Tuesday 31 December 2013

We are two

As of today, Penzance Post has been picking the juicy meat from the bones of Penzance for two whole years. For one reason or another, keeping things going in 2013 proved difficult at times, but we vow to attack our task with renewed gusto in 2014.

Happy New Year to all our followers.

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Facebook followers: 170
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Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Happy Bonfire Night

Display courtesy of Penzance Rotary Club.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Sunday 21 July 2013

The life aquatic

If there is one thing that epitomises the summer in Penzance, it must be the sight of wetsuit-clad tombstoners fearlessly hurling themselves off prom and pier. 

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Thursday 20 June 2013

Don’t miss the boat

A ship named the Scillonian has been sailing out of Penzance harbour since 1926, but how many Penzance inhabitants have actually stepped on board?

Judging by those we’ve asked, the answer is: not many, and we include ourselves in this guilty group. We are happy to watch it slip gracefully out of the bay every morning and enjoy the sight of the iconic white ship as it returns from St Mary’s in the evening – but that’s as far as it goes. It is a common phenomenon that natives of an area are the very ones who ignore its greatest assets; like the Londoners who’ve never visited the capital’s galleries and museums.

For as little as £35 we could be sailing to enchanting subtropical islands. People travel to our town from all over the country to do it, so what’s stopping us?

We wanted to learn more about the Scillonian experience, to find out why taking the trip should be an indispensable part of Penzance life. We’d also heard that the ship had recently undergone a complete refit, so we were keen to understand how the service had been upgraded. Our curiosity led us to the offices of the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group and a meeting with Commercial Manager Nick Sanders and Marketing Manger Jackie Hayman, who also let us jump on board (albeit temporarily) before a morning sailing.

Much has been written about the beautiful archipelago with its temperate Oceanic climate, just 40 miles from our shores, so we won’t reiterate that point, but we were interested to learn that there are unique attractions on the island route itself. Wildlife guide and surveyor Paul Semmens runs the Isles of Scilly Travel Wildlife Blog, and has accrued an incredible catalogue of marine animal sightings. It’ll be no surprise to most of us to hear that grey seals, common dolphins and basking sharks are regularly spotted, but did you imagine that Cornish waters were home to bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoises, minke whales, fin whales, leatherback turtles and sunfish? Didn’t think so. The voyage also offers a unique view of our coastline as it sails past Newlyn, Mousehole, the Minack Theatre and Wolf Rock Lighthouse. 

And today the Scillonian experience is more enjoyable than it’s ever been. The present ship, the Scillonian III, sailed her maiden voyage on 19 May 1977 and has made over 7,000 return trips. She is due to be replaced in five years or so, but in the meantime the refit has done wonders for her onboard facilities. Nick explains that the internal parts of the ship were stripped right back to the metal and refurbished, including a brand new food franchise and smart, modern bathrooms. Of course, there will always be the inherent hurdle of finding your sea legs if the water’s choppy, but from a passenger’s point of view the whole environment is relatively luxurious.

But the service isn’t just about happy holidays, the Scillonian and it’s partner freight vessel, the Gry Maritha provide a real lifeline to the islands. Almost everything that goes in or comes out must be taken by one of these two ships, whether it’s livestock, over 100 rowings boats for the annual World Pilot Gig Championships or even the daily rubbish collection.

The Isles of Scilly Steamship Group also runs the air link to the islands, with aircraft flying from the new £1 million terminal at Land’s End, as well as from Exeter and Newquay. All this locally-focused investment is good news, and the Group is one of the area’s biggest employers, bringing 50 new jobs to the region. Employees are mainly local and tend to stay with the company for years, and, as if to prove the point, we were introduced to captain, Pete Crawford, who has skippered the Scillonian for three decades. Joking about his long service, we asked if he knew the way by now, Pete replied, ‘I just follow a long, invisible piece of string’.

Meeting the people who run it, seeing the ship and its crew hard at work, and watching the eager tourists marching aboard, we understand better what an important part the Scillonian plays in our society. And, having expunged all our excuses, it won’t be long before we too are island bound.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. 
Images © Nik Strangelove

Sunday 9 June 2013

Fine Folk #12

Mr & Mrs Kirwan
31 & 31
Landscape gardener  & vintage shop owner 
Penzance's finest feature: Steckfensters.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Saturday 6 April 2013

The boys who never grew up

Penzance Post presents Silly Boys: a young and potent performance company kicking up the creative dust in West Cornwall.

