To Daphne’s Fowey

The Cornish landscape in my mind is branded with swashbuckling smugglers, hidden coves, stormy seas and vast swathes of moors, ever since I got sucked into the vortex of Daphne du Maurier’s world. How tales of smuggling fill the imagination with romantic connotations.

Time has a habit of standing still in England’s south western county of Cornwall. The towns and villages retain a vibe of simplicity. This is how it must have been in the old days, you think, as you hear stories of fishing and smuggling that go hand in hand with the narrow, cobbled lanes of these hilly outposts of the Cornish southeast quarter.

Yet the picture was bleak during the 18th century when an economic crisis had Britain in its grips because it was fighting the American War of Independence, and in the scheme of things, taxes were at an all-time high in the country. Quality salt, key to preserving pilchards in the fishing communities of Cornwall, and which was imported from Brittany and Spain was taxed heavily. Three hundred miles from Westminster, the scene was ripe for smuggling. It turned into a way of life for an entire community — vicars and teachers included.

A sparkling summer’s day of ice cream, coffee and a soul-satisfying breakfast in a café in Fowey was the perfect foil to my daydreams on a bank holiday weekend in 2015. Adi and I were on a four-day break with friends in the traditional fishing town of Looe near Fowey, putting up in a Victorian cottage, which is matter for another post.

Fowey itself is a picture painted with coves, old-fashioned country cottages trailing up and down steep roads, country churches and smart boutiques where prices make the eyebrows touch the scalp. We trawled the length and breadth of it, mooching around bookshops, (me) sighing over pretty ornaments in shops and Adi conveniently turning a deaf ear to those sighs. Nearby is the picturesque Readymoney Cove above which sits a former coach house. Daphne had sought refuge there during WWII to sort out her messed up life. You see, her husband was away at war setting up the country’s first airborne division, while she was taken in by a couple in Hertfordshire. But the fly in the ointment was Daphne herself. She was caught in an embrace with the husband of her hostess. Stories of unbearable loneliness, turbulent emotions, heartache…

Later after we had explored its nook and corners, we sat by the harbour. The waters hypnotised us under the mellow rays of the afternoon sun. Dangling my legs from the brick walls of the old harbour, I watched the machinations of ancient Fowey – bold gulls swooping across the estuary while wailing above our heads – as pretty coloured boats chugged in. And I thought of the young Daphne whose whitewashed cottage stood across the river. The 19-year-old who had noted fervently in her diary: ‘All I want is to be at Fowey. Nothing and no one else.’

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The pretty turquoise roofs and spires of Truro on the way to Fowey
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Curious residents of villages around Truro
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Fowey Parish Church
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To Readymoney Cove 
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The harbour

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Daphne’s cottage across the estuary. The one with the bright blue door.

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58 thoughts on “To Daphne’s Fowey

  1. As always, this is so beautifully written and professional – the way you use language paints such a clear picture in my head and I can imagine myself walking around these streets and experiencing the atmosphere. I’ve never actually been to Cornwall before but the history nerd in me desperately wants to pay it a visit asap! Thank you so much for sharing:) (also these photographs are incredible) xox

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh Dippy, thank you for asking. They are still sleeping at 9 a.m. on Sunday. I hope they had a good night last night. The previous two night were rough with the baby crying every 1 1/2 hours.
        Have a great Sunday!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahahaha housesitting llamas. Now that’s a thought. You would have a lot of curiosity to deal with. They are like inquisitive children!
      Take yourself to Cornwall someday and you might find yourself difficult to tear yourself away. I promise you 🙂 I shall show more to tempt ya. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Getting updated on your latest posts as I’ve been away for a couple of days. Guess where? To Cornwall. It seems your stories keep mixing with my memories, despite the time interval. It’s nice to imagine you visiting Truro too 🙂
    I missed the oldest house, now I need to go back. Do you miss it there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do I miss it V? And how! Both of us feel misty-eyed about Cornwall. We watch this show called Escape to the Country – do you know it? It makes us dream about the future. Where are you off to in Cornwall? Give it a tight hug from us 🙂 xx

