The Mousehole

Cornwall, England | C.1283

Photo Credit: Amber Adey

With local shops titled “Cat and Mouse,” “The Mousehole,” and “Hole Foods,” residents appear to take a playful approach of living in this village–and maybe appreciate a cheesy pun or two. Though now a peaceful town on the Cornish coast, Mousehole, pronounced “mowsel,” was once in serious trouble.

According to local legend, winter storms were so intense that a famine took hold over Mousehole in the 16th Century. Despite dangerous winter waves, a fisherman by the name of Tom Bawcock endeavored to save the village by taking his boat out to sea where he could reap a harvest from the ocean if not the land. It is said that Tom ended up catching enough fish to feed everyone, saving the population from impending doom.

This remarkably selfless effort is celebrated to this day on Tom Bawcock’s Eve, a few days before Christmas. Memorializing Bawcock’s accomplishment, locals celebrate the day by baking “stargazy pie”, a dish made of sardines, eggs, potatoes, and a pastry crust to represent the culinary bounty that Tom brought back to the village. Heads of the sardines poking out from the crust creates a unique starry shape though the visual might make for an uneasy stomach to the uninformed.

The pies are but an element of the “stargazy” celebrations. In the winter nights Mousehole has a spectacular shimmer, as the village hosts the Harbour Lights festival, where the quay and boats within the harbor are enhanced, imbued with colorful hues and shapes. If you look close enough, you might just spot a light in the shape of Mousehole’s famous pie.

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