ShelterBox Visitor Centre — A day out with a conscience

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ShelterBox’s new Visitor Centre in Truro is a great trip for a Cornish rainy day. Step inside and you’ll find a mix of education and activities that really make you think about what happens when people lose everything. It’s a fun half-day out… with a conscience.

ShelterBox has existed as a disaster relief charity since 2000 when it was founded in Helston. They exist to provide temporary shelter and life saving supplies to displaced families who have lost everything due to conflict or natural disaster. Their aim is to help 1 million people a year by 2020 and the Visitor Centre is part of a drive to help more people to understand just what goes into providing, transporting, distributing and delivering that aid.

As I enter the Visitor Centre I’m confronted by a wall of green ShelterBoxes, emblazoned with the types of situation the charity responds to. I turn to see a globe and a set of clocks that explain where the charity is currently operating and where they’ve gone in the past. There’s also and area that explains the complexity of the Decision to Deploy – or how the team decide where to respond and how.

Kids will love packing the boxes in a packing line that replicates the charity’s Helston warehouse and if you want you can follow your own Disaster Challenge and find out in more detail how ShelterBox responded to a particular disaster.

I’ve chosen the North Korean Typhoon of 2012/13. It’s one of a series of potential disaster routes through the centre and is a great way for older kids in particular to really get into the amazing work ShelterBox do. My card tells me how ShelterBox responded to the most powerful storm to strike Korea in a decade with winds gusting up to 116mph — and people facing a freezing winter. ShelterBox dispatched 69 ShelterBoxes, 964 tents and 250 tarpaulins. My first job is to find North Korea on the globe and then I pack a cold climate ShelterBox, guided by a green hat and glove icon printed on some of the kit.

Stepping though the large curtain that is designed to look like the hold of an aircraft I then learn more about the different ways ShelterBoxes are delivered to remote regions – by helicopter, by tuk tuk, by animal and by sheer determination and man-power. There are two tents to explore in this area and stepping inside the cold climate tent I can see the stove that provides heat and a place to cook and the heavier interior lining. There’s a video where Head of Operations Alf Evans talks about his experiences in North Korea.

There’s a real chance to stop and think here. I read a lot of the information and then lie on the floor in the schoolroom trying to fathom how my own family would cope if we lost everything – it’s a sobering thought. I complete a luggage tag detailing what home means to me and tie it to the net where lots of other visitors have done the same.

Then I grab a solar light and take a look around a shelterkit – an amazing new(ish) creation by ShelterBox who send a tarpaulin-based kit that can be used with local building materials such as logs, bamboo etc to either build a new house or replace a section of an old one. They’re different to the tents because they allow people to replace different sections like the roof and walls with more robust material as and when they can.

 

I learn about the tuk tuk driver who sold his tent once he could afford a new place to live and used the profits to buy a tuk tuk and launch a new family business. The stories of the people who help and the families being helped are inspiring and humbling. I think about how it would have been as a child to lose the certainty and security of school — and what it must be like when someone brings it back (ShelterBox has school kits that include bright yellow bags, colouring books and a tent – enough to get lessons back up and running and return some sense of normality to communities destroyed by conflict and natural disaster).

Teddy Trail

Looking for a longer day out with the kids? Follow the ShelterBox teddy trail through Truro and find nine knitted bears in various shops and cafes before heading to the Visitor Centre to locate the tenth bear and be rewarded with a free picnic blanket so you can host your own teddy bear’s picnic. You’ll even be entered into a draw to win your own teddy.

Collect a trail card from the Tourist Information Centre on Boscawen Street.

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Sorry I’ve been away…

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The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed a lack of recent posts. That’s because I’ve been a little busy having a baby. Ezra David Inman was born on 27 July 2015.

It’s been almost a year but now I’ve got into the swing of things (and am sleeping again!), the weather is on the mend and I’m ready to get back in the wellies and start posting again.

See you all very soon (small wellies now on shopping list).

