The other week, for a brief window in a spell of dull grey days, the sun came out. Matt and I had watched this fair weather window approaching in the forecast. Day by day getting closer. The sunny icons not changing for more rainy ones. So when the blessed Wednesday arrived, we decided to take that afternoon and the following morning off (something we’re both lucky we’re at liberty to do). We packed up a couple of wheelbarrows with tents, firewood and food. (We’ve got quite slick with our last minute camping trip procedures) Piled into Matt’s van and headed to Tremayne Quay.
We’ve been trying to camp at this spot since our first summer together. Now over five years later we finally managed to get it all to ourselves. Trundling our wheelbarrows through Tremayne Woods, we discussed a backup plan, only to find a group of boy scouts already pitched on our backup patch of grass. Luckily it didn’t prove to be a plan we needed!
Although brief it was so good to get a night away. I’d cooked a couple of pizzas before we left. Since we own very little “proper” camping gear, our campfire cooking generally means putting pizzas in foil on an old bbq rack over the fire; heating them up and making their bases more crispy and stone-baked. We enjoyed these with Pringles, precariously grilled corn on the cob and Helford Creek Cyder. Finishing it off, feet dangling over the quay, away from the campfire as the evening was already so naturally warm, we could’ve done without its extra heat!
It’s moments like this that remind us why we live here. The ability to walk out of the “office” and go spend a night by the water, under the stars, out where the sea birds are calling.
Some of you who’ve read my blog for a while know that I spent the first 18 years of my life in Birmingham, before moving to Cornwall for university. It was a choice I made based more on the change in lifestyle and location than for that particular university course (but that’s another story for another post on another day). But it’s fair to say my life has been remarkably different ever since. Like a defining BC/AD moment. Perhaps made all the more noticeable because of my relationship with Matt, who grew up here and has influenced my life like few others.
But from the city to the sticks, how is life different for me now I’m a Lizard local…
T R A N S P O R T A T I O N
First of all, you need your own car. I live in a little hamlet at the top of the Lizard Peninsula. My nearest village is Mawgan, which has a Post Office and a Spar and is a 5-minute drive (20-minute walk) from where I live. My nearest town is Helston (5 miles away) and this is where the nearest supermarket and high street is. However unlike the bus service I lived near in Birmingham – which came every 2-5 minutes – I believe my local one runs just a few times a day.
Meanwhile when I lived in Birmingham I could get anywhere I wanted to in the city by walking and public transport. And often I could get there within an hour. Now in Cornwall, it’s at least a half-hour drive to get anywhere – St Ives, Falmouth, Truro, Penzance – and there’s many more places you simply just can’t get to without a car. Admittedly whilst many see this as an inconvenience, it really doesn’t bother me. It’s my new normal. And driving for a solid 4-5 hours (like I do when going back to Birmingham) is something I can do with relative ease. If anything I see my peers without their own transportation and ability to travel for extended periods of time, as sometimes limiting the trips they can take and life that they experience.
T I M E O U T & A B O U T
In Birmingham I was well-acquainted with the cinema – anyone remember Orange’s ‘Two-For-One Wednesdays’ when student tickets were still £3? In Cornwall, there is no Odeon or Imax and admittedly Matt is not a cinema buff – although on occasion he’ll make an exception if I provide snacks. Likewise Saturday’s spent at the Bull Ring or Touchwood have been replaced with online shopping. There is, unfortunately, no Zara or Mango or Urban Outfitters in Cornwall. So evenings spent half-watching E4 whilst browsing ASOS’s ‘New In’ have become a new guilty pleasure of mine.
Instead in Cornwall, my free time is predominantly spent on beaches and cliff paths, in woods and all manner of seaside pubs and cafes. As a result of this a wetsuit, a waterproof and wellies (by Cornwall Farmers rather than Hunter) are now relative staples in my wardrobe. And like I mentioned at the start of this post, Matt and I are seasoned weather forecast watchers. Luckily on the Lizard Peninsula, there’s almost 360 degrees of coastline, so whichever way the wind blows there’s somewhere sheltered to go. Plus a tide book lives in a drawer of our coffee table, to let us know how much beach there’ll actually be to enjoy.
S U M M E R S E A S O N
In Cornwall, summer is peak season. For Matt and I it’s when our jobs get busiest and in our free time, we’re more selective about the kind of places we go. Explicitly the kind of beaches without cafes or car parks; the kind of beaches that require a bit of “getting to”, a bit of scrambling down cliffs. These are the beaches you’ll find yourself only sharing with a few locals, rather than the whole of the nearest holiday park. There’s also particular times you know are best to head out on the road. All it takes is one caravan driver to increase your journey by a few hours!
Also in summer when Matt and I could get like ships passing in the night, we do our best to flexibly fit time together in around busy work schedules. Matt works for Lizard Adventure, so on his lunch break I’ll sometimes go visit him in his harbour-side shack and get ice creams if he’s been tipped that day. Also if an evening’s swell isn’t too bad we’ll nip out on paddleboards or kayaks. Few things shake off stress like a dip in the sea as the sun sets.
D E M O G R A P H I C S & E C O N O M I C S
Although something of a sensitive subject, since coming to Cornwall I would be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed the remarkable difference in the population, its economic status and the average levels of education here. Especially since graduating and moving out of the Falmouth-student-bubble.
Compared to Birmingham, Cornwall is very white. In my secondary school, around half of the students were Caucasian. Whereas in Matt’s secondary school, all but 3 of the students were Caucasian. Cornwall is also quite elderly, with many young people leaving the county at 18 for further education or to find work elsewhere. In our church, I would guess around 75% of the congregation is elderly and we are the only people in their mid-twenties, somewhere between graduation and starting a family. It would be an understatement to say we find this difficult.
Also before Brexit Cornwall was eligible to a large amount of EU funding, as there’s greater levels of poverty here than in a lot of Europe. And whilst I’m not certain what’s happening with the funding, I would say I noticed upon moving here the lower level of economic success the county has had. In Birmingham, I’d always felt financially comfortable but upon moving to Cornwall it made me question if I was in fact really quite rich. It was perhaps one of the first times I had actually thought at length about “class” in the UK and just how normal my normal was.
In my experience, this particular mix of whiteness, poverty and lower levels of education has resulted in many heart-breakingly difficult conversations, both at church and in the workplace, about immigration, equality, evolution and Islam. Cornwall voting itself out of the EU – giving up £60 million of funding – was frustrating and felt somewhat symbolic of the demographic mix here.
P A C E O F L I F E & W E L L – B E I N G
Life is undoubtedly slower in Cornwall. When there’s limited phone signal and it takes time to get anywhere, that’s simply how it’s going to be. However I think it’s done me the world of good.
I’m someone who is susceptible to mood swings and somewhat temperamental mental health. Although it’s something I tend to keep private and am hesitant to talk about. Yet I’ve noticed a significant change in my mental well-being since moving here. It was this shift that inspired me to study the link between the environment and well-being for my dissertation; the impact that green spaces and time outdoors have on people.
All the outdoor images in my last blog post were taken in our garden. The view from my bedroom is one of fields and trees and greenery. And from time to time we’ve spied deer wandering through the bottom of the garden. Right now, I really live out “in the sticks” and I’m aware of how ridiculously fortunate I am to have stumbled upon this life.
Although there are things I surrender to live here – Ben & Jerry’s bought after 4pm on a Sunday due to cravings, being just one of them – in the overall balance I’m not sure there’s anywhere else I’d rather be. What’s more the South of Cornwall and Lizard peninsula strongly feel like home now, in a way I’m nostalgically reminded of whenever I go back to Birmingham.