Tuesday, 5 October 2010

October Sunset

Sunset over the north coast of Cornwall
     The dark early evenings of October bring their compensations.


 Summer slips irrevocably into Autumn. Colours fade to shades of brown; the sun rises slowly and casts long morning shadows. Evenings draw in; the blackberries ripen. On calm days the mist rolls in from the sea. Children return to school; campsites empty; cafes close.

 I think wistfully of this time last year when my time on the Professional Writing course at University College Falmouth was all before me.
Come 10th September this year it was over - apart from the results - and now another group of hopefuls is preparing for their initiation.

On the coast path I encounter my friend Reg who tells me there were two Croydon power stations, and when I last wrote about him I had him working at the wrong one. Sorry Reg; I seem to apologise to you a lot. I also met Alistair with his gentle rescued racing greyhound Preacher Boy, and a young family with their excitable dog, Daisy.

The countryside exhales, and settles down to see what winter will bring.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


Where did August go? I continued to walk, but only in the gaps between working on my MA degree project - a novel and an accompanying essay. Now that the work has been handed in I can take a breath.
I've always thought August is a strange month; it should still be high summer, but there is a hint of autumn; of things swelling to ripeness and beyond, of days shortening and evenings becoming cooler. That feeling of a season coming to an end was particularly appropriate this year as my studies at University College Falmouth came to a climax. On the one hand I had the intense enjoyment of almost 24 hour involvement in the writing of my story ( my brain was sifting ideas even at night) but on the other the knowledge that it would, very soon, all be over.

Monday, 26 July 2010


My heart is not in my walking at the moment.
Often during the last couple of years I have been accompanied on walks by a Jack Russell called Sammy. She came to me after her previous elderly owner became ill, and was already elderly herself, although no one knew exactly how old.                           
 Last week she died.
Sammy and me on Tregonning Hill

She was hard of hearing, couldn't see very well, and had arthritic hips - but she got under my skin and into my heart within minutes of our first meeting.
She regarded it as her duty to be wherever I was. Now she can rest. Her job is done.
As for me, I am cycling along the coast road and back through the woods. Avoiding the grassy path along the cliffs where we used to dawdle in the sunshine; pedalling furiously past the places we loved to share; the rushing wind whisking away the sad thoughts, and bringing tears to my eyes.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Reg, Bob and Toby

Strolling along the cliff path in the sunshine I meet more of the 'regulars' - Reg Hughes and his Border Terriers. Reg is looking so dapper in his sunhat that  I can't resist taking a photograph -pity it's not very good. Sorry about that Reg. I hope you'll let me try again when we meet next.
We had been walking in opposite directions; me towards Godrevy, and Reg towards Portreath, but he turns around (the dogs don't mind which direction they go in so long as they're out and about with him) and we walk along together for a while.

Reg is a man with lots of tales to tell.
His first job was as a farm boy with 'British Boys for British Farms' (a YMCA scheme that began in 1932).
Later he became an engineer, and worked at Croydon Power Station (only its towers remain now - it's been replaced by an IKEA store).
Later still he was with the Royal Naval Reserve, and almost got stuck on the Dogger Bank while towing a trawler.

When he moved to Cornwall, Reg says, he promised himself that he would walk by the sea every day; judging by his twinkling blue eyes and tanned face it's doing him good. Bob and Toby look happy too.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Midsummer evening

I love these evenings when at 10pm it's still light enough to go for a walk. 

The sky to the north-west is a palette of pastel colours.

Cream heads of parsley glow amongst the silhouettes of tall, blunt-headed grasses. Light from the sinking sun drapes the cliff edges in diaphanous purple.

To the south the moon has risen in a cold, pure sky.

The sea is milk in a saucer.

Friday, 18 June 2010

St Columb's Broth

Even the stinging nettle has tassles of flowers at this time of year. They change from cream to red/brown as they age.
According to the recipe created by an Irish monk which appears at page 68 of Flora Brittanica (R. Mabey. Sinclair- Stevenson, London 1996) the young leaves of nettles should be picked before the end of June. Boil them. Drain and chop. Reheat with water and milk. Add oats or oatmeal and thicken. Serve with toast, grated cheese or a soft-boiled egg.
It sounds quite tasty.

