars doing time trials.

Still, there were some photos to be had, which was the purpose of my visit. It was good to wander around for a few hours, especially before the crowds turned up and I was ready to leave at lunchtime. Worth the £35 entry fee? Probably not.

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On brake pads

So, here I am, waiting to have the brake pads on my car changed. 57,000 isn’t bad, I suppose. But it’s the rear ones that have gone. The fronts still have 20,000 miles on them.

It would appear that the rear brakes are used to put charge back into the battery. Which is good. Except that it costs £250 to change the pads.

I wonder how much fuel is saved by this energy regeneration?

Seems like it might be a false economy to me.

Cheap milk from the Tesco supported dairy – at what price?

There is a story-line in The Archers at the moment about “Open Farm Sunday”, a scheme where certain farms are opened to the public for a day a year, to allow us to see how farms are run and our food is produced. By coincidence, on driving home from walking the dog this morning, the large dairy farm, owned by the University of Liverpool, and heavily sponsored by Tesco, was taking part in the scheme today. After lunch, I went for a visit, just to satisfy the curiosity generated by driving past the place twice a day for over twenty years.

Now, I am not naïve when it comes to food and how it is produced. I knew before I went that this farm is one of the new, modern agribusiness dairies, whereby the cows are kept inside for the most part. I knew that this was a “milk factory”, for want of a better phrase. This is not some cosy, ambrosian vision of farming – this is big business. Having holidayed on farms as a teenager, and visited open farms before when the children were little, and having worked at Unilever’s research facility near Bedford, where all sorts of experiments were done on the dairy herd, I was expecting to see a slick, “factory” atmosphere as far removed from the natural environment of a cow as one could expect. What I found was something different.

There are some 200 cows in the herd here. I don’t know if that’s a large herd or not (I have just had a look and 134 seems to be “average”). We were told this afternoon, that dairies in the US with 3,000 cows are not uncommon. Between this 200, according to the manager who was showing a small group of mostly middle aged people around, they produce a staggering 2.1m litres of milk per year (that’s nearly 10,500 litres per year, for every cow). Now, according to this website, a pedigree Holstein cow typically produces 8600 litres per year. These look like Holsteins, or Friesians to me (they’re black and white) so, if these numbers are correct, the Leahurst cows are producing roughly 1/3 more milk than an average cow. But, that’s only if they produce consistently the same amount of milk, every day, all year round. I am sure that this cannot possibly be the case. Averages are a dangerous thing, of course, but the manager was proud of the fact that these cows produce at least 15% more milk than a typical, non-intensively reared and maintained cow. This is a “good thing” apparently – for those of us who want to buy four pints of milk for a quid, as opposed to the cow, I suppose…

I was watching some of the herd in their shed. They were dirty. The floor was dirty. The stalls in which they bed down are dirty. I was surprised at just how dirty. Cows are usually pretty clean when they’re in the fields – these were far from it.

We were then shown into the milking parlour, where these cows are milked three times a day. The parlour takes three hours to work its way through the whole herd and runs from 05:30 to around 23:00 every day.

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In my admittedly limited experience of these things, this looks like just about every other milking parlour I have been to. However, I was struck by just how thin the cows look. most of them have protruding ribs. All of them have incredibly boney hips, with the bones clearly visible. I was immediately thinking of cows in sub-Saharan Africa that one sees on the TV whenever there is a famine.

We left the parlour and I headed back to my car to leave. And then turned back.

I asked the manager about the condition of the cows, expressing my concerns and surprise at how thin they are. His response was that this is how the breed is suppose to be, comparing a greyhound with a labrador. If you had a greyhound as big as a labrador, there’d be something wrong with the greyhound. (Or labrador, I suppose, but I get his drift). I was only partially convinced by this approach. Certainly, I cannot recall seeing a whole rib-cage on a dairy cow in the UK before and the hind quarters were noticeably boney.

He stated that the farm, as sponsored by Tesco, adheres to their highest welfare standards (I need to find out what these entail, now) and, being part of the University, they have access to any number of vets just across the road. All this is, of course, true and fine as far as it goes. But, it did get me wondering even more than usual about the food we eat, how it it is produced and what is really going on behind closed doors on farms in this country. If this particular farm is one of the very best there is, I would hate to see one that does not reach these standards. But, perhaps I should. Perhaps we all should.

The milk from this factory goes to Arla (a subsidiary of a Swedish/Danish food giant and one of the largest food businesses in the UK). I will think about this, next time I buy my Cravendale milk. At Sainsbury’s.

I don’t know what the answer is. Even if you buy all of your food from local farmers’ markets and farm shops, there is no guarantee that the animals’ welfare is any better than the inhabitants of these sheds. But a conversation with the farmer’s wife at our local farm shop this afternoon, pretty much convinced me that her family’s ideas about animal welfare are much more closely aligned to mine than Tescos.