Autumn is upon us, and with it come beautiful landscapes and bountiful produce. This I discovered at the launch of the Fal River Walking Festival. Despite gloomy skies laden with heavy, sodden clouds, we enjoyed a short circular walk from the Nare Hotel.
At three, my daughter is at that awkward age – too long and heavy to carry, legs too short to walk too far. But I was keen to get her started, as her dad and I are keen walkers and desperate to get back in the habit. She did her best in monster wellies; it was a tad slippery underfoot, and she was mighty glad of a piggyback at the end, courtesy of Fal River’s Tommy Tonkins.
Tommy is a gig rower, and he made lifting our growing girl look effortless. She “sang a rainbow” in his ear, and was a fully-fledged fan by the time we reached our destination (and a welcome afternoon tea). To this day she recalls that Tommy works for “the King Harry Fairy” and “has no hair” (sorry, Tommy). We had a quick paddle on Carne beach, just long enough for the sea to go well over the top of her monster wellies.
The festival continues until November 3, and features self-guided walks through some of the most stunning scenery Cornwall has to offer, taking in areas from Falmouth to Truro, the Roseland to the Helford Passage. Families and dog-walkers catered for – see the link below.
Earlier this year, we moved to a house with a lovely garden full of glorious edibles: cultivated blackberries, blackcurrants, abundant mint, and two apple trees. At the beginning of October, we took fruit to the annual Trelissick Apple Weekend to be identified. The expert dangled our slightly manky looking eater by its stalk, before pronouncing: “Cornish Longstem.” I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to learn that even our inherited apple trees are “on message”.
Chez Newton, we have been busy. Picture the scene on a Saturday morning: him – swearing over his tax return; me -huffing over a box of furry runner beans that really should have been eaten a long time ago and are beyond redemption. My, how we’ve grown up. It’s one of many signs of middle age and middle class. Look. I have a growing addiction to Grand Designs (did you know it’s on EVERY NIGHT on More4? Heaven). My favourite shops are now Mallets – good old-fashioned homewares in Truro – and its high street equivalent, Lakeland. I have even liked the Kilner Jars Facebook page.
Having a kitchen larger than a postage stamp for the first time in my adult life is encouraging me to discover my inner Delia. I have jars of blackcurrant jam and runner bean chutney awaiting good homes (especially the chutney – I’ve never been fond of chutney, but needed to use up that glut of beans). I recently issued a spontaneous invitation to a work contact/friend – instead of meeting at a town restaurant, why not come to the house and try my carrot soup? I didn’t tell her I’d never made it before, and would be making it from scratch just for her. What if it all went horribly wrong? In the event, it was delicious, followed by stewed apple and blackberry (from the garden), mint tea (ditto) and homemade chocolate brownies. I can hear hordes stampeding to my front door now.
I’ve also started getting a veg box again. CT has featured two such schemes in recent months – Riverford, which focuses on organic produce, and the Cornish Food Box Company, which sources all its produce, organic or otherwise, from Bude to Helston via Bodmin Moor. To be honest, I’m rubbish at buying veg; I need it to be dumped on my doorstep with a recipe telling me what to do with it.
A good farmers’ market is also worth its weight in gold. We went to the Fifteen Cornwall Autumn Farmers’ Market on Saturday. It was wonderful, and we stocked up on plenty of goodies – duck burgers, apple juice, chocolate – none of which lasted longer than the weekend.
As an added bonus, we were able to attend a foraging walk with Caroline Davey of Fat Hen, who you might have seen in Cornwall Today over the summer, talking about seaweed – where to find it and its culinary uses. She explained to us how spring and autumn were the best times to find hedgerow delights, and in a very short distance pointed out tree mallow (as soft as rabbits’ ears) and stinging nettle (pick them under the leaves to avoid being stung). She offered useful recipe ideas, and warned us off a plant which resembled flat-leaved parsley but was actually the highly poisonous water hemlock. Yikes. Meanwhile, our daughter had spotted the last of the blackberries growing in a hedge, and was keen to indulge.
On the beach at Watergate Bay, Caroline led us to laver, sea beet and the foul-tasting scurvy grass, once eaten by sailors to ward off gum disease – give me an orange any day. It was a quick lesson on how sustenance can be found beneath your feet. While I wouldn’t be able to live like this permanently – even Caroline, who has three children, admits to doing a regular supermarket shop too – it was a step towards connecting with nature. And that’s really what it’s all about.