When we don’t go anywhere else we nearly always have a daily walk downhill to St Keyne’s Well and back….about an hour. On a nice Autumn day pretty idyllic.Plus it is not without its wildlife interest. Here a red admiral butterfly. Interesting this one. A survey of experts earlier in the summer warned of a serious decline. However what they didn’t say was that the count may have been at the wrong time. The weather has not followed exactly normal patterns this year, and what I am finding is that with the mild Autumn there are a tremendous number of red admirals about. I counted 8 on my walk the other day. I really think all ‘experts’ have got to be more humble. The common- sense explanation was always that early cold just delayed normal events.On today’s walk I very nearly trod on this delightful little creature. He was just sitting in the sun by the side of the lane nibbling on something which obviously tasted good to him. A bank vole. I hate mice and rats and all such, but this one seemed to have stepped right out of the pages of Wind in The Willows…….Tuesday 23rd October….
The start of my walk today Tregantle fort is one of several forts surrounding Plymouth that were built as a result of a decision in Lord Palmerston’s premiership to deter the French from attacking naval bases on the Channel coast. It is still used by all 3 services today especially as a rifle range and when red flags fly a lot of the area is inaccessible. Luckily no flags today….We parked on the road by the side of the fort….it’s great that we are outside the tourist season as parking is eased all over Cornwall. We then walked down by the side of some of the ranges (later on we were to hear plenty of small-arms fire). An interesting notice for my collection…You can just see some of the targets in the pic below….here we are looking back towards Looe in the far distance.And it wasn’t long before we started to see the wonderful extent of Whitsand Bay which we have never visited, one of the longest stretches of sand in Cornwall, but difficult of access.F. walked with me for a short while and we could just see ahead my objective – Rame Head. Throughout the walk it was extremely difficult to take pics of the way ahead as the sun was so dazzling (October in Cornwall!).It was in between tides so at absolute low tide one can imagine how magnificent the beach looks.F. turned around after a while and was due to meet me with the car somewhere on Rame Head…final destination open although I was hoping it would be the chapel on the end of the Head. Separate little coves soon started to appear, all accessible down very steep paths and indeed I met several groups of families in swimwear who were heading down to the beaches.At one isolated spot a lookout appeared, and I assume this is one of the National Coastwatch Institution’s as there is one somewhere around here. Having visited two in the last couple of weeks I gave this one a miss.All at once chalets appeared which seemed to cover the whole cliffside. What a lovely unspoilt walk this would be without them. Looks like a shanty town.I assumed this walk would be quite flat. Wrong again, and I was glad F. had insisted I take my walking stick which is a tremendous help.The path appears and disappears as you have to make your way through all the chalets (or huts)…..Quite a few I noticed had Indian names, so I am assuming they were from the thirties or thereabouts…
The thirties was a period before planning regulations, so the huts sprang up in a fashion that was at once anarchic and strictly governed by the landscape. As there were no natural ledges, families would dig out a bit of cliff and put the rubble at the front as a patch of garden. There was talk apparently, fairly recently, by the Council of knocking them all down. however what has happened is that they have just absolved themselves of all responsibilities and state that the whole cliffside is unprotected and they have no plans to manage erosion here. My own personal hope would be that in a thousand years erosion has tumbled them all into the sea. This bus stop has a fine view!There are things blooming in Cornwall at all times of the year. Gorse is well-known to flower here all year round. This hedgerow was brightened up considerably. And I did see some wildlife!Whilst the temptation is always to look seawards on a walk like this I did cross over the road (which you have to use occasionally) to get a great view in the distance of Plymouth.Of course there is danger wherever you go on the Cornish coast but this little monument was very poignant….I did see one restaurant with excellent views called rather unimaginatively ‘The View’. It had an exceptionally good-sounding menu. As an example I remember dabs for the first course and skate wing for the main with pancetta and gremolata. 2 courses for £14.50. Sounds great.I do like benches with a view and this was one of those walks where there were many.Nearing Rame Head the cliffs were still dangerous. I could just see Polhawn Fort another one of the three along here. Polhawn Fort faces out over the beach and was built in the early 1860s to defend the eastern approach to Whitsand Bay. If was armed with a battery of seven 68-pounder guns. A design flaw was that its exposed left side could be attacked from the sea and this was not as heavily fortified as the front which faces onto the beach. Rather than improving it, its role was taken over by the batteries at Tregantle and Raleigh and Polhawn was abandoned by the MOD in 1928. The building survives in good condition as a hotel.It was round about here with the Rame Head chapel just in reach that I received a message from F. saying she couldn’t get to Rame Head because the road was closed. I therefore decided to cut across the peninsula and meet her at Kingsand. My path led to the charming little hamlet of Trehill. It reminded me very much of a Lakeland village.As I dropped down into Kingsand I saw the third of the forts. Cawsand Fort was originally a Palmerston fort, and was remodelled as part of the late nineteenth-century defences that included the batteries at Pier Cellars and Penlee Point. Today it is a complex of luxury apartments. Good to see the variety of uses to which Palmerston’s forts have been put.Perhaps you can just see a couple of bathers near the little beach at Cawsand – it was warm!As I have said before Kingsand and Cawsand together are one of the most delightful spots in Cornwall, and we always discover some new angle….Pity the houses are so expensive……..
