Our doors are open!

Well I’m a little behind on the blogging…but we’re a year down the line, and we’ve just taken some of our first bookings – quite a move on from where we were when we first took on this project.

It’s been quite a year. One house move, one engagement (!), one job change and one cottage refurbishment – 2015 was quite the one.

We’re so proud of the work we’ve done – with the amazing help of family, friends and pups.

From a (not fashionably) mismatched, gloomy and rather sad little cottage, we’ve created an airy, bright and welcoming space, full of calming colours, quirky charm and love. The rather cramped and dark living space and kitchen is now a light, spacious open-plan room with painted white beams and a studio feel. The bedrooms are calm little spaces with muted Farrow&Ball walls and slubby linen curtains, and the bathroom is a colourful riot of encaustic-inspired tiles, bright blues and clean, brilliant white.

Here are some pictures from our last trip down, when we finally got to enjoy some time off to relax!

The bedrooms:

The main living space and bathroom:

Quite a change from what it was:

In fact, the one and only thing to stay is this little guy:

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We still have a few last bits and pieces to do – like hanging wall prints, and fussing around in the garden, but we’ve had our first official guests; friends who stayed over Christmas to ‘test run’ it for us, and all went well, they had a wonderful time, so that was a big relief for us!

And now we’re on Airbnb, where we’ve already had some bookings for the summer – so get booking if you want to stay this year!

I’ll be doing some retrospective blogging, looking back on some of the stuff we’ve been up to, and I’ll also keep track of the fabulous places to visit in the area, so that this becomes something of a guide for visitors. But for now, I’m just so pleased that Gillan is up, running and looking beautiful!

Here’s our listing.

Third time lucky for wood fired pizzas

We’ve attempted to sample the pizzas at Trelowarren twice now, and failed both times. What’s Trelowarren, why are their pizzas so good and how do you fail at getting your hands on one?

A view out over the fields at Trelowarren
View out over the fields at Trelowarren

To answer the last question first, it’s actually easier than you think to fail at procuring pizza from this lovely Cornish estate. They serve it between 6.30 and 8pm on a Sunday evening only, and the estate is a tempting blend of rolling green fields and shady woodland, just right for taking a stroll and getting lost. Which is what happened the second time we tried. The first time, we were just ignorant Londoners, unfamiliar with the concept of restaurants that stop serving at 8pm. We arrived just after 8pm, considering that to be a perfectly acceptable hour for pizza, but pulled up to see the staff leaving, takeaway boxes tucked tantalisingly under their arms. Our disappointment knew no bounds.

The second time we tried, we attempted a quick dog walk before our planned pick up, and managed to lose ourselves in the winding woodland which covers much of the estate. An hour into our ‘quick 20 minute stroll’, we were hiking uphill, out of breath, hungry and irritable, watching the time tick agonisingly past our pizza-deadline and cursing our lack of a map. We eventually emerged onto a main road, despondently recognising we were on the other side of the estate from the one we needed to be on. We traipsed back well-exercised but worn out and empty handed once again.

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Distractingly pretty foxgloves adorning woodland paths

So we were taking no chances this time. We did risk a stroll, but we kept it under close observation and turned back the second we thought we might need to. And happily we arrived at the low-slung, stone pizza barn in time to enjoy some glorious evening sunshine, a drink, and the famous wood fired pizzas in the courtyard. The pizzas were well-worth the wait – thin, charred crusts topped with a satisfyingly sloppy tomato sauce and an extremely generous amount of cheese, we felt vey smug. I went for the basic mozzarella, tomato and basil and Simon went for a rich, sticky beetroot and goats cheese, lightened up with a good handful of peppery rocket on top. There was also a small but perfectly formed selection of booze, including a local ale and lager, plus organic red and white wine.

Finally getting our hands on the coveted pizza!
Finally getting our hands on the coveted pizza!

Trelowarren is a rugged gem of a Cornish estate. All green pastures and wild woodland, it’s been in the hands of the Vyvyan family for the last 600 years. It’s resisted the familiar fate of many English estates of being turned into a naff hotel doubling up as a conference centre, and instead features a clutch of rather tasteful timeshare properties. The brainchild of its current caretaker, Sir Vyvyan Ferrers, the elegant timeshares (think Heals furniture and contemporary comforts), are his eco-friendly answer to both the estate’s finances and the impact of house prices in the area being driven up by second homes.

