Saturday, 2 August 2008
A river tale.
Yesterday afternoon finally brought a weak and watery sunlight to rainy Cornwall, and we clutched at it like drowning people offered a branch. Yes, it wasn't long till dinner and Isabella hadn't eaten any lunch before her mid-day nap, thus would be grumpy and not want to walk but blow it, it feels as though we have been house-bound for ever due to rain, heavy rain. The reality is of course that we have popped out between the downpours for brief trips out, but I had the need for air, sweet fresh air gently blowing off the river and so, we headed off to one of my favourite places (well, one of dozens): Coombe.
Before you reach Coombe, it is first necessary to go through Cowlands, the romantically named hamlet nestled on the river banks close to a village called Penelewey. Cowlands is famous for the tiny orchards, now mostly neglected and therefore all the more beautiful, which surround the river basin. In the autumn it is like looking at a child's drawing with bright red apples lighting up the distance like so many lollipops. However, the area is even more famous for the wild plum trees that reach down to the river known as Kea plums, which can be bought from one of the few houses by the basketload or picked as you walk along. Their season is brief, but the fun of reaching up into the gnarled, heavily-laden boughs as they dip into the gentle waters of the river is so worth endless trips to ensure you don't miss them. Here are some of them propped up with poles for support.
From here we moved on to Coombe where the most gorgeous houses dot the river paths. The land belongs to Lord Falmouth's vast estate and whatever one may believe about such things, I can honestly say that the beauty of the area has been kept because of his ownership. This one house has become empty having been inhabited by an elderly couple for as long as I can remember, their goats chewing the grass in the little pasture field sitting to the side and a rotting stall usually offering windfalls or straggly plants just in front. They have finally passed away, drifting out of river life but not out of the memory of those of us who visit here. The house will be mended, but not over-done and let. The integrity of the place will remain.
We chose a path that led uphill past tiny orchards...
on round the bend where we discovered a stall tucked away with dahlias, runner beans and cucumbers for sale. All around were more little fields full of fruit trees and the pathway was dotted with fallen plums which Isabella and Lucy greedily scoffed, their faces stained with dark juice as they raced against each other in their bid to find the next one. On another day when the tide has not brought the river right up over the banks, we will bring the children back to collect enough plums for jam making - Kea Plum jam is just the best: rich, dark and delicious on thick slices of hot, buttered toast or topping scones with golden dollops of Cornish clotted cream. Mmm.
The path eventually brought us down a little hill toward the river gleaming in the silvery light below. Normally it is possible to walk along the banks in either direction, but the tide was too high for this and so we traced our steps back, collecting beans and cucmber on the way - don't you just have to buy from stalls?
We made our way back to the car stopping just long enough for Isabella to try to dunk herself in the river (happens on every trip where water is involved, mermaid that she is) and drove home with our two hungry girls to be greeted by the rich smell of the bolognaise Dave had left simmering earlier.
Several bowls-full later and we were all happy.
Have a lovely weekend xx