      Like

  3. Dippy-Dotty Girl, I love your new blog look! It’s terrific, so clean, and very stylish, design-wise! I read your “About” page, and I was delighted to learn you are a senior-level journalist. No wonder your writing is so amazing. 🙂 In these photos I especially liked the fish-knocker. But all are wonderful. Have a great Sunday! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Theresa. We are like-minded people. That fish-knocker is after my own heart too. The little things that make all the difference 🙂 And you are lovely to comment on the appearance of the blog – it means a lot that you noticed! I am yet to do up the categories right, you know. Slow and steady.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah…Cornwall, I can’t get enough of it. What a dreamy post. I can see why this place attracts writers and artists. Mike just chimed in that it has some of the best lighting in Europe for photography and film (he used to be in the advertising business). On another subject, I’d love to have one of those fish door knockers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fish door knocker got me too 🙂 Maybe you can get one made or look for it online? Mike clearly knows what he is talking about then since he was an adman. Cornwall…the place of your childhood. It will always be special for you, is it not? I shall bring some more to your plate. I think Cornwall gets into your blood. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a lovely idyllic place for a writer to spend her days. I can see why Daphne du Marier came back to live there. Not After Midnight is one of my favorite collection of her short stories – Don’t Look Back being my all time favorite. It’s wonderful to see your beautiful photos and read the history of the area.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh you know what, ‘Not After Midnight’ is based in Venice, in the island of Torcello where we had been…I remember it because we passed by the eatery where the couple were dining as they noticed the twins.
      Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourites. The way she conjured up creepiness in a place and made it leap across the pages with ominous intensity … especially Cornwall. I realised it when I revisited some of her works after we got there for the first time. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! It always creeped me out about the twins. Fantastic that you actually visited the area in which the book takes place! Daphne du Maurier was a great author. So glad that you wrote about her!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed this meditation on Daphne du Maurier and Fowey. And the pictures were lovely, too. It’s always interesting to see what catches your eye. By the way, did I miss that you made some aesthetic changes to your site? Perhaps you just shifted the furniture around and whatnot whilst I napped. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Lynn (I am guessing it is you since men don’t usually notice cosmetic changes or else I am simply and severely guilty of stereotyping in which case I am just plain guilty and have no defence to rest my case and now I am just out of breath), I did want to uplift the look of the blog. For sometime I had been thinking and thinking and doing nothing about it ‘cuz I am the queen of procastination and no action.

      And now that I have declared myself the queen of something, I appropriately sat on my throne of chocolate peanut butter shells and dogged the wp people till I had every problem smoothed out. Now I am just waiting that someone lovely like you shall comment and make me feel happy that I did bug the living daylights out of them. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I absolutely love Cornwall – it’s so scenic and old-fashioned! Your blog posts are so informative and interesting; I always learn so much about the places you visit! Cornwall, Devon and Wales are a few of my favourite places in the UK – the Isle of Wight is quite pretty too, but I haven’t been there for years!xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you my lovely. The Isle of Wight is so pretty. Many memories there 🙂 Your favourites are mine too, Mia.
      Scenic and old-fashioned – I think that is what gets me when it comes to Cornwall, and the slow pace of life. xx

      Like

  8. The Cornish coast is great, isn’t it – very easy to imagine the smugglers going about their business.

    My wife and I once stayed at Mevagissy, and took a bus to Fowey with the plan of walking back along the coast. Looking at the map it could be no more than 9 or 10 miles…we thought.

    18 miles of winding undulating coastline later and we just about made it back before dark!

    We were young. And idiots 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds just about right. The distance just creeps in upon you when you set out and are halfway into a walk. It happened to us on the coastal path that led from Boscastle to Tintagel.
      https://thetravellingdiaryofadippydottygirl.com/2017/05/12/elvis-legs-boscastle-to-tintagel/

      But the point is that you do not have to tax the imagination at all when you look back at its history.

      Btw there is nothing like being a pair of young idiots 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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