Thursday 29 January 2009

Painful Memories

And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

As You Like It, William Shakespeare, playwright and poet (1564-1616)

Elaine over at Liebraumilch and Lipstick has asked for contributions towards a book which was prompted by the recent Baby P tragedy. The book will be available online and all proceeds are going towards the NSPCC. More info nearer the time.

This is, obviously, a very painful post to write. Not because – thank goodness – I have ever suffered any abuse, but it brings back to mind a time when I worked with young offenders in Devon.

I went there on a temporary contract, and ended up staying for three years. I'd never worked for Social Services before and doing so made me realise how underfunded and understaffed they are. Social workers have an appalling reputation but if you see what they have to deal with, you'd be a little more sympathetic.

Anyway, my office dealt with juveniles going through the courts. Some had been convicted and were sent to a YOI – Young Offenders Institution, the nearest being in Portland in Dorset. Others were given supervision orders which meant they had to attend the office regularly to report what they'd been up to.

The success rate of keeping these youngsters out of trouble was, I would say, about 2%. It wasn't exactly the most cheerful of jobs. But – rather like social workers – once you understood these kids' histories, it wasn't difficult to see why they were so mixed up, defensive – and most of all, unloved.

One 13 year old, who was a serial shoplifter, had been started off in the trade by his mother, who took him shoplifting from the age of 6.

Another had been to 15 foster homes before the age of 12.

A 12 year old had been found on the doorstep of his latest foster home, crying through the letterbox, begging to be taken back. He wasn't. He became a very aggressive teenager.

I could go on but I won't. The mind can only take so much, I find, and I'm not an advocate of 'misery lit'. Working with it, being surrounded by so unhappiness, ensured that I don't want to read about it.

These kids lied, cheated, stole, and sometimes, frankly, terrified me. They all came from broken homes, and most of them had no home to go back to. Once I was outside having a cigarette when four teenagers approached, carrying a knife. The worst thing you can do is show fear, so I fixed a smile to my face, tried to control my shaking, greeted them and carried on smoking. Waited for them to start hitting me, or worse. That knife to enter my ribs.

To my amazement they all greeted me cheerfully, asked for a fag (no way, buy your own) and shuffled inside the waiting room waiting for their appointments. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and scuttled back inside, sending up silent prayers for my deliverance.

Most of our clients gained worse habits in a YOI and, on one occasion, committed suicide. Others did anything to get back inside. As one particularly angry lad told me, “It's bloody cold out there (in January). I've got nowhere to live, no money and nothing to eat. At least inside I'm warm and get fed.”

Phil became memorable for being our One Success Story – in my time there, I hasten to add. He wrote poetry (smuggled out to show to his social worker – he never would have dared show it to anyone else) which really made me gulp.

Out of YOI, he managed to keep out of trouble but one day came in pushing a pram. We thought, 'oh no. He's fathered a baby and he's only 14.' (Our youngest father was 12.)

But it was his niece. He'd been asked to babysit for the day and was so chuffed with the idea that he brought her round to show us.

That still brings tears to my eyes; it goes to show that however small our successes may be, or insignificant to others, they matter more than we can ever know.

I will never forget the look on that lad's face as he looked down on his niece, then up at me.

'Isn't she great?' he said, in wonder.

'Yes, Phil,' I said. 'And so are you.'

Monday 26 January 2009

Cusgarne Organic Farm

I interviewed Greg Pascoe, an organic farmer who runs Cusgarne Organic Farm the other day. He's a gregarious fellow, very intelligent, good company, and a thinker. He has been described as “what Liam Neeson would look like if he was a farmer” so you can imagine I had a very enjoyable few hours.

He is passionate about eating decent, fresh, organic food that is local (not flown from the other side of the world) and is also very concerned about the farming industry. I heard on the radio the other day that the average age of a farmer is 58. As Greg said, “it doesn't take a mathematician to work out what will happen to farming in the next ten years. Farmers' sons don't want to take the work on because it's too hard, the hours are too long, you can't make a living and you can't find any woman who'd want to share that life.”

He is also very concerned about the fact that few people buy local produce (though farmers' markets are helping that).

He said, “The way I see it, most people are stuck in a situation where they don't care about the countryside; they don't care that they are supporting supermarkets who are screwing producers in this country and screwing their neighbours – they don't care that the countryside that they look at is where their food comes from. By supporting that regime they are helping the destruction of a way of life. Also they're paying quite a lot for that privilege”

He continued, “According to a book called “Tescology”, 50% of people who shop in Tesco's come out feeling depressed, and here in Cornwall over 50% of their grocery bill is spent in the Tesco in Truro.

