Month: June 2013

My Favourite Cornish Walk

Towanroath Engine House

I have just got back from a lovely cottage holiday in Cornwall with Mr Smiles. I thought I would share with you my favourite walk of the holiday. To me a holiday isn’t complete without a bracing walk along the coast and this was an exhilarating walk along the cliffs at St Agnes.

Chapel Porth,  St Agnes and Wheal Coates Mine

St Agnes Head Walk

We chose to start the walk at Chapel Porth Beach car park as there is a Seasonal Cafe there. We began our walk with a hot cup of tea and a home-made flapjack. Walk books tend to start at St Agnes Head but we preferred to set off from Chapel Porth and take advantage of the facilities available.

Start of the Walk

Chapel Porth is what I call a `proper, Cornish beach.’ Flushing village, where we were based, is on a tranquil Estuary. It was good to see the contrast of the more dramatic  Atlantic Coast.

Low Tide - Chapel Porth BeachFrom Chapel Porth we crossed a stream at the back corner of the car park and followed a path up Chapel Combe. During the 19th century the entire valley floor that leads down to the cove was given over to the processing of the mineral ore that came from the tin and copper mines, scattered across the surrounding countryside. As we walked up the valley the landscape is now overgrown by nature, but it was once taken over by the mining industry and there are still visible signs of this industry. We passed below a mine building.

Chapel Coombe

The path then leads through peaceful woodland. I enjoyed listening to the enormous variety of birds chirping in the trees.

We then made our way uphill to the summit of St Agnes Beacon where there were fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.

View from St Agnes Beacon

View from St Agnes Beacon

Having stopped to take in the wonderful views we made our way to St Agnes Head and then followed the coastal path. The track down to the headland was bordered by typical Cornish high walls full of wild flowers and butterflies. Stately purple foxgloves were everywhere. The lanes were alive with foxgloves, red campion, buttercups and cow parsley. I like the fact that Cornish walls, verges and hedges are allowed to take on a life of their own. In Oxfordshire a lot of the daisies have been mowed down and the hedges are butchered `neatly’. Apart from the hedgerows the coastal path is awash with wild flowers in June including lovely pink clumps of sea thrift. I also spotted blue sheep’s bit and pretty English stonecrop which I haven’t noticed before in Cornwall.

Cornish Wall

Cornish Foxgloves

 St Agnes Head is a vast 300 ft high wall of rock soaring above the Atlantic sea. The walk traces the flat clifftop tracks past the little promontory of Tubby’s Head, once an Iron Age Settlement. From here the landscape becomes typical mining country. We passed the abandoned Wheal Coates mine whose buildings can be seen uphill from the Coast Path.

Wheal Coates

 The tall Towanroath mine engine house towers above you. Towanroath Shaft is a granite building with the appearance of a castle keep standing directly above the sea amidst swathes of pink thrift. Towanroath was built in 1872 as the pumping house for Wheal Coates mine.

Towanroath Engine House

Towanroath Engine HouseTowanroath Engine HouseAs I gazed up at Wheal Coates I realised what a hard life being a Cornish tin miner would have been. It would have been quite a walk to work. In the Winter the conditions would have been bracing on the coast and then dark and damp down the mine. You would definately have needed a large Cornish pasty for lunch!

Towanroath Engine House

Beyond Towanroath the path descends back into Chapel Porth. We didn’t have a pasty but did have another cup of tea and a fabulous ice cream called a `hedgehog’ from the cafe. The Hedgehog is a Cornish Ice cream, rolled in Cornish clotted cream, and coated in honey roasted Hazelnuts. Delicious and a very good reason to finish the walk at Chapel Porth!

Hedgehog Ice Cream

The tide had come in so we had a last look at the sea before heading home to Oxfordshire.

Chapel Porth Beach


Tulip Mania!

Tulip Haven

`From Sultans of the Ottoman Empire and Dutch Merchants of the Golden Age, to gardeners today, the tulip has captivated people around the world for centuries. This fascinating flower has inspired artists and brought great wealth and even economic ruin to people who have fallen under its spell.’ The Tulip Museum, Amsterdam.

Last year I visited the Keukenhof tulip gardens in Holland and was inspired to plant my garden with tulip bulbs aiming for a riot of colour this Spring.

Sea of GoldWaves of ColourKeukenhof Gardens



Bright `n' Beautiful







Brilliant Yellow

Dutch Beauty









Spring was very late to spring this year! Our tulip display came in May not April, a few weeks later than normal. I was delighted with the glorious colours the tulips brought to my garden and grandly named one of my borders  `the tutti-frutti border’ as it was a riot of different colours, changing as the month progressed.

There are at least 16 different divisions of tulips. My favourite are the more flamboyant, frilly  double ones, rather then the simple single tulips.

