The Best Laid Plans of Ruth & Jim…

It’s been a beautiful April here at Pengelly with sunshine pretty much every day this month. Hooray. At last some good weather after a gloomy winter. The garden is beginning to look lush again and once we get the lawns reseeded it is going to be transformed from muddy puddle to lovely garden. We also had our first official holiday-makers come and stay at Pengelly as we rented out our house on Air Bnb in the Easter holidays. Luckily the guests loved it. Phew!


Meanwhile we are having some ups and downs with getting planning permission for our holiday boathouse and lake-side yurt. We’ve had some really nice support from majority of the consultees, including the local Parish Council. But unfortunately Cornwall Council have told us they are likely to reject our plans because of (a) visual impact from the footpath and (b) transport sustainability issues as we are in the countryside. Yes. That is correct. They are concerned about the visual impact of a yurt and a cabin. From a footpath. Which no one uses. And sustainability of having two cars coming to our property. Two cars. They also don’t believe tourists would want to come to this part of Cornwall. I mean, who would want to holiday in beautiful countryside close to amazing surf beaches on North and South coast?

I am really, really, really trying to understand Cornwall Council’s viewpoint. But really struggling.

We also have had objections raised by the Environment Agency who have concerns about flooding on our land. At least we can understand their objection. We do have a lot of water here and obviously don’t want to do anything that wouldn’t be safe. But we are hopeful we can find a way to work with this by raising up the yurt and boathouse higher or moving the plots a little.

So the planning process continues! Next week, I’ll go to another Parish Council meeting as our neighbouring Parish have just been added on as a consultee. We also await more news from the Cornwall Council and hopefully will get a chance to discuss their concerns. And if all fails with this application, we do have the chance to appeal and/or put in a modified application.

So while we are a bit glum on the prospects of our planned accommodation becoming reality, we haven’t given up yet. And it’s hard to be sad for long when the sun is shining and we’ve got beautiful places like Godolphin woods and St Michael’s Mount close by. Who would want to visit this gorgeous area… I can’t imagine!



Spring is, Spring is, Spring is here at LAST

Anyone with kids obsessed with Charlie and Lola will probably recognise the title – it’s the song which Lola and Lotta sing in the episode about hiccups. Aggie is a big fan and likes singing this at the top of her voice, which seems appropriate as Spring is indeed here at LAAAASST.

Spring in the garden

Blue skies in Spain


Since my last Postcard at the start of the year, we battled through a grey and chilly January, escaped the winter doom for 3 weeks in sunny Southern Spain and returned back to Cornwall in early March. Everything was still very “brown and grey” when we got home but at last the flowers are coming up, trees are in bud and Cornwall is waking up again with loads of festivals, events and activities for families starting up from Easter. Made us realise just how quiet things do go here over the winter.

Beautiful magnolia tree buds

Meanwhile it hasn’t been completely quiet here at Pengelly. Things are progressing gradually on the land and in the house. After getting rid of the gloomy line of leyland firs on our border, we have planted a small woodland of around 200 rowan, willow, hawthorn and holly trees. Just tiny whips of trees at the moment but they’ll grow. Jim and Ian have bashed in around 70 wooden stakes to create a new fence. Matt, our landscape gardener, Jim and Alex have been moving trees and shrubs around the 4 acres of land and planting has begun around the house. Billy has also finished some lovely stonework over the culvert which provides the new road access to our land.

What a lovely fence… oh and some new trees too

New stonework on bridge over the culvert

Inside the house, I’m still on a de-clutter mission to get our endless amounts of stuff under control and we’re painting the new annexe to get it ready for renting from May. Carpets and flooring are on order and the annexe wet room is complete with funky Cornwall tiles. Oh and we have a sofa. After sitting on an Ikea chair and a dodgy office chair for 9 months we decided it was about time.

Painty, painty, painty…

New annexe wetroom

Planning permission for our boathouse and ensuite yurt is now in with the council.. at LAAASSTT. So we’ll hear back by end of April whether we’ve got the go ahead to create our holiday accommodation. We’ve decided our yurt is going to have 2 rooms: a main bedroom/living yurt and smaller ensuite bathroom yurt with it’s own bath and tiny log burner. Bath in a yurt – amazing! Fingers crossed we get the permissions we need.

