The stretch of coast between Gorran Haven and St. Mawes is sparse, local and overlooked. Expansive and remote but gentle and sloping in a way you won’t find west of the Lizard or on the windburnt wave-carved north coast.
The stark difference between North Coast and South Coast is something that has always grasped my imagination. Different worlds. Also having found this pretty unbearable article in the equally unbearable Country Life magazine it is apparently something that needs attention. Another time, for the moment lets leave it at the description of the North as heathy, open, exposed, oceanic and the South; lush, rolling, enclosed and relatively calm. The Roseland is the paradigm of this.
I know this area well. Most of those who grew up around the urban sprawl of St. Austell do. Taken all across as a child and as soon as adolesence allowed us we hit the extensive network of lanes at high speed with cannabis and alcohol in our veins.
Now, as then, what strikes me the hardest are the aristocratic roots of the Roseland. They really do seem to bind this little corner together. Indeed, I suppose this is reason the Roseland itself is actually still quietly popular. Its peaceful, tranquil air combined with the startlingly high property prices entices a certain demographic. Here you will find Range Rovers, gilets, burgundy trousers, yachts, Hunter wellies, double barrelled names and (of course) Holiday Cottages abound. I merely observe this. It is neither good nor bad, just a fact.
You drive for any real distance in any direction and you will cross the land of the Viscount Falmouth and perhaps even end up at the small purpose built village of St. Michael Penkivel, erected for the favoured workers of his country seat, Tregothnan.
The Boscawens are one of the very few landed aristocratic families of Cornwall that do not feel the need to open the house and gardens to the public with any regularity. The whole estate (which is bleddy huge. It turns out it is actually damn hard to get accurate information on land holdings. Kevin Cahill seems like the go-to man but his website is antiquated and inoperable – here’s one estimate from the Guardian apparently using his work – no. 17 on the list – and another from Openbuildings) exudes an air of unhurried, unconcerned privacy. This also makes it particularly alluring to the curious Cornishman.
This privacy, for those with a passing knowledge of how much it costs to run such things, would indicate that they are rather comfortable.
They also grow tea, but take this with a pinch of salt rather than sugar. I don’t buy it. In both senses. Piecing together anecdotal information (we know people who have worked there) and a basic understanding of growing, I would estimate that about 5% of your average packet of Tregothnan Tea is Cornish. The other percentage consisting of leaves shipped from the more established tea plantations of India. Marketing is a powerful thing.
If you do not cross the land of the Boscawens you will roll your tryes or tread your feet on something owned by the Caerhays estate. This is infinitely more publicised and visible than Tregothnan. This faux-castle is impressively situated. Nestled in a valley amongst a prim and eclectic garden with the typical rhodedendron, Scots pine mix that these sheltered south coast valleys seem to support rather well. If you like secluded walks in leafy lush gardens then here’s your place.
A perfect place for a seat. Almost certainly inhabited by people of note and influence long before the present building was decided upon, before the Normans certainly, possibly beyond even Iron Age, being as it is, conveniently hidden from the sea and thus marauding seafaring pillagers.
The little church here, behind the Castle (it’s pretty much a circular road around the whole estate so go in one direction and you will find it), was shut when I was here last weekend, which is unfortunate, because it has the best local history booklet I have ever read. It was the amended journal of an enterprising Vicar who lived here in the 1800’s and detailed, well and at length, communal events such as whale carcasses being washed up and scavenged by the locals and how local young men would lower themselves down the steep cliffs of the Dodman to steal young Peregrine Falcons to use for hunting. I will return and get this but if you find yourself there, read it, buy it.
Caerhays is also still privately owned, but with a heavily subsidised income of private tours, garden entrance fees and pheasant shoots for wealthy patrons. They also charge for the beach car parking at the adjacent Porthluney. This I have qualms with, beaches should be free.
The pheasant shooting racket is particularly evident. Travel this area around the Spring and Summer and you will find the wildflower strewn fields and lanes awash with pheasants.
I am very fond of pheasants. They are remarkably stupid fowl with an entirely unjustified air of arrogance. Uncannily well designed for their sole purpose; to be shot by inebriated men. They are curiously indifferent to potential danger (cars), the males are brightly coloured (the same colours as a target), they have a tendency to consider themselves concealed when they are patently not and shriek and flap loudly and distinctively when they decide they werent hidden after all.
Still, if you’re stuggling for food (and you are far from supermarkets here) then here they are in remarkable and succulent abundance. It’s poaching, they’re all owned by the Estate and it’s illegal. Of course I don’t condone such behaviour (shooting pheasants from a car with an air rifle is ill advised, so is using a poor quality crossbow from Par Market) and you’d be depriving the clearly impoverished gentry of apparently their sole food source.
I should say though, as a sort of disclaimer as I seem to err towards the facetious, that I met and worked with the owners of Scorrier House once, who consist one branch of the Williams family tree (another of which own and dwell within Caerhays), and they were charming, polite and endlessly congenial. I have also spoken to people who worked as a butler at both Tregothnan and Caerhays and both claim they are perfectly nice people.
Or rather, ‘Yeah, they’m alright’. Which is the Cornish way of saying the same thing.