Drifting Away: Cornwall, Crabs and Cider

Being in London during summer doesn’t feel right. I escaped to work in the country each of my first three London summers at university, so perhaps this has set a precedent I will never quite throw off. Whether exercising horses and brush-cutting rampant weeds, or house-sitting for a family friend who took their yacht and family (minus pets) off to the Isles of Scilly for two months,  I always found an excuse. Now that I live and work full-time in London, however, I am tied to it. The oppressive heat and stinking tube carriages, and unnecessary building-work extending houses upwards, outwards and downwards, that clatters and roars through open windows, is a part of daily life. I do love London, but sometimes it feels like living inside a huge factory. Powered by rumbling machinery and scuttling workers with dead eyes and empty souls.

Just as life in the factory was getting all too much, Tom came up with a wonderful suggestion: Cornwall. If ever there was an antidote to the daily grind and toil, it is to be found here. There is something wild and ancient about this part of the British Isles. The scream of seagulls, smell of brine, and the patchwork of fields in gold, jade and bronze transport me back to a simpler time. The few family holidays we took were always spent visiting my grandparents near Falmouth, as my mother didn’t want them to miss out on my childhood. I would read stories of magical forests , streams and wells, and animals that talked and went on adventures, and once a year I would be taken to visit the land such stories came from. For me the magic was real, and it came undeniably from Cornwall.

My grandparents have recently moved away but the area near Falmouth will always feel like home. Luckily for me Tom loves it as much as I do, so we scheduled ourselves a week off, found an apartment overlooking the sea, and made the five hour journey down by train. As we arrived late we headed straight to Rick Stein’s restaurant, for the most wonderful  seafood. The view isn’t particularly inspiring (the back of the Maritime Museum), but the atmosphere is relaxed and the food… indescribably wonderful.

The next morning we woke up and discovered that perfect summer’s day you never usually get on holiday, and a view from our balcony we’ll be able to stare at for hours even if rain manages to drown the sun.

The view from our balcony

We pottered down the road to a sheltered courtyard just off the high street, and had breakfast at Café Cinnamon. Serving excellent vegetarian food, this small, friendly café is the perfect place to while away a couple of hours, and the owners are happy to offer advice on the local area.

I managed to damage the lining of my stomach a few days ago (aspirin and ibuprofen are apparently the worst way to deal with back pain, as they react with the acid in your stomach to torture you) and on asking for a glass of milk (my doctor advised this, I’m not just reverting to childhood) I was offered the above, magical concoction. Milk with ice and mint syrup – it was like drinking mint imperials, and it was amazing.

After a leisurely breakfast, we got the ferry to Flushing. Ferries really are the best way to travel in Cornwall. Reasonably priced, convenient, and bloody exciting! Falmouth to Flushing is ten minutes by car, or a five minute/ £2.50 per adult ferry trip, so there’s no contest really.

 Here’s me waiting for the ferry to leave, riveted by excitement, my gaze fixed upon the open water.

 Here’s Tom enjoying the ferry too, in a rugged, manly way. His excitement is well hidden, but just as fervent.

Once in Flushing, we headed East around the coastline. You can walk to Mylor Harbour in 5-10 minutes via a series of twisting, overgrown lanes, but we decided to take the more scenic and adventurous route.

A coastal path weaves its way through fields, so we followed this for ten minutes or so before scrambling down through brush and sea-hardened shrubs to the rocks. Here did the real fun begin. Provided you catch an ebb-tide, a stretch of rock will lead you all the way round the coast to Mylor Harbour. Mostly dark shale, with seams of glittering white granite running through it, the landscape has clearly been twisted in some seismic shift, and the layers revealed jut towards the sky instead of lying flat. This has the added bonus of giving you greater purchase, but do still wear flexible shoes with a rubber sole for such scrambling. My Fred Perry pumps may not seem the most practical, but they allowed me to clamber safely across the rocks with far greater ease than Tom’s trainers (as well as matching my outfit).

There was a reason for making our journey a lot more difficult and time consuming. Rock pools. Peering into the depths of a huge pool, cut off from the sea and harbouring any number of monsters, is the best way to spend a summer’s afternoon. Drifting a stick through tendrils of bright green weed to flush out whatever may be hiding or camouflaged beneath it; patiently trapping tiny fish and shrimps with your hands until with a swoop you lift them from the water, and are able to examine them for a few elated seconds before returning them to their pool. The best thing of all, however, is ever so slowly lifting rocks from their resting places, to see what is hiding beneath them. Literally hours of fun to be had with this. We found a good assortment of crabs, and one huge fish that flopped out of the pool in panic, before escaping into the sea; much to my disappointment.

When we finally reached Mylor Harbour we bought well-deserved pints of Rattler (Cornish cider, pronounced ‘rat-luh’) and ice-creams, and sat on the quay enjoying the glorious sunshine. We were also treated to an unexpected air-show from a Royal Navy Rescue Helicopter, which looped around the harbour several times before hovering over the beach next to us and divesting itself of a paramedic on the end of a rope. An agog group of locals and tourists were by this point on their feet, pasties and pints of cider in their hands, and we watched in polite silence as the jump-suited paramedic jogged up the beach and into the woods. Imaginations ran riot, especially when the helicopter flew off around the bay, then returned to actually land; a second paramedic climbing out and jogging off in the same direction as the first. They eventually carried a patient on-board and took off, and the small crowd that had gathered slowly dispersed.

Can you spot the paramedic? He’s mid-air, if you need a clue!

The view across Mylor Harbour

More tales of seaside action and derring do to follow soon. Does anyone else enjoy hunting in rock pools as much as me?!

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10 thoughts on “Drifting Away: Cornwall, Crabs and Cider

  1. We love rockpooling in Cornwall, and eat at Rick Steins often, although we normally go to his St Petroc’s Bistro. There are some great pools at Dalmer bay on the other side of the camel estuary from Padstow. Near Falmouth there’s a great cafe called Miss Peapods in Penryn

  2. MY dad used to live in Flushing over 20 years ago. Falmouth was very scruffy and rundown then. The ferry over from Falmouth to Flushing was my favourite way to go get there too. I have fond memories of walking his dog on some of the little beaches around the edge of the Carrick Roads.

    • Falmouth has definitely improved over the last twenty years – I remember always driving to Truro for any form of shopping (apart from food, which was bought from the local farm shop or fishmongers of course!) but these days it’s a lovely little town in its own right. Jx

      • I am in my 60s now but during the 70s and 80s over a period of about 10 years we used to take our kids to Cornwall for the summer holiday. We stayed at a wonderful place called Prussia Cove. We rockpooled a lot, and went to Porthcurno to look for the tiny shells that get mixed up in the shellsand there. Since then I have looked in hundreds of rockpools as part of my interest in intertidal marine life. Most of the rockpool occupants are microscopic and I have always thought that the range of body forms that marine invertebrates adopt is amazing. I’ve continued to visit Cornwall several times a year to visit friends and some places haven’t changed at all – like Prussia Cove. I could ramble on…………… I like your writing.

  3. Pingback: A Wedding, a Floating Pub, and a Naked Yachtsman: more Adventures in Cornwall | Cocktails and Country Tales

  4. Pingback: Working – and Writing – in Tuscany | Cocktails and Country Tales

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