Back to Trelowarren. The timeshares are done up to a high eco-spec. You can read more about the scheme in this Telegraph article. And Trelowarren’s own website is here. We’ve only just begun to explore the estate, which includes a very nice looking restaurant, the New Yard Restaurant, for which you can read a review here. It’s closed on Sunday evenings, hence the ingenious idea of the pizza barn, the next converted outbuilding along. While the New Yard Restaurant has a relaxed, eclectic but smart feel, the pizza barn is more flagstone floors and wooden benches. Charming but rustic, with the wood fired pizzas definitely the main event, the perfect laid back Sunday evening fare.

Idyllic pastoral scenery on the estate
Idyllic pastoral scenery as you arrive at the estate

There’s also a spa, pool and an art gallery – we had a stroll through the small sculpture garden which is outside the estate’s picturesque grey-stone chapel. Once we’re more up and running with leisure time on our hands, we’ve promised ourselves a visit to the spa and a meal at the New Yard Restaurant – reviews will be posted here, so keep an eye out.

But for now, we think we’ve cracked the Sunday night pizzas. And we’ll gladly be back for more! If we can manage to stop getting lost…

Cheers!
Cheers!

One-pan wonder: Persian broad beans with garlic, eggs and dill

I have to share this dish. It is one of the most delicious lunches EVER.

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We’ve become pretty nifty with the meal planning in terms of taking our one ring gas camping stove and its obvious limitations when it comes to preparing a meal into consideration.

But this lovely thing only occupies one frying pan, and is such a feast of savoury, garlicky, salty deliciousness, why would you want anything else? Especially when you have fresh bread to mop it up with from St Keverne’s wonder-Londis – which is a true Aladdin’s cave and stocks a stonking array of local cheese, produce and lovely fresh bread and baked goods.

It’s a recipe from Sabrina Ghayour’s wonderful jewel of a book, Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond, and it’s online here as well.

So take a look and get inspired. You can even make it on a proper hob with more than one ring. You’ll still only need the one pan though.

What are friends for?

I’m a little slow on this blog. We’ve actually had two trips since the last post, so I’m jumping back a visit in order to keep the progress of the cottage chronological.

There aren’t many of my friends I’d invite to come and stay at the cottage in its current state. With the grotty bathroom, a kitchen consisting of a one ring gas stove, no carpets and a bedroom full of old furniture, it’s not the most appealing for guests at the moment. But Charlie had just got back from a research project in Mali where she’d been tracking chimps. It had involved living in an isolated village and sleeping most nights on a camping mat under her mosquito net under a tree, because it was too hot for her tent. Taking that, plus the fact that she’d been sifting through chimpanzee poo and trekking miles each day over rough terrain, I thought she could probably handle our version of roughing it. Plus, she was used to having no phone or internet signal.

Having an extra pair of hands meant that we got plenty done – and just as we were flagging, the cavalry arrived in the form of my two good Cornwall-dwelling friends Mike and Kate. The were accompanied by their adorable munchkin of a toddler Humphrey and their enormous, gangly, enthusiastic Hungarian vizsla Hendrix, who were less helpful. Baby and dog both left embarrassingly covered in paint. But then, they matched the rest of us.

There was a lot to do. But in among the painting and dismantling, we did manage a couple of trips further afield – including a return to the White Hart in St Keverne, where we stumbled across Sunday night bingo. It was probably the most joyful, eccentric bingo night I’ve ever been to (although admittedly, I’m not a regular to the bingo, I don’t have much to compare it to). The prizes consisted of what appeared to be the reduced section of the local shop – so the caller kept announcing things like ‘a packet of sliced ham’ and ‘a bag of carrots’ as prizes. Sadly we didn’t have any change to partake in the fun. Sob. We’ll know for next time though. It was such a lively atmosphere and everyone was very welcoming to us visitors.

But the work. The first job involved taking up the patio in the garden ready to be dug and gravelled. Up came the lovely daffodils (which were in full bloom last time we visited, but luckily had faded, which made the job less sad), and up too came the paving slabs.

