Country diary: we venture south for this year’s first sight of the sea | Environment

As a respite from the flamboyance of daffodils sprawling on the boundaries of former market gardens, and surviving in regenerating woodland around home, we venture south for this year’s first sight of the sea.

From Polruan Pool, Pont Pill threads upstream between steep woods that separate it from the hinterland of rain-soaked pastures, regularly shorn hedge banks and compacted arable land that needs dry weather for cultivation. Mooring buoys in Fowey harbour await yachts still laid up for winter, and few walkers tread the footpath overlooking the tidal water and lichen-covered trees opposite. Beneath the browned catkins of hazel coppice, bluebell leaves emerge among last year’s tarnished fern fronds; first blooms of primrose have been spattered by heavy showers but, out in the open, on a grassy slope, clumps of the pale yellow flowers gleam in the wan midday sun, not yet warm enough to release their distinctive faint perfume.

At Pont, the head of navigation, seaweed has washed over the quay; sailing barges used to arrive here on flooding tides to discharge manure, grain, sand, timber and coal, before loading back with produce from the isolated farms dependent on river transport. Today in this haven, sheltered from wind roaring above treetops, a pair of mallards dabble against the ebbing tide. Vacant holiday cottages converted from a former malt house, stores, a stable and a pub await guests who will appreciate this peaceful retreat. Uphill, a blackbird sings from its perch above the graveyard of St Wyllow’s church, where lent lilies (wild daffodils) and closed-up celandines lap slate and granite headstones.

Pont Pill opposite Fowey.

Pont Pill opposite Fowey. Photograph: Jack Spiers

Now we head for the sea, following lanes protected from March gusts by tall banks topped in faded polypody ferns and clusters of ivy berries. Across the last hump of land and Lantic Bay appears – remarkably smooth and streaked with turquoise; the sound of swishing waves breaking on the beach below competes with song of wrens carrying up the ivy-covered cliffs. A sprinkling of violets, daisies and dandelions star the sheep-grazed turf of clifftop fields; buds on blackthorn thickets are about to burst, and gorse dazzles like the daffodils back home. Westward, beyond pools of silver light, the Dodman remains in shadow.

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