“I'd like people to be aware of that and I think people can do more good with the way they spend money than with their vote. They can make more difference more quickly and do it every week.”

The recession is hitting us all, but his prices, for vegetables in particular, are generally lower than the supermarkets – so what do you think?

Would you – or do you – buy your vegetables and meat locally, cutting out the supermarket?

Thursday 22 January 2009

Don't leave me behind.....

This is Mollie being told she can't come to the pub.....

If you're coming down to Cornwall on holiday with your pooch, February's edition of Cornwall Today has the following selection of dog friendly pubs written by yours truly.

Finding a pub where you can take your dog isn't as easy as you might think. I've often had to leave my dog in the car while I meet friends for lunch, and I never really relax in those instances. The following hostelries have all been highly recommended by dog lovers, not just for their treatment towards our four legged friends, but for their easy access to good walking.

For a map giving details of dog friendly beaches year round in Cornwall, contact your local Tourist Information Centre.

Red River Inn
1 Prosper Hill,
TR27 5BJ
01736 753223
Open 12-11pm all day
An unpretentious pub with very friendly and helpful staff. Excellent photography on the walls by local customer. The food's simple and delicious.
Dogs are allowed in all parts of the pub and are provided with a chew on arrival; water bowls are readily available.
Gwithian is just a few minutes walk from St Ives Bay's three miles of Golden Sands, and Godrevy Lighthouse - inspiration of Virginia Woolf's 'To The Lighthouse' - sits in the Atlantic Ocean a couple of miles away.
Dogs not allowed on Gwithian Beach from Easter – September 30th

The Watering Hole
Perranporth Beach,
01872 572888
Open 9am – 11pm, winter hours may be shorter.
Located on this beach, there is no road to this bar, so park up and walk along marvellous Perranporth beach and you'll discover the Watering Hole. “It's fantastic, very dog friendly, awesome hot chocolates and stunning scenery!”
Dogs are allowed everywhere as long as they're on a lead and water bowls are provided at the front of the bar. “We don't provide dog snacks because everyone seems to buy their dogs crisps!”
Perranporth beach is several miles long, and dog friendly in summer, but there are plenty of other spectacular walks around this area.

The Mill House Inn
Trebarwith Strand
PL34 0HD
United Kingdom
Tel: 01840 770200

The Mill House is situated between the fishing villages of Port Isaac and Boscastle. Camelot, King Arthur's legendary castle is located in the very next valley. Set in seven acres of its own wooded valley and garden, the former 18th century corn mill now provides first-class food and board as a traditional Inn.
“Dogs are allowed anywhere in the hotel apart from the restaurant (unless they are a guide dog). We ask for a £5 per night supplement for guests staying in our rooms with pets to cover 'accidents'". There is always a water bowl in the bar.
Walking – the Camel Trail is close by as is Trevose Head Trail and Cornishway Cycle Route
Trebarwith Strand beach is dog friendly all year round.

Red Lion
The Square
Mawnan Smith
TR11 5EP
01326 250026
Open from 11am till midnight.

A strong local following ensures this friendly pub's ongoing success. There is somewhere for everyone; walkers and their dogs enjoy good food and drink; cosy nooks for couples; large tables for families, and locals staying in the characterful bar.
There is a resident red setter here and dogs are welcome in all bars. “Sometimes we have more dogs than drinkers! It's very popular with walkers round here.”
Great for walking around the Helford area; Rosemullion Head, Trebah, coastal path and there are plenty of year round dog friendly beaches on the Helford.

The Fountain Inn
Cliff Street
01726 842320
Opening hours – 12am – 11pm

The Fountain Inn is a 15th century pub situated at the foot of Cliff Street by Shilly Ally 'Op and is believed to stand on the site of the first recorded settlement of Mevagissey which was then known as Porthilly. Mevagissey once boasted 20 Inns, Taverns and Ale Houses, but the Fountain Inn is known as the 'Father of them all' as it is the oldest pub in the village.
There is a resident cat in this very friendly pub which offers excellent food and bed and breakfast accommodation. “If you stay here, one of the rooms has a patio adjoining it so we fed our dog and let her out onto the patio rather than having to get up and take her out at some ungodly hour!”
Dogs are allowed in either of the two bars but not in the restaurant.
Mevagissey is very close to the coastal footpath so there is a wide choice of walking from here. Most beaches are not dog friendly in summer but check with the local Tourist Information Centre for details.

