Friday 10 July 2009

What do you do to get blackberries?

Have you ever had a snake uncoil underneath you? Quite daunting for a six year old little girl – well I was once! It slowly unwound as I reached up get my blackberries .. they were just within my reach .. I needed to stand on tippy toes and reach upwards and forwards .. then the worst thing happened .. the earth moved, the sleepy warm coils unwound .. I wasn’t happy .. and off I ran and ran and ran, screaming all the way down the hill to the bus stop.

The poor baby sitter, I think just a local young friend, had to collect my brother, his pushchair, bundle them up and anything else we’d left behind from our afternoon out and hare after me – despairing in flight that disaster might strike as I got to the road – though I’d had enough of a disaster for one day.

By then at aged six I was quite grown up and did not like dirty things or creepy crawlies, though I’d had my fair share of dung cakes, mud pies, frog spawn etc .. snakes and worms were definitely not my favourite .. and NOT NOW!

We’d been recovering from whooping cough, our youngest brother just a baby escaped it, and we were sent to Cornwall from just west of London to my grandmother. I expect we got over it pretty quickly .. but to this day I can feel the unwinding coil beneath my little feet!

Reptiles like this grass snake, and in particular adders emerging from winter hibernaculars, can be vulnerable to controlled gorse fires in February, but this was probably late August ...

Was it a grass snake or an adder? I didn’t stay around to find out! Our bus ride had been to take us to one of our favourite spots, Knill’s Steeple, above St Ives, where we could run around, in and out of the scrubby, bracken covered track, hiding behind the granite rocky outcrops.

The lane winds its way up to the high point above St Ives, commanding outstanding views across St Ives Bay to Godrevy Lighthouse, through gorse and rhododendron scrub, coloured yellow during summer and purple in spring, when the rhododendrons’ blooms arrive. Knill’s Steeple is a granite mausoleum built in 1782, and towers as a triangular pyramid some 50 feet high; it has a wonderful granite ledge, ideal for small children to tentatively walk round or jump off.

Footpath on Chun Downs - Looking towards the hamlet of Chun
© Copyright
Rod Allday

This western end of England was a hidden world tucked away, hardly explored though heavily traded and smuggled, until the coming of the railways opened it all up at the end of the 1800s.

These trails of steam allowed avant garde artists seeking a communal way of living and working, to move south, north, east, and in this case west to Cornwall , to the very west to establish artist colonies in the Cornish fishing villages of Newlyn and St Ives.

The extension of the railway, known as the Cornish Riviera Express, to Penzance and its local branch line to St Ives were essential to opening up a window on the wonderful clear seas, stunning light in the sandy coves, the backdrop of harsh, sparkling granite rocks, the beauty of the scenery, the simplicity of life and drama of the seas.

An artist paints a sloop

They began arriving in the 1880s and slowly began to colonise the villages, bringing their creative ideas to life, giving us new inspiration, drawing other visitors to this fresh unexplored part of their homeland, to see the craggy landscape, experience the warmer climate and the older less advanced ways of life.

“This Riviera” has warm golden sandy beaches that we all dream of, ancient villages dependent on the seas and land, cobbled streets winding between pretty fisherman’s cottages, hiding history, legend and tradition from its ancient past.

Above the steep sided hills of St Ives, often walked by us – up and down from my mother’s uncle’s house to swim on the beach below, and back up for a well deserved thunder and lightning Cornish cream tea, then a game of tennis, lay the sparse moorland heath.

The heath’s characteristic landscape, of invasive scrub, gorse and rhododendrons provides a colourful splash of colour – bright saffron or purple – and sufficient sandy cover to keep the land warm: an ideal haven for reptiles ..both grass snakes and adders.
From high at Knill’s Steeple this Cornish land of coloured hues, bejewelled seas, dark foreboding land, with splashes of colour: bright green ferns, sunny yellow, prickly gorse, patches of tyrian purple, grey stone walls, sparkly granite outcrops, scuttling grey and white clouds, across a sometimes ciel blue sky offer so much to artists seeking inspiration, to holidaying families and to a poor reptile seeking the best habitat – a warm sunny patch, where the blackberries spread out....

It’s good to see you today Mr Postman with a card from a friend in the Isle of Wight, as well as our letter – my mother will be pleased. The card has a toppling lady and her Ouija Board, with fellow members trying to rescue her .. but with the immortal words “she’s with the spirits” and underneath “Gin and Vodka mostly”!! My Ma laughed – so that’s good.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters



Hi Hilary! Gosh, that was a very terrifying experience! I've never had such a close encounter with a snake. The closest I've had was when I was in a cave and we took pictures underneath a passageway where a coiled snake was still sleeping. I don't know how I'd reacted if that snake uncoiled on top of me! :-)

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,
What an experience to have at 6 years old. If you had been here it might have been a rattle snake and that would not have been good.

The photos are great. Do you take them or do you find them on the internet? What a lovely area. I would love to paint that area.

What a good post. Enjoyed it a lot.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

PS. Look for comments bask to you from the comments that you left on our blog. Have a good day Hilary

Believe Achieve - Hugo and Roxanne said...

Hi Hilary,

I'm terrified of snakes, too! I would of ran off without looking just as you did!

Hugo and Noa encountered a snake on the golf course last weekend. They brought back pictures of it. Boys will be Boys! :-)

Many Blessings....

Roxanne ~ Believe Achieve

Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary

That snake story is scary, I am glad you are ok. I am not a fan of creepy crawlies myself.

When I saw the title, I was thinking about a different kind of blackberries.

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jocelyn .. thanks I still rememeber it .. so it certainly made an impact. The snake on the ledge must have been interesting - they like to hide away in safe places!

Thanks so much for visiting - good to see you here ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deanna and Dan ..thanks for your thoughts about the rattle snake .. no thanks - I remember those from the tv cowboy and indian shows I used to watch as a kid!!

The photos are from the net .. quite a few from Wikipedia, which has excellent photos, sometimes from papers and articles I find ..

'Fraid I don't "do" them at the moment .. I used to but that skill got lost 25 years ago for some reason. It's on my list ..

we have acquamarine colours here to in Sussex and attract lots of artists, but Cornwall certainly is known for its schools. The Newlyn school of Artists was the first in the late 1800s, then St Ives followed, but St Ives is picturesque .. and the Tate has opened Tate St Ives there .. so it's an even bigger draw now.

Thanks ..I read your replies - and will answer across at your blog ..

Glad you enjoyed the story .. Hilary Melton-Butcher - Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Roxanne .. thanks for the story .. I bet the two boys enjoyed their photo session .. & I can see Hugo kneeling with Noa watching the snake and talking about the skin, coils etc .. even if it interrupted their golf session .. little ones love seeing new things.

I can't say I'm too happy with them ..but I've steeled myself and am better now! Especially living in Africa, I thought I should be sensible!!

All the best - enjoy the weekend with the family .. Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thought someone might think of the other blackberries .. that's why I used it! Except I knew you wouldn't ..

I'm fine .. it was a sleepy snake ..!! My Dad used to bring in batched snake eggs (leathery sacs stuck together)from the compost heap, if he'd disturbed their nest, and hatched them inside!

You'll have to become a fan I suspect .. with one little one around?!

Have a good weekend ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters