To Fowey, With Love


Ah, the lap of wave and cry of gull; a stiff breeze to blow out the old year; and a big, fat pasty to bring in the new.

Cornwall never fails to quicken the blood and soothe the fevered brow. This year, for the first, exploratory time, the Hammonds decamped en masse just before New Year’s Eve, and stayed for a timeless week in the South West while the rest of the festive visitors wearily packed their cars and headed dolefully back up the M5.

It was a true tonic, as we had hoped it would be. A tense and stressful year end was put behind us and, amid gale-force winds, lashing rain, sodden cliff walks and soggy dogs, we put our scrambled senses back together in one of my favourite places in all the world.

Regular readers of irregular Arbuturian ramblings (for over a decade now, I recently worked out) will no doubt have caught whiff of my longing for the cliffs, hollows, high, damp hedgerows and rolling beauty of both Devon and Cornwall, and I venture south at the drop of a hat, given the opportunity. The good folks of the St Austell Brewery have long been a co-conspirator in this regard, for their smattering of hostelries in prime locations offers up a sound foundation from which to explore. You can pootle down, safe in the knowledge that you’ll have a warm bed and a full belly from which to start.

And so, our teenage girls and Mrs H and I took the brave step of getting away at a time when we would usually be well embedded in the stupor that is that interminable time between Christmas, New Year, and the resumption of hostilities after the holidays. It was, as I have already opined, something of a master stroke.

Our haven was Havener’s on the romantic, tide-swept, wind-blown stretch of coast called Fowey. Havener’s a cracking pub-cum-restaurant with rooms and we stayed in its Waterfront Apartment in a former iteration many moons ago. Now was our chance to explore the apartment once more, straight after the decorators had packed away their last paintbrush. We were first in the door after a complete refurbishment – and were jolly glad we were.

This is a millionaire’s pad, if you wanted to try and by a similarly positioned and furnished family residence. It’s been beautifully and artfully re-made by someone who knows a thing or two about handsome and welcoming modern living. The views from all bedrooms are to die for; one of my girls spent much time reading on the window seat which looks out over the harbour and the regular ferry service from Polruan. Even the dog was transfixed. At night, we drifted off to sleep with the thunk of waves hitting the quay wall under the window in our ears.

Talking of Polruan, we ventured over one day on the ferry, parking at the top of the hill and almost getting blown back down again, winding our way on foot down the steep streets to the old fishing village itself, with its postage stamp beach and boatyard. A repast of some excellence was taken at The Lugger – the Cornish have become very adept at creating something hungry, thirsty visitors want, without losing hold of the very Cornish essence of their location. Everywhere is dog friendly, so Cooper the black lab was in his element.

Each day, at varying times, we wandered along the Esplanade to the charming little Readymoney beach where Cooper – and once, Mrs H – would dive in for a swim. Very brave, considering it was January! I took guard in the nearby changing shelter, armed with a pasty and hot coffee. My chivalry knows no bounds.

We ate at Havener’s one stormy night, all of us including Cooper ensconced warmly in the attractive bar. The food was anything but bar snack standard. Bravo, Chef, this was above and beyond. The staff here are lovely too.

The girls enjoyed lounging around the apartment, making use of the splendid bathroom suite, watching seagulls snooze on our flat roof and the weather constantly change, as clouds scudded across Fowey Harbour. And, even though it was quite often appalling weather, we all enjoyed brisk, bracing walks into the teeth of the gale, getting soaked along the way and watching Cooper get up to his watery shenanigans at every opportunity.

Polperro harbour (photo by Pascal Bullan, courtesy of of Unsplash)

One particularly diabolical day, when rain had bucketed over us for hours, we crept into Polperro, an achingly beautiful old Cornish fishing village, and one which I’ve known and loved all my life. It was New Year’s Day, and the Blue Peter was pounding with the sound of live music – the party stops there for no man. Further around the quay stands the good old Three Pilchards, one-time purveyor of a mean Crab Mornay, if my memory serves me correctly.

No Mornay this time – but packed to the rafters and still enough room for little old us, including dripping dog. Hearty fayre was required, and once again, we were not disappointed. Really, really, good pub food. I had steak and kidney suet pudding washed down with Guinness. Talk about hitting the spot.

You must visit Fowey Aquarium if you wend your merry way down here. It’s tiny but lovely, well and cheerfully kept, and fresh seawater is pumped in daily at high tide. Little ones can stroke starfish and have prawns nibble their fingers. There are whopping crabs and lobsters, beautiful turbot, Bernard the Gurnard and a host of other local sea life caught by local fisherman. A real treat.

On the morning of our sad departure, I popped out while the girls packed, and into the splash of weak sun that illuminated the snow-white gulls into spotlighted brilliance. Waves sploshed, sucked and pulled at the quay and a fresh, ozoney breeze tugged at the flags. Just around the corner was a grocer’s, complete with meat counter and home-baked goodness, and a hot pasty was soon palmed, to be enjoyed in solitude by the darkened, salty, long-memoried waters.

I didn’t want to leave; I never do. Maybe one day I shall remain. But, for now, thank you Havener’s, thank you to my saviours at St Austell Brewery and, most of all, thank you Cornwall for always being there for me in my heart, my head, and my soul.

You never let me down.

For more information about Havener’s, including details of the Waterfront Apartment, please visit For the official visitor guide to Fowey, including information of what’s on, things to see and do, and special offers, please visit

Fowey rooftops photo by Aleks Marinkovic on Unsplash