I’m also planning our next holiday. You can take the girl out of travel… We want to go to Isles of Scilly. Seems silly (no pun intended) not to as they are practically on our doorstep and look beautiful. Unfortunately accommodation seems to either completely booked up or crazy expensive: £250 a night for a safari tent. Really? That’s nearly Africa prices – but without the safari.

Chigley models/dents the new sofa

We’re also looking forward to having more friends and family visiting over the next couple of months. And who knows we might even get a bit more sunshine over the next few weeks. Yep Spring is definitely here at last.

Cornwall tiles in the wetroom

Happy Spring to you all. More news in my next Postcard 🙂

Happy New Year from Pengelly!

Welcome to 2017 everyone! 2016 was our year of big changes. We left our jobs, moved to Cornwall and began to set up our new business. And this year the changes are continuing as we move ever closer to opening the doors to Pengelly Retreat.

Meanwhile, back to the mud….

The diggers had just arrived when I wrote my last Postcard back in November. They were with us for 4 weeks in the end and we became very attached to our muddy crew. During that time they achieved loads:

We now have a wider driveway entrance and parking area. Which means I can drive out of Pengelly without scraping my car. And no matter how many builders/gardeners/vans/lorries/skips arrive I can get my car back in again. Hooray! Plus we now have a designated parking area for our holiday homes.

The widened entrance and new parking area

We have our own road access to our property. Double hooray. There’s a lovely culvert and bridge over the stream, just right for a landrover or ride-on mower to go across.

The new road, culvert and bridge

The water now flows through all our ponds rather than being stagnant. This involved laying a pipe underground from our lake to the lower ponds so that the water rushes through pulled by gravity. We also filled in a shallow pond and replaced it with a flowing ox-bow shaped pool with an island. This will make a magical pathway to the Boathouse when covered with plants and connected by bridges (some imagination required here I know).

The ox bow pool and island

We had several large clumps of bamboo taken out, service trenches put in for the holiday houses and a new levelled out bit of land created. This bit will eventually be transformed from a muddy patch to a lovely lawn for our back garden.

Muddy patch that will be a lawn!

It’s really satisfying to start blitzing through the to do list. But the land looks pretty dreadful at the moment. There is mud, mud, mud. But we can see it taking shape- and it will be beautiful. Planting begins next week.

And there’s exciting news about our planned holiday homes too. After looking at various designs and costs for our Boathouses we have decided to build just one deluxe Boathouse in a great spot looking over the Lake. And our second holiday home will be a bespoke Yurt complete with woodburning stove, it’s own boardwalk over the lake and stand of forest behind. Something for everyone whether our guests crave a more traditional house or a wilder option. But both with plenty of creature comforts, privacy and an a-mazing lake views.

The Boathouse Plot – just to the left of this pic

Peter our architect has come up with a really great design for the Boathouse which we love. Hopefully the planners will love it too… it’s due to go in for planning permission this month. For our Yurt, we’ve chosen Meadow Yurts to build it for us: This is a fab company run by Pete and Laura who having lived in yurts for many years themselves know what works. They make bespoke yurts to withstand the British weather – and conveniently are based literally 10 minutes up the road from us. Perfect.

The yurt plot – where that big muddy patch is!

Weatherwise, we’ve been blessed with some incredible blue skies and crisp winter days over Christmas and New Year. We had a very festive first Christmas in Cornwall and were lucky to have family with us on Christmas Day itself. We also managed to cook a tasty Xmas dinner for 9 without mishap. Apart from a slight panic when Jim thought we’d bought a turkey with hardly any meat on it… it turned out he was trying to carve it upside down. Apparently all the best chefs cook their turkey upside down :).

Boxing Day at Gwithian

The rain is back again today, but that makes it a good day for paperwork and blog-writing. It’s also Aggie’s first day back at preschool after the Xmas holidays which means I can squeeze in a bit of time to write before I rush off to pick her up. It never stays quiet for long around here. Today the tree surgeons are here to chop down the line of conifers on our boundary. We’ve also got work going on in the house again. Following a friends’ clever suggestion, we are making the new section of our house into a rent-able annexe with it’s own private entrance, wetroom and kitchenette. We will complete this ready to rent out from Easter and it will make a really nice purse-friendly option for holiday-makers.