Sands Bar
Praa Sands
TR20 9TQ
01736 763516
Open 11-11
10-11 weekends

“Sands Bar is a cafĂ© bar that welcomes surfers, families, dog walkers, hikers and music lovers. A place where anybody can feel comfortable, relaxed and get a taste of the surfing/beach lifestyle of Praa Sands. Our patio is a favourite spot for taking in the views, soaking up the rays and watching the sunsets….. even in the winter.”
Dogs allowed on a lead – doggie nibbles and water bowls provided
There are miles of coastal footpath for walkers around here.
Dogs not allowed on the beach Easter – September 30th, but nearby Prussia Cove is dog friendly year round.

The Rock Inn
Nr Wadebridge
PL27 6LD
Tel: 01208 863498
Open 10-11 all day

Located on the opposite bank to Padstow right on the waterfront of the Camel Estuary in North Cornwall, this pub is a friendly place with stunning views of the estuary, and the outside patio with umbrellas is a popular place to people watch and see the activity on the water. Two self catering flats available.

Dogs are allowed anywhere in the pub provided they're on a lead and not wet.
Excellent walks on coastal footpath nearby
Daymer Bay beach is dog friendly all year round

The Edgecumbe Arms
PL10 1HX

Telephone: 01752 822294
Open 11am - 11pm
The Edgcumbe Arms, also known as "the inn in the park" and the "ancient gateway to Cornwall" sits in the estate of Mount Edgcumbe Country Park, among 800 acres of coastal walks and unspoilt countryside dating back to the 15th century.
Dogs are allowed in all bars except the carvery; bed and breakfast accommodation is provided in a dog friendly cottage.
Kingsand beach is dog friendly year round.

The Logan Rock,
St Levan
TR19 6LG 
01736 810495
Winter opening hours – 11-3 and 6-11 weekdays; 7-10.30pm Sundays

The pub takes its name from the famous Logan Rock , which is perched overlooking Porthcurno bay. The beaches of Porthcurno and Pednvounder are close by as is the famous open air Minack Theatre and the coastal footpath. In the winter the main bar has a coal fire and in summer the beer gardens are open. The Logan Rock specialises in pre-Minack theatre meals.
Dogs allowed in bars and garden; must be on a lead at all times.
Easy access to the coastal footpath.
Porthcurno has a dog ban in winter but Pedn Vounder is dog friendly all year round

Fisherman's Arms
Fore Street
PL23 1LN
01726 832453
Winter opening hours: closed all day Monday, open 6-11pm; Tues and Wed 12-3 and 6-11pm
Fri, Sat and Sun Open 12-11 all day
Golant is a tiny village, like stepping way back in time, near Fowey and Looe. The Fisherman's Arms is Golant's only hostelry; a charming riverside pub with lots of character by the estuary of the river Fowey, with stunning views of the river and wildlife.
“We have two bars and if dogs are muddy we try and keep them off the bar with the carpet, but we've got three dogs ourselves so we know what it's like!”
For walkers, The Saints Way coastal path passes through Golant and there is easy access to the Cornish coastal footpath.

Sunday 18 January 2009

The Reverend Publican

We met Nick Brennan, wonderful cartoonist (and interviewee) on the beach this morning walking our respective dogs. He has a gorgeous two year old collie with the most incredible brown eyes that plead with you to throw something for her (seaweed being the choice this morning).

Nick was in good cheer, and being another drinker at the Seven Stars in Falmouth, laughing about Barrington, the landlord. “He's quite insufferable at the moment because of that article about him,” he said. “I went in at lunchtime on Friday and there it was, open on the bar. He showed it to EVERYONE who came in.”

I had to own up to my work, so here it is, in February edition of Cornwall Today:-

The Reverend Barrington Bennetts, 75, is the only known priest in Cornwall to own and run a pub. He makes an imposing figure with his comfortable girth and eyebrows frequently drawn together in a scowl, but inside a dour exterior lurks a twinkle that endears him to many.

“It takes time to know Barrington,” says John Jackson, 67, a regular in the pub for the last 40 years. “And knowing him isn’t easy!”

John Barrington Bennetts was born in 1932 and took over the pub when his father died in 1975. He met his wife June at school in 1936, and married in 1961.

