Louise Danks works as Production Manager at the National Dahlia Collection, but when the day is done and the plants dealt with, she heads to her favourite place, Portholland Beach on the Roseland Peninsula.
I first went to Portholland Beach when I was about four years old. I grew up around the corner, it was before Cornwall became really touristy, and we went all the time. It was ages later when I realised that not everyone went straight to the beach after school!
It is very small and there are just two rows of squat stone cottages, little terraces with steep gardens stretching up behind. I was always terribly envious of the people who lived there. Each cove is fairly narrow and the beaches are very flat. The water is clear and it’s amazing to swim, and, because it’s on the south coast there are no waves.
You get there along a long, winding Cornish lane; the sort with high hedges and where you have to do a lot of reversing. The banks are covered in pink campion, violets, stitchwort and valerian at this time of year. The anticipation builds as you go, waiting for that first glimpse of the vista, unfolding at the end of the road.
There is a sign that says ‘Temporary Road Surface’ which has been there for at least 35 years. I shall be quite sad when it finally goes! Between the two coves you can scramble over the rocks, and there are rock pools; higher up there is a view over the sea from the stony, shaley track.
At this time of year, the two peaks of our business collide. We are sending out rooted cuttings and also doing the final preparations for RHS Chelsea. People don’t realise, but it’s very pressured and exciting, there are so many variables in getting a plant that flowers in July to perform in May. You worry about whether plants will make it in time and if the judges and public will like the display. When I feel stressed, even thinking about Portholland is incredibly calming.
The beach is such a gentle, quiet place. We went there in January, it was my birthday and we had a picnic. You can sit and think, allow yourself to recharge. There is nowhere else that I would rather be.
Words: Naomi Slade