So ultimately we’ll have 3 holiday homes at Pengelly (if we get planning that is). All at different price points and offering something slightly different. Can’t wait!

And finally, on our visit to the Winter Wood show before Christmas:

What’s Jim got on his head?!?

A tea cosy?  Answers, more news and photos in my next postcard 🙂

A Massive Muddy Patch

At last the diggers are here! And work finally begins in earnest on the land at Pengelly to get it into shape for our holiday houses. The Muddy Crew aka Jim, Matt our landscape gardener, Billy the digger driver and Gary the dumper driver have been working for three days now at Pengelly. Shifting earth about, withstanding torrential rain showers and basically making a lot of massive muddy patches.


It’s great to get things moving though and they’ve achieved a lot already. Our aims are to widen our driveway entrance, create a car parking area, build a new vehicle access to our land, fill in one of the ponds, take out unused decking and the out-of-control bamboo and to put in some of the service trenches for the holiday houses. Phew. A long list of stuff.


Meanwhile we are due to chat to Pete, our architect, tomorrow about the designs for our two ‘Boathouses’. So far we’ve agreed that we will stick to just two plots, one on each side of the large lake looking out over the water. And our two houses will be designed to make the most of the beautiful scenery with substantial ‘outdoors living’ areas. We’ve been inspired by the large covered deck area we have by our house which we use all the time – even when the weather is rubbish (like now!).

Winter has really set in here with heavy rain this week causing flooding on the roads. Oh right, now I get why you might want to have a 4×4 down here.. The Polo will have to do for now. Aggie is settling into her new preschool and seems to be enjoying it. She is also the one person who isn’t bothered by the rain as she gets to do more of her favourite activity: splashing in muddy puddles. As for me, I’m finding the time just flies by and I seem get about one ‘thing’ done a day. How on earth did I manage to fit in a full time job?


It’s feeling festive already in Cornwall with lots of the villages and towns switching on their Xmas lights this weekend. Can’t wait! The little village with Aggie’s preschool is particularly well known for it’s amazing Christmas lights. They’ve started going up but the big switch on isn’t till early December. So we’ll have to wait till then to see the slightly random ‘Christmas Cow’ light display in all it’s glory.

A Moo-ry Christmas to you all

More to follow on muddy patch progress & Christmas festivities in my next Postcard 🙂

Birthday fun, fizz and sunshine

The big news this week is that Aggie turned 2! Thank you very much for her lovely cards and to everyone who came along for her birthday tea on Saturday. She had a great day opening presents, eating far too many crisps and playing/fighting over helium balloons with other little ones. The oldies meanwhile drank champagne, ate cake and explored the Pengelly gardens in the autumn sunshine.


Birthday present from granny

Today is Aggie’s first day at her pre school today which feels very grown up. She’s got her own little rucksack (thank you to Auntie Emma & family) and lunch box to take with her. She will be learning a whole new world of things including what shoes to wear indoors and outdoors, how to sit in a circle nicely and how to eat her lunch properly, not just the raisins. I felt sad dropping my little girl off this morning. But she was fine and got straight on with the important business of playing with a tea set and creating works of art with the paints. While no doubt firmly refusing to put on an overall…

We’re also recently back from a week in Alicante in Spain, making use of the handy direct flights from Newquay. The weather was fab, sunny with temperatures in the high twenties, and our flat was right by the sea. Aggie’s highlights were having the beach next door, swimming in the sea with Daddy and a pirate ship in Alicante marina. Lowlights would include Aggie doing a projectile vom in a restaurant and a poo on the floor of a play park. Sorry residents of Alicante!! What would we do without wet wipes?

Back in Cornwall it’s all go again at Pengelly. Ant our tree surgeon friend has been busy taking down and pruning trees. Wow what an incredible skill that is! The most striking change is that the large but rotten ash tree by the gate has come down. Now we can open up the driveway so that cars can come in and out without risk of a scrape. It was sad to see the old tree come down but it’s great to have more light and room.