“We married at King Charles the Martyr Church in Falmouth, on October 5th 1961,” he says. “My grandparents were married on the same date in 1898 but this wasn’t known to my parents who also married on the same date in 1928.”

Last year Barrington celebrated 55 years behind the bar of the Seven Stars, where there is no such thing as a typical working day. He can be found conducting a church service in the morning, serving behind the bar at lunchtime and visiting sick customers in the afternoon.

He clearly thrives on being with his flock, whether in church or in the pub. “It’s very simple. I enjoy meeting people,” he says. And his conscience has never troubled him over his different roles. “A publican administers to his customers, a priest to his congregation,” he says firmly. “People drink in here for a little while and can go elsewhere and drink themselves stupid if they like. Some do. I know my customers.”

The Seven Stars, reputed to have been a grainstore in the 1500s, has been in Barrington’s family since 1873. It is now a Grade II listed building and on the CAMRA National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The interior is smoke stained, hasn’t been decorated since the 1950s and the bar stools are not designed for comfort, so many customers stand. Barrington is rightly proud that the Seven Stars is renowned for its excellent Bass and local Cornish beer served straight from the cask.

“It’s one of the last proper pubs,” says John Jackson. “The only reason any man leaves the Seven Stars is to go home to his wife.”

Unlike many modern pubs, mobile phones are banned in the Seven Stars, there is no music, no food apart from the odd ham roll and packet of crisps, and bad language is heavily discouraged.

“I don’t like swearing in the pub,” Barrington says firmly, “especially foul language from females”.

Anyone who misbehaves is subjected to Barrington’s famous glare before the miscreant is firmly asked to remove themselves. “You learn when a situation is likely to become difficult, but if there are local customers in, they help persuade the person to leave,” he says. “If there’s real trouble I get the police in. I’ve never told anyone that they’re drunk – that can make them aggressive. I say, ‘I think you’d better go home – come back and see us another time. You’ve obviously had a good day’.”

Barrington doesn’t drink himself because he admits he can’t take it. “I soon get tiddly. I’ve been abstemious in recent times, though not in my youth perhaps,” he adds with his twinkle. “It would be very easy to overdo it when you celebrate communion as you have to consume the wine afterwards.”

While Barrington doesn’t mind other people imbibing, he has a practical approach. “It’s part of my job and that of my staff to make sure that people don’t get drunk,” he says, although there are exceptions to that rule, such as the Falmouth Marine Band. For the last 20 years it has raised huge amounts for charities and is famous for its enthusiasm rather than any musical experience. “They’re used to having a drink now and again, and they don’t upset anyone so that’s fine,” he says stoutly. “They’re all experienced drinkers and if they weren’t when they joined the band, they are now!”

For many people now retired, the Seven Stars has been a regular meeting place, but that is now changing. “The sad thing is that a lot of people have gone and I do miss them,” Barrington says. “Many of them were characters, and they’re not being replaced.” Jimmy Morrison, now in his nineties, worked on the river Fal all his life and has often been consulted by TV programme makers, historians and other authors. “He’s the last waterfront character,” says Barrington sadly. “He has a lot of tales to tell.”

Another character was Jimmy Condy, who used to work down the docks. “I used to banter with him as I do with other customers,” Barrington says. “He always used to call me ‘e with the glasses’!”

Whereas he inherited the job of running the pub, Barrington’s involvement in the church is very different, and there is a clear line between his roles. “The church is a vocation,” he says. “My only regret is not being ordained many years before. I could have had a lifetime in the Church.”

Barrington became involved in the church when he was confirmed at the age of 50. This led to becoming a sidesman, then a server at the altar. “One day I was asked to read the Litany – I loved doing that,” he says. “That was when I became interested in going further in the church.”

After 9 ½ years, Barrington was ordained at the age of 60, and is now an Honorary Assistant Priest at the Church of King Charles the Martyr in Falmouth. “I take whatever services I’m asked to take,” he says, although he particularly enjoys weddings and christenings. “I’m lucky because I love children, and I love christenings.” He beams at the thought and adds, “My religion is both humorous and theological.”

This humour resulted in a cartoon in the Beano to celebrate Barrington’s 70th birthday, drawn by regular customer and well known cartoonist, Nick Brennan. Barrington has also been the subject of a TV documentary, and is now writing the history of the Seven Stars. “Though I doubt if it will come to fruition,” he says wryly. “I have a dyslexic computer.”