Apricot Beauty

However I liked the soft apricot tones of this single, early flowering variety.  Single Early Tulips bloom early in the season (compared to other tulips). They are known for having very strong stems. This means that they will stand up extremely well to wind and rain, unlike some other types of tulips (for example, Parrot Tulips).

Perfectly Formed








I liked the two tone effect of the pink and white tulips with the plain yellow ones as a backdrop.

Splash of Colour


Tulip `Groenland' - tinged with green
Tulip `Groenland’ – tinged with green

I was particularly pleased with the tulip bulbs from the Sarah Raven Super Perennial Tulip Collection. I planted `Groenland’ and `Spring Green’ Viridiflora varieties. The term Viridiflora is derived from two Latin words: viridis meaning green and flos meaning flower. All Viridiflora Tulips have a streak of green somewhere on each petal. This contrasts dramatically with the basic flower colour (white, pink, gold, etc.). In addition to this beautiful colour contrast, Viridiflora Tulips are also known for their exceptionally long flowering capability. Some of mine are still flowering in June!




Spring Green











Other tulip divisions are the fringed tulips. These tulips have petals which are topped with fringes that look like the frayed edge of a piece of satin fabric. Fringed TulipDutch Beauty








Apart from lovely frilly, fringed tulips I have had quite a few double varieties in bloom this year. I planted Angelique and Lilac Perfection. The blossoms of Double Late Tulips have so many petals that their other name is Peony Tulips. The blossoms are extremely large ; when fully open they can be as much as 4 inches (10 cm) across.

Lovely LilacAngelique

Another variety are Rembrandt Tulips. These tulips are named after the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt  (1606 – 1669), who lived and worked in Holland at about the same time that tulips first became enormously popular. Actually Rembrandt himself is not known for painting flowers! Many other Dutch Masters of the time did include tulips in their paintings.

During this time, tulips became all the rage in Holland, particularly the ones with streaks and stripes of colour. These types of tulips were bought for huge sums during the so-called Tulipmania that occurred between 1593 and 1637.

We now know that these unusual markings were actually caused by a virus, which eventually caused damage to the tulip bulbs. Because of this, the original Rembrandt Tulips are no longer sold commercially. However, there are quite a few modern, virus-free, Rembrandt “look-alike” tulips available.

Glorious Spring

 History of the Tulip

Tulips are often considered a Dutch flower. However the tulip was originally a wild flower growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). The botanical name for tulip is tulipa and is derived from the Turkish word tulbend or turban which the flower resembles. Tulips abound in the design of Iznik ceramics. The elegant tulips of Iznik tiles are far removed from bulbous modern-day tulips.  They most resemble contemporary lily form varieties. (Unfortunately I grew no lily shaped tulips this year to show you a picture!)

Iznik Tiles, IstanbulTulips - Iznik ceramic designIznik Tile







The tulip was introduced to Holland in 1593 by a botanist Carolus Clusius, who bought it from Constantinople. He planted a small garden with the aim of researching the plant for medicinal purposes. His neighbours broke into the garden and stole the tulips to make some quick money. This started the Dutch Bulb Trade. Tulip Mania followed. People bought up bulbs to the extent that they became so prized and expensive that the bulbs themselves were used as money until the market finally crashed. As the Dutch Golden Age grew tulips became popular in paintings and festivals. When I visited art galleries in Amsterdam I saw lots of tulips in paintings by the Dutch Masters.

Copyright Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Jacob Marrel (1613/1614 – 11 November 1681) was a German still life painter active in Utrecht during the Dutch Golden Age.
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Jan van den Hecke - Flowers in a Vase 1652
Jan van den Hecke – Flowers in a Vase 1652
Ambrosio Bosschaert - Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619
Ambrosio Bosschaert – Tulips in a Wan-Li Vase c. 1619


Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Ambrosio Bosschaert GLASS WITH FOUR TULIPS c.1615 19 x 13 cm. Bredius Museum, The Hague
Redoute Botanical - Triple Tulips
Pierre Joseph Redoute – Triple Tulips
Belgian painter and botanist










Beyond the Dutch Golden Age tulips remained a popular design motif in the Art Nouveau Period.

Art NouveauTulips `Etudes de Fleurs' by Riom 1890s
Art NouveauTulips `Etudes de Fleurs’ by Riom 1890s
Art Nouveau Tulip Trio
Art Nouveau Tulip Trio
William Morris Garden Tulip Design
William Morris Garden Tulip Design

 William Morris also included a lot of tulips in his wall hangings in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

William Morris Textile - Tulip Design
William Morris Textile – Tulip Design
William Morris Textile Design
William Morris Textile Design










I hope you have enjoyed my brief history of the Tulip. Do let me know which is your favourite tulip! I would also be interested in seeing any other examples of tulips in art or design.

Soft Lilac

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