In the past, Cornwall has spawned some inspirational theatre projects, many of which have gone on to international acclaim. Miracle, Bash Street, Kneehigh are the names that we readily associate with the cutting edge of local theatre. But where is the fresh blood coming through? Young talent, in any field or profession, is continually lost to the county as young folk seek their fortune in the bright lights of Britain’s cultural hotspots – rarely do the gifted stay, or return while still fresh of face and bright of spirit.

However, we’ve spied one spark of hope locally in the form of Silly Boys who are Newlyn boy Callum Mitchell, 26, Seamas Carey, 19, and Alex Heane, also just 19. So you see, when we say ‘young’, we mean it, but the trio’s talent, vision and professionalism belies their tender years. 

All three are the offspring of local artistic families – for example, Seamas’ father is one of the founders of Kneehigh – and, as such, they have been brought up within the crucible of Cornwall’s creative scene. And now, as they reach the age where they are able to make things happen for themselves, they see the real need for more homemade entertainment. They regard the general lack of local activity as an opportunity, rather than disheartening. And their shows are being snapped up, proving that local venues are hungry for new talent.

The setting up of Silly Boys in 2012 was a very natural process, and came to pass after the boys had been out in the world gaining invaluable experience; Callum working with Show and Tell in Edinburgh and Seamas touring Europe with Bash Street. And now, it seems, they are on a frenzied campaign to fill the county’s cultural void; as well as producing their own shows, they are also bringing other quality acts to our regional theatres. The boys have their fingers in many pies and their ideas for new projects are only limited by the speed at which they can realise them.

Instead of defining and honing one creative route, their shows are diverse in concept and style. This is partly due to appetite, but also because of the unique combination of the three young men; each has his own distinct personality, artistic talents and influences. Callum is the writer and the thinker – a dry-witted performance poet who wears his heart on his sleeve; Seamas is the musical prodigy and fountain of boundless creativity; and Alex is the stalwart musician and foil to the extreme character of his two partners.

As we talk to them, the creative chemistry between the three is tangible. While Callum will mull and then expound at length on a topic, the other two sit respectfully, until Seamas erupts with a funny anecdote that gets all three throwing around thoughts, jokes and stories, drifting off-point in a natural, outward spiralling of imagination. You can easily see how their creative process is fed by this joyful interactivity, and how their artistic journey won’t ever stick to the map.

This purposeful aversion to uniformity means they are reluctant to pigeonhole their collective style, and they cite influences as contrasting as Buster Keaton and Woody Allen, and from Balkan gypsy jazz to rap. But if we are to be stubborn and seek a connecting theme, it is the unplanned, unhinged style of comedy accompanied by songs and music that characterises their work. From this we can draw lazy comparisons with the likes of The Flight of the Conchords and The Mighty Boosh, but unlike these established acts, the Silly Boys aren’t interested in defining set characters or boundaries for themselves, at least not yet.

Their philosophy is to create an edge through spontaneity; by never over-rehearsing they force improvisation, which is often the source of their best humour. And, partly through necessity, partly through choice, they tend to opt for the low budget option, where the charity shop becomes their props cupboard and friends and family become their crew. But what the finished product lacks in polish, the boys make up for in fresh ideas and energy, which they bring to each show by the bag load.

Lets’s look at their output to date. Firstly, we see Callum and Seamas take on their stand-up persona as Underdog, where spoken word and songs mingle in charmingly quirky and improvised comic ramblings, most recently seen at the The Lost and Found Cafe in Chapel Street. Then we see Seamas and Alex in The Silent Film Club, providing live music for classic silent movies in sell-out performances at The Poly in Falmouth. And this month all three take their children's puppet show, The Tallest Horse on Earth, on the road. 

Puppetry is a skill none of the boys claimed to possess, but that’s just indicative of their fearlessness. Performing for children is also something they’ve never done before, but it appeared to be a type of theatre that was under-supplied. However, the boys are keen to explain that the show will also appeal to grown-ups with a penchant for the quirky. 

The Tallest Horse on Earth starts its tour of small theatres and village halls on 15th April at Exeter’s Bike Shed, comes to The Centre, Newlyn on 20th April and hits St. Just WI Hall on 17th May. Book your tickets on the CRBO Box Office.