In between the pub and the church, he has little time off, but is Chaplain to Falmouth District Scouts and joined in last year’s carnival by leading the Falmouth Marine Band into action. “I also like classic car magazines,” he says, “and I read a story from People’s Friend every night in bed.”

Barrington’s secret love is perfume. “My paternal grandfather was a deputy mine captain and whenever he went down a mine he always had a perfumed handkerchief,” he says wistfully. “I don’t carry one but I absolutely love perfume. I am fond of aftershave, and that’s the same thing really. I still have the same aftershave that I had on my honeymoon.”

Although Barrington was born in London, his parents and grandparents were Cornish born and he considers himself a Cornishman. “Cornwall means pasties and cream, male voice choirs and a wonderful cathedral,” he says. “It means over 130 parish churches in the Duchy and, until recently, the wonderful Bishop Bill, who was a man of the church and of the people.”

Thankfully for those that do frequent the Seven Stars, Barrington has no plans to leave. “In five years time I hope to be doing the same thing as I’m doing now,” he says. “I have no interest in retiring. The business might retire me but I’d miss the people too much. And I hope I can continue in the church until I’m called above.”

The Seven Stars
1 The Moor
Falmouth TR11 3QA
01326 312111

Nick Brennan’s website

P.S. Sadly Jimmy Morrison is no longer with us. He is much missed by everyone in Falmouth.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Wanted - Old Hull for Young Man

My seven days are up.

Himself announced last Friday that I had a week in which to find enough money to get him a boat. Sadly, the lottery hasn't been forthcoming and I haven't been offered any incredible commissions (or unincredible ones for that matter) as a result of my blog being featured on the Western Morning News blogsite. So Himself still has no boat.

For those of you unaware of my husband's maritime yearnings, he has had a boat for most of his life. When he didn't have one he was delivering other people's around the world. When we met he was living aboard a working boat, which is a wooden boat used for gathering oysters. At one point we had four boats, although the others were mostly punts (wooden rowing boats) and some were up at the workshop “needing work”.

So you see wooden boats have always been a part of his life, and not having had one for several years now is a big wrench. Before Christmas his need for a boat became too much and he decided to look around the boatyards in the early part of this year to see if he could “find an old hull - something I can do up, Pop”.

In the meantime, he sits hunched over the laptop next door scouring the internet for bargains. That and trying to trace the cornet that he sold on ebay before Christmas which should have turned up in Pennsylvania and hasn't. He's also trying to source an authentic Cornish recipe for hogs pudding (don't ask). N.B. Thanks to the lovely Pat, he now has a recipe for hogs pudding. PAT YOU ARE ONE STAR!! I now have one very happy husband. Oh, the power of blogs....

As I was saying - yesterday he announced that he's considering whether to write a book that he started several years ago. As this starts with graphic accounts of a baby's circumcision, I'm not sure that it would be a bestseller, but who knows? It could be a dead cert. There's also the children's book that we started writing 12 years ago which I think is a better bet, but what do I know?

Then there's the model aeroplane which is half finished. And when he's not doing that, he's gathering winter fuel for the woodburner and helping Joe upstairs as their porch needs relining. As you can see, he's a busy fellow and that takes his mind off boats – a little bit.

So if any of you know of an old hull sitting abandoned somewhere (I'm not talking about me), let me know, would you? It'd make him very happy...

Tuesday 13 January 2009

No Boat but Goings On

Himself is downcast as he hasn't won the lottery and brief flutter with fame didn't produce any publishing deals so he still can't afford a boat. Oh, me....

However, I've been away for a few days, leaving Himself at home with the animals. (I'd much rather have taken Moll with me but if I had, Himself wouldn't have stirred from the flat, other than to get beer and go to the library. Plus he'd would have missed BOTH his girls, so I left him with one. The ultimate sacrifice.)

The schedule was to meet a dear friend in Devon and go walking on Dartmoor, but the walking schedule didn't take account of the weather, which of course has been freezing but good walking weather for the past month or so.

Sunday morning dawned less cold but windy. As in gale force winds, with thick banks of rain clouds looming. I got to the station to find that the train had been cancelled “due to a fatality”. I didn't ask what, imagination being in overdrive already. Thankfully I was able to get another one and Av picked me up two hours later and we took my mum out for supper at the local pub.

Monday dawned soggy and windy. As in lashing rain and gale force winds. We decided that Dartmoor was out, but set off undeterred and had a lovely day, although we did get soaked. We walked a fair few miles, had a good old moan, a laugh, and generally sorted the world out. Who cares if you have wet feet when you're with a good friend like that?