Meanwhile we’ve been looking at possible designs for our tree houses. Unfortunately, like many a client I can think of, we have ‘champagne tastes and a shandy budget’. We want our tree houses to be amazing! But we don’t want to bankrupt ourselves. The initial design we’ve been given was rather more basic than we were hoping. Probably not surprising given the budget we said we wanted to keep to. But I’m convinced that something beautiful, unique and creative doesn’t have to cost the earth. We’ve another architect coming round this weekend so we’ll wait to see what he can come up with for us.

More postcards to follow…

Planning Success & All Hands on Deck

At last, we have some good news to share re planning permission for our holiday tree houses at Pengelly. The Council have agreed that they can remove the Section 106 from our land.

Which means we are no longer restricted to agricultural uses only. Hooray! It’s not exactly planning permission agreed, but we can at least now apply for planning to build our holiday accommodation. Great news as we were beginning to think we may have to adapt our plans to goat farming/Buddha collecting.

So now our vision of 3 lovely tree houses and a relaxing holiday retreat is becoming a reality, it’s full steam ahead on preparing the land and designing the houses.

We’ve asked a local company, Carpenter Oak Cornwall, to come up with a tree house design and are waiting for the results. Jim and Matt, our landscape gardener, have started working on the entrance/parking area at the front of the house. They’ve created a fern garden by the stream to be the first thing visitors see when they arrive. The bamboo has been chopped down by our back garden and we now have a lot more light coming into the house. And Jim with some assistance from me (i.e. moving a plank or two) is taking up the central decking area. We will replace this with a walkway across the two lakes and small private deck for tree house number 3.

Meanwhile I am also undertaking the important process of planning Aggie’s 2nd birthday. We’ve bought a scooter in her favourite colour – purple. Birthday present sorted! We are sending out invites for a little birthday tea on 15th October. A delicious vanilla and raspberry cake topped with cream is on order from Let Them Eat, a really fab gluten and dairy free bakery we discovered at the Great Cornish Food Festival last week. Their cakes are AMAZING and kinda healthy with fruit, veg and no gluten or dairy. Highly recommended.

Aggie is already excited about the impending birthday fun and randomly shouts out “two weeks”, “CAKE” and “candles” while doing a little dance. Only 16 sleeps to go…

The Garden Makeover Begins

Everyone loves a makeover don’t they. Remember when Plain Jane Superbrain on Neighbours had a makeover from Charlene? And was instantly transformed from nerdy speccy type to hot chick who went out with hunky Mike who rode a motorbike.

I don’t want to say our garden transformation is exactly on the same level of makeover as that. In fact currently we are in the ‘transformative stage’ where everything looks worse than it did in the first place. And it’s going to get even worse before it gets better. “Soon this place will be looking like Basra” says Matt our landscape gardener cheerfully. Oh good.

But it’s exciting to start the work and to visualise how it will look when the garden makeover is complete next summer. Our lovely land is currently out of control with a multitude of plants growing on top of each other, many in pots. So we want to make it more maintainable, get the 3 plots ready for our holiday houses and also return to a more natural Cornish look, with less of the Asian planting. The idea being that the ornamental gardens by the house will gradually merge into the wild and natural land beyond. Although I’m sure we’ll still find room for a Buddha or two.

So far, Matt and Jim have cleared all pots from the entrance up to the decking by the lake. That may sound like not much but have a look at the pot pictures below – Aggie in there for size comparison, yes some of those pots are taller than she is!

They’ve also attacked the waterfall pond to take out plants which we want to keep and get rid of those that we don’t.  We will re-landscape this area to to become a natural flow of water tumbling over boulders of Cornish granite into a stream below.  The bank of plants behind the waterfall which looked ok on the surface actually turned out to be a hotbed of horse-tail, a nasty weed that grows like wildfire and wraps round the roots of other plants.  So the bank has been cleared, will be sprayed to get rid of the weed doom and then eventually re-planted in a ‘Wild Cornwall’ style, in keeping with the landscape.

Waterfall Pond Before & Now:

Yes, yes I know it looks worse! ‘Transformative stage’ remember. It’s the chrysalis before the butterfly emerges. Hopefully.





