Friday, 25 March 2016

Hastings Battleaxe is like, chillin' at the Source Park

What a fabulous sunny Good Friday - weather not set to last through Easter, one gathers. Today, I told Philosopher that Battleaxe wanted to check out the Source Park, a new skate/BMX thingy in the old White Rock Baths.
'Mmm, Sauce!' he grunted in mock camp yet strangely unenthusiastic tones, without raising his eyes from the Guardian. (Is camp grunting even possible?)
      We strolled down to town over the West Hill, hearing faint sounds of shouting and chanting from the traditional Good Friday Stations of the Cross procession going on in the Old Town below us. We have watched that event several times, and I have written about it for this blog, but this year the sun and the sea beckoned louder. At least Jesus wouldn't be wearing thermals and long-johns under his raiment this time.

Glorious spring day
     We had a cup of dish-water coffee and a soggy apricot slice in the West Hill cafe. Sitting enjoying the sun on the terrace, and admiring the unparalleled views, I wished, as I do so often, that they'd jazz up that caff a bit. Sure, we don't want Rick Stein's clifftop bistro, but a bit of investment would not come amiss.
Old town from the cafe
       The old baths under the seafront have been empty and derelict for years. It is good to see them used, and from a  Battleaxe perspective, very good to think of lots of rumbustious young persons safely confined to a soundproof underground bunker. There should be many more such bunkers to contain more of them....
Entrance to youth containment bunker.....
       We went in with some trepidation, expecting a daunting Hades of shrieking youth and pounding music, but the staff were friendly and welcoming, and in the large main park they have retained the old spectator gallery from the swimming pool days. Anyone can wander in and use the cafe, which has plenty of seats where you can watch the action below.  It was quite noisy with crashing and banging on the wooden surface, but the users seemed quietly intent on practising their skills, jumping, spinning and whizzing round the bowls and ramps below us. Battleaxe would recommend anyone at any age to go in and use the cafe and have a look - it is very interesting to watch. Coffee was good, too, and they do eats as well.
       There is another skate area, the Plaza, in another part of the building, but it has no spectator gallery.
        I was very impressed by the level of skill on show. There were BMX bikes, skateboards and little scooters, and an age range from adults down to little ones being helped by their dads. How long does it take those kids to get that good? All boys, although they do have sessions just for girls. I was even more impressed by the levels of co-operation they showed - taking turns, keeping out of each other's way, obviously looking out for each other. You'd have to undertake a structured long-term observation project to find out how anyone who did not 'fit in' to the co-operative ethos was managed, and presumably, frozen out, but we only saw users meshing together thoughtfully and seamlessly, despite high speeds, sudden direction changes and dead halts.

        Needless to say, the only exception to the prevailing sweetness and light was some posh pushy mother. Philosopher was getting the drinks, and I had positioned a stool by the gallery rail, and was carrying another to put beside it. This woman literally wrenches the stool out of my hands, saying 'I need that, I have three boys.'  Despite the fact that I am the Battleaxe, when faced with such astonishing rudeness all crushing retorts fly out of my mind. Instead of hanging on to the stool and saying 'I need this, I have a husband', I dumbly let her take it. Then of course, her brats didn't sit on their stools at all, just screamed up and down the gallery.
       We spent a few moments imagining organising a WI outing at the Source Park, BMX riding.....
       There were quite a few unrestored/art deco bits from the old baths remaining. Here's a few pictures, together with a photo of the pool as it was.