We departed our separate ways this morning and I drove back with Mum to take her to see Balletboyz at the Hall for Cornwall in Truro this evening.

Then back to work tomorrow, when I'm researching my next two interviews – an organic farmer and a maritime pilot.

Which would you rather be?

P.S. BALLETBOYZ WERE WONDERFUL..... If ever you get a chance to see them - GO!

Thursday 8 January 2009

Chapel Porth

The Western Morning News are launching their own blog website and featuring this blog - amongst others. They're running a feature on blogging on Saturday 10th, and the editor has just rung to interview me about this blog.

When I put the phone down, Himself looked up. "Fame?" he said hopefully.

"Not quite," I said, there being no money in it. "Not enough to get your boat, anyway."

He snorted from the depths of the sofa. "I give you another week, Flowerpot," he said, and went back to sleep.

Meanwhile, another walk - in January issue of Cornwall Today. Spectacular views, despite my appalling vertigo...

As someone who suffers from vertigo, I try to avoid the coastal path. So I awoke early last Sunday, wondering why I'd let myself in for a walk that starts off “near the cliff edge.” I lay in bed, my imagination providing explicit scenes resulting in neither myself, my friends or Mollie Dog returning from the walk.

Thankfully, my imagination was misplaced. Three of us – and Mollie - set off that afternoon taking the A30 Redruth-Bodmin road, turning left onto the B3277 for St Agnes and following the signs to Chapel Porth. The road leading down to the beach is steep and narrow with few passing places, and at the bottom of the hill we parked in the National Trust car park, which also has a cafe and public toilets. The words 'Chapel Porth' embedded in white stones embedded on the opposite cliff, confirmed our destination.

The sea on our left, we took a steep rocky path up the cliff (thankfully, the path wasn't that close to the edge), and climbed up to a rocky outcrop with awe inspiring views. We could see the beaches of Portreath and Porthtowan, on the skyline a silhouette of the old arsenic works at Poldice, and Nancekuke, the chemical defence site at Portreath.

I stood (far away from the edge, clutching Mollie), and my vertigo subsided as I drank in the scene. A paraglider floated silently above me, like a colourful seagull drifting on thermals. Then I jumped like a startled rabbit as a mountain biker skidded down the path, much too near the edge for me!

We followed the coastal path until we reached the engine house for the Towanroath shaft of Wheal Coates mine which has been carefully restored by the National Trust. This is the most photographed mine engine in Cornwall and provided the frontispiece for Daphne du Maurier's book 'Vanishing Cornwall'.

Turning right here, we climbed up a rocky path with stones of autumn colours – deep yellow, red, black and strains of blue. This path led to the remains of the Wheal Coates mine buildings where tin and copper were mined between 1820 and 1914. – the copper can still be seen as blue streaks in some of the surrounding stone. From here we watched the sun pouring down on Portreath like an epiphany in a religious painting, while skylarks chattered around us and ravens circled darkly over our heads.

We turned left and headed away from the coast, towards a wider path over the headland. Here we met serious walkers armed with walking sticks, slower groups accompanied by excited dogs and less excited children. The terrain flattened here, with gorse and heather on each side, and fields on the right leading up to St Agnes Beacon. These fields are popular with those looking for somewhere different for a wedding party.

A diagonal path to the right led to a tarmac road and I noticed a huge lump of pockmarked porous granite, threaded with veins of Cassiterite, and spots of Haematite: proof of the rich mining heritage of this area. The grey day was not lifted by any colourful growth, but finally we saw a single common knapweed, some gorse blooms, confusingly next to bramble flowers – in winter? Inhaling the sweet vanilla scent of gorse, we looked up and saw gliders soaring by from Perranporth Airfield.

A few hundred yards further on is a sentry box that marks the site of the Cameron training camp for the 100th Light Anti-Aircraft battery. From 1943-44 it housed American army units prior to embarkation to France. After the war, the bungalows provided accommodation for local families until more council houses were built.

The tarmac road led to a T junction and opposite, a path that led up to St Agnes Beacon. Several million years ago, this beacon was an island and mining evidence shows that there was a pebbly beach at about the same height as today's ground level. Now the old sea floor shoreline is covered in thick layers of china clay which is extracted in the Newdown Sand and Clay Pits, further along the road.

