I am making like a rock. At least that’s what Stacy Weeks says. We’re on Bedruthan Beach on the north Cornwall coast. She’s giving me a gentle introduction to site dance – movement inspired by classical dancing, yoga and Pilates performed in the natural environment.
“Thrust your pelvis forward,” says Stacy. I’m not so sure I look quite like the rocks around which we’re standing, but it’s a pleasant feeling, all this stretching and breathing in the sea air. And if you’re going to strike a pose, why not do it in a beautiful place?
Stacy, who both performs professionally and teaches this niche art through her company Red Yew, is one of my tutors on this short break in the West County to try out a new concierge service provided by Adventure Temples.
The service is the idea of former business consultant Rob Pendleton who set up a company that helps people get the best out of their travels in the UK and abroad. It was an idea spawned by the Adventure Temples website he started in 2009 as a social community to share travel tips.
Rob’s adventure menu in Cornwall (he has other British regions) features 90 eclectic activities and experiences – you can suggest others – to make a holiday memorable. As well as providing ideas for holidaymakers, the business model involves many small operations, such as Stacy’s, that might normally be invisible to visitors to the area.
During my time in Cornwall, I enjoy the indulgent pleasure of riding a horse across the sands at Treyarnon and I add to my dinner party repertoire with a convivial cooking workshop, courtesy of Nadia’s Kitchen.
It is hosted in The Millhouse at Whitehay, a charming cottage Rob shows me as an example of the self-catering properties he can arrange.
Nadia Pendleton, Rob’s wife, boasts a working stint with Gordon Ramsay on her CV.
Together we cook up a three-course storm of largely local produce: scallops with a salad of asparagus, samphire and bacon, topped with a lemon and tarragon hollandaise sauce; lamb chops with salsa verde, roast new potatoes and buttery carrots; and a rhubarb tarte tatin. Along the way, I pick up some useful tips – leave bacon alone to stop it leaching too much liquid, or pep up that drooping asparagus by putting it in water, like cut flowers.
Marcus Harrison of the Wild Food School, Britain’s only full-time food forager, takes me along a back lane in Lostwithiel for a tutorial in how to harvest a hedgerow. The stench of wild garlic is ripe enough to allow our noses to guide us to it, though our eyes prove necessary for identifying the rather less pungent three-cornered leek. We pluck refreshing naval wort. (“Not too much,” advises Marcus as I go for a second leaf. “It’s a diuretic.”) And I learn about the dangers of the pretty but bitter buttercup.
Back at Marcus’s house, he whips up the garlic with some soft cheese to create a moreish spread, and the tang of the three-cornered leek adds dimension to a slice of quiche.
My home for the night is Woodlands Country House at Treator near Padstow, a former naval hospital, now a friendly B&B run by Pippa and Hugo Woolley. Here I enjoy comfortable lodgings and a first-class breakfast, courtesy of Hugo, a chef and cookery writer.
More flavours are in store at a group tasting held at the Lindo family’s award-winning Camel Valley Vineyard, followed by a superb dinner featuring potted local crab and Cornish megrim sole, accompanied by Camel Valley vintages, at Trehallas House, an 18th-century inn just down the road from the winery. Rob has conveniently scooped these up as a double experience, dubbed Taste of Cornwall.
Back on that beach, I get some photography tuition from Chris Hewitt, a professional photographer who has tempered his globetrotting ways with the opening of the Picture and Coffee Gallery in nearby Wadebridge. I succeed in snapping some of the best photographs I’ve ever taken.
The views help. Up on the cliff we apply “the rule of thirds” to compose a photograph; a stone wall sprouting sea campion provides a textured foreground; the mighty rock stacks on Bedruthan’s floor hold the centre, and the ocean beyond ripples away a final layer. It’s a beautiful view and, like the other experiences, it will remain a special memory. – Sunday Independent