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Another week in Sennen Cove

How many times have we stayed down in Sennen Cove? Here's last year's post. The area never palls, loses its magic or fails to turn up new things of interest. We're just back from our 2016 week spent,  as usual, in the company of our best-loved Brummie friends. I just described the long road trip from Hastings to the far west of Cornwall in my last post
   You may well ask, why go all the way down there? It's a cliche to say that Cornwall is a special place. Mostly special in a good way, but sometimes not - see about St Buryan later in this post.
    Being so near to Lands End, the peninsula is very narrow, and you can get to both the north coast and the south coast very easily. The cliff walks are different on each side. Although the cliffs are similar, the light in the north feels slightly harsher and brighter, the south feels gentler. We can visit St Ives, Marazion and Penzance, although our nearest 'metropolis' is St Just.  There are gardens to visit, many interesting villages, galleries, lots of pubs.....
Our first sight of the beach at Sennen Cove
   Sennen Cove itself is a pretty little place. It has a good pub, The Old Success (we had a brilliant rib-busting Sunday carvery lunch in there this time - Battleaxe recommends, vegetables were delicious...), a beach-side restaurant, now taken over by celeb Cornwall chef  Ben Tunnicliffe and unfortunately turning into a gastro-surfy type place, a shop, an excellent gallery, a chippy etc. Philosopher goes down to the 'Old Boathouse' shop every morning for the paper, and the proprieter was chatting to him about his writing -  The Cove Diary, up-dated daily on-line. Battleaxe recommends that any Sennen lovers click the link! It is also published in book form, and we now have the first volume, signed and dedicated to us!  Apparently, however, the second volume is several inches thick....
    We've stayed in various cottages along the front, but this year our favourite was taken off the rental market. They didn't tell us until quite late on, so we ended up staying in the converted loft of  'Badger's Cottage', our friends' place. Passable, but Battleaxe would give the loft a miss in future. Headroom was very dodgy indeed.  Philosopher gashed his head on a beam on the first evening and wore a hat indoors for the rest of the time. No shower, just a big bath. If you were sufficiently tall to see the sea out of the skylights you would have also been walking around the place bent double. No bloody bedside table or reading light - had to borrow from downstairs. But it was warm, the bed was comfy and in any case we spent every evening downstairs with the others, in front of their enormous wood-burning stove. We took turns to cook huge evening meals and drank large volumes of wine.
    We were lucky with the weather, lots of sun, warm enough to eat our sandwiches on the clifftops, no rain, but an icy wind blew for some of the time.
   We usually start our week with a relatively gentle walk to Lands End, and have a coffee in the hotel at the end of the peninsula. Lands End itself is over-run with nasty mass-tourist tat. They even charge you to stand by that signpost thing. We avoid all of that.
Looking out to Lands End
     The views from the steep hills above Sennen Cove down to the village and the wide sweep of Whitesand Bay are magnificent and appear in many paintings, such as these below.

Autumn sunlight, Sennen Cove, Laura Knight
View of Sennen Cove, Edwin LaDell
     Another of our annual walks is around the little village of Treen. A lane with a stream, camellias, daffodils and beautiful cottages leads down to the tiny cove of Penberth. A heart attack-inducing haul up the side of the cliff gets us to Logan Rock, where we sit admiring the view down over Porthcurno beach before  heading inland for the Logan Rock pub.....

Logan Rock
     On this particular day, we stopped off in  St Buryan, mostly to look at the church.  Unaccountably, I was seized with an intense feeling of cold fear and dread almost as soon as we walked into the churchyard. Standing in front of the porch set it off. I could hardly wait to get out of the place. Now, don't get me wrong, Battleaxe is not generally impressed by, or troubled with, the supernatural, but I do get occasional 'spooky' feelings around certain places. This was certainly one of them. St Buryan is a very ancient settlement, a centre of neolithic stone circles, celtic crosses, holy wells etc., all full of ghostly potential. But then so is most of Cornwall, and I have never experienced a feeling like that before.
St Buryan church porch

St Buryan Church
     However, my spirits were restored by the discovery, in a junk shop in St Just, of these horrendously kitsch but loveable (in my eyes) 1940s/50s concrete garden ornament pigs. I had to have them. Poor long-suffering Philosopher man-handled them into the car, and they returned to Hastings with us.
Kitsch piggies.....
     Philosopher and I had a day in St Ives.  We were meeting our friend Karol from Lyme Regis, who, by a complete coincidence, was signed up for  a week-long course at the St Ives School of Painting with her friend Anthea. Can't get by without a few pictures of the light, the sky, the sea....
Late afternoon in St Ives

Storm clouds?

Cloud shadows
    We visited the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden - for some reason we had never been before. It was much better than I expected. Battleaxe would recommend.

Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

St Ives church tower, seen through the trees
     We were very interested to visit the School of Painting because it was founded in 1938 by Leonard Fuller. We have one of his paintings here at home, which we got from Burstow and Hewett for a pittance because they hadn't noticed the signature. Many, many famous painters practiced their basic skills with Leonard Fuller and his co-founder, Borlase Smart, including Terry Frost, Peter Lanyon and Patrick Heron.  The big upstairs studio looked virtually unchanged from old pictures we've seen, from  Fuller's day. They had an exhibition of Fuller's work at the Penlee Gallery in Penzance last year, but of course we couldn't go all the way down there just for that.  Here's our painting, apparently very uncharacteristic of his style:

     This post is getting a bit long. I haven't even mentioned our day in Penzance, visitng the lovely Penlee Gallery, and fantastic soup at the Honey Pot Cafe, our visit to Marazion, walking from St Just to Sennen Cove (phew, knackering). I'll just finish up with a picture round-up, including Goose Carn near Cape Cornwall, , Marazion, Trewidden Garden - we did so much, in such a short time. .  Roll on next year!
Cape Cornwall from Goose Carn

