Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Enys Estate

A sheltered inland walk around ancient woodlands in between Truro and Penryn

My American friend, Izzy, discovered this walk not long after arriving in Falmouth. Unused to strange names such as Restronguet, when her partner asked her where she'd walked her dog, she said, 'Oh you know, over Restaurant way.' Since then, this has always been known as the Restaurant Walk.
So one disconsolate Saturday, Mollie Dog and I drove through Penryn and turned right towards Mylor and Flushing. This road took us to Mylor Bridge, where we met Viv and Titch, Mollie's boyfriend which resulted in a joyful and noisy canine reunion. Taking the first left into Comfort Road we drove past Mylor school and continued until we reached Broads Lane on the left. We followed this road to the end, turned left in between two granite gateposts, a Public Footpath sign, and signs saying Recadjack Cottage and Ponds Cottage, and parked in on the right.
From here we headed uphill along a rocky path and the dogs bounded ahead, making up for several weeks of abstinence. On our right were open fields and on our left, the woods and boundary of Enys Gardens.
The Enys estate, which has been owned by members of the Enys family since the 13th century, starting with Robert de Enys in 1272. In World War II Enys Estate provided the shore headquarters for the Royal Dutch Navy crews and the garden is considered the oldest in Cornwall. J D Enys (1837-1912), an inveterate traveller, regularly sent seeds and plants home from New Zealand and Patagonia, so the garden is well worth a visit. The lakes in the lower valley have a water wheel which raised water to the house, and in spring the bluebells in the parkland, known as Parc Lye, provide a fabulous rich purple carpet.
Passing a sign to Ponds Cottage and then Recadjack Cottage on the left, we continued uphill until we reached a yellow waymark sign on our left and clambered over the granite stile into dense woods. “Spooky,” said Viv, a wobble in her voice. Being in company I felt much braver, though the first time I came here I jumped at every snapped twig and ran when the wind rattled the trees. Today there were no such distractions, and as the first rain drops fell on the leaves high above, I reflected that as this walk is largely undercover, it's a good walk to do when it's wet. No wonder I know it so well.
We walked on a carpet of well trodden leaves, in amongst younger beech trees and ancient oaks, past young bright ferns and ivy entwined round various branches. Emerald moss grew, so thick and luscious it was almost like fur, and further on were huge ferns, and the biggest oak tree I've ever seen: you could set up house in its roots.
Following a Public Footpath sign stuck in a tree, the path curved round to the right past a smallholding down below us and we continued through a collapsed kissing gate – had there been too much passion? - to emerge in a large meadow, where the dogs ran riot. We carried on down the path by the side of the meadow, through another ramshackle gate and down steep steps into Horneywink Wood.
A stream runs here, which the dogs love, so we stopped for them to have a good splash and then carried on up into the woods, which became thicker and more dense. This area is believed to be undisturbed since ancient times, and contains many trees of a great age including oak, beech, sycamore and rowan. Given the other-worldly feel of the woods, it was almost like a scene from Narnia, and I wouldn't have been surprised to meet a centaur or faun and invited for tea. But nothing as excited transpired, so we headed up a rockier path with the stream chattering on our right. Here was evidence of some very ancient trees, stone walls smothered in moss and rotten tree trunks lying like beached dinosaurs.
Further on we took a right hand fork – there are no waymarks here so the path is not very clear - through a thick patch of rhododendrons with young waxy leaves, past toadstools like dirty golf balls, while the two dogs roared up and down like greyhounds on a racetrack. When we came to a very muddy patch, we turned sharp left up another leafy lane. At this point we thought we'd lost both dogs but Mollie appeared and waited while we shouted for Titch (a not uncommon event). Finally he appeared so we were able to continue, past rowan trees and brambles, until we came to a junction where we turned right past a waymark scene and into a field that led to Enys drive at the top.
We didn't walk along the drive as there were cattle grazing, but retraced our steps back through the field on a carpet of dense clover. After so long of walking in the woods, it was pleasant to step out and feel sunshine on our arms and faces. Out of the field we followed the yellow waymark sign and turned right, where it looked as if a huge tree trunk had blocked the path, but in fact we squeezed round it and continued downhill, back into the woods.
This steep leafy path, covered in crunchy leaves, was skirted by ivy on our right and rhododendrons on our left – the leaves had curled up looking like cigar casings (a new sideline for the Enys estate, maybe?). Ahead ran Mollie and Titch, like a canine Bonnie and Clyde, until we came back to the loop where we'd branched off earlier.
Retracing our steps, we found the granite stile out of the woods and turned left up the rocky lane until we passed a sign to Recadjack Cottage on our left, passed through a kissing gate and into a ploughed field. Following the path round to the right we kept to the right hand side of the field where Viv was convinced she could hear a child crying. In fact it was a lone buzzard that mewed and swooped overhead so, relieved, we reached the end of this field, passed a campsite on our left and turned right down a stony path which can be very wet and uneven in winter.
At the bottom of this path we turned left down an even muddier bridleway with stone walls on our left. At a junction we turned sharp right past a sign to a cattery, and headed downhill past a rickety shed on our left, and Elin Cottage on the right, to a farm. I'd been telling Viv about this farm's wonderful (and very good value) free range eggs, but sadly when we got there – “Oh no!” I cried. “No eggs!”
My menu blown for that evening, we continued down the rocky path, past a huge wood pile (I eyed it wistfully thinking of our woodburner), past a sturdy stone cottage on our right that Viv fell in love with - “I can just imagine myself living there,” and finally returned to the van. Faced with the prospect of no egg and chips that night, we just had to go and have a cream tea at Enys Gardens.

