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My West Country: Emily Kavanaugh

My West Country: Emily Kavanaugh


Country Calling talks to Emily Kavanaugh from natural skincare range Pure Nuff Stuff

Could you tell us a bit about Pure Nuff Stuff and how it came into being?

Pure Nuff Stuff is a range of handmade, ethically sourced, natural skincare products. It grew from 8 products at the start to something like 150 now, all still made daily by hand here in the Egyptian House. It started because I couldn't find an affordable range of skincare 10 years ago that didn't contain all the ingredients I objected to, some ranges existed, but I didn't feel they were for me; however much I value my skin, I just can't justify spending £50 on a hand cream, I have too much of my Mother in me I guess! So I researched furiously, tried out a few recipes on friends and within ten years it's gone from a one woman show to an enterprise that employs five people and ships all over the world.

What are your personal favourite products from the collection?

Oh dear, this changes with the seasons I'm afraid. In Winter I take home numerous bottles of Avocado Oil, it's so rich and for my dry skin, it's just the perfect antidote to that awful tightness the going from cold to hot environments gives you. Coming up to Spring, I switch my allegiance to the Gradual Tanning Lotion, it starts to build up a little gentle colour so I can hold my own with the all the people here who get to spend more time outside than I do! In Summer, I'm all about the Body Bliss, Geranium & Lemon work so well together they're just so cheery. Autumn is when we can take a bit of a break, so the Aftersun Lotion is my hero product then, I can take it on holiday and use it as moisturiser, makeup remover, hair conditioner, shaving product and of course, as an after sun lotion.

Can you tell us about The Egyptian House, a famous building in Penzance where your shop is based?

When I first came to Penzance on holiday, I stayed just around the corner from here and while wandering around before dinner one night, stumbled across this amazing building. I still remember how far my jaw dropped, it's a wonderful explosion of Georgian ambition, artifice and geometrical mastery. It gives the illusion of being tapered while remaining true to a square shape and well, it's singularly eye-catching or utterly barking depending on your tastes. The facade was installed in 1836 by John Lavin, a mineralogist who eventually ended up in South Africa (a fact we found out from a very excitable South African chap who turned up here a few years ago, imagine researching your family history and finding this - of course he got on a plane to come see it for himself!). According to him, Lavin hoped to get the King to fund his trip to SA by rather cheekily installing the Royal Coat of Arms on the facade, a tactic that didn't work but you have to admire his chutzpah. Now it's home to us and the Landmark Trust rents out the top three floors as holiday lets.

Where in Cornwall do you live and what do you most love about it?

We live here in Penzance now and I think we'll be here for a while. We moved into an old Plymouth Bretheren Meeting House and we're slowly turning it from one big room to a livable house with the odd door for privacy. I still pinch myself on my morning commute to work, it's either a five minute stroll through Penlee Park or, if I take the long route, a ten minute walk along the Promenade. Before I moved here I lived in Harrogate and worked in Sheffield, so spent at least three hours and day on the M1, I still can't believe how lucky I am not to have to do that any more.

We think Penzance is a very special place, artistic, mystical and down to earth all at the same time. What does Penzance mean to you?

Penzance to me means freedom, the freedom to work for myself and still have time to have some sort of a life. It's such a small town that you can get anywhere within a 20 minute walk, assuming at least ten minute of that will be spent chatting to someone you meet on the way, it's a very friendly town! I couldn't have afforded to open a shop in Harrogate to begin with, the rents were just too high, so Penzance really gave us the chance to make this dream come true.

Where in Cornwall would you eat your last meal?

Oh, no contest on this one, Ben's Cornish Kitchen in Marazion does exceptional food in typically laid back Cornish style and has a stunning wine list. It's the place where we do any celebrating - including the staff Christmas dinner (and it overlooks the Mount, never a dull view!).

Where's your favourite view? Pub? Beach?

The view from Pendeen Lighthouse is breathtaking at any time of year. In the Winter you can feel the 40 foot waves hitting the granite under your feet and in Summer the tide calms down and reveals the most beautiful cove underneath. As for pubs, the Tinner's Arms at Zennor has roaring fires and great food, we often find ourselves there on the way back from Pendeen.

Could you share a hidden gem with us, a secret place you love to visit?

Oh dear, this is tough, but I really think the best beach in the area is Porthcurno, it's easier to get to than most and the sand is very special, more ground shell than stone so it's soft and silky and beautifully pale. The water gets deep quite quickly on this beach too, which means you're often sharing it with something more interesting than surfers, dolphins play here regularly - in fact the first time we bunked off work early and took the kids to the beach for a cheeky after school barbie, we soon saw them surrounded by a small pod of curious dolphins, a truly magical moment. We took it as a sign that we have to do that sort of thing more often, obviously!

How would you spend a perfect Cornish weekend?

Another tough question, but the Lizard Peninsula just never gets boring. Quiet roads lead to quiet coves and it's never all that busy, even in the height of Summer. Kynance Cove is one of the prettiest you'll ever see, there's a fabulous cafe at Lizard Point that looks like a shed but puts out sophisticated food that makes a mockery of the ramshackle appearance of the place (the Salad Nicoise comes with a slab of fresh grilled tuna on top for example). We often go camping out that way on the weekend in Summer, Henry's Place campsite in Lizard village is charming, quirky and clean as a whistle (and serves a knockout cider from the shop till very late if you're feeling brave!).

What is in your West Country heart?

The people, the kind, open, friendly Cornish people that ask you how you are and really want to know. As an incomer, I've been welcomed like family and I will always be so grateful for that.

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