open the curtains

and take a look out the window if you want to know what the weather's like


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“Who’s this moving alive over the moor?”

2016.03.28 (7) Foggintor

and if it rains, if it thunders suddenly
where will he shelter looking round
and all that lies to hand is his own bones?

So the composition’s not perfect and the  light balance isn’t quite right but hey, I’m not a photographer and my camera’s a ten-year-old point and click, and this is  one of my favourite photos I’ve taken this year so here it is to celebrate World Photo Day and the anniversary of the invention of photography. Continue reading


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Death of a Naturalist

blackberryI ate my first blackberries of the summer just a few days ago.

I’ve been eyeing them up in the hedgerow since the beginning of the month when they first started to ink up in small numbers, biding my time, waiting for the sweetness, the ripeness to set in.

Pausing on the path up Pennance hill to let someone pass, I saw them, seven, eight, maybe ten black blackberries on the edge of the field. Any thoughts of saving them for my picnic dessert evaporated as the first one hit my tongue, flooding my head with juices and flavours and purple stain, and re-drawing to the surface lines indelibly printed in the back of my mind:

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: the summer’s blood was in it
[….]

___

I was fourteen and I’d never heard of him. It was the end of the summer term, and having finished all our end of year exams we were in a sort of educational limbo between lower school and GCSEs. (But of course I didn’t know the word limbo yet, nor the ‘cold glitter’ and the spark of deep core grief-sadness I cannot dissociate from it.) So they gave us something to bridge the gap, a poem to look at such as we might get to study in the following school year. It was ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney. Continue reading


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River Fal 13: Fin

– Place to St Anthony Head (where?)

The final – or maybe the first, depending on which way round you look at this – creek to join the Fal estuary is the Percuil River whose own mouth forms St Mawes harbour and whose course separates the St Anthony headland from the rest of the Roseland, creating a peninsula on a peninsula. The almost-isolation of its geographical situation is echoed in the quiet countryside clothing these shores. After Place House, the one-time ancestral home of the influential Spry family, the near-hidden cruciform of the 12th century church behind the mansion is the penultimate footprint of manmade construction before reaching the very tip of the land. Nestled in the midst of a conservation area and flanked by overhanging trees and rampant wildflowers, St Anthony’s church feels somehow more sympathetic to its rural surroundings than the slightly pretentious facade of its neighbouring mansion.

I turn a corner and suddenly I’ve left behind all trace of woodland and meadow that have exemplified the latter stages of this journey downstream. The flora becomes edgy and littoral: thrift instead of cow parsley, sea campion replacing red. A sharp drop to my right reveals a secluded cove at the cliff base. There is no more river now. There is no more estuary, even: I have reached the Cornish coast of the holiday brochures.

St Anthony Head beach picture credit: Trinity House

 

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River Fal 12: Alternative Perspectives

– The Roseland – St Mawes (where?)

It would be easy to misinterpret the name Roseland but in fact rose stems from ros, the Cornish word for heathland, which would once have been the main habitat of this peninsula. Now it’s mostly farmland but with much of that given over to grazing, the high summer of wildflower meadows, dog roses in the hedgerows, and adjacent private gardens blossoming bright in the late afternoon sunshine, this really does seem to be a land of roses. Gardens fare particularly well in Cornwall because of the climate: for all we might complain about the rainfall it is the combination of this, the milder winters and warm but not too dry summers that make the area such a haven for plants. As with the churchyard garden at St Just some parts are almost sub-tropical, with the coastal river valleys providing the perfect combination of shelter, warmth and moisture for these miniature jungles.

This eastern shoreline of the Fal Estuary is far less populated than the western side, but it might have been different, had the development of Falmouth’s deepwater harbour had an alternative setting. Continue reading