Sennen Cove, Cornwall. We miss Hastings white-out…and family memories

Back from our week in Sennen Cove, Cornwall, with friends from Birmingham Sue and Alex, Anne, Sue and Graham. We go every year, walk, natter, drink and eat far too many enormous meals.
     The drive from Hastings is long – 346 miles, but interesting, down the M3/A303/A30, past Stonehenge, over the Blackdown Hills, down the Otter Valley – it feels like going on an old-fashioned holiday. The A30 carries on right to Lands End, by which time it has shrunk to a single track lane running between high stone banks, with yellow gorse and daffodils, and camelias in bloom outside the cottages. Spring is late everywhere this year, but it was better down there. It was cold, though – very cold…

Sea view – very threatening

     We had a fabulous sea view from our windows – when the tide was up, huge rollers roared and crashed onto the rocks only a few yards away, just across the little seafront road. Sennen Cove is a big surfing beach, but even the surfers were put off by the cold this year.
     The weather looks very threatening in this first picture, but actually we did OK- after the first day it was dry until the Friday, when it rained hard all day. We had some real sun for our walks, and ate pasties and sandwiches out in the open.
     However, the east wind was savage. I needed five layers of clothing on my top including 2 fleeces, thick fleecy walking trousers, long thick socks, boots, a fleece neck warmer, wooly hat and gloves – we looked like swaddled mummies. I can’t remember walking in such biting cold.

Philosopher at Lands End

As Sennen is right at the pointy tip of England, there are nearby coast paths on both the north and south coasts. Lots of villages with nice pubs in, and plenty of towns full of galleries and knick-knack shops to browse including Penzance, St Ives, Marazion, and nearest to us, little St Just.    
     One afternoon Philosopher and I ventured further afield, to Porthleven, and then to Helston, which was very run down and desolate – so many empty shops. However, we did find a very ancient and untouched pub – The Blue Anchor, which produced its own ‘Spingo’ Beer.
     Talking of beer, I drank quantities of it, to wash down the pasties, chips, Cadbury’s mini eggs etc. etc. To my surprise, when I weighed myself this morning I had only put on half a pound – perhaps walking in the cold burns up calories.
     One day we went to visit a National Trust  Garden, Trengwainton, near Penzance. Despite the cold, the beautiful ancient magnolia trees were in full bloom, as were early rhododendrons, camelias, loads of daffodils etc.

Magnolia at Trengwainton

This was the very day Hastings had a record-breaking snowfall – abandoned cars, people stranded for hours   I was quite sorry to miss the excitement.
     As I say, we did have sun. As we often do, we walked down to a pretty cove called Penberth along a lane beside a stream lined with flowering shrubs and daffodil plantations and then puffed up over the cliffs via Logan Rock to Treen village and the Logan Rock pub for lunch. The view from the top of the cliffs over Porthcurno beach to the Minack theatre opposite is exceptional.

More Magnolia
Porthcurno Beach

 Another sunny day we caught the bus to St Just and walked the coast path back to Sennen – it is about 5 miles with quite rough ups and downs, but worth the effort.
     Every year I sit looking out of the window hoping to see dolphins, seals etc in the sea. In the comments book in our accommodation we always read how previous residents watch these creatures gambolling in front of their eyes – and even basking sharks – but we never see a thing. However, on the very last morning I was looking out while eating my breakfast muesli when a seal appeared – indeed, right in front of me. He popped his head out of the water, then rolled on his back in the breaking surf, scratching his belly with his flippers. Unfortunately Philosopher was loading cases into the car and missed him.
     Our journey home was interesting – by lunchtime we had reached Amesbury, where my parents lived for the last 25-30 years of their lives, and decided to stop. We have visited Amesbury once since my mother died in 1998. We peered at the outside of their cottage, and even spoke to Karina, my mother’s carer – this left me unmoved. But this time, we decided to have a drink in the Antrobus Hotel, my parents favourite retreat. Even 20 years ago it It was a slightly faded, run-down, traditional old place, if a cut above the other squaddy-infested Amesbury bars. I was surprised to find it still going.
     More surprising still, when we walked in through the front door it was totally unchanged, if slightly more faded. The same red flock wallpaper and red carpet in the gloomy bar, the lamps with parchment shades, the heavy Jacobean style furniture, the huge black marble fire place, the same heavy, faded red velvet curtains blocking out the light. I could see my father, leaning on the bar, laughing with the barmaid as he ordered the gins. There was my mother, sitting on a red velvet banquette, clutching a dachshund, which needed ‘socialising, dear, ‘ before it was shown – or sold.
     ‘Coo-ee, dear!’ she’d call flirtatiously across the room to some retired Wing Commander from Boscombe Down. (By the time she grew really old she had become so keen on those old buffers that we diagnosed her with a severe case of Boscombe Downs Syndrome..).
     Yesterday, we sat by the fire in in the green painted, lighter, lounge leading off the bar – also unchanged.  I saw my baby daughter (now 36) toddling across the slightly threadbare carpet towards the garden beyond the big french windows, making for the fascinating pool with the fountain. Outside, I could see Barton, my mother’s gay American best friend, sitting reading, the sun shining on his bald pate. He lived with them for several years in a strange menage a trois.
     Strangely, all this moved me to tears – I wept in the hotel, wept along the street, and wept for some miles in the car. I say strangely because my relationship with my parents was troubled – I shed no tears when either of them died….
     We got back to Hastings safe and sound – we both said it feels like home to us now. Still some piles of snow along the Ridge, but none near the house. Gas men have finished, too.

Sunset over the Sennen Cove lifeboat house


  1. Clara Gaunt
    March 17, 2013 / 8:17 pm

    Like the Amesbury memories. ..whatever happened to Barton I wonder?

    • Stephanie Gaunt
      March 17, 2013 / 9:21 pm

      He disappeared on a massive bender, and as far as I remember, was found dead in a hotel room in Miami. This was a few years before Mrs R died.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments from Google+