Midsummer meadow

 It is almost midsummer's day and on a walk my senses gorge on the riches of the countryside.
I leave the path and amble around the edge of a wildflower meadow. It is an impressionist's canvas of flowers and grasses. Blurry swathes of tawny brown and gold, dotted cream and purple with the heads of  wild orchids and cow parsley.

The air is perfumed by the bank of bright green bracken against the hedge. There is the constant rumble and rattle of a harvester in the hay field next door. Bugle, Loosestrife, Self-heal; even the names of the flowers excite the imagination.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The wanderer returns

I have been silent for a few weeks, first because I was concentrating on work that had to be handed in for the MA Professional Writing course at Tremough and then because I went off to 'foreign parts'. I travelled to Suffolk in a campervan and explored the heaths, and coast of that county. Yesterday, on the way home, we stopped for a stroll in warm sunshine across the gently rolling, sheep-cropped green neatness of the chalk downs near Marlborough, Wiltshire.Today I was back on the Cornish coast path again - in gusty winds and a chill sea mist, and where the hedgerows and cliff edges are untidily stuffed to bursting with flowers and grasses. When I left, the dominant colours were green and yellow, but now hues of pink and purple have come into their own; foxgloves, heather, campions, thistles, thrift, clover, and wild orchids. White dog roses struggle up out of the tangle. In the woods, tall froths of rhododendrons are apostrophes amongst the trees.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Gloves seeking hands

I walk thinking about a brief I have received to write about 'the narratives' of a place. This is writer-speak and I can only guess what it means.

The pits in the lane down to the coast path are full of muddy water, reflecting fence posts and barbed wire. To my left, over Carn Brea, dark clouds are approaching and the sky is the same colour as the dirty yellow fleece left hanging on hedgerows by escaping sheep. On my right, towards Godrevy, there are patches of blue sky, and sunshine highlights gorse on the cliff-tops curving away from me.

The blackthorn blossom is out, but on one of the trees there hangs a white glove. Later, I find another glove sprouting from a fence post.

Monday, 3 May 2010

May Bank Holiday

In Cornwall anyway we were denied the opportunity today to indulge in moaning about the bank holiday weather: the sun has shone, although the northerly wind made my eyes water.

I left home in half a mind to visit the garden at Tregullow, which was open as part of the National Gardens Scheme. Tregullow is the home of the High Sheriff of Cornwall, Mr James Williams - seen in the photograph in black velvet and breeches at the head of the afternoon dance on Trevithick Day this year.

In fact I found myself heading in the direction of Helston, and then walking up Tregonning Hill from the hamlet of Balwest.

Standing beside the War Memorial at the summit I had a fantastic view from coast to coast, and I found shelter from
the wind in the Preaching Pit.

Afterwards I spent a small fortune on chicken manure and plants in a garden centre, before finishing the afternoon with one of the best cream teas around - in Sithney.

Friday, 30 April 2010


The long spell of fine settled weather has brought out long distance walkers. One morning I stop to talk to a man who tells me that his name is Inch.
Inch is making for St Ives, and carrying everything he needs for life on the coast path.
The day before he had walked from coast to coast, and back again, along the old mineral tramway that runs from Portreath to Devoran. He had spent the night on the cliffs somewhere near Portreath, and been kept awake by the cold.
He tells me about a frosty night when a woman had taken pity on him and provided a duvet to keep him warm, and about walking in Ireland where the people were very hospitable. He remarks that he did not meet any Cornish in Portreath.
Blogging is a mystery to Inch, but when I explain what I am up to he is happy to pose for a photo. He says it is not the first time he has been asked to do this.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Making the circuit

On another glorious day I make a complete circuit. Going clockwise from Bassetts Cove into Tehidy Woods, I follow the paths through the patches of sunlight amongst the trees to emerge in the tiny hamlet of Bell Lake. A timber chalet has been erected on the edge of the woods to serve teas during the summer months; I'm suprised the planners gave permission for that.
A few yards up the road I turn right through a small gate beside a stile to take the path up across the fields back to the cliffs. As I close the gate the coconut scent of the gorse in that warm and sheltered spot is overpowering.
In the fields a buzzard overhead is being mobbed by two crows. Eventually they give up, and leave the buzzard to spiral in peace - a dark shape, wings spread, against the pure blue of the sky.
On the path back along the cliffs to the Cove I meet John Elsey who is walking from Porthtowan to Hayle.
John lives inland at Perranwell now, but still walks the coast path regularly. His suntanned face framed by shining, wavey steel-grey hair shows that he likes being outdoors.
I am unable to help John with information about tide times. He starts off again on his way to Godrevy without knowing whether he will be able to take the easy route along the beach from there to Hayle, or whether he will have to stretch his calves and his lungs on the path through the undulating dunes.