St Agnes Beacon is a granite outcrop with Bronze Age barrows on the summit, and bonfires are lit on Midsummer Eve and other special occasions. On a clear day it is possible to see 30 church spires or towers, but the weather precluded such a sight on this walk. However, from the highest point of 192 metres (628 feet) the views are incredible – we could see westwards to St Ives, shrouded in mist, and up to Trevose Head near Padstow in the north. We could just make out the 'Cornish Alps' - the china clay tips in the distance to the south and, nearer, the granite outcrop of Carn Brea.

Retracing our steps we came back to the road, turned left and continued past clumps of magnificent looking field mushrooms in the hedge – Mollie was interested, but we weren't confident enough to take them home to eat. Walking past Bungay Yard, home of a farrier and blacksmith, we saw a lone bay horse shrouded in a blanket, and further on, a robin splashing and chirping as it bathed in a large puddle.

As we turned right, back towards Chapel Porth, we saw a pink glow on the horizon, while Portreath was surrounded in thick clouds like an erupting volcano. The path back to Wheal Coates was steep and flanked by grey hawthorn thickets, dense and prickly, while above us a sparrow hawk darted out, followed by a gang of rooks, cawing as they circled above.

Down at the beach a dog barked excitedly as it surfed the waves. Mollie tried to join in but the waves were too big so she joined other dogs playing on the beach. Light was falling as several tired looking surfers emerged from the sea in wet suits, clutching body boards and flippers. We explored the beach, pebbles crunching under our feet as the mist rolled in and an eerie half light settled over the cove.

The cafe beckoned. We sat at benches outside with steaming mugs of tea and sat in awed silence while nature painted a fantastic backdrop for us. The sky was streaked with yellow, red, pale blue and rose pink in the most beautiful sunset. Being outside made it seem more special, more personal. We drove back, tired and windblown, with Mollie asleep on my lap.

Length: 3 miles
Time: Approximately 2 hours
Grade: Steep in places and many rocky paths
Maps: OS Explorer Map 104 Redruth & St Agnes
Refreshments: Cafe and toilets at Chapel Porth car park
Areas of historical interest: Bronze Age barrow on St Agnes beacon, Wheal Coates mine buildings, remains of Cameron training Camp.

Monday 5 January 2009

Zero Balancing - what's that?

This is Molls on her best behaviour, snoring on Mum's sofa over Christmas. Butter wouldn't melt, and all that... Ignore the date in the corner!

And talking of relaxing, if anyone feels like a spot of massage with a difference, try Zero Balancing. In December's issue of Cornwall Today....

Anna Colmer, 48, moved to Cornwall in 2003 to take up a post as acupuncturist at the Lister Natural Health Centre in Falmouth, but when they heard she was a Certified Zero Balancer, they were keen for her to practise that as well.

There are few Certified Zero Balancers in Britain, but Anna is passionate about her work and loves the fact that unexpected things happen. “I like being surprised!” she says. “The more unexpected, the more enjoyable it is. I like to believe in things being magical, and this work has a magical quality to it. I think there’s a real hunger for that in a lot of people, whether they admit it or not.”
Zero Balancing uses touch to balance body energy with body structure. The work is gentle to receive but potentially powerful in effect, capable of helping a wide range of people at many different levels. Finger pressure and held stretches encourage the release of tension in the body and as a result, emotional and physical problems may be resolved and symptoms relieved. Zero balancing aims to balance a person on all levels – mind, body and soul – and coax them back to optimum health.
Zero balancing was developed in 1975 by a Californian, Dr Fritz Smith, who was an osteopath, physician and acupuncturist. “Zero balancing grew out of him trying to bring together the Western concept of wellness with the concepts of energy and healing used routinely in the East,” says Anna. “He combined osteopathy with acupuncture, where you work purely with body energy. The name arose from a recipient’s description of the session she had just received, meaning that she felt her body had been set back as nature intended.”

Anna first heard about the practice when she trained at the College of Traditional Acupuncture in Leamington Spa. “The first 3 people to train in this country all trained at Leamington and they promoted it,” she says. “A person can only become a Certified Zero Balancer if they have another therapeutic qualification. 3 years after I qualified as an acupuncturist I had a buzz to learn something new. A friend had just done her first workshop and was looking for bodies to practise on so that was my first session and I signed up for a workshop.”

Anna attended various workshops and followed a programme of learning overseen by a mentor. “Unlike most training, zero balancing training is very flexible so you can work at your own pace,” she says, and explains what a Certified Zero Balancer entails. “This is a recognition by the Zero Balancing Association that my work is of a high enough standard to be accepted by that community.

