How serious is Cornish nationalism?

The Office for National Statistics has been publishing interesting insights from the last census – perhaps to counter the bad press that censuses get at this time of year, forcing pregnant Jewish women to travel to municipalities in the West Bank – and its latest release shows that 18.1 per cent of people in Cornwall identify as ‘Cornish’.  Whether as their national identity, ethnic group or, in a tiny fraction of cases, their main language, this is an increase from 13.8 per cent in the last census, in 2011. All of these were write-in responses – despite a campaign by councillors and local MPs in Cornwall, there was no Cornish tick-box – and

Did Jesus visit Cornwall?

I remember the ephemera at the back of St Barnabas. The church stands in Oxford’s suburb of Jericho, near the University Press. It had proper church clutter: stumps of candles, dogeared pamphlets and reminders of long gone diocesan initiatives. St Barnabas – a beautiful Italianate monstrosity, plonked by the high Victorians, with their classic tact, amid a cluster of crabby little houses, once slums but now worth millions – is good at collecting this stuff. In the sacristy is a vestment made from the coronation hangings of Tsar Nicholas II, smuggled out of Petrograd at the revolution; now the double-headed eagle peeps through the incense, delighting porters, dons and motor

Modern capitalism has failed my son

A light was on in the caravan site office so I went over to try and buy a gas canister. Come Easter the little Cornish seaside resort will be heaving. Now a stiff north wind blew in off the sea and it felt like the dregs of winter still. The site office was shut but a woman came out and said she was expecting a delivery tomorrow but she didn’t know yet how much a canister would cost. Nor did she know of anywhere open where we could get something to eat. She thought there might be a place down by the beach. Nobody had managed to get any seasonal

How King Charles saved Cornwall

I’m a 30th generation Cornishman. I’m so Cornish my mum can make Cornish pasties blindfolded, my maternal grandmother was employed aged nine to break rocks in a Cornish tin mine (she was a ‘bal maiden’), and my second cousins founded Cornish Solidarity, which is the very-lightly-armed wing of Mebyon Kernow (the Cornish Plaid Cymru). Nonetheless my visits to the county are infrequent, probably because I am not overly fond of rain.  However, on my most recent visit I noticed that something in Cornwall has changed. Perhaps I noticed it because I only go down to the see the folks once or twice a year, so I am made suddenly aware

How the royals do Cornwall

There was arguably no better advocate for holidaying in Britain than Queen Elizabeth II. Her Majesty loved to spend her summers in Scotland, having stayed at Balmoral each August since she was a girl. But could the next generation of royals favour the warmer climes of Cornwall over chilly Scotland? It certainly seems so. After Charles became King, William inherited the Duchy of Cornwall estate from his father. Not only is he now responsible for the Duchy’s extensive portfolio of Cornish property and farmland but he also inherits the 500-year-old Restormel Manor in the heart of Cornwall. Situated only a few miles from the house that inspired Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, it

We do love to be beside the seaside

In the garden of my house in Cornwall there is a smooth granite stone about the size and shape of a goodly pumpkin. In the middle, where the stalk would be, there is a hole filled with rusting iron. The day I moved in, a neighbour told me that the hole was drilled and filled with molten iron to attach a hook, long since rusted away, to make a ‘sinking stone’. Smuggled cargo could be submerged just off shore if there were any danger of meeting King George’s men, to be harvested when the coast was clear. About a year later, another Cornish neighbour saw it and told me that,

Where to escape the crowds in Cornwall and Devon

The wild, rugged beauty of the far southwestern tip of the UK needs no introduction. The appeal of life by the sea is at fever pitch. Nowhere in the UK boasts quite the same breadth or quantity of excellent, award winning beaches – picturesque stretches of sand, coves and swimming spots can be found peppered up and down the coastline. Keeping away from the crowds is increasingly difficult, but it can be done. In this list of some of the best beaches in Devon and Cornwall, we’ve focused on a good balance between accessibility and facilities, and those more secluded beaches that require a little more effort to get to.

Messy family matters: Bad Relations, by Cressida Connolly, reviewed

Cressida Connolly’s new novel begins with a couple of endings. It’s spring 1855, and on the battlefields of the Crimea William Gale is mourning the deaths of his brother Algernon and his friend Mr Lockwood. He writes to his wife Alice, who back home has befriended the progressive Dr Nolan, and asks her to call on Mrs Lockwood in Cheltenham. Upon returning from the war a medalled hero, William isn’t himself, and after meeting the ‘good lady’ widow and her two little girls, Molly and Kitty, he makes a rash decision that reverberates across generations. It’s hard not to play favourites with a novel divided into three fairly distinct parts,

The coastal boltholes that rival Cornwall

May Day is behind us, the summer season approaching, and already the tensions between second homeowners and locals in Cornish seaside towns have been gleefully reported by the tabloid press. Visit Cornwall is considering a register of second homes while councils are proposing a tax on empty properties. House prices have gone up by an average of 28 per cent across Cornwall since the pandemic began, according to the Land Registry, so is it time to look elsewhere for a coastal bolt hole? The British coastline is at least 1,200km long so there are some great alternatives, although the perennial favourites can get just as ‘overrun’ as the likes of St

The social cost of Cornwall’s second home boom

Cornwall has a boast this week and it has nothing to do with ice-cream or tides: we have made more than 2000 offers to house Ukrainian refugees. I am not surprised. The duchy is filled with second homes, and they are very often empty. Harboursides are dark in winter and the old town in St Ives is no more than a monied ghetto now. Cornwall is now more of a business than a place, with an owner and a servant class Since the war began it is often said that it is easier to offer refuge to those closest to you. The Polish don’t want Syrians, for instance, but they

What makes a pasty Cornish?

