Loe Bar in February

In winter, it’s as if everything is waiting. And, of course, it is. Waiting for spring. February is still winter, but trees already have buds ready to unfurl, early birds are beginning to pair off, on milder days overwintering butterflies and bumblebees make brief appearances to find food, and rosettes of plant leaves are beginning to unfurl from the earth. Spring is just round the corner.

One of the places I love to visit in the winter is Loe Pool and Loe Bar, near Porthleven. When I first came to Cornwall this sandbar, separating the waters of Loe Pool from the sea, was just down the road from me, and I’d be there at least once a fortnight. In my view, it’s best approached by parking at the National Trust’s Penrose Estate and walking down along the woodland path above the waters of Loe Pool. That way, your first sight of Loe Bar is from above, glimpsing hints of it through trees before the roar of waves announces your arrival at the seashore.

Loe Pool and Loe Bar
Loe Pool and Loe Bar

A walk along the bar is strange in winter. It’s wide enough that, if you walk along the middle, you can’t see both sea and lake at the same time, and with very few people about it feels as if you are on your own betwixt and between two landscapes, but belonging to neither. Occasionally a lone soul will be fishing at the edge of the sea, long poles poised skyward, sitting patiently. Move to the lakeside and there will be swans or mallards floating quietly on the water, against a background of bare trees on the far shore. Stand on the crest of the bar, however, and you’re nowhere, neither land nor sea, and, apart from the cold wind, it could be any season, winter or spring.

At other times of the year it feels different. Still beautiful, but also more immediate and lively, with children playing, walkers and their dogs, tourists and locals alike enjoying the warmth of the sand and sun. In summer, the woodland path down to the Bar is populated by joggers and cyclists (I used to jog there myself when I lived closer). I’ve met and chatted to loads of people as I’ve explored the Loe and Loe Bar, through rain and shine. It’s clear that a lot of people, like me, are very attached to this spot.

5/3/11 Loe Bar
Sea fishing from Loe Bar

And yet, it still feels like my spot, my first haunt in Cornwall and the one I keep coming back to. The house I lived in then that first winter, just outside of Helston, overlooks the Cober Valley. The view was wonderful. One of my first mornings there I spotted a pair of swans flying eastwards, heading towards Helston’s boating lake. That evening, back they flew again, seeking the west and the quieter waters of Loe Pool. And that’s what those swans did, every day. I used to watch out for them, and worry if I missed seeing them fly by. The image of the two swans has become something of a symbol for me of my earliest months in Cornwall. The small repetition of their daily flight, day in, day out, was mysterious, even mystical to my city-attuned eyes, but with familiarity became something comfortable and welcoming. I hope they’re still making the daily commute.

5/3/11 Loe Bar

 

A short walk in Penrose

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Well, it’s still cold, but the sun came out for a time here in Cornwall over Easter weekend. Of course, this is the weekend I get a streaming cold and cough palaver, and have no energy to go anywhere!

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Never mind – I had to go into Helston for some medicine, so rather than going back to crawl under my duvet at home straight away, I decided to go for a short walk through part of Penrose, near Helston. This is one of my favourite places in Cornwall, but normally I park in the National Trust car park about half way down the road to Porthleven, and make my way through the Penrose Estate down towards the sea (see my first ever post here on this blog about the wonderful Loe Bar!). But today I was only up for a short stroll, so I parked opposite the Boating Lake and had a wander through the Penrose Amenity Area.

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After a more open grassy area by the side of the Cober the way takes you into wet willow woodland, full of the signs of spring. There are so many small winding paths, I found myself meandering about happily without getting very far at all, as I kept doubling back on myself, attracted by this flower or those steps or that clump of fungi, or meeting and greeting friendly dogs and their owners. The runny nose and sore throat was almost forgotten!

Stitchwort with its delicately divided petals
Stitchwort with its delicately divided petals
Looking like its own name - navelwort.
Looking like its own name – navelwort.
One of the many winding paths...
One of the many winding paths…

How nice it was to find a bit of nature ‘on the doorstep’. There may not have been the sweeping views of the Lizard or the North Coast, but sometimes you just need something a bit more close to home and comforting…

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