To live in a beach town in Cornwall is very satisfying. To live in Bude is to be blessed. Often my neighbours and I are saying to each other: “ Aren’t we lucky that we live here.” Especially on these days in high Summer when there’s a traffic jam slowly moving into the parking.
Since I live on my own, more time to spare, people come to visit. And I show them around, like we Budeans do with our guests. The beaches, the cliffs, the canal. The town and its shops. Apart from that, some outings around Bude. Like Padstow, Crackington Haven, Boscastle, Morwenstow. And Winkleigh.
Now Winkleigh is a bit of a different story. To be found in Devon, in the middle of nowhere. Famous because of the Cactus Shop. So what? I can hear you think.
Quite interesting is that the proprietor of the Cactus Shop, Ralph Northcott, has been growing cacti and succulents since he was nine. He obtained a degree in horticultural science at Reading University. Ralph started his business in 1979 from greenhouses at his home in Exeter, then expanded to a site elsewhere. Now he has returned to Devon. Ralph prides himself on propagating plants in his 80ft x 60ft purpose-built greenhouse and he supplies more than 600 plant varieties.
Important to know is that in my back garden, there’s a greenhouse. Filled with cacti and succulents and Euphorbias. Among laypersons, Euphorbia species are confused with cacti. Euphorbias secrete a sticky, milky-white fluid with latex, but cacti do not. Individual flowers of Euphorbias are tiny and nondescript, unlike cacti, which often have fantastically showy flowers. Euphorbias range from tiny annual plants to large and long-lived trees. The genus has over or about 2,000 species.
Therefore, the look of such a shop gets me highly excited. So I hurried in and skimmed the isles. And then I saw this beautiful big pot, with an Euphorbia Horrida… Ralph walked by, doing something. “That’s a beauty”, I said to him. Yes, it is. “How much?”, I asked, although I almost knew for certain it would be far too expensive for me. Ralph mumbled a figure. “What? ! That cheap?!” “Well, yes, first the price was higher, but no one wants it!” Ralph burst out. I didn’t need to think twice: “I’ll take it”. Ralph continued “It belonged to a friend of mine. He died last year”. And he started to sob. “Excuse me, I’m getting emotional now”. He was rubbing his eyes. I said, “Listen, if you don’t want to sell it, I won’t take it”, but he assured me “No, it’s fine. I’m happy that it goes to a good home!”
The pot was too heavy for me. He carried it to the car. “Promise me, you will never close the shop”, I said passionately. “I cannot promise that, Ralph sighed. “It’s growing out of my hands.” Oh dear.
If only Winkleigh was more close to Bude. More easy to get there. Then I would give him a hand.