Heather Hosking

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Trevithick Day

A few entries ago I told of meeting George Wilson, secretary of the Trevithick Society, while out walking.

This morning I had forgotten that today is Camborne's annual celebration of the engineering genius of local boy, Richard Trevithick. I thought at first that the leisure centre was on fire when I arrived for my swim and saw a huge cloud billowing up from behind the building: then the steam engines came into view.

In the afternoon, I watched through a haze of smoke and steam as the procession of engines made their way down Trelawney Road, and then back up Tehidy Road - the Camborne Hill of the Cornish folk song.

Julia Goldsworthy, our local Liberal Democrat MP until a few weeks ago when the election was called, was sitting in a trailer behind the last engine, looking as if she was glad to take a rest from the campaign to be re-elected, although she did flash me a big smile.

Someone called out "Bet Gordon isn't doing this today."
"No. Poor him", Julia replied.

Heather Hosking


I forgot to say that the swifts have arrived as well. As I walk along the coast path there is a flash of white and a bird zips skywards just off the edge of the cliff, then executes a quick flip to swoop low across my path and out over the field.

Monday, 19 April 2010


I have been trying to write an article about granite, but the phrases will not flow. I imagine the words, heavy and piled on top of each other, like the massive boulders at the summit of Cornwall's tors and carns.

I give up and go out into the sunshine.

At Bassetts Cove I hear the bleating of sheep, the call of a pheasant, and the endless susurration of the sea. On a sheltered hedge the first clump of Thrift is out, and there are green shoots breaking through in the ploughed field.

I meet two stylish blonde ladies. One, from nearby Illogan, is wearing a peach- coloured hoody. The other, who has come to care for her elderly father, is in a neat black track suit. They drive off in a Jag.

By the time I reach the granite gate post at the entrance to Tehidy Country park I am discovering the poetry in the landscape again - even in the stone.

In the woods the ground is covered with celandines, primroses and the blind spikes of bluebells. A grey and brown buzzard glides, at head height, through the moss-wrapped, sun-dappled trees.

Heather Hosking

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Brilliant day

I was back at Godrevy today - walking through the sand dunes at the back of the beach that curves away towards Carbis Bay and St Ives. The colours were so perfect that only cliches could do them justice: blue sea, blue sky, wispy white clouds, smooth beige sand, white foam-tipped waves.
In one of my classes at Uni College Falmouth a tutor showed a slide to illustrate a point being made. It was a picture of a cove in Cornwall and the sea was invitingly blue. "The sea doesn't look like that very often," the tutor said. I don't agree - nor, I think, did John Miller.

Heather Hosking

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


They're back, and if you look hard enough you'll see there's one in this picture. Sorry -it's the best I could do.

Heather Hosking

Monday, 12 April 2010

Signs of spring

It is a three peg day:the northerly wind is strong enough to make the washing whip backwards and forwards on the line, but the sun is out, and at the start of the walk there is a cellophane haze of heat over the field next to my parking place. The soil is so recently flattened and rolled that there is not even a hint as yet of green shoots; just earth and stone.

The wind-blasted shrubs amongst the gorse are struggling into life: I see catkins and, on the ground, violets and primroses.

The man sitting in the sunshine on the low wooden bench at the cliff edge just beyond the kissing gate is George Wilson. He is wearing a navy and beige Pringle jumper, and has a head of thick white hair -the wind plays with it - a white moustache and a Scottish lilt to his voice although he left Scotland in 1953. He has walked down to the coast path from his home on what was once part of the parkland of the Bassett family mansion house.