A beautiful October day again saw us drive to Trenarren the end-point of my last walk. My destination from here this time was Pentewan which we had never visited. F. drove there after a short stroll with me on the first bit of my walk. I optimistically thought I would see her in an hour. It was more like three. Such are the vagaries of the Coast Path.Very wooded to start off, it was interesting to note some private accesses to the Coast Path (must be nice).The view back was towards St Austell (mining country still) but the whole bay could be seen at times.In places the sea was the beautiful turquoise colour which you find in photos of more exotic places….I soon saw ahead my first objective – the little promontory of Black Head. I found the engraved stone at the neck….This granite memorial engraved with “This was the land of my content”, was erected in the memory of Arthur Leslie Rowse, a Cornish writer and historian. Rowse was born in 1903, the son of an uneducated china clay worker, and was the first Cornishman to win a university scholarship, reading English at Christchurch College, Oxford. Rowse published about 100 books. By the mid-20th century, he was a celebrated author and much-travelled lecturer, especially in the United States. He also published many popular articles in newspapers and magazines in Great Britain and the United States. His brilliance was widely recognised. His knack for the sensational, as well as his academic boldness (which some considered to be irresponsible carelessness), sustained his reputation. His opinions on rival popular historians, such as Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. P. Taylor, were expressed sometimes in very strident terms. All three were well-known to me when I studied History at Oxford in the late Sixties……..And in fact Rowse retired to Trenarren House. I enjoyed learning all this.Great views of the bay and unsurprisingly there is a stone-age fort at the head. I thought I could discern some of the outline of ditches……Walking back along the promontory I discovered what I assume is a First or Second World War gun emplacement….Moving on steeply down, after leaving Black Head, I could see the isolated little hamlet of Hallane with two or three houses or cottages strung down the combe ending up at a rocky cove. Ideal for smugglers. The problem was that each building had carefully marked off grounds with the sort of ‘Strictly Private’ notices some folk love to put up. Failing to discern the correct route for the Coast Path I nearly ended up back at Trenarren, before consulting the OS map on my mobile. You would think that on a coastal path you may not need a map at all. Just keep the sea to your left! But it certainly doesn’t always work out like that.Presumably horses can get tired with the gradients round here too!The correct route took me off into a wood along a pretty little brook on a stretch of land called The Vans (derivation?).Next one of the brutal sections with very steep ascents and descents via steps, of which this shows just a small part. One can only laud the people who keep these footpaths in repair, but when you are using them you despair that they seem designed to be as difficult as possible, being half a step too long or too short between each riser…just the wrong amount especially for someone with bad knees like me.Another individually designed bridge,,,Good views of isolated little coves with no apparent access. Let’s hope the bamboo doesn’t become as much as a problem as in our garden. I do think Cornwall is in real danger of being suffocated by bamboo.What I had estimated and told F. in the beginning was starting to look silly now. What looks a short distance on the map, if full of these ups and downs can take 2 or 3 times as long as you think…..very dispiriting too to see them ahead of you, and to know from experience that what goes up must come down!Looking back at this point I could just about discern the red and white stripes of the distant Gribbin Head marker as well as Black Head itself.And since I have no head at all for heights I must mention that parts of this section of the Coast Path do seem very exposed with steep drops inches away from the path….At last my destination of Pentewan Sands can be glimpsed..But as it gets nearer the whole view and all sense of rural idyll is spoilt by the horrendous mobile home park typical of much else that totally spoils Cornwall. How could any sensible Planning Department give permission for all of this – plus deem the beach private to the Park. It’s an absolute disgrace. Cornwall really could be the place of your dreams