Cornwall 2021: Penzance

Unsurprisingly, with foreign travel uncertain, many Brits have taken the ‘staycation’ option, as it’s come to be called. Cornwall has been one of the most popular destinations and this has encouraged a huge number of TV programmes about travelling round Cornwall, living in Cornwall and generally anything Cornwall to appear at regular intervals on our TV screens for months. One of the best of these was Rick Stein’s Cornwall. This 15-part series first aired in January, each half hour episode exploring a different part of the county. In the second episode, Rick visits not only a farm where a family who came over from the Netherlands about twenty years ago make an excellent Gouda cheese, but also potter Jack Doherty. I’ve loved seeing and sometimes buying ceramics for years, took pottery classes for a few years in my twenties, and so visiting Jack Doherty’s studio in Penzance was a must on my holiday ‘to do’ list.

When I checked distance and journey time back at home it came up as about an hour. In fact it took quite a bit longer. I had a silent laugh to myself at how sometimes my satnav would tell me the speed limit was 60mph while I carefully negotiated lanes so bendy and narrow that vehicles couldn’t pass. Every so often there’s a ‘passing point’ but sometimes you end up being the one who has to go backwards. I’m not a nervous driver, have always loved driving, but thought of those friends and family who come to London and wonder how I cope with driving there. This morning I felt the tables turned as this kind of driving is completely different and nerve racking in its own way. But the compensation is wonderful views, pretty villages and a marvellous sense of ‘being away from it all’.

Once I arrived in Penzance it was easy to park in a large outdoor car park on the front and less than 10 minutes walk from Doherty’s studio. I walked along the front a bit and passed a nice looking cafe/restaurant just round the corner from the studio.

It wasn’t yet open but they said it would open in about 10 minutes and I could sit down. I took a nice outside table and soon my order was taken. I chose the fish pie and ordered an alcohol-free beer too.

It was very nice, not too big so perfect for a light lunch. I thought it a bit too cheese-y (being a little fussy about my fish pies) but enjoyed it and the service was great and very friendly. After another short walk I made my way to the Doherty studio where I’d confirmed by email they’d be open around 2.

Jack himself greeted me and showed me around. He was so relaxed and friendly, telling me they’d only moved there from Mousehole earlier in the year and there were still things to do to get it as he wanted. I thought it a fantastic place to show his work with bright open rooms with tall ceilings and lots of light. He showed me some work he’d recently made telling me it was drying out before he could fire them in the kiln. I was surprised it could take as long as two months, demonstrating the immense time and patience that goes into work this special and unique. I checked he was happy for me to take photos for the blog and then I looked round.

He said to pick things up if I wanted – though I didn’t risk the big pieces that no doubt cost hundreds of pounds given the price of the small pieces. But I did pick up the smaller ones; this is art that needs to be held and felt and it was wonderful to feel free to do that. I’d known I would treat myself and eventually settled on a smaller piece I felt I could afford. And although it was one of the cheaper pieces I love it! 

Jack’s partner had turned up by this time and she was so friendly and chatty too and she wrapped my pot in double bubble wrap to help it survive its journey back to London.

There’s so much more to do in Penzance but I decided to head back to Megavissey to avoid getting caught in rush hour traffic. The journey back was easier and quicker and once I’d put my beautiful Doherty pot in my room, I went out to terrace to enjoy a complimentary cream tea with a beautiful view of the sea across the garden in front of me.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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