Five Black and White Facades of Polperro

Over the past couple of years, I've become somewhat fascinated with photographing facades, windows and doorways. There were the beautiful Doors and Windows of Boulogne and the Facades of Faversham.  Here are five of my favourite facades from the historic fishing village of Polperro in black and white. I also have some lovely desaturated colour photos which I will share another time.

Polperro Post Office, Cornwall

This is the Polperro Post Office. I think it is probably safe to say that they make a good trade on the sale of their postcards. The coastline around Polperro is quite rugged and hilly which allows for beautiful aerial photographs of the little seaside towns beside natural harbours.

Car Booty, Polperro, Cornwall

The owner of this store came out to chat to me when she saw me taking this photograph.  Rather than scolding me for doing so, she invited me to take a look inside. The shop was indeed filled with all the delights that you’d find in a car boot sale.

Miss Marples Tea Room, Polperro, Cornwall

There is no doubt about it, if you’re visiting Cornwall you have to indulge in a cream tea. The scones are light and fluffy, fresh and still slightly warm from the oven. They are served with famous Cornish clotted cream and jam and are best enjoyed with a pot of tea. Traditional cream teas serve two scones per person because one just isn’t enough.

Sclerder Abbey, Looe, Cornwall

This is the doorway to the Sclerder Abbey near Looe. Strictly speaking, it is not in Polperro but I walked there from Polperro itself so surely that warrants inclusion here? Founded in 1843, this Roman Catholic abbey is presently home to an enclosed community of Carmelite nuns who arrived in 1981.

Chaipel Steps Cottage, Polperro, Cornwall

This is Chaipel Steps Cottage, one of the many places you can stay when you visit Polperro. I quite liked the look of these cottages which overlook the harbour and might consider staying there if we ever visit again. We stayed in the lovely Crumplehorn Inn during our stay, but they did not have an obvious facade to photograph.

I had to think twice before publishing this post today. I had prepared it last week and it was scheduled to publish last night but then we received some terrible news from home and it didn't seem right, nothing seems right. You may have even seen the post pop into your reader before I deleted it again. In the end, I've decided to go ahead, partly to explain why I may be absent for several weeks while I go home (although I am finding a welcome distraction in browsing my Feedly reader at the moment) and also because I want to remember a very special week spent with my family before this tragedy befell us. Most of all, I just want to maintain some semblance of normality before everything changes.

The Historic Fishing Village of Polperro, Cornwall

We're in the historic fishing village of Polperro, Cornwall. It is quiet here and the perfect salve to soothe our weary urban souls. The shops are all shut tight by 5pm of an evening and you'll struggle to find too many pubs or restaurants open after 9pm. 

I find that I surprise myself in Polperro. In our first couple of days, we have intermittent access to wi-fi and far from being concerned by this, I am delighted. I take great satisfaction in the opportunity to switch off, disconnect and unwind. 

I curl up for hours with my book and take long, luxurious afternoon naps. We eat, talk and take long walks in the afternoons. We catch the tiny little tram down to the harbour (for the nominal fee of £1) and wander around in the late afternoon sun. 

There are no chains in Polperro, none of the national brands or tacky coffee shops that you'll see across the country. Rather than feeling tired or sleepy, this stand against commercialism makes the village charming and enchanting. 

Most of all, this tiny village is unspoiled. I last visited Cornwall in 1989 when my father lived here and I recall this feeling of being at home, of feeling that I could live here. The west of England is blessed with miles of exquisite coastline with natural harbours and tiny seaside towns. I won't mislead you, it rains a lot here but when the sun shines, Cornwall is glorious. 

The people in Cornwall are friendly and welcoming and absolutely pet friendly. Even nice dogs and happy babies can travel for free on a boat trip out on the sea! We note dryly this excludes certain badly behaved and bad-tempered dogs waiting at home for us. 

We take a moment to pause and look up to the houses overlooking the harbour. We wonder what it must be like to live there, to witness the bright, endless days of summer or unforgiving, violent storms that rattle through the boats and nets below. 

I find myself tempted to take a boat ride, resolutely ignoring the tiny voice that tells me this is a Very Bad Idea Indeed. I promise myself that I have the whole week to make up my mind and anticipate the long week of relaxation ahead of us. 

This city slicker is finally at peace and grateful to take a step back from the commotion of London living. It feels good to regroup and to spend time with family. This feels different from my usual travel experiences with less focus on photography and exploration but sometimes that is okay too. 

When was the last time that you truly took a step back and relaxed? Do you struggle to wind down after working too hard in the city?

