Arriving in Fowey again is like entering one of my own dreams. Except this time, the streets are real, and as we round the corner, down the hill, into the town, I know that this really exists. And yet, it takes me a moment – a few moments – to realise that I am not dreaming, and that I am really there again.
To me, it’s like coming home.
No matter how many times I visit, I am filled with the same excitement, and the same anticipation.
As you round the corner, and see all the houses cuddled together, and you begin to descend down the hill, you know you have arrived in a magical place.
It’s difficult to explain the magic, and the way it takes hold of you. Daphne du Maurier recognised this magic, and the way that it took held of her, and expressed it thus:
“This place has taken hold of me. Ships anchored, looming up through blackness. The jetties, white with clay. Mysterious shrouded trees, owls hooting. All I want is to be at Fowey. Nothing and no one else. This, now, is my life.”
Although times have changed, the town still holds that essential magic and atmosphere that du Maurier wrote about. The town is proud of its connection with du Maurier and her novels, and there is a wealth of material to be discovered on arriving in the town, with both a thriving information centre and book shop, which can provide plenty of information about du Maurier’s connections.
But it is the place itself which does the hard work (or easy) and casts its spell and web upon the visitor. It is a place where the outside world ceases to exist, and where you would be forgiven for forgetting to think that there is a wider world. From the moment you enter the town, it wraps itself around you. From the cobbled, narrow roads that snake through the town, where cars squeeze by and pedestrians press themselves against walls and into doorways, to the town quay, where you watch the coming and goings of the water, to the car ferry that takes you over to Boddinick, and Readymoney cove, hidden away just at the mouth of the river to the sea.
There is St Catherine’s Castle to climb up to, and Pridmouth Bay to walk along the cliff tops to. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can venture further along the cliff tops towards Polkerris and Par, which both have lovely beaches to enjoy in the summer.
In the summer, the river is full with boats, and there is constant activity on the water, with yachts, fishing boats, ferries, water taxis, dingys, china clay ships coming and leaving, the occasional cruise ship, and sailing schools all making use of the water. In the summer, the town is certainly alive and the buzz sparks through the whole town. There is plenty of life off the water too, with a busy high street, plenty of places to eat, and beautiful walks and views.
In the winter, the river is quieter, and the buoys lie empty. There is still plenty of life on the river, and the tranquillity that spreads over the town provides a completely different atmosphere. The magic is still present. With the trees bare, the landscape around the town appears completely different, but there is still plenty to see and do. At Christmas, the church is surrounded by lights, which creates a magical atmosphere.
My favourite thing to do however, is just sit on the quay and watch life go by. Whether it is summer or winter, there is always plenty to see. Sitting on the quay it is as if there is no other world anywhere, there are the boats to watch, birds coming and going, people passing through. It is one of the most magical places to be.
But of course, it’s not always possible to sit outside. Although it feels like a place where it never rains, that is not true. When it rains, there are plenty of wonderful cafes – Pinky Murphy’s, with its surf themed decor and comfy seats, and Brown Sugar, another perfect people watching spot and delicious food – and other places to squirrel away and while away the hours. They’re the perfect spots to become lost in one of du Maurier’s books, or dream the hours away.
There is so much to explore that each new visit brings something new to learn or discover about the landscape, the town, its history and the surrounding area. There is always something new to find out or do, yet at the same time, it is familiar and comforting, and it feels like you never left.
The hours pass far too quickly however, and when the time comes, rather sadly to leave again, it always feels as if the clock has been sped up, at an alarming rate and there is a feeling of franticness that it must be stopped, somehow.
But it can’t, and so we leave.
As I look back, down the hill as we drive away, down at the glistening sea, I tell myself, that I have to leave, just so that I can arrive again.
It seems far too long away however.
I wish that I never had to leave at all.