or The Land Of My Content. But it isn’t. It’s despoiled and ravaged by caravan parks, mobile homes, wind farms, scruffy towns, no seeming overall plan, and the fact that it is is the end outcome of profit and cost control versus the environment.As I move down the last hill (thank God) into Pentewan itself it is revealed as a quite charming village hunkered over its own bit of inland water and with some well-preserved remains of its previous industrial past. The always excellent Iwalkcornwall site has this to say…..”Pentewan dates back to mediaeval times when it was mainly a fishing village with a harbour. The harbour was rebuilt in the 1820s both for the pilchard fishery and to create a china clay port. At its peak, a third of Cornwall’s china clay was shipped from Pentewan. However the harbour had continual silting problems which meant that it was eventually overtaken by Charlestown and Par. As well as longshore drift carrying sand east across Mevagissey Bay, there was also silt being washed down the river from china clay works and tin streaming. Consequently, the harbour gradually silted up with the last trading ship leaving in 1940 and World War II literally sealing its fate. By the 1960s, the harbour was only accessible to small boats and today the harbour basin is entirely cut off from the sea………… names of many coastal features are derived from words in the Cornish language:
- Pen – Headland (Cornish for “top” or “head”)
- Pol – often used to mean Harbour (literally “Pool”)
- Porth – Port but often used to mean Cove
- Zawn – sea inlet (from the Cornish “sawan” meaning chasm)
Note that Haven has Saxon origins (hæfen in Old English) which is why it tends to occur more in North East Cornwall (Millook, Crackington, Bude etc)……..
In fact the more I see of Pentewan the more charming it becomes. And, meeting Frances, we wander off to the local pub the Ship which is very presentable indeed…….…. and as well as bars and beer garden has a library. Who would have thought it? And a sense of humour of sorts…We sit on benches outside enjoying the afternoon warmth and in front of us is a ‘Gin and Sorbet’ bar which would make London Metropolitans jealous. As it says with humour a bit like my own….’Let The Good Times BeGin’. Well, well.Walking to the car we pass through the heart of the village….….which even has a village green of the sort you might expect in Yorkshire or the Lake District……what a lovely place. How even more angry I am at the blot on earth that is the dominating mobile home park….and the concept of a ‘private’ beach….ugh.
As ex-bookshop owners you would expect us to say that, but of course reading does matter and we are really glad to see our predictions come true and e-readers take a tumble in favour of real books. Our ex-shops Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books are thriving we are glad to say. I have had quite a variety of reading material recently. From my shelves, previously unread, the Folio edition of ‘Sir Harry Hotspur’ by Trollope. Well, Trollope is always a slow-burn, and all the better for that, but this was a long drawn-out tale. It encompassed some of the themes Trollope does so well – class, ne’er-do-wells, Victorian morals, fate, love stories, pride before a fall, and once I got into it (which was a bit difficult) was very enjoyable indeed. It is in fact regarded as one of Trollope’s finest short novels and describes the vacillations of a land-owning father, torn between the desire to marry his daughter off to a cousin destined to inherit the family title, and his fear that the cousin, reportedly a gambler, liar and much else, is unworthy of her. The tale has an unhappy ending – top marks for that
A recent buy at half-price from the very much improved Waterstones was the new hardback Strike novel ‘Lethal White’. Here’s the blurb…’When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott – once his assistant, now a partner in the agency – set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside. And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been – Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that . . .’ The key points about this very long story, more than 600 pages, are that the plot is convoluted (therefore difficult bed-time reading, at least in my eyes), rather far-fetched and at the same time rather boring, but the on-going relationship between Strike and Robin is by far the strongest theme running through it (and a good one). I can imagine Andrew Davies making hay with this! A little disappointing, certainly not a riveting thriller, but worth a half-price hardback purchase!
