Cornish Excursion…


Forgive me for digressing from the brief… We have quite a lot of connection with Cornwall, but our holiday a month back has stubbornly stayed ‘in the system’ and won’t let us get back to normal just yet…

We love Hampshire but we have felt the pining for all things Cornish since our return. Mid Cornwall to be precise. Padstow is still pretty – seems a bit ‘serious’ now and rather more crowded than I remember it 20 years ago, but the beaches around there are wonderful and largely unspoilt. (The A30 road has improved too, although we now miss the last windy part of the route). We had booked a week away early September back to an area we know well – St Merryn.

My Wife’s family used to have small cottage in Porthcothan which had been in the
family for over 50 years. Many happy memories which I latterly was able to join in
the experience. Just over 15 years ago, with those grandchildren growing up, it was suggested the sale of the house could help us all on the property ladder… It was such
a tough decision for them to make, although probably was the sensible one, (for the
time we could actually make to get down there), and the split was painful. It took several years for us to muster the ‘courage’ to go back and visit. We went back 9 years ago,
and after quite a thing for North Devon, we decided it was time to visit again.

The other difference this time was we have a child! Holidays are a completley different thing with a 3 year old… We dont really have the rest bit. Having said that, he turned out to enjoy it as much as us and this maybe hepled make the holiday memorable and more relaxing than other ones. We didn’t have the best weather, but it wasn’t the washout it threatened to be either.

Porthcothan Beach at low tide © Nigel Smith

There were a few obligatory trips to Porthcothan, but not out of loyalty. Its a real gem of a beach. The tidal changes make it a varied experience every time.

With the weather a bit iffy early on, we thought we’d take a look at Restormal Castle. This was a bit hit with the little one, (hence made it easier for us). The castle wasn’t built for defence, (although it was the setting for a seige in the Enlish Civil War), but the remains are very extensive to wander inside, and the setting in a valley must be even better on a sunny day!

We thought we may have to go to the Eden project if it the weather didn’t improve, but after Tuesday we never needed the wet weather option. We could have even seen Maddie Moate who it turned out was doing a show down there at the same time…

St. Winnow © Nigel Smith

I then saw on the map what looked an interesting old church by the River Fowey, which wasn’t too further on. The place was called St Winnow. The whole area was heavily pro Royalist in the English Civil War, and the soon to be executed King Charles I showed his gratitude to the people with a ‘painted letter’ which is on display in an alcolve. The church had some lovely features (including the bell ropes) and a story of a recast bell. From the graveyard we made it down to the shoreline to the river.

The Camel Trail

Another success was our cycle ride along the Camel Trail, along the old railway line from Padstow. It was our wedding Anniversary so maybe we shoud have got a Tandem! It was easy to cycle with lots of places to stop and enjoy the estuary. We went all the way to Camelford, (and back), which was a surprise to us. We’ll do that again. It had its surreal moments… A couple having a blazing row during a high speed cycle was something I’ll remember – I hope they sorted it out.

One day, my Wife kindly let me have an afternoon to go off walking. It was serene. I made it to Stepper Point  another part of the South West Coast Path completed, (although there is still about 590 to do…. Its a start).  Alas, There was no time to do any watercolour painting, but I really appreciated the space and beauty.

One of our last days we had some bright weather. We attempted a little family walk along Constantine Bay, towards Booby’s Bay and Mother Ivey’s Bay. A favourite haunt of The Cameron’s and Thatchers, but dont let that put you off! Some glorious stretches of sand there. Its funny to think we hadn’t really ventured beyond Constantine Bay much before on our holidays. (Porthcothan ticked the boxes). Even now as I write this I remember the light. St Ives, further down the coast, is famed for its light, but maybe as we had seen some cloudy moments I appreciated it more.

Boobys Bay – Photo by Nigel Smith ©
Mother Ivey’s Bay towards the old lifeboat station © Nigel Smith
The other direction  – Mother Ivey’s Bay © Nigel Smith

Just a little word on where we were staying. Our holiday home was on an old airbase. Which I didn’t get initially. Some of the original buildings were still around from the war. R.N.A.S. St Merryn was was home to H.MS. Vulture. Just starting a placement in the aviation industry, it was a bit of a busman’s holiday. I traced where the runways were on a farm, and looked around some of the old structures, but some you couldn’t get to. The photo below shows the mix of the old and new uses.


We popped into Padstow a couple of times over the week for supplies, as you do. On our last day it was cloudy again, but I caught a great moment looking over the estuary to Rock. Over the week the number of visitors to Padstow seemed to lesson and made it it much more enjoyable experience.

Padstow Toward’s Rock © Nigel Smith

Our links to the West Country are strong, but on coming home from Cornwall this time,  this trip has lingered long in the memory, especially when I was back at my desk!



Sitting comfortably with Jane…

Viables, Basingstoke

The ‘Sitting with Jane‘ initiative has been one of this summers great success stories for Basingstoke & Deane, as it caught the publics imagination comemerating the 200th anniversary of the Death of our most famous resident.

A big well done to ‘Desination Basingstoke‘ for organising the project to place commissioned benches by different artists, around the North of Hampshire sites connected to Jane Austen. As a creative, I particularly ejoyed the broad range of artistic styles there were from the ornate to some fun eyecatching submissions. I think they all help the public interact with them. I believe our friend, below visited them all!

You may not have liked them all, but that didn’t matter as you would soon find one you did. Over the summer, people didn’t need much encouragement to investigate where the benches were placed, with the children equally excited,  and once they started they wanted to find out where the others were – It seems a bit snide to begrudge Winchester and Chawton their own benches, as part of the scheme, (but Winchester often wants to grab the Jane glory – look at that new £10 note!), so for once it was great the majority of these benches where around the places she grew up in. This story is drawing to a close with a the chance for groups and individuals to bid at an auction of the benches – Its clear there is an appetite for keeping them.

The Walled Garden, Down Grange


Jane Austen Statue
Jane Austen in Basingstoke © Basingstoke Observer

We also have a permanment statue of Jane in the Basingstoke Town centre. It was a good story to let the World know. I also enjoyed this article by Rupert Willoughby.