botallack cornwall


"Gee, but it's great to be back home"

We haven't entirely been living in Cornwall recently, but holidaying in Suffolk with my little sister and her family. My sister has the occasional look at my website and I can't stress enough that I love her dearly and thought nothing of travelling from the furthest point west to distant East Anglia to spend some time with her, but a week away from Cornwall is long enough as I feel landlocked without the distance of the horizon and the sea.

Don't get me wrong; Suffolk is beautiful. Wide, sweeping skies, canopied over endless fields, fringed with poppies and cornflowers. A canvas of Impressionists' brushstrokes characterised in primary blues and red against caramel-gold corn. Pretty gardens profuse with hollyhocks and delphiniums surround cottages, many of which are painted in a deep ochre called 'Suffolk Pink', a gaudy shade of reddish pink which is used traditionally and historically, was achieved by mixing pigs' blood with lime to reinforce the earth based medium. There are lovingly restored Saxon halls in perfectly preserved villages, in-filled with red brick bungalows encompassed by front gardens defined by angular borders planted with pansies and petunias, here chino-trousered chaps not only mow their lawns, but mow their verges, manicured to Centre Court immaculateness.
suffolk poppies enginehouses at botallack sunset at botallack the Count House Mike Chapman

Suffolk has real charm, but for me, is a little too neat. Not neat in a colloquial sense of 'cool' and there's nothing wrong with neat when describing school uniform, handwriting or a pile of ironed laundry, but not when it comes to the countryside. We were invited to a garden party and a woman asked me, ' Why do you live in Cornwall? It's too far from anywhere, nothing interesting happens there, the potholes are terrible and the lanes are a nightmare, high hedges, no warning of oncoming traffic...blah, blah...". I tried very hard not to get defensive, but she did make me think, 'Why do I live in Cornwall?". There are many reasons, one of which, is because it isn't neat. Much of Suffolk acquired a cultivated uniformity after the hedgerows were ripped out for prairie farming, bequeathing the broad countryside with a tamed gentleness, unlike Cornwall, where little has changed for thousands of years leaving the landscape more natural and primitive.

As with all families, ours has moved around depending on where partners and jobs have taken us. The dynamics of relationship change and mine with my sister took a while before we understood each other - probably most of our childhood, adolescence and into being mothers ourselves. She was a free spirit and had a penchant for motor bikes, arriving home in the early hours astride 1000ccs of throbbing metal, leather-clad and tossing her blonde hair loose from her helmet, while I sat in my room, struggling to decline Latin verbs and swot my way through the Unification of Europe in the late 1800s- neither of which has improved my life in the slightest! These days, as our husbands insist on telling us, we're very alike, although neither of us can see it - she's my soul sister.

She's still bloody-minded (in a nice way!!) but channels it as a crusader and has been fighting to keep a tiny part of Suffolk free from lawn mowers and people who think they know better than to upset her. Near to her home, there is a meadow known as the 'Cricket'. It's common land, abundant with native wild flowers and was part of the original village green, enjoyed by generations as a quiet place to sit, walk dogs and play games. A local councillor decided it should be kept under control by fencing it and letting his cattle graze it! My sister wasn't having any of it! She started a petition and campaigned with a group of like minded people, obtained grant aid and match funding for the preservation of the area. They've dug ditches, cut down the brambles and invasive weeds, put up owl boxes, cleared a pond that has Great Crested Newts and she's succeeded in making her own field of dreams.

When we arrived back home, we heard that a very dear friend had died and we wanted to celebrate her life in away she would have appreciated. We drove out to Botallack, near Land's End, had a picnic in the shadow of a ruined engine house and raised a glass to her memory as the sun set, finishing the evening listening to guitarist, Mike Chapman, playing in the Count House. It takes a quiet moment of reflection to see what's around us and not take it for granted. A land strewn with igneous rocks, serpentine, gabbro and granite, thrust up from the ocean floor in an untidy disorder resting wherever they randomly deposited themselves during an inter-glacial disturbance. Here and there, a standing stone, silently guards its ageless secret below the bruise-purple heather and small fields, shaped by ancient Celtic farmers, are still cultivated around boulders. The granite hedges remain, with a violet, flame and magenta spume of montbretia and wild fuchsia spraying onto the wayside, interwoven with a tangle of brambles and honeysuckle.

We've all seen the pictures of the looting mobs rampaging through our cities. I can't do anything about changing attitude and behaviour, but we could start by celebrating the difference and diversity of not only the countryside, but the people of our country and not be ashamed but proud of "this sceptred isle, this Earth of majesty, this other Eden... built by Nature herself, this England".

P.S. While I'm on the subject of fencing, cattle and 'officials' and individuals fighting to retain what belongs to us all by right, look at the latest news from the Save Penwith Moor campaigners

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