So, there we were, off for a spot of the age-old, fun family activity of strawberry picking. On a summer’s day with intermittent monsoons, Trevaskis Farm seemed like a sensible destination: strawberries grow under polytunnels, there are Lop pigs, Dartmoor sheep and curly-haired cows for the toddlers to gawp at (between downpours), and a Farmhouse Kitchen serving cream teas and legendary cakes for afters. Which amounts to something for everyone. And we get Eton mess for tea.
Trevaskis Farm has long been an institution in our family. Mostly for its cake. Living just five minutes’ away, I once went through a spell of buying my weekly groceries at the excellent farm shop, proud of my eco-credentials as I lived off of freshly picked, locally reared, seasonal ingredients. But living so ethically – and gorging myself on cake from the café on every visit – was digging a less healthy hole in my bank account, so I went back to shopping at Lidl, saving Trevaskis for special occasions and the odd Sunday roast or cake-stop.
Every year since motherhood I’ve seen the fruit picking season at Trevaskis Farm come and go, reminded by placards on the main roundabout close to home. So, with a toddler and three year-old in tow, this year seemed the perfect time to spend a day doing something I remember enjoying during my eighties’ childhood. I didn’t expect my 18 month-old to grasp the concept of not eating all the strawberries off the vines, but when he started munching through the punnets of soft fruit for sale in the farm shop – before we’d even reached the PYO tunnels – I realised his fruit munching skills were going to be a force to contend with.
Indeed, once we were in berry territory he simply walked around with arms outstretched, mechanically picking fruit (ripe or not) and stuffing it into his paunchy little cheeks. Any attempt to make him put a berry in the punnet resulted in him throwing himself face down in the soil and screaming at the top of his lungs, shaking yet more strawberries from the vines with the ferocity of his tantrums. (And the result of his gorging was so severe that, the following day, I ended up throwing a whole set of poo-drenched clothes away – something I have never resorted to in three years of motherhood.)
As if contending with one berry-munching monster wasn’t enough, my three year-old, though happy filling his punnet and intelligent enough to select red fruit, was having his own issues in the toilet department (that were nothing to do with strawberry consumption). “Mummy, I need to poo!” he hollered from deep down in the polytunnel, during one particularly heavy downpour. In the middle of a 60-acre farm, no loos within dashing distance, this wasn’t very convenient. To say the least. Fortunately the rain eased by the time we were crouched outside the polytunnel, a safe enough distance from the PYO punnets, no other punters in site and a pile of hay to hand to cover the giant pile of poo. The incident might have gone unnoticed if he hadn’t tried to run off, a pair of poo-smeared pants round his ankles, shouting ‘Noooo’ at the top of his voice as he tried to save his precious, just-picked strawberries from his little brother who had, alas, eaten every berry so far picked.
Clean clothes on, bags of smelly clothes tucked away, I’m sure we looked like an ordinary family going about the business of strawberry picking. But the experience simply wasn’t the stress-free family day out I’d imagined. With more tummy-aching meltdowns ensuing we even had to miss out on tea and cake in the café – although we did get a glimpse of the animals and at least I enjoyed my Eton mess for dinner.
Trevaskis Farm, Gwinear, Hayle, TR27 5JQ