Fetching the gravel from Homebase actually led to a bit of a drama. The nearest Homebase is a good hour or so away in Truro, but I’ve done that drive more often than I care to mention. It seems we can never, ever do just one trip. There’s always something else to get. Anyway, in this case, we needed a lot of gravel, and I was also picking up the flooring – we are laying laminate click and connect planks of flooring throughout. So it was a heavy load. I’d hefted it all down onto trolleys and was heavily laden, when I got to the till and realised I’d left my wallet, an hour away, at Gillan. I could have cried. I called Simon and Charlie, but of course signal is dreadful at Gillan- it’s not exactly 4G territory – and I couldn’t get through. The lovely Homebase staff kindly put up with me sitting on my trolley, desolately trying to get hold of Simon or Charlie for almost an hour, until finally they called me back, and Simon was able to pay over the phone. So, top tip, if you’re ever stuck at Homebase without your wallet, you can get someone else to pay over the phone.

The major task of the weekend was painting over the yellow (!) of the main room. We had considered sanding back the bitumen black beams, but we’d been advised by neighbours that it was a tough job and the timber wasn’t desperately attractive underneath, so we decided to paint them the same light colour as the rest of the room. But my goodness, that room. It’s so high, it took us a good couple of days to get two coats of undercoat on. We were stimmied too by the fact that we’d removed the wall heater from that room and left all the windows closed, so one wall was quite damp, and kept peeling. I’d forgotten how careful you have to be in Cornwall with the damp. There’s no lingering damp in the property (phew!) and no mould anywhere, but it definitely needs regular heating and a couple of windows leaving open a crack at all times. It had been very wet weather-wise, and some of the rain had seeped into the wall. When we went down more recently (having left the windows open a crack), the problem had completely cleared. Thank goodness.

Attractive Oompa-Looma painting suits
Attractive Oompa-Looma painting suits

There was a ladder, an extendable roller, and a homemade extendable brush, consisting of a paintbrush masking taped to a pole all involved in the action. And there was an injury when Charlie toppled off the ladder while we were both out, pulling a light fitting with her. The fitting was coming out anyway, so that was fine, and luckily so was Charlie. But we learnt a lesson – don’t operate ladders with no one to hold the base!

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But we did it, and we left the room looking light and airy and ready for a coat of proper paint.

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– you can see the patches on the walls, which we sanded and repainted, but ultimately had to leave to the next visit, when luckily they were dry and took the paint with no problem.

We also painted the main bedroom, a beautiful Farrow and Ball shade called Pale Powder. It was a job covering up the vibrant blues of the nautical theme with the undercoat, but we got there in the end.

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It feels like an oasis of calm in comparison to what it was!

It was such a great help having a third pair of hands down with us, and as well as the  extra help, it was nice to have a third person to keep the atmosphere jolly. And of course it was nice to be able to share some of our favourite walks and place with one of our favourite people – and our very first guest. I hope that the next time Charlie comes down to visit, we can offer her more than a cramped single bed in a roomful of furniture, a snoring dog as a room mate and a one ring gas camping stove.

One way with wild garlic: broad bean, leek and wild garlic risotto

Wild garlic. Is there anything more redolent of spring? The pungent, heady scent that winds its way through shady woodland at this time of year. The flat, broad leaves and delicate white flowers. And above all, the deep, rich flavour it lends to dishes of all sorts.

The best way to identify it is to follow your nose, the scent is a cross between white garlic and chives, but this is what you’re looking for:

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*Disclaimer, this photo doesn’t show Cornish garlic. It shows a particularly enthusiastic patch we found in the Lake District, but none of my Cornwall photos of wild garlic feature a cute puppy. 

Cornwall is overflowing with it at the moment. Lush spreads of the stuff flow down banks, nestling beneath shaded canopies and basking in the cool, green spring air.

Simon is a sucker for anything he can forage, and obligingly filled a bag with far more than we could eat, which made for some odd glances in the pub on our way home from a lengthy walk. Some of it made it into an omelette, which I thoroughly recommend, but the real piece de resistance was a delicate broad bean, leek and wild garlic risotto we made back in London with our spoils.

I find risottos are best adjusted to personal taste – some people like more butter and parmesan for a satisfying ooze, some like it more liquid-y and light. But here’s the basic rundown on how to create your own version of this deliciously spring-like dish.

I used:

A good handful of wild garlic, chopped

A bag of broad beans (in their pods)

A couple of leeks

A clove of white garlic

A couple of shallots

Some olive oil

Some salt

A jug of vegetable stock

A swig of white wine

A cup of risotto rice

And I:

Podded my beautiful broad beans.

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Which always results in fewer than you think it will. I boiled my beans for around 10 minutes to soften them before rubbing their skins off so that they looked more like this:

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I blended half of them with a glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt and left the other half as they were.