Their connections in the industry have also led them to act as the production company for the local shows of other artists. Recently, a capacity crowd at The Acorn Theatre welcomed Molly Naylor in her enchanting monologue performance of My Robot Heart. And on April 27th, Penzance will be treated to the comic musings of Rob Auton when he brings his Edinburgh Fringe 2012 hit The Yellow Show to The Ritz, supported by Underdog. Buy tickets (only £5) from The Lost and Found Cafe.

As you can see, it’s hard work being a Silly Boy; while their theatre can be outlandish and unpredictable, it’s matched by the seriousness of their ambition and dedication. And all their effort means that we get to enjoy high quality homegrown theatre productions on our doorstep. So if anyone bemoans the dearth of local live entertainment, just point them to anything that has the name Silly Boys attached to it.


Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images & film © Nik Strangelove

Monday 25 March 2013

The fish man’s mission

Newlyn without a fish chef is like Dublin without a publican. It just ain’t right. 

It has been that way for overly long, but now, thankfully, Ben Tunnicliffe is at The Tolcarne Inn.

Ben is a lifelong chef, an unswerving specialist. He studied at Bournemouth college in the late 80s, which he believes was then, and still is, one of the best places to learn to be a chef. As part of his course, he worked with Grand Chef Michel Trama is his lauded 2 Michelin star restaurant in south west France. This early exposure to the kitchen of such a heavyweight chef gave Ben a serious grounding in the classics and an appreciation of the very highest levels of culinary skill and dedication to craft.

Once qualified, Ben cut his teeth in various country house hotels before going to work with his biggest food inspiration, chef Colin White at Woolley Grange in Bradford-on-Avon. This, Ben maintains, is where he really learnt to cook. Woolley Grange has a two acre walled garden with two full-time gardeners and, for most of the year, the chefs would start in the garden, see what was ready to be harvested and plan the menu from there. An understanding of seasonality and a connection to growing has always been there for him – he grew up with his grandparents earnestly tending fruit and veg in a big plot at home, growing organically as a matter of course.

The siren call of Cornwall came when friend Grant Nethercott, chef owner of Alba in St Ives alerted Ben to an opportunity at Jean Shrimpton’s Abbey Hotel in Penzance. Jean and her husband Michael wanted to put the former Zero Club space to use and create a restaurant that would compliment the charming boutique accommodation that the Abbey offers Penzance’s well-heeled visitors. Ben and his wife met with the hoteliers and a plan formed. Working together to renovate the space, they opened as the Abbey restaurant in 2001, with Ben buying the lease in 2005 and working there until selling up in 2008. They set the Abbey up with a simple ethos inspired by his Catholic upbringing – to do unto others as you would have done to yourself. To translate that into cooking, he makes food that he wants to eat.

The Abbey was an incredible eight year adventure for Ben; his own restaurant, the move to Cornwall, the birth of his two sons and then, in 2003, a Michelin star. Of course, being recognised as excellent in any line of work is cause for celebration, euphoria even, but in the case of Michelin stars and the pressure that comes with maintaining them, it can be tough love.

After selling the Abbey in 2008 Ben took the role as a consultant and head chef at the Scarlet Hotel, Newquay’s wonderful, luxury eco retreat brought to us by the three sisters who own and run the Bedruthen Steps Hotel. Being a fundamental part of something so brave and positive for Cornwall was a galvanising experience, but once a chef has had his own restaurant it is difficult to go back to employment, and so once the Scarlet was up and running, Ben started to think about the next door he could put his name over.

The Tolcarne Inn came up for sale at the right time for Ben; it was exactly what he wanted. A pub rather than a restaurant and, more, a pub in Newlyn – the ultimate source for his fine fish dishes. By this time, he was tiring of the ceremony that so often accompanies fine dining. He had never set out to be a Michelin starred chef, and wanted to do something more wholesome.

According to Michelin, the five criteria they judge on are quality of ingredients, skill in their preparation and the combination of flavours, level of creativity, value for money and consistency of culinary standards. The first of those criteria doesn't mean the ingredients have to be luxurious, but they do have to be very fresh.

However, because of the modern media-inspired fascination with food and chefs, especially Michelin starred chefs, there are understandable misconceptions that Michelin food has to be expensive, exclusive and over-engineered. At the Abbey, this misconception clashed with the truth of Ben’s food – which is affordable, accessible and honest. His food philosophy is actually very simple: buy the very freshest ingredients you can, show the ingredient the love and respect it has received through the process of growing it, rearing it or catching it, and put something on the plate that tastes great. That is what won him his star at the Abbey, and that is what he continues to do at the Tolcarne. He wants to bring the same high standards to Newlyn without bringing the formality that is synonymous with it. He is out to prove that you can have great food at an affordable price.