Flora Day, Helston

Helston Flora Day: the perfect way to welcome in the Spring

Coming soon, Date for your diary, Don't miss, Festival

Helston Flora Day, held on May 8 unless it falls on a Sunday or Monday in which case it happens on the previous Saturday, is a must event in the wellies’ calendar.

Despite requiring you to rise with the sun to properly experience the whole tradition (and me not being a morning person) I still heartily recommend a day spent watching the flora dances. And getting the insatiable tune played by the Helston brass band stuck in your head for the next few weeks…

Helston Band at Flora Day

Here’s my guide the best ways to enjoy the day:

Before you set off. Wear some flowers in your hair or pin a buttonhole to your jacket. This is a day of celebration to welcome the coming of spring — so be part of it! (TIP: if you have Lily of the Valley in your garden pin a sprig to your coat… it’s the unofficial flower of the day).

6:30am. Rise early. Park up on one of the charity car parks and get to the Guild Hall in time to hear the first drum at 7am. Then watch the first dance of the day to get you into the swing of things. This first dance used to be undertaken by the servants of the town, before they returned to their duties for the rest of the day, but these days it features around 80 couples. Watch out for the girls who have unwisely chosen to wear high heels. There are always a few and they’ll have extremely wobbly ankles by the time they reach the final straight of the four-mile route.

St George at Flora Day, Helston, Cornwall

8.30am. Don’t miss the wonderful Hal-An-Tow. My favourite part of the day, this pagan dance was recently revived and tells the mythical stories of Robin Hood, St Michael and the devil, St George and the dragon and St PIran and recalls the Cornish encounter with the Spanish Armada through mini theatrical performances. It’s a jolly good singalong too.

St Michael at Flora Day, Helston

Listen for the whistles of the chorus and spot familiar faces in the main roles each year. Look out for local Lib Dem MP and candidate Andrew George as St PIran. He’s had to have special permission to be here this year because of the election.

TIP: Pick up a programme when you can from the info stall next to the Guildhall so you have a map of the route of the dances. Getting to a spot for the Hal-An-Tow ahead of them arriving is a great way to get a front row spot (I’d recommend the stops on Meneage Street for the best view as those on the main road tend to get very busy).

Redwellyyellowelly at Helston Flora Day

9am. Grab a pint of Spingo Flora Daze at the Blue Anchor. Brewed on the premises this strong ale is a local favourite — and drinking it early on Flora Day is a little tradition that makes the day truly feel like a holiday. Repeat this action as and when needed. While you’re at it grab a bacon butty from one of the many stalls lining the main road.

Children's dance at Flora Day, Helston, Cornwall

9:30am. Pick your spot for the children’s dance, which begins in Wendron Street at 9:40am. 1200 children from the ages of 4 to 16 from the town’s four primary schools and secondary school take part in this dance, all dressed in white and sporting. Different floral headbands mark out each school.

Flora Day children's dance, Helston, Cornwall

TIP: Use the back streets and alleyways if you want to get from place to place quickly an the main roads are blocked.

10:30 ish Join the wonderful choir singing Cornish songs including Trelawney on Five Wells Lane. With gusto. Look for the flag of St Piran and keep your ears open and you should find them. This isn’t a programmed event but it’s well worth trying to hunt it down.

Redwellyyellowelly at Helston Flora Day

11:30am. Find a place to watch the midday (Furry) dance which leaves the Guildhall at noon. It’s like Royal Ascot as the ladies and gents of Helston don tophats, tails and ballgowns to dance through the streets… every suit hire shop in Cornwall must be exhausted there are so many of them! Watch the merry couples dance in and out of the shops on Meneage Street and selected houses around the town, driving out the winter and bringing in the spirit of Spring. Quite a sight.

12:30ish. Grab a proper Cornish pasty from the Horse and Jockey on Meneage Street — in my humble opinion one of the finest pasties in the county. I recommend the flaky pastry one best, even if it isn’t traditional and unless you’ve a huge appetite a large between two will do you just ‘ansome).