I chopped my leeks and shallots small.

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Then I softened them in olive oil with a chopped clove of white garlic until they were good and tender.

Next step – add your risotto rice and coat in the oil. Turn the heat up high and wait until they start to crackle and turn translucent. Then tip in a good swig of white wine and sizzle off the alcohol. Turn the heat down and slowly add your stock, ladle by ladle, stirring all the time and making sure each ladle-ful is absorbed before adding the next. This may take a while.

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When the risotto is tender, stir in your chopped wild garlic, your broad bean puree – which will turn your risotto the most delicate shade of pastel green, and your other broad beans.

I then like to turn the heat off and stir through a good handful of parmesan, a good grind of black pepper and a generous knob of butter, which totally changes the consistency and creates that beautiful globular ooze.

I served it up with a handful of rocket on the top, some parmesan shavings and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It was delicious.

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I’d love to hear if anyone else has good suggestions for wild garlic. It’s such a beautifully abundant, seasonal treat. What’s your favourite way to use it up?

Ripping out kitchens, meeting the neighbours and digging borders

A lot depends on who your neighbours are when it comes to enjoying your time in a new place.

And fortunately, the owners of the other five cottages that make up the little complex Gillan is sited on couldn’t be a more pleasant bunch.

Heading up for the Easter weekend turned out to be a good move – when I bought Gillan, I automatically became part of the residents association, and they have their AGM every Easter Saturday, followed by a bit of a spruce up of some of the shared areas and a few drinks. It’s all very jolly.

Anyway, they couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming, and everything’s very organised and nicely handled – it’s good to know that the communal areas like the shared garden and parking area are well looked after. In a friendly fashion, the neighbours tend to all mow the various lawns when they’re down and keep an eye on things as well, so that’s very jolly and reassuring to know when we’re so far away. It was lovely to take a look around some of the other cottages too, at the owners’ invitations, and keep a bit of hope going in our hearts, as to be honest, Gillan is currently looking rather forlorn. Or should I say, between decor.

Goodbye kitchen

Simon actually had some holiday to take before Easter, so he drove down with the pups during the week and I took the train on Thursday evening after work. I had planned to get the sleeper train, but sadly it was all booked up. I’ll have to save that for another time and another blog post.

I arrived late on Thursday, having managed to squeeze on among the rush of Easter holiday travellers and even get a seat – a privilege not afforded to all who joined the crush, sprinting down the platform at Paddington en masse to try and get one. We were held up for the dramatic reason that the train in front of us was stopped at a station waiting for police intervention to get some 30 or 40 people off at the platform. Obviously there’d been some kind of on-board mass fracas! A glass of red wine and some broken into Easter eggs helped. I felt that under the circumstances it wasn’t too bad to break into the Easter eggs?

When I arrived, Simon had done an amazing job ripping out the kitchen and depositing it in a skip we hired for 24 hours.

It looked something like this:

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And out new kitchen facilities looked like this:

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All the mod cons!

Seeing as he’d done such a brilliant job, it fell to me to take a shovel to the kitchen floor, which was determinedly glued down to the concrete, and required a large amount of sweat, backache and some hammer and chisel wielding to prise free. But it’s now all pretty clear. Which means we can get a new floor down – exciting.

Plans for the garden

Another job for the weekend was the digging up of the border in the garden. I wanted to lay it with gravel for low maintenance reasons, and then stack it with pretty pots and plant things in them that don’t need a huge amount of looking after. I’m keen to take the patio up as well and extend the gravel that way – it’s so hard to make garden furniture sit non-wonkily on paving slabs. But that’s for another time.

Here’s Simon slaving away while Lola takes it easy and enjoys the sunshine:

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We hefted the soil out and laid a membrane before tumbling the pebbles in – and although the garden is far from finished, it looks quite nice already. It’s certainly a lot tidier. The lawn is neatly mown thanks to one of our neighbours, Michael. Shorty after he’d finished his beautiful job, Sandy the Revolting came out and regurgitated a poo bag. We think it was a poo bag. It might have been a sock. Either way, it was not something that should have made its way down her digestive tract, even if it did make its way back up again shortly afterwards. Hopefully we whisked it away before any of the neighbours saw. I think she still has friends at Tregowris…

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Meeting the neighbours was really useful in terms of being able to ask questions. We had planned to sand the beams down in the main room and the bedrooms, but one neighbour who had already tried to do the same thing suggested it wasn’t really worth it, the wood wasn’t particularly attractive underneath, so we’ve decided to just paint them white instead, which will be lovely and airy. And that’ll save us time discovering the same thing ourselves.