He appreciates the value of and attraction to chefs with a science bias such as Blumenthal and Adria, but he says that he is someone who doesn't want to understand how or why things work. Instinct is his ally. “Touchy, feely, tasty” is his mantra.

Being in Newlyn has led to an outright devotion to fish on his menus. In Ben’s previous kitchens, the ratio of fish to meat was roughly 50:50. At the Tolcarne, it is 90:10 in favour of fish. He sees fish as an ever changing bounty, dependent on weather and which boats are working. A good relationship with Stevenson ensures that Ben knows what has been landed and when, and he buys based on the reality of the catch rather than a preconceived idea of what he wants to work with.

He wants to do everything he can to help promote Newlyn and the fishing industry in a positive light, and spends study days with students at Penwith College developing recipes for students to produce in conjunction with Stevenson and sell through their shops. It’s about connecting new culinary talent to the primary produce of the area – there's nothing more sustainable than that.

Beyond fish, his suppliers are predominantly local: Trevelyan Farm shop, Heather Lane Nurseries, and for the meat dishes on the menu, Vivien Olds of St. Just. He likes to buy food from people who are fundamental to its production as opposed to purveyors or wholesalers who simply make a profit on someone else's output. Of course, there would be unavoidable limitations if Ben only sourced his ingredients locally, he couldn’t, for example, seduce us with rich chocolate or the deeply floral aroma of vanilla. If you have ever had one of Ben's desserts, you will know that this would be a tragedy.

At the Tolcarne, Ben is in business with his mum, Anne, who looks after front of house and beams with pride every time someone says anything about how good Ben’s food is. So, is the Tolcarne, a family run pub with polish that serves the best of what's landed in Newlyn every day at an accessible price point, an asset to the area? The answer has to be yes. Since moving here in 2000, Ben has worked tirelessly to bring his brand of honest yet acclaimed food to the counties full timers and visitors alike. Greg Wallace, MasterChef judge and renowned foodie, was in Newlyn the other day, stumbled upon the Tolcarne and tweeted about its tastiness. This of course is good for business, but it also strengthens Cornwall’s position as a top UK food destination. And we are talking about an ambitious soul here, so the Tolcarne may only be the first of Ben’s ventures into making our local area a bona fide food destination.

Ben has very kindly shared a recipe with us. Do try this at home…

Salad of Ray with roasted pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and saffron scented dressing

For the Ray

1 ray wing (approx. 400g)
1 onion
1 stick celery
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
5 peppercorns
A splash of white wine
2 pints water
A good pinch of salt


In a large pan bring all the ingredients other than the skate to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. 

Add the skate to the liquor and simmer for five more minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave the skate in the liquid until it has cooled down though still warm.

For the saffron dressing

1 tsp saffron
2 oz sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1 red pepper grilled, skinned and cut into dice same size as the tomatoes
1/2 medium hot chilli finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely crushed
1/4 pint extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp freshly chopped basil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice


Soak the saffron in 2 tbsp of boiling water for 5 minutes.
Sweat the garlic in some of the extra virgin olive oil to cook out its harshness.
Mix everything together with the saffron and its water.
Season with salt and pepper and more sugar to taste.

To serve, flake the skate over rocket and watercress and spoon the dressing over.

(serves 2)


Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Saturday 9 March 2013

Fine Folk #11

Mr Ballam
Care worker 
Penzance's finest feature: Its countryside and climate.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Fine Folk #10

Mr Williams
Penzance's finest feature: It's at the end of the line.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Street Archaeology : Tesseral tombstones

As we step through the portals of our period shop premises, we heedlessly tread upon the memorials of once prospering local businesses. These resplendent thresholds tell of a long-passed boom time when well-to-do owners with aspirations of grandeur would gladly pay to have the entrance to their properties paved with mosaics like the villa floors of Roman lords. 

And thanks to their fired finish the beauty of these tiled trademarks is hardwearing; aside from the odd missing piece, kicked out like loose teeth, their pixel-like detail and colour remain as clear and proud as the day they were laid. 
Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Sunday 24 February 2013

Wild Walking #2 : Gulval to Trevaylor

Via Rosemorran Farm, Boscobba, Trevaylor woods and Gear.

