Shipwreck Weather


As we drove across the border between Devon and Cornwall on Friday night it was almost as if the wind were determined to blow us back to London. The car rocked and rolled across Bodmin Moor, forging valiantly ahead towards the westernmost tip of the British Isles.  


However rough it gets in the capital the weather is benign compared to conditions arriving fresh off the Atlantic. Gales howled around our hotel all night, keeping us awake, and almost blew us off our feet as we took to the country lanes for our morning walk. They still rage on, 36 hours after we arrived. The sea, which we could see from our bedroom window, looked menacingly pale and tormented. This was weather to be on dry land, better still indoors; no time to be out at sea battling the waves.


Whenever I get to Cornwall I immediately notice how fresh and clean the air is. Breathing it in is like a spa treatment for the lungs. And if I were in any doubt of the air’s purity I would only have to glance at the hedges to either side of my path. Bare stems of hawthorn and blackthorn are thickly muffled in generous tufts of lichen wherever one looks. 


They vary in form from ruffled platelets of cool greenish-grey (Farrow and Ball would probably call it Cornish Mist) to frizzled fingers the colour of weathered verdigris. Lichens’ similarity to bleached coral is striking, and in common with coral these fascinating organisms (they are not strictly plants) are hyper-sensitive to air pollution. Their presence in Cornish hedgerows is a powerful indicator of the cleanliness of the atmosphere.

This afternoon we’ll literally be gone with the wind, back up the M5 and M4 to the big smoke, leaving the fresh air and the shipwreck weather in our wake.

Wishing you a fine and dry Sunday wherever you are.