Afternoon. I usually tottle off home after the noon dance (likely sacrilege to Flora Day aficionados but I do) but there’s still plenty to do. Wander round the stalls, visit the fair, picnic in a park or pop to the pub. If you make it as far as 5 o’clock you’ll be treated to a final dance… with a tot more alcohol added to the mix.

Wellies and sign at Porthleven Food & Music Festival 2014

Ten good reasons to visit Porthleven Food & Music Festival

Coming soon, Date for your diary, Don't miss, Festival, Good grub

This weekend sees the return of the annual Porthleven Food Festival. Now in it’s seventh year, this community Festival that began with just a few chefs has gone from strength to strength. This year there’s a whole weekend of fun to be enjoyed. Find the full line-up at porthlevenfoodfestival.com

Porthleven is a great place to visit any time of year (NOTE: I may be biased, I do live here) but when this Festival rolls into town it’s difficult to beat. The wellies were there last year (when it rained) and they’re ready for it again (when hopefully it won’t but we’ll still have a ball if it does).

Here are our top reasons not to miss out:

1) Fantastic bands. There are five stages on the Saturday at this year’s Festival. So whether you love your classical (St Bart’s Church) or want to catch the best local bands from BBC Introducing (Lime Kiln) there’s loads of high quality acts to choose from. Listen to some of them at http://bit.ly/1DhdzMs

Wellies and stage at Porthleven Food and Music Festival 2014

2) Celebrity chefs and the best of the South West. Antony Worrall Thompson and Rick Stein head up a stellar line up of chefs from the South West with a whole night sky of Michelin stars between them.

3) Great for families. This year the Festival is upping the ante with the Jollyboat kids area where you can test your cake decorating skills, have a go at spinning or milking a cow or try your hand at circus skills. And of course there’s loads of games, stalls, food and a bouncy castle!

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4) Filing your boots. And I’m not talking wellies… With over 90 stalls, many of them food companies from across Cornwall, and fantastic eateries dotted around the harbour too, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to sweet and savoury options to nibble on. Come with an empty belly!

5) A good ol’ hoedown. The Friday Night Fundraiser is always a night to remember but this year international superstars Hayseed Dixie will roll into town. They’ve sold over a million albums worldwide and are famous for their unique brand of ‘rockgrass’. Covers from Queen and Motorhead to Bon Jovi and the Scissor Sisters. Yeee haaaa!

6) Nostalgia. Historic films of Porthleven will be shown in the Old Lifeboat House on Sunday.

7) Local stars. For the first time this year, Amélies will host a second chefs’ stage showcasing cooking talent from great eateries around the village. Sounds scrumptious!

Amelies' terrace will be turned into the Seafood Stage at the Porthleven Food Festival 2015

8) Bridging the gap. The only day of the year where the walk around from the Harbour Pub to the Ship Inn doesn’t take you right around the whole harbour… this year a bridge will be popped in place across the harbour opening. Neat.

9) Saturday singalong. Bring your vocal chords and join the brilliant Cadgwith Singers in the main marquee at 6.30pm. The perfect end to a busy day – or to kick off the evening in style!

Main marquee at Porthleven Food Festival 2014

10) Colour, artwork and pyrotechnics. Giant flags from the Golowen Festival, a huge pirate themed mirrorball, a mermaid floating in the harbour… this year’s festival is set to be full of exuberant colour and finishing touches. There’s an artist in residence in the Old Lifeboat House and the Sunday night fireworks are always a sparkling spectacle.

Magnolia tree at Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

A once a year treat at Tregothnan

Discover, Explore, Gardens, Secret spot, Walk

You know when you’ve wanted to do something for ages and then you finally manage it, and it doesn’t disappoint. That’s just what happened for the wellies and me this week.

Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

Bold pink camellias and bulbous magnolia dripping from the trees; a beautiful Edwardian summerhouse; flora and fauna from around the globe. Aside from private tours, the arboretum at Tregothnan is only opened to the public once a year for a weekend in aid of Cancer Research UK. Billed as the UK’s largest charity garden open weekend, the gates are flung open and local choirs, vintage car enthusiasts and horticulture lovers descend for cream teas, sedate walks and the chance to see the oft hidden treasures of this garden gem.

Edwardian Summerhouse at Tregothnan Gardens

I’ve been meaning to go for years but I somehow keep missing the event or being out of the county. Not this time. Thanks Twitter.

The experience was made even better by the fact it meant visiting the home of the most British example of my very favourite drink… tea!

The house at  Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

Historic seat of the Boscawen family, Tregothnan’s gardens combine deep-sea creek conditions and estate soils that are perfect for tea bushes. You’ll find their very English tea sold in Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose and lots of Cornish delis.

The Himalayan Tea Valley Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

Visiting the Himlayan Valley to see more than 20 varieties of tea used on the company’s plantations is just one of many treats I find in store.

My personal highlights.

The Wardian Case at Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

The Wardian case. The world’s only surviving travelling Edwardian greenhouse, used by the plant hunters of the past to bring specimens back across the oceans.

Carpets of primroses. I have rarely seen so many in one place ‑ they strike you even on the drive in where the banks of the tiny, winding road are bursting with them.

Drinking in the views. The undulating topography of the gardens makes for some truly striking vistas.

Camellia maze at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall

Getting lost. The circular camellia maze is the largest of it’s kind in the world and was open for the first time this year. Navigate the winding labyrinth is made more exciting by the bright blooms and I’m still wondering how they got the cow in the middle!

The cow in the Camellia maze, Camellia maze at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall

Trachycarpus Ride. A walk through asian trachycarpus palm trees. To be fair this is not the most beautiful part of the garden, but the name alone makes it well worth the visit.

Tall trees. The garden is an official site for keeping rare and endangered species and even has some Red Book trees from across the world which are larger than any that remain in the wild.

Magnolia tree at Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

Beautiful blooms. The opportunity to get up close and personal and see some truly stunning flowers.

Flowers at Tregothnan gardens, Cornwall

Want to visit yourself? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for Spring 2016. Or arrange a private tour (including a Tregothnan cream tea served from the tea bar with rare Kea plum jam… the Kea plums are unique to Cornwall and grow on just 20 acres of land down by the Fal river).

Visit the website at tregothnan.co.uk for more information or call 01872 520000.

Exterior of the Rum and Crab Shack, St Ives

The spirit of New Orleans is alive in St Ives

Good grub

Look for the distinctive black and yellow sign on the whitewashed wall on St Ives front. Venture up the metal staircase. Stop halfway up and enjoy the view before you round the corner and enter the Rum and Crab Shack – a cosy, beach shack world of reclaimed furniture, quirky art and great grub. The view out across the harbour’s not bad either. Sit in the right place and you can pretend you’re on a boat… because all you can see is the sea (and maybe the odd boat).

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The vibe here is reminiscent of laid-back hangouts in east coast USA and owners Sarah Hayes and her husband Neyth, who also own the Queen’s Hotel around the corner, admit that’s where the inspiration for this place came from.

I’m here for lunch, but I’m already vowing to return with a bevvy of pals to sample the evening fayre and quite possibly a selection of the delicious sounding rum cocktails.

View from the window at Rum and Crab Shack, St Ives

Adventurous eaters love it here. Sample the signature Shack Burger here — a whole soft shell crab, lightly battered and served in a bap with rocket, fries and garlic butter. Or order whole brown or spider crabs and get involved and messy as you get stuck in. Finger lickin’ good stuff!

Rum & Crab Shack Crab Burger

I can’t resist the Lobster Macaroni Cheese – surely the ultimate in comfort food. It’s fluffy, creamy, has a good cheesy tang and, delight of delights, is filled with chunks of lovely lobster.