I tell George I am writing an "internet diary" thinking he may not be interested in computers and blogging. I feel a little foolish when I discover that George is an engineer who has used computers most of his working life, and owns an Apple Mac. These days he is the secretary of the Trevithick Society. The Society, named after the celebrated Cornish engineer and Camborne man Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), exists to preserve and study Cornwall's industrial past.When we finish talking I leave George sitting on the bench surveying the silvered surface of the sea.

Heather Hosking

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Hell's Mouth

After yet more rain, a glorious spring day. I walk a section of the coast path a bit further south than my usual route, but not as far south as Godrevy. My main reason for choosing this area is not the unbelieveably turquoise sea or the razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes nesting on ledges on the cliffs but that I shall pass the cafe at Hell's Mouth and shall be able to indulge in a cream tea. Hell's Mouth lives up to its name by being a popular suicide spot and the scene of a shipwreck at night a few years ago when a member of the crew drowned in the boiling, black sea when he fell out of the strop lifting him into the rescue helicopter. Some of the jagged metal remains of the ship are still visible at times. Do the tourists sitting in the sunshine outside the cafe realise what a dark place this is?

Heather Hosking

Monday, 5 April 2010

More about Godrevy Head

As I have mentioned before, Godrevy Head is at one end of the Site of Special Scientific Interest of which my walking route forms part. The information about the site gives details of the impressive array of flora and fauna that can be found there. What it does not mention are the seals which can often be seen in large numbers at Godrevy.

Yesterday, 4th April, I counted 103. This is the most I have ever seen at one time and there can't be many places where seals can be seen so easily: the cove where this group were "sunbathing" as one child called out in delight, is at the base of cliffs just yards from the National Trust car park.

An enthusiast

On another blustery March morning I encounter Ian Tellam walking in the direction of Portreath. He has a woollen hat pulled well down almost to his ginger eyebrows and rain-splattered glasses. He is carrying a wooden walking staff of the type I have not seen since I was in the Picos in northern Spain; most walkers here have been converted to carrying aluminium walking poles. We grin at each other when still a few yards apart and get into conversation as we draw level. Ian is another local person and one who walks this part of the coast a number of times each week for enjoyment. I learn from him that the starting point of my walk - Bassetts Cove - has not always been known by that name. What is now the village of Portreath was the original Bassetts Cove. The Bassett family grew wealthy from the mining industry, but, the story goes, a profligate member gambled away much of the money. What was once their mansion house in hundreds of acres of parkland and woodland, became at first a hospital, and was then converted into a number of dwellings.

Godrevy Head

My usual route does not take me as far as Godrevy Head, but it is another place where I like to walk. In Natural England's information about the SSSI that incorporates that promontory, there is mention of the Shetland ponies that graze there as a means of managing the gorse and shrub. I can tell you that they do an amazing job: where once there was a dense covering of gorse and brambles is now an expanse of moorland turf. The vegetation is so closely clipped that every lump, bump and contour of the ground is revealed: just as on a shaven head. The ponies are picturesque too, although I think their appearance can be deceptive and it is best to keep your distance.

Site of special scientific interest

Following my recent encounter with the students from Duchy College, I have been reading about the SSSI that includes the area of my walk. It runs from Godrevy Head in the south to St Agnes in the north. I did not know that 25 species of butterfly, 10 species of dragonfly and damselfly and the largest breeding colony of kittiwakes can be found on this stretch of the coast. But I felt the peculiar pleasure (a feeling of being on the inside and with superior knowledge) that comes with finding references to places and people you know, when the peregrine, rock pippit and stonechat were mentioned. These three are my frequent companions on this walk.

Coming out of the dark

It's March and I find the enthusiasm to venture out again. There are signs that the winter - the coldest for 30 years - is coming to an end. The field next to the track down to the cliffs is newly ploughed. Acid yellow gorse stands out against the grey of the sky, the rich dark brown of the soil and the washed out colours of dead grasses.
A group of people and a dog are clustered around a man giving a talk. One of them, Nick Taylor, explains that the listeners are from Duchy College on the outskirts of Camborne and are listening to a representative of the National Trust explain the Trust's policy for management of this area which is a site of special scientific interest. I want to ask if I can stay to listen and learn more, but don't have the nerve. So I walk on.