“People come to me for varied reasons,” she says. “Many come for overall wellbeing and to maintain themselves, but zero balancing can help reduce stress and tension, migraine, jetlag, relieve body pain, whiplash, improve flexibility and posture problems, help with emotional problems, difficult life transitions and work overload. We work with the whole person and see what unfolds.”

For those who don’t want to undress, or talk about their problems, zero balancing is ideal. A short health history is taken before a session, which is a hands-on bodywork that is done with the client fully clothed and lying on their back.

“Zero balancing promotes a deep sense of relaxation and it is common for people to feel revitalised and rested afterwards,” Anna says. “People may move into a new state of awareness from which old patterns and habits in the body and mind may be more readily released. This can free things up mentally so that people can find they have greater clarity of thought or make decisions more easily.”

It is up to the individual to decide how many sessions to have, but 3 or 4 are recommended as it has a cumulative benefit. Some people enjoy it regularly whereas others find it helpful when they need a support or pick-me-up.”

Sessions cost £35 and last for about 45 minutes, and Anna has her own insurance through the British Acupuncture Council. She has been practising zero balancing for ten years and is a qualified teacher of zero balancing, having done a two year teacher training programme.

“Zero balancing has transformed my life experience in so many ways and being able to offer that potential to other people feels very rich,” Anna says. “It’s good not to have to categorise people; you simply work with them as they are. It’s very freeing. We’re not imposing change, we’re simply creating the potential for it.” In this way, control is given to the client. “They decide, albeit on a subconscious level, what is going to change and how much.”

For Anna, this adds to the interest, “You never know how a session is going to go, so it’s an exploration for client and practitioner. Some people experience big changes almost immediately whereas others say they’re not sure if they feel different but may do so later. We may have initiated something, like ripples spread out over a long time.”

Anna would like to see a greater awareness of zero balancing. “I’d like to see people routinely referred by the Health Service after accidents or injuries, or post traumatic stress disorder. Injuries, shock, abuse and unresolved emotional issues can all create blocks to the free flow of energy through the body,” Anna says. “After 9/11, one of my colleagues organised a team of local zero balancers to go to Ground Zero and give sessions to the emergency services personnel working there, to help deal with the stress and trauma of what they were having to deal with.” She also has colleagues who have worked with Victims of Torture, political refugees, and sexually abused women with tremendous results. “After zero balancing, people are able to feel healed and move on with their lives,” she says. “There is also great potential to take it into the prison environment.”

Anna would also like to take zero balancing into the workplace. “There are a lot of people who might benefit but wouldn’t take themselves to a clinic. I would like to offer samples and tasters of techniques as a way of reaching more people.” Anna has also worked with pregnant women, both before and after birth, with excellent results, and is interested in teaching the skills and principles which inform Zero Balancing to non-bodyworkers.

Anna is a firm convert to Cornwall and has had a warm welcome. “People are very tolerant of other people’s differences here,” she says. “It’s very much live and let live. You don’t have to fit in a particular way, there’s quite an acceptance.” She looks out at the pouring rain and smiles. “I like the changeability of the weather and there are so many varieties of landscape within a short distance. The north coast isn’t far away but there is such a contrast to the coast here. There’s something quite unique about Cornwall.”

For further information and workshops, contact Anna Colmer on 01326 210931 or

Or Lister Natural Health Practice
30-31 Church Street, Falmouth TR11 3EQ 01326 210202

Friday 2 January 2009

The Pepper Joke

A very happy, healthy and successful new year to everyone.

Thought for the day is from my dear sister in law in Vermont -

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it -- and stop there -- lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.
Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

To start the year on a cheerful note, I thought I'd share the Pepper Joke, as told to me by my 82 year old dog walking friend Betty.

She made a very slight error (that I'm sure you will notice) which I'm repeating because I think it improves the joke.

A man was in an aeroplane and noticed his neighbour, a short woman with curly hair, kept rushing off to the toilets. Each time she returned looking flushed. After about six times, the bloke could stand it no longer.

“Excuse me,” he said. “Are you all right?”

“Oh, yes!” she said.

“But you keep rushing off to the toilets,” he said.

She grinned. “Ah,” she replied. “You see, I keep sneezing.”


“And every time I sneeze I have an organism.”

He frowned. “So what do you take for it?”

Her smile grew wider. “Pepper,” she said.

So for 2009, may all your organisms be plentiful.