The Lake Before & Now:

You need a magnifying glass for this one but the eagle-eyed will notice that the reeds are all cleared from the centre of the lake so you can see the view down to the 2nd decking and beyond.  Nice work Jim!



The Stream (now):

One of my favourite parts of the garden, the stream that forms our boundary.  Clearing out a row of pots of bamboo means you can now see the lovely stream as you walk down the path.


Before the end of this month the diggers and our tree surgeon will be coming in to start the re-landscaping in earnest. Look out for the ‘before and after’ photos on the next Postcard from Pengelly.

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

The phrase ‘One step forward, two steps back’ comes to mind this week as things seem to conspire against us. Wasn’t that a bad 80s song by Paula Abdul of American X Factor fame..? In between looking after Aggie and battling with WordPress, I had the misfortune to catch a bit of the first episode of the new UK X Factor series on Saturday.

Simon Cowell’s high-wasted trousers and unbuttoned shirts reappearing on TV must mean it’s the run-down to Christmas already. Wow. This year really is flying by and it feels like we’ve gone two steps back when it comes to getting the holiday accommodation up and running at Pengelly.

We’ve hit a bit of a brick wall with removing the Section 106 – that’s the council order which prevents us from using our land for anything other than agricultural use. The easier route to take was to have the local farmer’s agreement to the Section 106 being lifted from both his land and ours. But he doesn’t want to get involved. He also doesn’t want us to use his lane which adjoins our property to access our land either.

Current entrance to Pengelly

When your chosen path becomes impassable, it’s time to think more creatively and come up with a Plan B. Hopefully one that’s EVEN better than Plan A was. Luckily we’ve come up with a great Plan B for accessing our land. We already have a little bridge crossing our stream, so with a bit of creative landscaping to widen our current entrance and by building a new vehicle-worthy bridge, we will have a really beautiful entrance way for visitors staying on our land – plus an access for vehicles. Hooray. An even better option than using the neighbouring lane.

The current footbridge

And as for removing the Section 106 from our land to allow us to apply for planning permission for holiday houses – we don’t yet have a Plan B. But are trusting in our Planning Consultant and the wisdom of the Council to find a way to make it work. Oh good.

Meanwhile work in the gardens continues apace. Jim has been collecting pots together to sell – here’s just a small selection. There are literally hundreds of pots of all shapes and sizes dotted about on our land. Plant-pot anyone?? We’ve been taking stock of our plants and choosing which to keep, chop or sell by tagging them with ribbons. And we’ve been blessed with days of sunshine, beautiful sunsets and visits from some lovely friends. What a gorgeous end to the summer.

Pengelly Pots (this is just the start!)

Next week we start our garden re-design and landscaping in earnest.

Oh and here’s the Buddha from the ‘Spot the Buddha’ competition last week. “There she is!!” as Aggie would say. Buddha is a girl as far as Aggie is concerned.

More postcards to follow.

A Bad Case of Gunnera & Other Garden Dilemmas

“It’s called Gunnerrhea” said Jim authoritatively in response to a friend’s question over dinner. “No it’s not, Jim, don’t be ridiculous.” Turned out he was right. Nearly. The plant I like to think of as Giant Rhubarb crossed with a Triffid is in fact called Gunnera. And we have quite a lot of it growing on one of the plots that we’ve earmarked as a site for a shepherd hut. It’s fantastic, but it’s huge spiny stalks and leaves spanning more than two metres across needed a bit of ‘pruning’ (hacking) to open up a view of the lake.

Pengelly Gunnera on Plot 2


Ruth = 161cm.
Gunnera = a lot taller than that.

In addition to keeping the Gunnera under control, we’ve been thinking a lot about the land and gardens here. They are beautiful, wild and wonderful. But slightly mad. We want to keep that wild wonderfulness, but shape them into a peaceful retreat. And over the past couple of weeks we have had the appraising eyes and comments of three different landscape gardeners to help us do just that.

Annabelle, friend of a friend and landscape gardener with Chelsea Flower Show pedigree agreed to view the gardens. “Can I be blunt?” she asked, fixing us with a look as we stood outside the entrance wall of Pengelly, “This area makes it look like you’re coming into a swingers’ place”.