The Enys Trust
St Gluvias
Penryn, TR10 9LB

Map: Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: 1 ½ hours
Grade: Rocky paths, can be muddy and frequently wet underfoot
Refreshments: at Enys gardens
Enys gardens open from early April until end of September, every Tues and Thurs from 2-4pm and the first Sunday of every month from 2-4pm. The gardens are closed in winter.
Dogs must be on a lead in the gardens.

Cornwall Today May 2010

Dear Hound


The Worst Witch author turns to her own dogs for her latest book

“It's a bit like falling in love,” says Jill Murphy, sweeping me along with her enthusiasm. “Illustrating is like breathing because I've always been able to do it – it's fun. But getting the story right is a delight. It's almost as if the character sits on the end of the bed and waits for you to put them in the next scene.”

Jill is probably best known for her Worst Witch books, which are some of Puffin’s most successful titles, having sold more than 3 million copies and been made into a major ITV series, though Jill has also received various awards for her picture books.

Unlike some writers who take years to learn their trade, Jill began very early. “I wrote my first book at the age of 6, stapled it together and the teacher read it aloud,” she says. “Afterwards one of my friends said could she borrow it, so I wrote a sequel and I had a little lending library for all of my friends.”

When Jill was young, there was very little choice in children's books. “I read everything that Enid Blyton ever wrote, but there wasn't really anything else.” So she and her friends made their own entertainment. “Because I was the quickest reader, I would read a book and then we'd play it all day! Libraries were incredibly important then, because there wasn't anything else to do.” She shifts on her beanbag. “Nowadays there are so many distractions for poor kids – they never get five minutes peace to sit down and concentrate on anything.”

As a voracious reader herself, Jill is keen to encourage others. “I hope my books make children want to go on reading,” she says, and the passion is evident in her voice. “Reading is such a lovely thing to be skilled at because it's the gateway to everything else you want to do – even stuff on the internet.” Her own taste is very wide. “I'm fascinated by the Tudors at the moment, but I love any factual historical stories.” She smiles. “I can read anything from Womans Own to really quite cerebral type novels!”

She gets up to stoke the fire. “I don't think many people can say that their dreams have come true, certainly about their career. But it was just there, all the way through me like Brighton Rock!” Her words tumble out at speed, and I get the impression of a strong person, yet with great sensitivity. “My mother and father were amazingly supportive – they were always behind me. All I wanted was to sit at home and draw and tell my stories, which is what I've always done so I've been incredibly lucky. One thing I learned when I was growing up was how to be grateful.”

Jill's interest in Cornwall began when she was in her mid-twenties, visiting a friend in Rock. “I just fell in love with the North Cornwall Coast,” she explained. Ten years ago she settled in St Mabyn, where she now lives with her son and two deerhounds. “St Mabyn is my perfect place to live. The people are friendly, there's an excellent primary school, wonderful village post office and shop which is the hub of the village. And a beautiful church with a high tower which is so comforting when you’re driving home.”

It's Jill's interest in her surroundings that provide the inspiration for her books. “I wrote all the earlier books before I had children just by observing everyone else's,” she explains. “Everything is based on something that has fascinated me.” She smiles. “A lot of Mildred (in the Worst Witch series) was based on me at school as I was always very scruffy and untidy.” And this understanding of what children – and their parents want – comes across through her many fan letters. Iris Drouet, age 7, writes, “Mildred has a cat called Tabby who's a clumsy cat and he hates flying! I liked Tabby as a character because he’s special in his own way.”
Jill's affinity with animals is clear from her books, and it was a real life incident that prompted Jill's latest book. DEAR HOUND is about Alfie, a large deerhound puppy who loves cheese, digging holes and his owner Charlie. But one day, Alfie gets lost and he’s scared – of thunderstorms and never seeing Charlie again. Meanwhile, Charlie doesn’t know what to do – but one thing is for sure: he’ll never stop looking for his dear hound.
“It actually happened,” says Jill. “Grace was my son Charlie's first dog and he absolutely adored her. We did everything it says in the book to try and find her.” The illustrations are delightful and poignant, particularly one of Charlie, looking desolate. “I found him looking out over the gate and he said, 'I'm making her come up the road, Mummy.' He was so sure she was going to come out, I could almost see her coming round the corner.” Then just as Jill started to write the book, Madeleine McCann went missing. “I was so upset I had to stop,” said Jill. “Eventually I pulled myself together and finished it - I think sometimes children need happy endings.”

At this point she goes to fetch her deerhounds. As they nose the door open, I'm stunned by the size of these gorgeous grey animals who sniff me all over, then give my face a thorough wash. Scout drinks my coffee dregs and Kiera settles onto my lap with a contented sigh. “Their characters are so extraordinary, so gentle,” Jill says gazing fondly at them. “If they were in a fairytale they'd be enchanted elderly aristocrats from the Middle Ages. They're eccentric, and just lovely!”

Dear Hound is a wonderful tale of never giving up hope, of a child's best friend – and the best possible tribute to these truly loveable dogs.

Dear Hound is published by Puffin.

Cornwall Today May 2010