Cornwall Part 1 – Meet the (grand)parents, croquet and the Eden Project

Wednesday 13 September (2006)

Well, I’m back. Many of you won’t have realised that I was gone, partly due to my insignificance and partly because I was having connection problems when I wrote my ‘I’m going on holiday’ post and wordpress saved it as a draft instead of publishing it. C’est la vie! I was gone, to Cornwall, with my wonderful girlfriend Sally and her parents (and their two dogs, Tonto and Tahnee) to stay at her grandparent’s house. I was the first ‘person’ she’d ever introduced to these elderly people, so it was slightly daunting for me. What happened on my incredible voyage through the strange land of Cornwall with the Darby family? Read on, dear friends, and you shall see. (Links in bold go to pictures!)

The first thing you should understand is that Sally’s grandparents live on quite a substantial piece of land. I don’t mean that they have a big garden or something, we’re talking about eighty acres here – including a border on the river Tamar, on the border between Devon and Cornwall, a forest and an old disused mine shaft (which Sally forbade me from exploring.) The house itself is fairly isolated – no noisy neighbours to bother you, or street lights (or any light pollution at all) and it’s really quite good. Despite this I am assured that they are by no means ‘wealthy’ and the house certainly isn’t palatial. Sure, it’s very nice, but really it’s just a cosy cottage, which to be honest fits in a lot better with the rural setting.

What could a strapping young lad find to do at such a residence? I was surprised to find that the answer to that question was ‘play croquet.’ I mean, what? Croquet? No-one has played croquet outside of Buckingham Palace since the late nineteenth century… have they? Oh, how naive I am. There do come moments in life where you have to lean towards solipsism because it all seems too elaborately constructed and plain weird to be a coincidence. I had such a moment as I quickly learned the nuances of an English lawn sport to the sounds of live piano music (Bach, I think) courtesy of Sally’s father Ken, who was playing in the lounge overlooking the garden with the door open. It was like a scene from Pride and Prejudice or something, but it lent to the experience. Anyway, the game is incredibly fun – it’s like a cross between golf (the hitting of the balls with a club), boules (the rolling of the balls into those of your opponent for your own advantage, whilst still aiming for a mutual target) and snooker (calculating the angles you need to hit the ball to send yours into the right place and someone else’s into the wrong place). I won’t bore you with the rules, but if someone ever suggests a game of croquet to you, don’t turn them down ;

Of course, I did more than hammer balls around the garden. Easily the best day of the week was when we piled into the jeep to go to the Eden Project – somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a while.

the biomes shrouded in mist  It was a misty day, which gave the domes a certain sci-fi elegance 

This place is like Disneyland for gardeners, really. There are two ‘biomes’ (the picture above shows one of them) and each one has a theme. The larger one is acclimatised to a tropical environment, and it’s truly amazing – like stepping into a (well maintained) jungle. I call this biome ‘the jungle room’ because of The Mighty Boosh, and the jungle room certainly tired me out – the path takes you right to the top of the dome at one point, and climbing that high in tropical heat is a bit knackering. It was worth it of course, and there was even a little house in there with a washing line and a rusty old bicycle – for a moment I was in Vietnam, and it was a pleasant diversion 🙂

the house from vietnam Apocalypse Now, man

The second biome has a Mediterranean flavour to it, and I liked it a lot because the Mediterranean climate is probably my favourite in the world. It was less impressive than the jungle room – smaller, and the plants were younger and less grown-in – but I felt more at home there; if I had to choose a biome to live in it would be this one. A lot of the plants grown in here are ones very close to my heart – vines with grapes on them, grown for wine; cacti in their hundreds evoking memories of the desert; brilliant colourful flowers that remind me of holidays as a child. Ah yes, the Mediterranean is the place for me.

