“Away down to Lamorna” is chorus of a famous Cornish song and I had forgotten just how beautiful Lamorna Valley was, until we drove down through the valley to the harbour again this week.
The tinge of autumn was yet to touch the luscious green of the all enveloping trees in this sheltered valley and summer lingered on for a perfect late autumn day.
We had planned a lunch at the Lamorna Wink before a visit to Chygurno Gardens on one of its last open days before the winter. As the season slips from summer to autumn we’ve already revisited several gardens this year – gardens that we first visited when planning our own gardens and we previously visited the terraced Gardens of Chygurno back in about 2000 just as the first Tree Ferns were planted.
About Lamorna Cove
Lamorna Cove was used for quarrying granite and a tumble of boulders still lies abandoned on the hill side above the harbour and on those soft Cornish days when the mist hangs heavily in the air, this can give the cove a slightly melancholy air. But on the day of our visit, she had her best bib and tucker with tranquil blue seas lapping the sands of the harbour at low tide.
The Newlyn School artist’s colony at Lamorna cove
In the early part of the twentieth century the unspoilt Lamorna valley was once at the heart of a burgeoning community of Post-Impressionist artists– famous names of The Newlyn School, whose work can now be found exhibited in Penlee House in Penzance in an ever changing exhibition. Look out for the works of Lamorna Birch who changed his name in honour of the place from Samuel, John Birch. Lamorna birch was the first artist to settle in the cove and later the famous Dame Laura Knight who liked to paint nudes posed against the harbour but the role call is almost endless: – Harold Knight, Alfred Munnings, Dod and Ernest Proctor, Charles and Ella Naper, Robert and Eleanor Hughes – what a vibrant community it must have been until the First World War changed their lives forever.
More recently the film “Summer In February” was filmed around Lamorna about the lives and loves of the arty set that settled there.
Our visit to Lamorna
I was already anticipating a traditional Pub ploughman’s as we walked towards the doors. Sadly they weren’t serving food that day so we sat on one of the tables outside the handsome old building, with a consoling drink revelling in the perfect blue skies. We chatted for a while with a cyclist who had bravely bicycled all the way from Berkshire using the National Cycle route before moving on to find a promised lunch at Lamorna cove.
It was only a minute’s drive from the pub down to the old harbour to find the quayside café and we found a perfect table overlooking the harbour to watch one idle seagull spuddling on the sands below.
Chygurno was rescued from a twenty year period of dereliction in 1998 by the current owners and over the years they have reclaimed the overgrown gardens, discovering old paths to investigate the sleeping garden and finally adding their own stamp by carving new ones into the precipitous hillside above the cove.
This is a personal garden, lovingly crafted and tended by its owners above the cove; a garden set dizzyingly, precipitous above the sea and flanked by the sheltering woods of the valley. As we clambered about exploring the garden the first of the autumn leaves had started to drift across the paths to remind us that this day in the sunshine was to be treasured along with the memories of our visit.
The huge granite outcrops were as spectacular as ever and the paths slightly steeper than our memory – Charles was to declare the garden, a “three painkiller garden” the next day after assessing the onslaught on his knee!
And the Tree Ferns? They have grown to lofty proportions and they were a delight to revisit. But this is not a garden just about Tree Ferns; this is a true plantsmans garden to be enjoyed at leisure, with thoughtfully placed benches set throughout the three acre garden at regular intervals.
Chygurno gardens are now closed for the winter and should reopen between the 1st of April and the 30th of September
For info next year
Tel. 01736 732153
Address: – 1 Lamorna Cove, Penzance TR19 6XQ
The Arts and Crafts style House of Chygurno was built by two Suffragettes from London in 1908 and the house was later used for fellow suffragettes to recuperate after periods of imprisonment. The ladies later formed the Women’ Social and Political Union in Penzance which survives in one form today as the Hypatia Trust.
Lamorna Cove is for sale
The Cove at Lamorna is currently for sale for £2,650,000 (it wasn’t coming up on a web search this morning though hmm!!) and the position in the area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its rich history within the arts and social development it would be perfect acquisition for the National Trust but they’re reported to have already ruled out the purchase. So I wonder what the future will hold for one of the last Coves in private hands? Time will tell and the song will go on ‘Way down to Lamorna will go on.
……..And Away down to Lamorna?
Well!! Just in case you’re curious, this is the chorus for the famous Folk song Away down to Lamorna
“was down in Albert square
I never shall forget,
Her eyes they shone like diamonds
and the evening it was wet, wet, wet.
Her hair hung down in curls,
she was a charming rover,
And we rode all night,
through the pale moonlight,
away down to Lamorna”