Port Eliot

Robert was invited to Port Eliot to speak about his book – it was his first time ever to a festival;  Port Eliot is not your typical music festival – its set in beautiful grounds around an old Manor House and church and river;  it started in the 90’s as primarily a literary festival, but expanded to become a great all round family outing with music, arts, crafts as well as the books.  sadly it seems that this will be the last one for the foreseeable future due to financial feasibility (this was one of the reasons given)…..  its a lovely gentle introduction to festivals for those who hate crowds and queues, as this one seems very calm, great food and drinking spots and all in all actually relaxing.  fingers crossed for more in the future!  this was actually my second time to Port Eliot and fortunately it didnt rain – the first time it poured non stop and was a mud bath and not a great introduction to festivals…..

to make it worth the long journey down to Cornwall, we decided to visit our old friends Jon and Kim, who now live in Padstow for a few days;  we caught the Great Western train from Paddington and although we had managed to get a great deal on a first advanced ticket, we wished we had reserved the pullman dining car.  it looked so Agatha Christie with table cloths – being served a 3 course meal is definitely a stylish way to pass the 4 hour train journey.  fortunately we missed the heatwave in london to arrive to a comfortable 21C.  we did a day trip to Fowey, ate delicious tapas lunch at Pintxo, picked up great sourdough bread and cake from Quay bakery and popped into any old lights, which has a great selection of vintage style lights. Fowey has lovely meandering streets with a lovely view down to the harbour and is where the renowned author Daphne du Maurier resided – Rebecca is one of my favourite books and films.

Padstow is renowned for Rick Stein, who seems to have taken over the whole town with various eateries, delis and gift shop, but Jon booked well in advance lunch at Paul Ainsworth’s restaurant.  its Michelin star, but at lunchtime there is a set 2 or 3 course lunch menu for each season.  it is very reasonable, beautifully presented and delicious – without being too rich and heavy.  I rarely eat in such restaurants – I much prefer home cooked style food, but its nice for a treat now and again.  it appears that you have to book several months in advance to get a table in July!

another day trip out worth doing is to see the  japanese gardens at st mawgan – a beautiful bit of escapism in the cornish countryside – filled with zen gardens, azaleas, bamboo and bonsai trees .  whilst you are in st mawgan go and see the monastery there, it dates back from the 6C;  not sure if you can go in, but take a walk around it.  the village of st mawgan is very pretty and there is also a good pub with garden to sit in.

port eliot

so i finally made my very first festival – not including day events in london – meaning the ones in the countryside that you can stay for a few days, camp overnight and visit – the ones that your kids usually frequent;  anyhow, this one seemed the perfect one for me, arty, literary, music, hippy, beautiful setting and within a short drive from my lovely friends house in padstow;  also my friend Ros of Beggars Velvet was hosting some art workshops there and completely convinced me that it was all bare feet, flowers in the hair and vintage floaty dresses and i would love swimming in the river…..  together with the fact that Nick Lowe was singing a set, it convinced me that maybe i had missed out on this festival lark. however what i didnt expect was the turn in the weather, terrenchial rain for days and hence mud mud mud.  fortunately i came prepared, wellies, uniqulo padded jacket  and umbrella saved the day .  i felt really sorry for all the organisers, who had obviously spent months in preparation, the poor stall holders who had carted all their beautiful wares, but i felt even more sorry for the campers who had to lie in that squelch – no way to avoid the mud even in your tent;  all you could do was try and forget about it, and enjoy yourself. fortunately there are lots of marquees set up for all the events – so once you were inside, you were at least dry.  its pretty amazing that there were so many interesting people speaking, doing things, keeping you entertained – we listened to a very interesting  and entertaining Martin Parr interview, did a quick life drawing in the rain, and then listened to  the charismatic and entertaining Nick Lowe before returning home to our dry beds.  its the perfect festival for those of you who like all aspects of culture and is SO INCLUSIVE for the children, the food choice is good and reasonable, and if it wasn’t for the weather it would have been a perfect day out.  there is so much to see and do, you really do need a couple of days there, we missed out on lots of events – we should really have got the itinerary in advance and mark out our day making sure that you got to each event at the right time.