There comes a time, my Mum says, when you stop wanting to get wet and do cool things that aren’t cool at all when you are over sixty. What you need then are really good days out that teach you what humanity is all about. She wonders what trace will be left behind when her life has passed. Her older friends have told her that once you are over seventy, some spiritual settlement becomes a matter of urgency.
Mum booked Ruan Dinas for a week out of season in early Feb and set about organising her own adventures on a pensioner’s budget. One fixed rule is a walk every day.
In the Halsgrove Discover Series she found ‘Cornovia’, a book about the ancient sites of Cornwall, which is on the bookshelf of Ruan Dinas.
Day 1, she started exploring the Iron age Fort at Roundwood, cunningly sited in a semi-concealed position guarding the confluence of the Fal and Truro rivers. This site has never been excavated. Currently The National Trust have been logging out all the alien trees - a lot of beech, birch and sycamore, from this ancient woodland site. The earthworks have never been clearer in outline for years and there are sunny glades and always a handy trunk to use as a resting place whilst Mum thinks her big thoughts. The ‘Ellen Lea’ has been using the quay to unload debris from the dismantling of a disused mussel farm. Mum said she could imagine the boat being one of the Phoenician traders who used to ply their goods in South Cornwall, bringing saffron and spices, to trade for Cornish tin.
Day 2 saw Mum setting out on the ferry. She was tracking down saffron cake. The ferry is one of those delightfully slow experiences. There’s always someone to chat to in the queue and the clanking of chains, the still waters of the river, surrounded on all sites by woodland that hold ancient secrets, make the trip worth the cost of the fare. An old boy stands forever on the upper deck, a concrete sculpture, maybe made by the stone carver who lives in one of the estate cottages on the jetty. Some summer days there’s an eskie where you can buy fresh mackerel or crabs as you cross the river. Mum likes to take the grandchildren on the ferry, the glass viewing chamber of the engine room shows budding engineers the chains on the cog wheels. Better than any museum. The toughened glass sides of the ferry afford beautiful views of the river.
Over on the St Mawe’s side, I’d told Mum to set off for Pendower. At low tide the beach is a stunner. Mum said she parked up in the car park bay to the West of the beach - and walked the length of the beach. There are still sand dunes left there after the storms of last year, which is unusual. At the other end of the beach lies the beautiful Nare Head Hotel, open all year round to non-residents who walk the coastal path. They serve Tregothnan Cornish Teas and toasted saffron cake in the sun lounge. Outside there’s an infinity pool, fringed with cordylines, and beyond, the wild sea. You pay waitress service prices - it’s a touch of luxury that a pensioner enjoys and the saffron cake and home-made shortbread taste all the better for the walk and the warmth of the hotel and the sea view.
Day three saw Mum setting off for one of Cornwall’s finest Fougous on the Trelowarren Estate, near Helston. Having read ‘Cornovia’ she had looked up fogous - (either spelling) in Wikipedia. They are unique in Cornwall. Sadly, she was too early in the season - for a small fee you can visit from 30th March to 1st October. Mum said she’s coming back again for a visit.
Undeterred, having read the book and an OS map of the Penzance area, she set off towards Sennen for some of the other Neolithic sights, setting her cap at the St Buryan stone circle. Mum said she thought the white quartz stone at Boscawen-un had given her extra energy after she had stroked it for some time! I hope she’s not going to turn druid on me.
There’s talk of some visits to Iron Age Hill forts next time - hills are always good exercise for her - and Chun Quoit too - or the time after.... She’s heard of a very good eatery in Penzance called Mackerel Sky. It’s a good day out, travelling time south down the A30 is only about an hour. I’m surprised she hasn’t booked a day trip to the Scilly Isles yet.
Luckily, she seemed to settle down really well at Ruan Dinas, enjoying the local attractions too. We had some fine times at Gyllingvase Beach Cafe and around Falmouth. The coast path is busier but Mum likes the buzz of bumping into people and she always pops into the botanic gardens and the grotto. She’s getting to know the gardener quite well, who plants some absolutely super stuff: the best of civic horticulture.
Mum said she really enjoyed the cinema at Falmouth and wishes she had booked supper there. She always loves the art gallery. As for her hobby, sewing, she spent a long time browsing in the Truro fabric shop and in choosing buttons in the market. Lunch at the health food shop seemed to please her with its vegan menu and friendly staff.
I’m glad she’s happier. Perhaps the quartz was quite magical after all.
Ruan Dinas, Fal River, sleeps 6