Messages of Hope and Unity from Braamfontein

Braamies welcomes you to the Grove Braamies welcomes you

Visiting South Africa in December was an eye-opening experience. My previous visits embodied a mix of reverse culture shock and inner turmoil due in no small part to lasting poverty, inequality and racism in the country of my birth. December was different. On this occasion, I departed with an enduring impression of hope, unity and optimism for the future. Nearly everywhere we went we witnessed inner-city reform, change for the better, improvements and pride in both our nation and the city of Johannesburg.

A significant degree of this is conveyed through visual campaigns urging people towards more responsible, accountable behaviour and making it clear that change is a group effort. The concept of Ubuntu is everywhere and I’ve briefly mentioned before the messages we’d seen in Newtown.

One of the areas I was really keen on revisiting was Braamfontein. This area did not experience the same degree of inner city decay as Hillbrow and the commercial area of Johannesburg, perhaps because of the close proximity to the university, but it certainly experienced decline in the past two decades nonetheless. Of course, much of that is a distant memory now in this thriving urban area.

 Watch Less Read More in Melle StreetWatch Less, Read More

This was the first message we spotted in Braamfontein: “Watch less, read more”. It was located in tiny lettering at the top of a really tall column in an obscure alley off Melle Street.  When I took a few strides away, I could see that these columns were street lamps, illuminating the way in the dark alley. Each of the lamps had a quirky and utterly helpful message, so I have to wonder whether they were part of the design or simply placed by urban activists.

Coloured doorways in a Braamfontein alley Coloured Doorways

Braamfontein was grimy and decayed when last I visited, a landscape of brown and grey with crumbling edifices, litter-strewn pavements and dispossessed people sleeping on mattresses in alleyways. It is hard to believe that this vibrant, colourful and tidy area is the same place.

Street art in Braamfontein Orange

Of course, fancy paint work and clean ups alone won’t alleviate poverty and despair in the inner city and this is where the power of people and social movement can play a big part. As we wandered around South Point Central and the Lamunu Hotel, I spotted the #iamanactivist campaign by non-profit organisation Umuzi Photo Club.

I am an Activist Umuzi Braamfontein I Am An Activist

“Umuzi” means village in Zulu and the concept is similar to the concept of Ubuntu in the focus on social cohesion and the shared experience. From their website:

Umuzi Photo Club is a youth development organization that works with young people in under-resourced communities to create socially informative multimedia, which inspires engaged citizenry, youth activism, and change… Their groundbreaking projects highlight some of the most pertinent issues South African youth face today: teenage pregnancy, poor service delivery, and school drop-outs”

Hotel Lamunu Braamfontein Lamunu

So the message is clear.

Stay in school…

Stay in Skool Braamfontein

Don’t drop out…

Drop Out Braamfontein

And be an activist.

Activist Braamfontein

It seems strange. We learned about inner-city decline in school before we ever thought that would be a reality in Johannesburg. We learned about the flight to the suburbs and how eventually, the inner city would be reclaimed and gentrified. It was heartbreaking to witness that decline and I kind of wish that I was around now to watch this work in progress.

I can’t wait to visit again in a couple of years because I have no doubt that this area will be unrecognisable by then. There are many trendy and happening areas emerging in Johannesburg and I can only say that it is a good thing that residents have been able to reclaim these urban areas.

Braamfontein is an urban area nestled between Hillbrow, Parktown and Newtown in Johannesburg. It is bordered on the west by the sprawling campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, my alma mater. I am sure that for some, these Afrikaans words must look pretty strange! The name “Braamfontein” can be literally translated as ‘blackberry fountain’ but a more accurate translation is ‘spring of the brambles’. Witwatersrand means the ‘ridge of white waters’ and both were named for the network of bubbling natural streams that met white settlers when they first arrived in the area.

Featured Photo: Trefriw, Snowdonia National Park

Trefriw, Snowdonia National Park

It’s that time of year again, the time when city living loses its allure and I begin to long for the great outdoors. This photo was taken near Fairy Glen in Trefriw, Snowdonia National Park two years ago. Snowdonia National Park is an area of incredible beauty, tucked away in the north-west corner of Wales. With hills and valleys, waterfalls and gorgeous, forests and wide open plains, Snowdonia is a perfect destinations for fans of walking, hiking, climbing and canoeing.

Thankfully I won’t have to wait too long before my next encounter with nature. We’re heading off to Polperro in Cornwall on Saturday morning. I’m eternally hopeful that we’ll have good weather although I learned from our previous June trips to Wales and Cumbria that it is best to expect rain and chilly weather. Is it any wonder that we are obsessed with the weather on this tiny island?