All down to Cornwall for the simple life
A week in a B&B can be an ideal family break. But all the elements have to be in place. Sonia Purnell sees how they measure up in one farmhouse
Sunday 13 February 2005
Early Victorian stone farmhouse with sash-windows either side of the front door and a cream-painted stucco front wall. Polhormon Farm, near Mullion on Cornwall's Lizard peninsula, has a small but pretty walled front garden with a painted wooden gate and a wealth of cottage garden flowers such as clematis, sweet peas and gladioli.
The farm is approached down a long driveway from a winding country lane though pastures full of cows and pens for their calves. This is very much a working farm, with all the mess and smells. But beyond these agricultural realities is a spectacular, austere view (there are no trees because of the prevailing westerly winter gales) over emerald green fields plunging down to Poldhu Cove. The Victorians were far too sensible to bother with such natural magnificence, so the farmhouse faces away from the view - but also from the winds.
This is also a place of pilgrimage for radio enthusiasts as it was here that the first transatlantic signal was received from Guglielmo Marconi in 1901.
On our mid-evening arrival, we were greeted by the farmer, Frank, who left tending his cows for a few moments to welcome us and find his jolly wife, Alice. She led us to our room and told us that breakfast was served from 8.30am to 9am. There was no choice in the matter. A nice touch was a flask of fresh milk in the room - normally unpasteurised, straight from the cows, but a recent tuberculosis scare meant that ours was from the supermarket.
The next night we found a second flask in our room without any prompting after Alice discovered how much milk our sons consume. Throughout the week, Alice was considerate (lending us things, finding a video for one son and some toys for the other) and a lot of fun. She even, without being asked, ironed some clothes I had washed and hung up on her clothes line. Frank kept us informed of various interesting events on the farm during the week‚ including the birth of twin calves, and invited us to help with the feeding and watch the milking.
On our departure, Alice strode out of her kitchen and shook my hand warmly saying how much she'd enjoyed us staying. The feeling was mutual.
Our bedroom was small for four‚ although that was in part because the double bed was so huge. The single bed had a pull-out underneath. Good hanging and drawer space was provided by a large wardrobe.
The en-suite bathroom‚ with its sweet window-seat, was equally compact and furnished with basic toiletries. The furnishings were simple but the bed was comfortable. The metropolitan style-police might not be impressed by the washed-out Regency stripe wallpaper, heavy repro furniture, red velvet curtains and poly-cotton sheets, except perhaps in a retro ironic way. But the overall effect was homely and well-lit.
Another family and one or two other couples squeezed into the small dining room. There was a nylon lace tablecloth and blue-and-white crockery. Good, strong coffee and - with local ingredients - an excellent cooked breakfast was provided. When my eldest son mentioned that he liked Cheerios, a supply was tracked down and parked on our table the next morning. Jane, the elderly lady who served breakfast and cleaned the house, was a mine of local information - and gossip.
From £70 per night for a family of four sharing the same room. Fantastic value.
The Lizard peninsula is a little rural world of its own beyond mainstream Cornwall. There is so much to do locally that we didn't bother venturing even to the Eden Project. Our favourite beach was Kynance Cove. Caves and soft golden sand - a perfect vision of the classic Cornish cove. The food was great at Halzephron pub at Gunwalloe, which has a heated terrace for sunset watching and a separate narrow room for families.
The village of Mullion had a wonderful, mostly organic grocery store and café (Culroger). The nearby Polurrian hotel may be rather "traditional English", but its clifftop terrace has unmissable views and the crab sandwiches make a good lunch, while Helford is the perfect English village.
Nearby Trebah Gardens has a great Tarzan adventure playground hidden in its woods. Further south, Cadgwith is a dream of a working fishing village with boats hauled up on the tiny beach. The Cove Inn sells a superior fish and chips for a fiver before 7pm. At Britain's most southerly point, the Lizard lighthouse is a wild and romantic spot.
This was a classic, seaside holiday we'll remember for years. Now that Cornwall can even provide decent food - another meal we had at the Blue Fish in St Ives was epic - there is little you can fault the place on. We'll be back.
Polhormon Farm, near Mullion, Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall (01326-240304)
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