Undercoats, pointy hoods and testers

I thought I could make a start by getting an undercoat on the main bedroom – the one with the lovely wiggly blue lined maritime theme. Here I am in an extremely fetching boiler suit complete with weird pointy hood – but I hate getting paint in my hair! It takes ages to get it out.

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I sugar washed the room in preparation, but sadly I ran out of undercoat and couldn’t quite finish. It needs a second coat anyway. I kept thinking of that bit in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 where he’s painting his bedroom black but Noddy’s hat on his old Noddy wallpaper keeps showing through despite his efforts. I think we might be facing something similar with the intense marine shades.

But having it (mostly) white did mean I could get a clear picture for what I think would be nice in there. We put some tester colours on the walls, and I’m pretty excited about my plans for that room.

Anyway, all in all it was pretty relentless hard work for a bank holiday. But we did find time for some of this:

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More on that and our other adventures in the next instalment of the Gillan chronicles…

Things to do near Tregowris: Go to Roskilly’s!

So, once we’d got our OS map (from WH Smith’s in Helston, in case you’re ever after one), we made plans for a beach trip with the pups.

While we were spying our nearby coves (there are plenty), we saw a marker on the map – Roskilly’s Open Farm. Now, for us up-country, i.e. non-Cornish folk, that’s a word you see on tubs of ice-cream. So we were pretty excited that the actual Roskilly’s might be really nearby.

Anyway, we paid it a visit, and it was really lovely. Thoroughly recommended – especially if you have small children. It’s a great family outing. As well as the cows and calves, which you can see being fed, and plenty of information about the organic herd, as well as the farm’s own story, there are lovely ginger pigs…

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…chickens, which Lola was extremely interested in getting to know better (they were completely unfazed)…

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…and various other farm animals which you can go and see on their farm trail. We even spotted a marauding goat, who had the definite look of being on a mission.

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There’s a lovely ice cream parlour and deli, with some gorgeous local produce – chutneys, jams, honey etc. We picked up some eggs from the farm and some little pots of jam and honey. And of course ice creams! We just couldn’t choose one flavour, so we had two each. I had a caramel crunch, laden with thick, cinder shards of caramel, and a strawberry one. I’m a sucker for a proper strawberry ice cream. Simon had a cinnamon-laced apple crumble and a malty one. All of them were absolutely delicious. Rich, creamy and flavoursome. And all organic too.

There’s a lovely looking tea room there as well, but unfortunately, although they do give away free samples of their own dog food and allow them everywhere else, they don’t actually allow dogs inside. We only found that out when we popped back in the following day, hoping to find ourselves a spot of lunch. While we’d struck lucky with a sunny day when we got the ice creams, the weather had turned again by then, and we had to shiver outside while Sandy barked at the birds. Birds really annoy her for some reason. But we did get some very decent pasties for our pains with rich, cheesy fillings and plenty of flavour. Piping hot too. They were from the St Keverne Bakery – which will be on our list to track down next time. They were very welcome on a chilly afternoon.

There are some really nice walks from Roskilly’s. You can take a little stroll through their own ‘Withy Woods’ (picture below), which we did on the last day. It’s really pretty woodland and ponds. They have farm trails as well.

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We also found a nice walk nearby, cutting over fields, along a stretch of road, and down to the coast path. We walked under a quarry, with beautiful views out over the sea, and along to Godrevy Cove.

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That’s Simon admiring the view from the coast path. And here’s part of the quarry you cut under. With a Lola photobomb, naturally. It’s almost impossible to point a camera anywhere without her crashing the scene.

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Here’s Simon with both the pups, enjoying the walk.

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And here’s the lovely Godrevy Cove coming into view as we rounded the corner.

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The dogs love the beach, and Lola especially was beside herself with excitement. Sandy had a good wade in the sea, and Lola went mad for the seaweed, shaking it in her mouth to ‘kill’ it and generally being an absolute tearaway.

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That’s her ‘give me the seaweed’ face!

We’ll definitely be going back to Roskilly’s, especially for their ice creams, but also no doubt to pick up some of their lovely shop produce.