A Swingers’ Garden?

Oh. Oh dear. It appears we need help with the garden design more urgently than we’d realised. Neither Jim or I were entirely sure what a swingers’ place might look like. But it definitely wasn’t the look we were going for.

Lou, partner of tree surgeon, Ant, and also a landscape designer, put her finger onto something that’s been bothering me for a while. “Can I give you one piece of advice? I’m not sure shepherds huts are right here. Your land has the whole Asian theme and the Cornwall theme….Have you thought about treehouses?” She certainly had a point. Shepherds huts are lovely. But they are ‘bunting and hay bales’ while Pengelly is more Buddhas and um, Gunnera. Would treehouses be better? Could we get permission for them? Could we afford them?

Then landscape gardener Matt came to see Pengelly.  He works at the Eden Project and lectures at the local horticultural college. We liked his practical approach, enthusiasm and sense of humour as he walked round chuckling at the array of exotic and unusual plants  growing in unruly abundance. “Wow. The guy who created this was a Collector.  He’d see a plant, love it, buy it and pop it in somewhere. ” Matt also mentioned he could provide cheap student labour if we needed it (we do).  That swung it for us.

There was also some news from the Council. The Planning Officer has decided that they will only consider changing the use of our land from agricultural-only “with all parties present”. In other words, the local Farmer who originally owned our land needs to give us his backing.

So the next step is for us to chat to the Farmer to see if he can help us. He has agreed to have a conversation with us next week. And we really need him to help us with the Council… or all our plans for landscape gardening, treehouses, shepherds huts and a lakeside retreat may yet come to nothing.

Finally, can you spot the Buddha in this picture?

Answer on a Postcard 🙂

Where’s Buddha?

Lots and Lots of Buddhas

Day 63 in the Cornwall House. It’s 2 months now since we chucked in the ‘day jobs’, left a much loved house in Oxfordhshire and moved lock, stock and toddler down to the far west of Cornwall. To Pengelly Mill.

It seems like a good time to start a Postcards from Pengelly blog. If only I could work out how to use WordPress. Good lord, it’s complicated. Or maybe my brain has gone to pot with all the sea air. One day I’ll be an expert (smug) blogger writing posts about ‘How to get the best from your blog’ but meanwhile back to the Buddhas.

We have a lot of them. “Lots and lots of Buddhas” as Aggie likes to chant. She also likes to give the Buddhas presents including stones, leaves and plastic balls. What the Buddhas think of this is unknown.

Pengelly Mill has fantastic, quirky and in places raging out of control 4.5 acres of Asian-inspired gardens created by the previous owner. And that means many a Buddha. Luckily we like the Buddhas. Here are three of them. I like to think of them as “Happy Buddha”, “Serene Buddha” and “Grumpy Buddha”. Can you spot which one is which?

As well as Buddhas we have a lake, ponds and waterfall, a secret/completely overgrown Thai garden, wild meadows and wildlife. I am steadily learning more about British wildlife. I thought I was reasonably good on African wildlife after 12 years in the Africa programme at Audley. Apparently I’m a bit rubbish on their British counterparts. Visiting friends shrieked with laughter when I called newts “tadpoles with arms” and a resident grey heron a “stork”. “Was it carrying a baby in it’s beak?” they queried.

Leaving office jobs and officially ‘not working’ makes it sound like we should be living the good life. And we are living the good life in a beautiful place with wonderful beaches nearby – and no Sunday blues or 9 to 6. Not quite got our feet up yet though. Visitors to Pengelly say something along the lines of “Wow I have never seen anything like this”, “I am speechless”, “it’s a piece of paradise”, “it’s like another Lost Gardens of Heligan”. And then “ooh you’ve got a lot of work to do here”. Yes we do. A LOT. So if anyone would like a free gardening holiday… then we would welcome you with open arms!

We are also at square one when it comes to setting up our planned luxury glamping accommodation here at Pengelly. The much-loved Cornish word ‘dreckly’ springs to mind. And as it stands we don’t yet know if we can do anything with the land other than farm – or put Buddhas – on it.

More postcards to follow…