Monday, 9 November 2020

Cornwall with Simon Reeve - bit of an eye-opener for some it seems.

Simeon Reeve's first, in a two-part series on Cornwall last night had many found their finger hovering on the channel-changer in the first ten minutes devoted to all things pasties and cream - then things changed. What followed was, at times, a hard to watch insight into a side of Cornwall well hidden from the quiet queues for a table at our Michelin-starred restaurants and second-homes where some owners used courier companies to ferry their luggage down during lockdown so as to avoid detection when travelling.

Fishing also featured earlier Countryfile, both programmes covering small-scale fishing with a sense of belonging for those involved, looking to secure the long term viability of shellfish, be it lobster or oyster. While Countryfile looked at 'saving Ester' (Cornish for oyster) a very noble cause to preserve the native oyster fishery Simon Reeve, set on discovering a different world dug deeper, from the depths of world's largest China clay pit then, literally as he drove down South Crofty tin mine under Camborne Tesco he then cut to Camborne foodbank hero, Don Gardner, a man selflessly helping to preserve people's lives. In that short time there was more than a touch of irony juxtaposing Chris Ranger's huge effort to preserve a traditional, totally eco-frendly, way-of-life oyster fishery to feed the Duchy's well-heeled visitors with a man's solo effort to save 500 families from starving within an area that once was home to more millionaires than any other place in the world - which was not lost on social media:

If nothing else, the programme brought home the reality of life living in an area where the English obsession with home ownership has allowed house values to appreciate out of all proportion to their affordability in areas where the average wage is way below the National average. Although all are free to choose to whom they sell your house, home owners in Cornwall are bound by the free-market economy - no-one in their right mind is going to sell their cottage in Mousehole to that young local couple for an affordable price when they can get £320,000 for their tiny 2 bedroom end-of-terrace cottage. On a winter walk though Mousehole's narrow streets you can count the number of homes with lights on with one hand, as harbourmaster Steve Basset said in Ghost Town, a film about second home ownership in St Ives, often even less.

Roger Bryant's song, 'Cornish Lads are Fishermen' sums up the dilemma faced by the young, and not so young, people of Cornwall.,

"Cornish lads are fishermen and Cornish lads are miners too. But when the fish and tin are gone, what are the Cornish boys to do?"

The BBC's description was thus:

Simon Reeve travels through glorious Cornwall during a summer like no other, as the county emerges from lockdown and businesses are in a race to survive. 

Cornwall is hugely reliant on tourism and the pandemic has highlighted how precarious people’s livelihoods are. In this first of two programmes, Simon journeys through some of the most beautiful coastal locations Britain has to offer and meets the incredible Cornish characters who make the county unique.

For the Taco Boys, a group of enterprising young entrepreneurs selling their homemade food on the beach, lockdown has been a disaster, and they must now put everything into earning enough money to make it through the winter when all their work dries up. Like many of the young people Simon meets, they are forced by the precarious tourist economy to live in temporary accommodation to make ends meet. Later in his journey, Simon meets a woman who lives in a shed and who blames the thousands of outsiders who own second homes and have forced housing prices to almost London levels in one of the poorest parts of Britain.

Before tourism became so huge, this was a county built on mining. Britain’s biggest mineral export after North Sea oil is still china clay mined in Cornwall, but just like the better known coal mines in the North of England and Wales, the collapse of Cornwall’s tin mining industry in the 1980s left whole communities bereft. Simon visits one of the poorest estates in Britain to see what hope locals have for the future and meets an ex-mining engineer who has set up one of Britain’s biggest food banks.

The pandemic has brought into focus just how reliant Cornwall is on tourism and seasonal work, but Simon learns how new industries and even a return to mining could promise a better future. Going back to Cornwall at the end of the summer, Simon learns how the people he’s met up with have fared and whether fears that the tourist influx could bring Covid-19 with it have come true. 

Where will episode two take us next Sunday?