The other thing about the Eden Project is that it’s the only place in the country (I believe) where the cannabis plant can legally be grown. As such they have an entire field of the stuff… even more interesting when you consider that it’s slightly up the hill from the concert arena – not that I’m suggesting that rock and roll fans would find a field of cannabis plants irresistable, or anything 🙂 Of course it isn’t grown for its recreational or even medicinal uses; it’s there to promote the value of hemp – something which has been suppressed on and off since the 1930s when marijuana was outlawed by the cotton industry. This crazy world turns, as ever, in pursuit of the dollar.

When it was time to leave the Eden Project we had to pass through the gift shop, and on doing so I saw that there was an ‘Eden Ale‘. Being a fan of beer I had to check it out, and lo-and-behold if it wasn’t brewed by Sharp’s, the fine brewery responsible for Doom Bar. Naturally I had to buy a bottle, and very nice it was too (if not spectacular) but it reminded me of how much I had enjoyed the aforementioned Doom Bar – when I went to the local pub in Sally’s village where it’s usually served it was off, so I hadn’t been able to partake of any. Surely Cornwall was the perfect place for me to acquire some more of this fine ale? Now dear readers, I had a quest.

Join me tomorrow for part two of my adventures in Cornwall where I relate my wonderful experiences of Cornish beer, and reflect on the life I wish I’d had.

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7 Responses to “Cornwall Part 1 – Meet the (grand)parents, croquet and the Eden Project”


  1. Hee, sounds superb. I went to the Eden Project myself a couple of years ago and it was some impressive stuff. I liked the sweltering climate inside the domes, and generally enjoyed the whole trip. Apart from walking back up the hill to the car park.

    I’m very saddened that we don’t get to see pictures of inside the disused mine, though! Who knows what kind of treasures and skeletons of dead miners you might find in there.

  2. Dave Says:

    “The other thing about the Eden Project is that it’s the only place in the country (I believe) where the cannibas plant can legally be grown.”

    Stan i thought youd gone quiet, why we were discussing your whereabouts shortly before PS3 delays, HDTV, and the ensuing wild west bar brawl in Spoons on monday. Anyway, back on point … your belief is incorrect, ive seen Cannabis just last month in a legal setting here: http://www.alnwickgarden.com/about_the_garden/features_poison.asp and
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/4303661.stm

  3. Psymen Says:

    Interesting stuff! Never played croquet. I cant believe you didnt go down the mine! I wanna go down there, it woulda been cool! I think we gotta prepare for an expedition.
    I went to the Eden project a few years ago. It was nice to escape England and its climate for a brief period inside those biomes. Its a gardeners heaven, there were people reading the weird names of every plant they came across.
    Regarding our night out, I am racking my brains trying to figure out how you get from discussing HDTVs to a brawl with the whole pub watching in silence. There just is no logical path joining the two events together!

  4. stan Says:

    Haha, old Yates eh. I need to see the video!

    Thanks for correcting me Dave, the Poison Garden looks very interesting. Magic Mushrooms, whatever next? The museum of heroin?

  5. Dave Says:

    There certainly isnt a logicalpath lol.. ive just watched the video of the pre-incident gaming conversation its pretty funny but then i ran out of space unfortunatley so no more 😦 …. you can see the anger levels going throught the roof.. i sound quite pissed on it lol though it was the end of the evening!
    Anyway, ive played croquet a few times its reet bo – Ive never been to Cornwall though … i assume it was a tin mine? maybe we should do ice mining in it. To be honest Stan the Poison garden wasnt that great i didnt think, it was pretty tiny and with the exception of cannabis and a few others the plants you were looking at could of been anything if the guide wasnt there to tell you about them, asuming your not a horticulturist of course. Worth seeing, but not worth going to see springs to mind.

  6. stan Says:

    It might have been a copper mine actually – the house is on the opposite side of the Tamar to this place (and the Tamar is tidal, so you could probably run across there at low tide if you didn’t mind the mud) and that was a copper mine. Then again, I can’t be sure.


  7. […] Well, I m back. Many of you won t have realised that I was gone, partly due to my insignificance and partly because I was having connection problems when I wrote my I m going on holiday post and wordpress saved it as a draft instead … – More – […]


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