Late afternoon on Sennen Beach


Goose Carn

High Tide at Marazion

Mouth of the Cot Valley

A tree-fern uncoils at Trewidden


Sunday, 13 March 2016

From Hastings to Lands End..... A long drive

For Battleaxe readers in America, Australia etc., a road trip of 332 miles would be nothing, but in the UK it is a bit different. To drive from Hastings to Sennen Cove near Lands End in Cornwall takes around seven hours....
    On the way down, we had an overnight break with our friend Karol in Lyme Regis.
     At this time of year, we prefer to stick to the coast road, despite the risk of traffic snarl-ups. We trundle along from Hastings past Brighton, and stop for coffee at a massive Sainsburys outside Worthing.  It sounds a bit of a grungy place to stop, but oddly enough there are hardly any coffee-time stop-offs on that stretch of road.  This Sainsburys caff is not as good as our Hastings Sainsburys, with only dish-water self-serve coffee, and no well-thumbed grubby tabloids to read. Still, at least you don't have to wait twenty minutes while the arthritic 'baristas' hover impotently round the coffee machine... 
     The road through Worthing can be very congested, as can the next bit round Chichester. Improving the Chichester by-pass is currently hotly contested by the locals, as is usual with road improvements these days. Sitting in a traffic jam we wondered if the protesters think it better to pollute the environment with a zillion tons of exhaust fumes, or to have traffic running smoothly on a better road?   
     They seem to think if roads get bad enough we'll all turn to public transport.  With our public transport? Not in my life-time.  Also, our experiences of observing massive, continuous, unmoving traffic jams in places like Kolkata in India makes it clear that people will put up with any amount of grief to keep their cars.
      Next traffic jam, Arundel.  Another contested and stalled by-pass project.  However you have plenty of time to admire the very French-looking view of castle and cathedral. The French look is not surprising - the Roman Catholic cathedral was built in the 1860s in the French Gothic style. Here it is - photo from the Internet. 

Arundel Cathedral

       After passing Portsmouth and Southampton we stopped to eat our picnic lunch in the New Forest.  It was damp and brown, but looking beautiful in the early spring sunshine. Ponies wandered past, taking no interest in us or our food.

New Forest ponies

       The drive down through Dorset is slow, but very attractive - last year we took a detour off the main road to visit Tolpuddle, of Martyrs fame.  Then round Dorchester, with a brief horrified glance at Prince Charles' new-build village, Poundbury, which suddenly rises up from nowhere in the middle of fields looking somewhat like a Victorian mental hospital.....
        In Lyme Regis, Karol is lucky enough to have a house overlooking the sea and the cliffs surrounding Lyme Bay, right across to Golden Cap.  However, having been cooped up in the car we were glad of a walk along the sea front. Walked round a new section of sea wall walkway, massively reinforced to try and contain the notoriously unstable cliffs.  However, landslips and mudslides are still happening.

        The next day we set off via Axminster and Honiton, then onto the tranquil and virtually traffic-free ribbon of the A30, cruising through Devon and down the long spine of Cornwall... Bodmin Moor, daffodils, primroses on the verges.
         I love the place names as you get down into Cornwall... Polyphant, Plusha, Bolventor, Ventongimps, Indian Queens, Rosevidney, Crowlas, Varfel, Crows-An-Wra (means the Witches Cross)....
         We always stop for coffee at a very strange and fascinatingly horrible retail place called Kingsley Village, where they sell evil over-priced gift tat, highly expensive televisions and high-end outdoor clothing and walking gear....
         We arrived at the Hayle Estuary just after noon, and went to seek out St Uny's Church in Lelant.  Philosopher wanted to find the grave of the painter Peter Lanyon, but the grave yard was much larger than we expected, and we could'nt find it. 

       Ate lunch in the Badger pub in Lelant - Battleaxe would recommend the doorstep sandwiches - ideal after a ten-mile cliff walk but a bit flattening after sitting in the car... Then Sainsburys (again) in Penzance to stock up on grub for the coming week. Met our friends Sue and Alex in there. They had just driven down from Birmingham. Then, the last ten miles to Sennen Cove, just by Lands End.
         It's the A30 all the way to Lands End - I enjoy seeing the road shrink from a wide, four-lane highway to a two-way road, then finally, at its end, to a narrow lane where two cars can scarcely pass.
         Will write about our week when we have done it!