open the curtains

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


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Winter Garden

From the upper lawn the view across the valley looked very green. A small patch of the Helford River was just visible beyond the specimen trees and the lower ponds, the woodland on the far hillside seeming an extension of the garden’s greenery. The water too was green, a deep teal, too far to see any movement, the day too dull for reflection or sparkle. But this is what Cornwall does best, nurtures its sheltered hollows of sub-tropical escape from the dull reality of the British weather so that even when a bright sunny day turns overcast you can walk beneath treeferns and bamboo stands green as ever – green as summer – and escape the grey. Continue reading

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Tea Garden

2015.04.11 Tregothnan (6)

I wouldn’t like to guess how many cups of tea I’ve drunk in my lifetime. Today’s definitely been an exception with only one (so far…) I started drinking tea as soon as I mastered draining the dregs from my mum’s mug, soon moving on to draining the mug when she unsuspectingly put it down half-finished and left it for a minute or two. This led to me getting my own mug, albeit slightly smaller, and a whole cup of tea to myself, and I’ve never looked back. When my housemate moved back to Cornwall I offered him a cup of tea while he was unpacking, querying his affirmative with, which kind? He replied that now he knew he was back in Falmouth – typically here everyone has an impressive range of tea in their cupboard.

As it happens Viscount Falmouth knows more than a bit about tea. Continue reading


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Tree Time

Continuing with National Tree Week here’s something from the archives about a memorable tree from the garden of the house where I grew up.

Thanks to Blacktop Rain for reminding me of it  (the article that is, I couldn’t forget the tree).

A long garden, defined by trees.  The forked apple tree at the centre is the focal point that pulls the eye, the point to which all garden-doings seem to gravitate.  Birds make it their stopover on route from hedge to hedge, like children touching base in a game of tag.

It marks the time, this tree, standing like a sundial in the centre of the lawn, its shadow marking out the hours, its changing appearance marking out the seasons.  In winter it’s a bare framework, mushroom coloured and silvery, smooth on the newer branches, patched on the older trunk with flakes like burnt bark pastry.  An ancient scar is filled with cement.  Continue reading

An ArboreAlbum (for National Tree Week)

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Next Door’s Garden

They say that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Or wall in my case. Not that it would be difficult seeing as there isn’t actually any grass in my garden except for what comes up at the edges of the paving stones. I’ve been advised by various people not to refer to my back garden as a ‘patio’ but to elevate it slightly to a ‘sun terrace’. It’s not a lie: designed for practicality and minimal gardening, our little patch sports a few shrubs and ‘easy maintenance’ plants in a couple of beds, but being on a hill it’s light and bright and, come summer time, a proper sun trap, the paving stones radiating warmth long into the evenings.

But it’s not great for wildlife, aside from the odd seagull attempting to eat my clothes pegs from off the table (I can only assume it thought they were chips?). We don’t have any trees, excepting a rather exuberant buddleia, which I think technically belongs to next door.

Their garden is roughly the same size as ours, but seems smaller due to its being so overgrown. Their ‘upper terrace’ is more of an ‘upper lawn’, Continue reading


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River Fal 11: All Things Wise and Wonderful

– Turnaware Point to St Just-in-Roseland (where?)

The sea suddenly looks very close at hand as the river rounds its bend below Trelissick’s South Wood, with the channel nearing a mile in width for most of the way now from here to the official river mouth. Green buoys shaped like bells mark the deepwater channel, and now the tide’s going out you can see why Turnaware Point is given so much leeway: an underwater rock bar stretches out from the edge of the headland that in a few hours time will be completely dry. Some people are already wading out on it, probably trying to reach a boat that’s run aground there. Providing it hasn’t damaged its hull on the rocks it will probably be fine until next high tide in about eight and a half hours when there will be enough water to set it to rights.

A great black backed gull floats past, so I must be right about it being sea now as unlike their townie cousins the herring gulls these hefty beasts rarely come far inland. The afternoon light brings out the summer colours of the Roseland: jewel bright greens set against the holiday blue of the water. Wrapped bales in a mown field on the side of the valley look like black cows grazing. Everything seems sharper, like the focus has been pulled on the world. Continue reading


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River Fal 6: Hydrology

– Restronguet to Trelissick (where?)

Just upriver from the conjunction of Restronguet Creek and the Carrick Roads stands Porthgwidden, Cornish for ‘white bay’: a pale Art Deco style building which must have an impressive view right down the estuary out to sea. The house was originally owned by the Holman family, who made their fortune, yes, you guessed it, in mining. An even more appropriate name would perhaps be Aberfal, the Cornish for mouth-of-the-Fal, as it is less than half a mile upstream from here that the estuary narrows considerably, leaving the name Carrick Roads behind on the nautical map and officially becoming the River Fal. Physically the river finally loses the feeling that it’s a piece of trapped sea and starts to feel a little more riparian. I apply the term with deliberation as although its meaning is to all intents and purposes ‘rivery’, the word derives from the Latin riparius: ‘of or related to the bank of a river’. Our own word river itself is of appropriately convoluted origin fed by both riparius and the Old French rivere, which in turn was related to arrive, meaning ‘to bring a ship to shore’. Another connection is to rival from rivalis: Latin for ‘a person using the same stream as another’. It seems fitting that a thing so varied and variable as a river should have a name influenced by as many different but related roots, as if the word itself is echoing the ever-moving body of water that connects and combines its tributaries, and unifies stream, eddy and flow between its own confining banks.

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