I wasn’t going to write another blog until we had got well into March, but the past week has been breathtaking. Blizzards, ice and Storm Emma, racing across the country from East to West, disrupting daily lives and reminding us all about climate change and the increasing extremes of weather to which we’re slowly becoming exposed.
Wednesday 28 – Kent had already received plenty of snow when our share arrived as I began work in the studio on Wednesday morning. Within a couple of hours the hamlet was transformed into a world of white.
Despite the blizzard warnings I had to get out and take a look for myself. I wasn’t disappointed. I walked along the old river bed at the bottom of our hill, disturbing pairs of Oyster Catchers who had come to shelter on the still-flowing stream. The gorse and hawthorns lining the way were weighed down by layers of snow – the freezing wind transforming everything into a Narnia-landscape.
Thursday 1st March – After another extremely cold wind-shrieking night the world seemed calm in the morning, and I thought it was worth going out again, for a short walk around Bartinney. The hill was blocked with snow, and the bridle paths were heavy going (they’re rough at the best of times), being covered with a deep layer of snow that hid all obstacles.
The walk stretched out as I explored different paths, taking more photos, and eventually coming back round to the Sancreed road, which was fairly passable, unlike the roads where we are.
I took photographs of the snowdrifts on the hill, and watched our neighbours surfing down the hill. The fun way to travel when you don’t have a sleigh!
Friday was a miserable day – the snow on the roads had thawed overnight, but the air was freezing, leaving a thick layer of clear ice on the road outside. I stayed indoors.
The thaw continued, and Saturday was fairly bright. I went into Penzance for shopping, and it felt strangely exhilarating, after days of silence and slowness and cold, to be driving along: to be moving at speed.
The sea front at Newlyn was littered with pebbles and torn-up seaweed and Kelp. Foraging gulls rose protesting from the piles of uprooted material laying on the path and grassy areas as walkers disturbed them. Still very cold, I realized, even though I was walking briskly, and I dipped into the gallery to check out the new exhibition, Hummadruz, and get a coffee!
Hummadruz is an exhibition that brings together the magical elements of Cornwall’s present and past. Paintings and prints by Ithell Colquhon, who I discovered a few years ago, not realising at the time, her deep connection with this part of Cornwall. Magical talismans, performance, geology and pre-history, ritualistic objects and digital spells… it’s a corrective to the busy and pragmatic tourism that is so essential to the life of this part of Cornwall.
Coming in to the gallery from the cold stone-littered paths, with seaweed hanging from fence rails, the exhibition seemed like a natural extension of my thoughts.
Later – I had to walk again, this time to one of my favourite places, the place where Spring always comes early. I parked at the top of the valley and walked to the cove, noting the light, the birdsong, the absence of snow, except for little patches here and there, tucked under a wall, or a hedge. The river was in full spate, but it had a different quality – it leaped and sparkled; where it dropped at each granite step, it seemed to be fighting its way up again, playfully, rather than rushing in a torrent to the cove. The sea, as it came into view, was luminous. But it was cold at the cove, there were thin sheets of ice on the rock pools, and lowering clouds.
Unexpectedly, as I walked back up the valley, the sun came out, and transformed the whole place into Spring. There are old hawthorns and willows lining the banks of the river, and in that golden light they glow with wonderful colours: purples, green-greys, bright greens. The birds were singing: I saw a bullfinch, chaffinchs, robins, tits…
I walked round to the reed pond, which is an old reservoir that held the water that ran the big wheel for the mine. Sat there for a while, amazed at the colour, and the difference between this day, and Wednesday. It didn’t seem possible.
Sunday – Pete took a day off, and we walked again. This time from Botallack to Pendeen Light. We were well dressed for the cold, and luckily for rain, because at the lighthouse the weather closed in around us, and lashed with rain. We made our way back to Geevor for a pasty (well-earned, we thought) and waited out an increasingly wet afternoon.
Sometimes we talk about our move here, and question ourselves. We’ve moved away from our family, and miss them, and our old friends, but what would life have been like had we stayed in Kent? We will always have these questions, and they’re unanswerable. But there is a variety and a life to this landscape that wasn’t available to us before, and it’s something we can share and communicate.