My Cornish Identity – Onen Hag Oll

A Little Note On Cornwall

For those who may be unsure, Cornwall lies at the very bottom of England. It’s the bit that’s jutting out to sea. Cornwall, or Kernow as it’s also known, stands for ‘headland’ or ‘end’.

We have our own Cornish language, which died out before the year 1000. The British History podcast (well worth a listen) suggests this happened in the 9th century. In more recent years though, the Cornish language has had a revival. It’s now taught in some schools, and there are 500 people who consider it their first language. 

Cornwall was finally given protected status by the British government in 2014, after 15 years of campaigning. This means Cornish people are recognised as a national minority, much like the Scottish and Welsh. Basically, when asked our ethnicity, we get to tick a box to say we’re Cornish. And I love that we can do that now.

Woman side profile staring out to sea.

How Cornish Am I?

Yes, I’m Cornish, and 100% identify as a Cornish person. 

My dad was born up country though, in Wilmslow. He’s not Cornish and I don’t know if he considered himself to be, or not. He went to school in Cornwall after spending some of his childhood in Cyprus.

My mum is totally Cornish and has lived in Cornwall all her life. My maternal grandparents are both from the same small Cornish fishing village on The Roseland Peninsula. Dare I say, they even had the same surname. 

I was born in one of Cornwall’s hospitals. While I went away to go to University, and for what felt like endless training to be a clinical psychologist, I eventually returned to my roots and now live in Cornwall.

It’s where I’ll be staying too. 

Cornwall Coastline from a beach
Women on the beach turning to look at camera

What Being Cornish Means To Me

I can only speak about being Cornish from my perspective.

It’s certainly something I’m proud of and I know I’m not the only one. We’ve always taken great joy telling others that we’re Cornish, and that our families are imbued in Cornwall’s history. 

My Cornish heritage, I’m sure, explains my affinity with the sea and the Cornish outdoors. I feel totally at home when I’m near the sea, on the sea, or swimming in it. I suspect, this probably stems from the long line of fishermen in my family. That said, there’s also a nautical connection on my father’s side. My dad used to sail and had a catamaran, and my granddad too, who designed the logo for Pentewan Sands Sailing Club. It’s still used today.

I take great pleasure exploring Cornwall’s coast path too. Even though walking and playing on the south west coast path is all part of the Cornish life when younger, it’s mainly through running that I’ve come to appreciate Cornwall’s coastline and natural beauty.

When running or walking locally, I think of my ancestors who would’ve walked the same path, in a time before cars, when the coast path was probably the most convenient route. I wonder how many of their hands have touched the old fences, or how often their feet landed on the boulders and steps, all constructed long before my existence.

I think of the long forgotten paths that once led to isolated coves, where old family members once sat, talked and played. These are no longer frequented; partly due to how remote they are but also because family homes have now become holiday homes. Once well trodden paths are no more because many present and recent Cornish residents were never aware of their existence.

The local Cornish community has inevitably changed, alongside familiar, locally known paths and routes, that have disappeared over time.

Woman standing on rocks, looking out to sea in Cornwall

Sharing Cornwall With You 

Whether you’re a local who’s looking for a bit of Cornish inspiration, a runner who wants a scenic route, or are on holiday, looking to plan your stay, I want you to explore Cornwall and love it as much as I do. 

But here lies a dilemma.

How much do I share?

Do I tell you where the small, almost untouched coves and beaches are? Maybe it’s better that I give you some help so you know how to find them, wherever you are. Then you can have your own true Cornwall adventure, and experience the joy of discovering these places for yourself.

The thing is, I’d like you to find them but I also want them to remain quiet and unspoilt. I hope we all respect the parts of Cornwall we visit, whether it’s a Cornish village or place of interest or a quiet stretch of coast path with breathtaking views, such as this running or walking route along St Anthony Head and Towan Beach.

I see it as a bit of a balance; a responsibility, I suppose.

There are some true hidden gems that I’d like to keep to myself. I think it’s right and fitting to share the experience and story with you, but I may not always share the location. This may sound selfish, but I promise that’s not the reason.

It’s about preservation.

I want to venture on those long neglected paths to isolated coves and beaches. I want to rediscover corners of Cornwall that have become a memory for some, including me. And I guess that’s personal, and something I’d like to keep for myself. 

Cornwall is wild in places, and I don’t mean in a party sense (but there’s always Newquay for that). This is, of course, alongside the more traditional and contemporary Cornish villages and towns, like Port Issac, which I really love exploring and sharing with you.  Likewise, with running events, ridiculously pretty, hilly, or maybe flat running routes, and Cornwall based businesses and brands.

What can I say? I like to run and buy local, and if there’s something I enjoy, rest assured I’ll be telling you about it. It’s all part of living in Cornwall and embracing what we have.

There’s so many corners to Cornwall, truly something for everyone. And that’s what I want to share with you. 

I think D.H. Lawrence sums it up perfectly:

“Cornwall is very primeval: great black jutting cliffs and rocks, like the original darkness, and a pale sea breaking in, like dawn. It is like the beginning of the world, wonderful.”


Author: plbedford

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  • This is a nice read.
    I miss home very much, I look forward to the day I can come back and stay. Save a little cove for me!

  • Loved reading your post. I was born in Launceston and my parents moved to Torquay when I was one and a half, where my brother was born. I’ve always considered myself Cornish and proud of my roots and love coming back to explore. Onen Hag Oll

  • I am delighted to find your website and blog posts. I live in Texas in the US. But I am longing to come ‘home’ to Cornwall. My name is Cornwall. I love everything about Cornwall. My relatives say my ancestors are from Ireland. That is confusing. I need to do more research.