Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Gig rowing

I've finally fulfilled a dream I've had since moving to Cornwall, and tried gig rowing. It is the fastest growing sport in the South West, and probably the only one where men, women and children can all take part in the same boat!

A Cornish pilot gig is a six oared rowing boat that was originally used to rescue people who were ship-wrecked, or to guide a ship into port. Today, there is a growing sport associated with it and the World Championships are held every year in the Isles of Scilly. 

I joined the Helford Gig Rowing club on a lovely sunny evening. The river is a beautiful place that is worth the effort just for the views of the wooded banks, herons and sandy beaches. 

We set off from outside the Ferryboat Inn, two boat loads of mainly amateurs plus one dog called Ruby who came along for the ride. Although I often 'caught a crab' by dipping my oar in too deeply,  I wasn't made to feel awkward or embarrassed. The cox was kind and there was a lot of laughter on the water. I'll definitely be back. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Flora Day

Cornwall is a land of ancient stones, myths, legends and traditions that go back hundreds if not thousands of years. The Cornish people do their best to keep these alive, and prepare for the festivities all year.

Flora Day is a Spring festival in the Cornish market town of Helston that takes place every May. It is designed to welcome in the Spring, and celebrate the season of renewal and vitality.

 The townsfolk decorate the outside of shops and houses with greenery and wild flowers, which creates a beautiful backdrop to the traditional dancing and music.

Windows adorned with the Cornish flag

Wild bluebells decorate doors

The mayor is there to welcome everyone

The day starts very early - with a big drum at 7am kicking off a series of dances that last for hours and brass bands playing the Flora Day song. 

I love the fact that everyone who takes part dresses up, so the men wear traditional top hats and tails and the ladies wear flowery dresses, wide brimmed hats and gloves. Even the children look fantastic all dressed in white for both boys and girls.

There are adult and children's dances which tell the story of Hal an Tow, with the participating characters singing about the challenge of the Spanish Armada, the English patron saint, St. George and the fight between St Michael and the devil.

My son was born in Helston, and I was hoping that this would mean he could take part in the dancing when he was older but apparently you need to live there so instead we'll just enjoy watching everyone.