Lobster macaroni cheese at the Rum and Crab Shack, St Ives

I spent quite a long time admiring the artwork on the walls, too – anchors, and ships, twisted octopus tentacles and a crab-clawed captain by Welshman Pete Fowler (best known for his Super Furry Animals album artwork and Monsterism Toys and Good) and Penzance-based Mat McIvor.

Captain picture in Rum and Crab Shack, St Ives.

Make a crab-line for the well stocked bar and you’ll discover over 50 rums, from light tropical Guyanas to West Indies Navy tipple. Don’t miss the chance to read about your chosen tipple (or three) in the detailed menu — or simply pick your favourite label. Bar staff are also happy to help you to select something to suit your palate, based on your favourite spirit, for example (mental note to come back when I’m not pregnant). Of course there’s plenty of other drinks too — owner Sarah tells me it’s not a tied bar, which means they can stock beers from anywhere they like — and they’ve made the most of it with a whole menu of local lagers and ales.

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Where’s the rum gone? As Captain Jack Sparrow famously asked in Pirates of the Carribbean. Well, Captain Jack… it’s here.

Hannahbeth Johnson of the Porthleven Food Festival

Welly, hello. Hannabeth Johnson – Co-ordinator, Porthleven Food Festival

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Born and raised in Cornwall, Hannabeth left at 18 to go to University in Bath. From there she moved to London for a few years… but the call of home has now brought her back for good. Hannabeth lives in Porthleven, where she used to own the Corner Deli and is now co-ordinator of the harbour town’s renowned annual Food & Music Festival. Date for your diary: weekend of 24-26 April (look out for our preview, coming soon).

Hannabeth’s favourite things…

The best thing about living in Cornwall After living in London for a few years I realised that a close connection with nature is important to me. I also think it’s refreshing that people in Cornwall are not very materialistic.

If you had a day off, where would you spent it? I’m a bit spoilt as I live in Porthleven which is just about perfect and I’m happy spending my days off right here. When I do leave I love heading to Penwith for its rugged beauty and stunning beaches – Gwenver is my favourite.

Porthleven Food Festival banner

The wellies at the 2014 Food & Music Festival in beautiful Porthleven.

What’s your favourite place to eat in Cornwall? Kota Kai in Porthleven. I dream about their seafood Laksa! They have a great kids room full of toys, which is brilliant for keeping my two sons happy.

What’s your favourite event in Cornwall? The Porthleven Food and Music Festival is amazing but then I am biased as I work on it! The Masked Ball has to be the best party and the Falmouth Oyster festival is also a great event.

Do you have a favourite Cornish product? I used to own a Deli and I therefore have a particular soft spot for cheese. Cornwall has loads of great cheeses and my favorite at the moment is Helford Blue.

Do you own a pair of wellies and where was the last place you went in them? I own a very sensible pair of green wellies bought from Farm Industries in Helston and I wore them just a few days ago to go on a very important mission – puddle jumping with my two-year-old son Mawgan. It’s good fun – you must try it. (Hannabeth – don’t you worry, we are regular partakers of such activity!).

Beerwolf steps

Books + beer = bliss

Don't miss, Secret spot

Do you love books? I do.

I’m also somewhat partial to a good pub serving a range of craft beers and real ales (I think perhaps it’s my northern roots).

Books + beer = bliss

If you don’t like either of these things much it might be best to stop reading now. If you’re with me then I’d like to introduce you to a place that combines these two obsessions in one glorious corner of Falmouth. Tucked away in a little courtyard just off the main shopping street, Beerwolf Books is the sort of place that dreams are made of, or at least I think so.

Beerwolf entrance

Venture up the stairs of this unassuming hideaway, beloved of discoverers including Tim Burgess once of Charlatans fame, and you’ll find a place quite unlike any other I know (of you know of another I’m dying to hear about it!) Peruse the menu and select a pint at the bar, then sit by the blazing fire (winter) or back out in the courtyard (summer) and bask in a place that doesn’t lose its charm with the changing of the seasons. That pint you choose, by the way, it won’t be a Stella, a Strongbow or a John Smiths, but a sample from an ever-changing menu of guest ales, ciders and porters. My all-time favourite was a chocolate orange Christmas-time stout that I can’t remember the name of and have never seen again.

