The House by the Lane

‘Chyanvounder’: ‘Chy’ meaning house and ‘vounder’ meaning lane in the Cornish language.

We have made three attempts to visit Cornwall this year. The first was thwarted by the untimely demise of The Beau‘s ill fated Mini Cooper. Dreams of a second sojourn were ended by lockdown. Thankfully it was to be third time lucky this week; perhaps very lucky, since another lockdown seems imminent.

In Beth’s potting shed

Cornwall is our favourite place in all the world. One day, God willing, we hope to make a life in this wild, ancient, proudly independent county. Each visit to Cornwall is spent with half of ourselves living in the moment and half fantasising about the future. It’s too soon to be making concrete plans, but we’ve definitely allowed ourselves to embark on an extended period of research.

Happily we have friends and family in Cornwall who are happy to see us and keen for us to move closer when we can. Our dear friends Beth and Dan let us use the annex to their home at Chyanvounder whenever we are in town. The Old Boat Shed is croft-like in scale and style: a cosy living space with a kitchenette, stove, sofa and a small en-suite bedroom. It’s smaller than our library at home, but so brilliantly appointed that one wonders why one needs any more space. With a fire lit and the lights down low, there is nowhere cosier to be on a wet, windy day.

Another outbuilding themed around the 1953 film ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’

Beth’s style – and she possesses more of it than is fair – is unashamedly mid-Century. Not the Scandinavian mid-Century that immediately springs to mind, but a decidedly English, rural interpretation. It’s redolent of the humble, country homes that no-one has cared to preserve because they are neither old enough nor grand enough to be of interest to most people. However the lack of technology, absence of cheap materials and nasty plastics, combined with the way Beth reuses and repurposes items to charming effect feels so appropriate for now and the future. We could all make do and mend far more than we do.

Vintage books and textiles abound at Chyanvounder. My favourite way to spend an evening here is to select a stack of books, their covers faded and titles almost forgotten, and amuse myself with the quaint, sometimes pompous language of an age when everything was conducted with such sincerity and integrity.

Our cosy quarters

Outside, the garden could be best described as ‘Dig for Victory’ meets ‘gardening on the edge’. The plot is only a stone’s throw from the Atlantic and exposed to the elements on every side. Beth and Dan have done a marvellous job of establishing wind breaks, mainly of Olearia traversii (daisy bush). These really do make all the difference in a location such as this, filtering the wind and allowing slightly less robust shrubs and perennials to flourish in their lee.

We spend a happy hour at Burncoose Nurseries yesterday picking out new shrubs to try in the beds leading to the front door and more time today planting them. These are not plants that I could grow at home, many of them being acid loving, so I will find it particularly interesting to see how they settle in to their new home.

Lead plant labels deftly punched by the other Dan

Having extended our stay by a day – what an excellent idea that was – we now have the prospect of driving coast to coast tomorrow. All being well we will back in Cornwall in the spring, when the fields are full of daffodils and the hedges are spangled with primroses. Perhaps by then we’ll even be able to greet our friends with the hugs and kisses that have been so agonisingly absent this year. TFG.

Me and Beth in our gardening gear

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