Saturday, 15 October 2016

A tunnel of green, and a surfing bay

The next day after towing the caravan 230-odd miles to North Devon, I undertook a long day trip into Cornwall. Originally my plan was to have lunch in Padstow, and I certainly had a good look around that little port on the Camel Estuary. But I changed my eating plan, settling for a quick pasty rather than a leisurely restaurant lunch (I'll do that next spring). I wanted to spend time walking a certain path at Constantine Bay, not far off.

This path was mentioned in my August 1972 poem Corrib, which I reproduced in a post dated 28th October 2009. I can hardly do better than trot it out again for this post. In fact I'll reiterate the entire 2009 post, as it was quite short:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Poem for the day - Corrib

Everyone has a secret place inside them where they feel most confident, where they are unassailable. Sometimes this is a place of dreams, without dimensions; sometimes it may be based on an actual place. I have always thought of my own inner refuge as an enhanced version of a real house. Certainly I do need a proper bricks-and-mortar property that I can call 'home', and I am not content or happy if I am without this. It needs to be my very own, and I need that exclusiveness so that my spirit can feel free.

Here is a poem that I wrote in August 1972 about such a house. The name of the house was 'Corrib'. 


A white gate in a tunnel of green:
That's Corrib, my Jamaican house.
A shady lawn, old tennis courts,
The bleached bones of a boat, or a seat,
Overgrown in a garden:
This is Corrib, my evening retreat.

There is a sandy path
That whispers through trees;
A tunnel of memories, a darkening arch.
Under boughs and down to the dunes
I flash by waving grass,
Rustling bushes and staring flowers.
Heedless of the evening breeze,
I hasten past broken gates and posts,
Forgotten by years and sagging in decline;
I look for the lights of Corrib,
My solace, dark refuge mine.

I am its windows, I am its doors.
By my silence
Have ghosts gathered and brayed;
By my cry
Are spells of mockery made.
I have lingered in the sunset,
I have seen the scorched horizon.
The sun is indeed meat-eating;
That orb is indeed malignant, defeating.

O Flame,
From my citadel I can mock you too.
I am my freedom,
I am my reality,
I am you.

The path mentioned ran alongside the Trevose Golf Course down to Constantine Bay, near Trevose Head in Cornwall. Along the path were the back gates of houses, and Corrib was one of them. In the poem I describe Corrib as it was around 1970. By 1983 it had been greatly altered, perhaps pulled down and rebuilt, and the atmosphere that made it special for me had gone. 

The name ‘Corrib’ is unusual, but a few years back I discovered that in Ireland there is a lake of that name. It still evokes memories of boats and sunsets and secret paths and silence and a kind of ecstasy.

Posted by LUCY MELFORD at 08:41

I don't care overmuch for poetry, and I'm clearly no good at writing any. But if you disregard the odd ending of my poem and concentrate instead on the first two verses, I still think it expresses my feelings about that place, and that path, rather well. To my lasting regret, I didn't take any pictures of Corrib and its atmospheric garden in their dilapidated heyday. By 1983 all had been modernised, and so I merely took a shot of the nameplate fixed to the newish metal back gate:

But the path remained. It was still 'a tunnel of green'. I promised myself that one day I would walk the length of it again. That opportunity came this year, in late September.

So here I was, at the start of the path near the Trevose Golf Course, where I fancy it takes a lot of concentration to attend to one's game, considering the marvellous sea view:

I couldn't recall this gate, sponsored by Friar Tuck's Fish & Chips. I did remember that Friar Tuck and His Merry Friars traded from a van or caravan back in the late 1960s, parked near the crossroads at St Merryn. By the early 2000s they had moved into a proper shop there. 

The path was open to start with, then took on the tunnel-like character that had so impressed me forty-five years ago:

A tunnel of memories. A darkening arch.

It was all very evocative. There were plenty of back gates into private grounds, all neatly lawned. The houses looked well-cared for. I supposed that most of them were the occasional homes of well-off owners, and occupied only in the summer; so that by now just the maintenance people would be visiting them. I couldn't be sure which was Corrib. It must have been rebuilt again since 1983. This was one house with lemon-painted windows that had not been repainted and modernised quite as much as the rest. It had a huge garden.

Plots like these were valuable. Some had clearly been sold and redeveloped. There were some swish new builds here and there: 

It all makes you reflect that there is a lot of money around, quietly being spent on retreats like this!

I don't think any of the back gates, mostly padlocked, bore any names. Unfriendly privacy notices had proliferated.

This was all probably on the advice of the police, anxious to make it harder for housebreakers and burglars to identify individual properties from the rear. Much of the old tumble-down fencing had been replaced with long, stout, anonymous sections that hid any view of the house behind. This made the path look oddly suburban. 

The other side of the path faced the golf course, and as the sea end got nearer so there were more and more views of the course:

And then suddenly I emerged into the open, at least at head level. The path was now running straight into an impenetrable mass of brambles. They crowded it. But there seemed no other way.

If you had long arms, berries were there for the taking, but I dislike brambles and longed to get through them and up onto the dunes ahead. Pushing through doggedly, I emerged into marram grass. There was a tantalising glimpse of azure sea beyond a rise.

And then the whole bay was spread before me. A man saw me appear. We had a friendly conversation. 

He was a local resident and loved the bay. We agreed that that spots like this were precious and must be kept semi-secret, strictly for those who wanted serenity and space to contemplate. And for those who dedicated their lives to surfing. He walked on. I stayed a while to absorb the scene.

My long walk was only one-third done.  I was now going to visit the next bay to the south, Treyarnon Bay. Next post.


  1. O Lucy, your photos are making me feel homesick again; the hours and hours I've spent on Trevose Head, looking seaward over The Quies (3rd and 4th from last of your photos).

  2. Angie, I have loved this part of the coast since childhood. It's unbeatable.


  3. Your photos give the impression that it is high summer and not autumn. Everything is so lush and green.

    You really should explore becoming a freelance travel writer/photographer and share your ability to capture a place in word and image with a broader audience. I am clueless regarding whether there is actually a market for such material, but personally I derive great pleasure from reading travel logs (blogs). You might be able to swell the coffers a bit. Just a thought...

  4. Lucy
    Is this your place

  5. Kati, you have an idea there, although I think I'd prefer to get my 'travel writing' down to a finer art before launching myself on whatever market there might be. I suspect that most interested readers would prefer an 'exotic' locality, the kind of place I haven't the means to stay at!



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