This week, world leaders are doing what countless Brits do every summer: unpacking their bags in a charming corner of Cornwall. The G7 summit — Joe Biden’s first, and Angela Merkel’s last — is taking place in the resort town of Carbis Bay, a stone’s throw from St Ives. Between the speeches and the roundtables, will the world leaders find time to tuck into Cornwall’s proudest and most popular export, the Cornish pasty? Boris Johnson talked about the region’s industrial history in the run-up to the event: ‘Two hundred years ago Cornwall’s tin and copper mines were at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution and this summer Cornwall will

A second home in Cornwall is nothing to be proud of

Last week there was a public toilet for sale on the coast of Cornwall. The Kent-based auctioneer called it ‘an exciting and rare opportunity’, although its video tour of the property did not even undo the padlock on the security door. It was on the market for £20,000, which was a bargain — the last exciting and rare toilet block to be auctioned in Cornwall went for five times its asking price, even though it didn’t have as nice a view. It did, however, have windows. It’s undeniable that the property market in Cornwall is overheating. The backlash to the toilet auction was such that it was withdrawn from sale,

How to try Cornwall’s new 150-mile cycle route

With many people having taken up cycling during lockdown, the West Kernow Way is bound to prove popular this summer. A new initiative from Cycling UK, it’s one that I’m surprised hasn’t come sooner. This part of the world is awash with bridleways, cycle-able terrain and quiet backcountry roads suited to bikes. It’s also part of the world best explored slowly – drive past this landscape without stopping at the ruins, the pubs and the hamlets and you’re missing a fundamental part of what makes this area of Cornwall special. It’s set to be a popular route, intended to be covered over four days. So what are the highlights and where should you

Jon Lansman finally gets a left victory

While the Conservatives in Cornwall may celebrate winning control of the council in last week’s election, they had one notable setback: Liberal Democrat Thalia Marrington won the Mousehole, Newlyn and St Buryan division, which has been Tory for as long as anyone can remember. What did it take for the Tories to lose England’s biggest fishing port? According to those sages at the Guardian it was the Cornish fishing vote turning against the government after the Brexit deal. Others argue that the traditional rivalry between farmers and fishermen means they were never going to vote for a farmer like William Bolitho.  Bolitho is a name that carries brand recognition in this part of

Cornwall, but not as the locals know it: Stein’s at Home reviewed

The Stein’s at Home steak menu box (£65) says ‘Love from Cornwall’: it is not for people who live in Cornwall. It is, rather, a cardboard mirror of Padstow, Rick Stein’s slate-covered, teal-painted, monstrous Cornish Center Parcs for upper-middle-class holiday-makers, and it has its own whimsical map of Rick Stein outlets in case you stray too far from the Rick Stein path, like Dorothy heading to her death. I went to Padstow during the first lockdown and heard guilty testimony: some natives enjoyed pandemic because Padstow was almost real again. But that is over now, and here comes the counter-revolution to reassert itself in cardboard. People will follow later. Cornish

One of the greatest of all outsider artists: Alfred Wallis at Kettle’s Yard reviewed

Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) should be an inspiration to all late starters. It was not until he had passed the age of 70 that, after his wife of many years had died and having previously worked as a sailor, fisherman and rag and bone merchant, he decided to take up art. ‘Aw! I dono how to pass away time,’ he explained to a shopkeeper in his native town of St Ives. ‘I think I’ll do a bit a paintin’ — think I’ll draw a bit.’ Three years later, his work was spotted by the leading British modernists Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood. By and by, Wallis’s pictures were being exhibited in

An extraordinary debut: Make Up reviewed

Make Up is the first full-length film from writer–director Claire Oakley, set in an out-of-season holiday park on the Cornish coast where the wind blows, waves crash, rain lashes and gulls screech so you know it’s not a rom-com (foxes shriek in the night too). But while it’s easy to say what it isn’t, it’s harder to say what it is. It’s a thriller but not quite a thriller, and a horror flick but not quite a horror flick, and a psychosexual fantasy but not wholly a psychosexual fantasy… It may be we can settle only on one thing, and the one thing is this: it is very, very good.

Hope in a takeaway bag: Mackerel Sky reviewed

You don’t dine in the age of pandemic: you scuttle about in the wreckage. If you can afford food, and you aren’t afraid of your neighbours, who don’t understand the government strategy and believe that if they stay indoors for eight years they will survive, and so should you, you can eat out; or rather you can collect takeaway in the comforting dusk. It is not because I want the food. My husband, with whom I re-enact Sunset Boulevard in lockdown, each taking it in turns to be crazy Norma or Max the butler, is a superb cook. It is that I want local restaurants to survive. It is my

Six places in Britain that make you feel like you’re abroad

Even when lockdown ends in Britain it may be a while longer before international borders begin to reopen. But not being able to hop on a flight doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an exotic escape. There are plenty of beautiful spots across the British Isles that make you feel as though you’re hundreds of miles from home. Here is our pick of the best. Somerset Lavender Farm, Somerset Sipping a coffee al fresco and gazing over the lilacy haze of fields at this family-run farm, you’d think you were in deepest Provence. In fact you’re just 10 miles from the UNESCO world heritage city of Bath and right on the

Dining in the time of pandemic: takeaways reviewed

I love eating while watching bad films like Battleship, so I love takeaway food from local restaurants. I am not rich enough to like the idea of takeaway from Simpson’s in the Strand and a plastic lid does not have the drama of a silver-plated dome. But eating takeaway food while watching Battleship is not my job, or at least it wasn’t until now, in the era of pandemic. The fine restaurants shuttered swiftly but the local restaurants offered takeaway, and I supported them. It is not indolence to order takeaway in the time of pandemic and, if you don’t, when this is over there will only be either Simpson’s