Enjoy wonderful views to Mount's Bay and the magical Trevaylor woods.

45 minutes there / 45 minutes back (non-stop at a steady pace).
Medium difficulty (muddy when wet – Wellington or walking boots essential).

Use our map, or find the route at http://footpathmaps.com
or http://mapping.cornwall.gov.uk/website/ccmap

1. From Gulval church take School Lane, which runs past The Coldstreamer Inn. After about 5o yards, look out for the footpath sign on the right, next to Trevean Farmhouse.

2. The tree-lined footpath will lead to open fields where the track should be clear to see. When entering the fourth field, aim for the top left-hand corner.

3. Here, a narrow flight of stone steps leads down to the road. Cross the road to the thatched cottage. This is a sharp corner, so please take proper care when crossing.

4. Walk into the farm and pass the house on the left. The footpath sign points left through the garden, but there's a slightly less intrusive way a little further on.

5. Head down the field and walk right along the bottom edge. You'll reach an orchard, where you head down towards the river.

6. Cross the bridge and the lane, take the path up the hill and follow it as it turns left at the top. Follow this path until you reach the road.

7. Here you'll see the white gate marked Rosemorran Farm with its impressive gate post pillars. Go through the metal gate to the side and walk up through the field. Take a moment to look back and enjoy the impressive views over Mount's Bay.

8. Head for the building and you will find the stile that brings you into the road. Take a peek at the fairytale-like Rosemorran Farm building on your right. After a few yards, the footpath picks up again on the left.

9. Head across the open field, then over the stile and continue along the path by the woods on the right. This brings you up to the group of properties named Polkington. Wend your way through these lanes until you reach Boscobba. Take the footpath that heads off to the left, next to the converted barns.

10. This footpath takes you down into the valley and Trevaylor woods. The hillside is strangely bare, due to the clearance of diseased rhododendron bushes. Signs and fences keep walkers clear of areas where the stumps have been poisoned.

11. Now you're plunged into the woods. The flat woodland floor and densely packed trees make an attractive scene as you look ahead. In places, the deep river channel creates dramatic topography, where rope swings dangle from overhanging trees. The path evaporates here, but following the river will keep you on track.

12. Eventually you're led out of the woods, over a stile and through two open fields. Once across the second field and over the stile, bear left down the path towards the river again. Cross the footbridge and follow the river. The path disappears once more, and the going is likely to be boggy, but persevere and you'll soon be heading up into a clearing and out of the woods. The path leads you to the road, Gear Hill to be precise.

13. The next stretch of the walk is by road, but the traffic here is minimal. Make your way up the hill and bear left at the top. From here the route is a straight, downward tramp past Gear Farm and on to Trevaylor hamlet.

14. At Trevaylor, pop into the farm shop at Fox Farm for fresh seasonal fruit, vegetables and locally made preserves. Push your coins through the slot in the inner door.

15. After a few hundred yards you'll spy the footpath leading through the hedge on the left. Skirt around the perimeter of the field and find the stile in the right-hand hedge. Cross a further two fields, always bearing downhill, until you re-enter Trevaylor Woods, and make your way down to the river. As you're entering the woods from the other side, you'll need to cross the river by the stone footbridge. Presently, there is a fallen tree barring the way, so make your way around to the left and back, until you find the stile that will take you out of the woods.

16. Continue upwards across four fields until you reach the road and the entrance to Rosemorran Farm that you first encountered at point (7).

17. Now retrace your steps back to Gulval and make sure you treat yourself to well-earned pint at The Coldstreamer.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove

Tuesday 19 February 2013

When the wind blows

Our nation's perpetual preoccupation with the elements is heightened in coastal towns where we stare incoming weather systems in the face. And for those that make their living on the sea, the art of gauging the forces of nature is an obsession born of a vital need rather than idle curiosity.

Today, we look to modern technology for our weather predications, and weathervanes are little more than an attractive flourish to tower, turret and spire, but they do serve to remind us of how nature's wild ways have, and always will be, a force to be reckoned with, here at the ocean's brink.

Two notable weathervanes proudly crown Newlyn's principal buildings: the beautifully detailed galleon atop the Fishermen's Mission and the golden cockerel of St Peter's church.

Words © Dee and Gerard Ivall. Images © Nik Strangelove