Team up a trip to this stunning village with the Roseland Festival from September 20 to October 4
Words and photographs by Rebecca Bentley
Winding its way around the southern tip of the Roseland Peninsula, where whitewashed cottages adorned with flower baskets stretch along the harbour upto an ancient fortress – this is St Mawes. I still remember the first time I saw it on the approach from the A3078, where snatches of pristine waters and sail boats showed through gaps in the trees – for a brief moment, I thought I was somewhere on the Med.
The road opens up and there it is, perched between the blue sky and turquoise waters dotted with dinghies and ferry boats. In the distance, classic ships catch the sunlight as they sail on the Carrick Roads to and from Falmouth. The fact that St Mawes falls within Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty comes as little surprise.
Once a busy fishing port, the village is now a popular tourist destination with a variety of restaurants and a hub of water sports activities. Keeping a watchful eye on the village from the top of the hill is St Mawes Castle, built in the mid-1500s to guard the Carrick Roads. English Heritage property manager Wendy Amer says: “St Mawes Castle is one of the best preserved of Henry VIII’s coastal artillery fortresses, and is also one of the most elaborately decorated. It is a time capsule of the Tudor period, set in a beautiful location.”
The castle offers spectacular views that look to the edge of the village on the left, and to Falmouth and its sister castle Pendennis on the other side of Fal estuary to the right. But the best views are straight ahead and out to sea where you can watch the boats at play. The colourful grounds, draped in hydrangeas and exotic plants, are a great place to take a break from the castle tour and admire the guns waiting to counter invasion.
Walking along the Marine Parade leading up to the castle, you’ll pass an array of boutiques and galleries, as well as the quaint sweets and gifts shop, Fudge & Moore, which tempts many a passerby (like myself) with its rainbow of tantalising fudges and generous ice creams. Shop owner Stephen Chapman has lived on the Roseland for 16 years: “To me, living here and working in St Mawes really is living the dream,” he says. “I feel privileged to live here among such a warm and friendly community – the most generous people I have ever come across. Life gets better the more time I spend here, and my only regret is that I wasn’t in a position to live here earlier.”
Both Stephen and his partner Keith have become very active members of the community, with Keith being chairman of the Parish Council and Stephen performing in the village’s Christmas panto, as well as being on the Roseland Festival committee. The festival began eight years ago, and this year it’s taking place from September 20 to October 4 at various locations around the peninsula, with St Mawes its main hub of activity.
Andy Thomas, one of the event’s organisers, says: “Our mission, as ever, is to foster and encourage young people in their love of music, art and creativity, and we try to bring lots of events to the Roseland that aren’t normally available throughout the year.”
The festival kicked off in St Mawes with a talk by Jane Costin on what Cornwall meant to DH Lawrence, and will be followed by a plethora of events over the fortnight, including guided walks at various Roseland locations; exhibitions and music from the likes of Shelagh Sutherland; a talk by acclaimed author Michael Morpurgo about his new book; and another chance to see Owdyado Theatre’s production Above Bored, featured in the March issue of Cornwall Today. And of course, it’s a great excuse to visit the peninsula’s many picturesque villages.
Whether you can make it to the festival or not, do make sure you spare at least a day to visit St Mawes. Its Mediterranean vibe turns a trip here into a mini-holiday and I can almost guarantee you’ll be taking a sneaky peak in the estate agents’ shop windows.
Roseland Festival: September 20 to October 4. To find out more and book tickets, visit www.roseland-festival.co.uk