Stop at that if you like – kick back and enjoy the atmosphere of a lovely little pub with a very good drink.

Beerwolf Books book room

Or, if you’re up for it now is the time to delve a little deeper as you enter the book worm’s cave of delights that is the bookshop here. Leave your drink on the table and peruse a large selection of specially selected and very reasonably priced novels, non-fiction and more, from politics to philosophy and geography to typography. I don’t know quite how they manage it, but never before have I found a place where so many titles that interest me. I have a rule that I can buy an absolute maximum of three titles – but it’s so often not an easy choice. Sample another drink as you pay at the bar and then sit and read your purchases all day if you like.

Beerwolf Politics

That’s it really. Either you’ll adore the idea and simply have to seek it out when you’re in town, or you won’t. All hail the geek!

Finding it: Look for the alleyway opposite M&S with signs for the Corner Deli. Follow your nose. Seek and ye shall find!

Watergate Bay Hotel

The right balance

Beach, Discover, Share, Sleep

Tricky things hotels. It’s hard to get the right combination of fun and family alongside romantic and relaxing. Difficult to provide everyone’s perfect getaway-from-it break.

Enter the Watergate Bay Hotel.

Watergate Bay outlook

We start our romantic minibreak for two by enjoying smoothies and making our own waffles at breakfast – it might help that we’re big kids at heart but everyone else seems to be enjoying it too. Suitably stuffed, we waddle out onto the beach to admire the view and let digestion happen for a while before donning wetsuits and hitting the surf with our wooden bellyboards for some wave-play. Serious surfers (and serious tryers) can hire boards or take lessons at the Extreme Academy, whilst less energetic types will enjoy sitting on the sand, with an ice cream in their hand – or a cocktail at the Beach Hut. One of the clever things is that all the services are linked to the hotel – so you can charge everything to your room and save the need for carrying pesky cash in your bathing suit.

Watergate Bay Hotel entrance

Once we’ve had our fill of a beach feels like our own private playground (not because it’s empty, but because we’ve stepped out of the hotel and right onto it) we leave the wetsuits in the hotel’s storage room (ask for a padlock at reception) and head up to enjoy a read and a dip in Swim Club. This area of the hotel perfectly demonstrates the joy of balance – with dedicated times when it’s a child-free zone, so everyone can feel like they belong. If you are here on a family break there’s a Kid’s Club too, and a Teen zone, with lots of activities as well as a dedicated, supervised space that younger members of the family can call their own.

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The Watergate Bay Hotel is the sort of place you don’t need to worry – just go with the well-organised flow. It’s still family-owned and it feels like someone is paying real attention to the details. Sandy feet on the lovely, carpeted staircase is part of the charm and adds to the feel of a decadent seaside stay (although I hate to think how many times a day they must have to vacuum!)

Fifteen Cornwall

We choose to round off our day with a wonderful meal at Jamie Oliver’s fifteen Cornwall, with the beautiful Bay as a backdrop (tip: book early so you can see the view before it goes dark and ask for a window seat – they can’t always accommodate but they will do their best). Alternatives include a burger or great steak at the laid-back Beach Hut down by the sand, or a shared dish in the Living Space. Or book table at the new Zacry’s restaurant, named after the little rocks you can see at the south end of the beach.

Then it’s back to our cheery, beachy room to drift off wrapped in quality cotton. And dreams of not having to go back to the real world…

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I need your vote!

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Dearest readers,

I’m delighted to announce that my blog RedWellyYellowWelly: Adventures in Cornwall has been entered into the UK Blog Awards 2015. Now I need public votes to get me to the judging stage!

I’m in two categories:

If you could spare five minutes to click on the links above and vote for me I’d be ever so grateful (won’t cost you anything, just a bit of time).

Anytime before the closing date of December 1 would be great.

Huge thanks, in advance,

Suzie