A book on railways? Surely for anoraks only, but no, this history of the railways covers an amazing array of aspects of social and industrial history and the profound influence that the railways had on them, and tells us a lot about the Victorian period and onwards which I for one, historian though I am, didn’t know. Indeed the book was The Sunday Times History Book of the Year in 2015. Also, the publisher is Profile Books who publish the most interesting books around. And, the author is not any old railway nerd, (although he is a railway nerd ), but the joint editor of the Pevsner architectural guides so he has a wonderful pedigree. So what does Simon Bradley tell us? Or what doesn’t he tell us……I was interested for instance to learn that Anthony Trollope, who worked for the Post Office tells, in his Autobiography, how he found “after a few days exercise I could write as quietly in a railway carriage as I could at my desk. In this way was composed the greater part of Barchester Towers.” In other words, railways changed lives. They changed the landscape. They changed the way Industry and Agriculture operated. They reinforced the class system. They were the basis for much technological change. And their building was one of the greatest physical achievements in our history. But all at a cost. The social reformer Edwin Chadwick for instance compared the chances of death or serious injury among the workforce building the infrastructureÂ with those of one of Wellington’s battles, concluding that a private soldier had a better chance of coming away unscathed from Waterloo or Salamanca than a navvy from Woodhead. This is what is great about Bradley’s book – as well as painting the big picture he supplies all kinds of memorable details that make this a book that anyone, not just enthusiasts for railways, would want to read. I heartily recommend it – to anyone.
Visits of friends, in this case Julia and Allan, always lead to excursions. Our first day out centred on a lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen restaurant in Watergate Bay. As we arrived nice and early we had a drive around Newquay (pretty scruffy). A walk along the sands was then called for to work up an appetite…On our previous two visits to Fifteen we have had excellent food. Unfortunately on this occasion the food was not only expensive but also very disappointing. I think you can see that from the thoughtful expressions! We had a Groupon-subsidised chef’s choice of four courses and we seemed to have spicy beans for everything but the pud! Julia and Allan’s lamb for two at £52 I think was a bit of a rip-off It’s always a let-down to promise a great experience and then see it fall very short.Our next objective (I do like to have objectives) was Bedruthan Rocks – pictured at the top on a good day weather-wise. If it had been calm we would perhaps have descended to the beach. It was far from calm, but therefore there were spectacular seas….I did get down half the steps….but any more would have led to certain accident (or death!) I am sure….We were to spend the next three days based at a cottage near Penzance, but before going there we were booked to have lunch at Senara – a completely different experience from Jamies’………It justifiably is one of the top restaurants in Penzance, and renowned for its incredible food and service. But the interesting thing is that it is a training kitchen for professional cookery students at Truro and Penwith College and is located in the college itself, with great views of St Michael’s Mount. The service was amazing, the food absolutely first-class and the whole experience wonderful. All this for £10 for 3 courses….incredible! Because of its pricing and value the restaurant is also used as a takeaway by staff and students at the college as well as the public. What a fabulous organisation this is….faultless, and with a great vibe. Here is a typical lunch menu……
Cured seatrout, salt baked swede and beets, carrot tops, crème fraiche and caviar.
Smoked chicken Caesar salad, pancetta, baby gem and parmesan.
Pork fillet, pork scrumpet, smoked mash, carrots, cider and thyme jus.
Plaice, mussels, warm tartare sauce, tenderstem and confit potatoes.
Roast heritage squash, tabbouleh, harissa, feta, yogurt and rocket. *****
Sticky toffee pudding, fudge sauce and clotted cream.
Mocha cheesecake, amaretto raisins and vanilla ice cream.
Mr Hanson cheese, Senara chutney and biscuits.
I imagine we will have lots more visits here, and we will be looking forward to every single one of them. Lunch completed, off we went to nearby Mousehole. We parked as usual on the Bay road and the weather for October was very pleasant indeed.Parking here enables you to walk into Mousehole past the old lifeboat station for the Penlee lifeboat which is always thought-provoking. All crew lost and such a small village.Mousehole still retains a lot of its original character and we discovered little roads that we hadn’t been down beforeThe flowers showed that Cornwall was living up to its reputation for its mild climate……The Weslyan Methodist chapel still operates but I doubt it has as many members as the 1780’s when 200 out of a population of less than 1000 were members. Here’s the Evangelical Times…”The character of the whole town was transformed, as blasphemers and immoral people were saved from their wickedness and brought into the joys of salvation. The main work was done over a period of four months.” Reading the guide on its noticeboard, the musicians here were known as ‘The Teetotal Band”…very apt I am sure. the men sat on the hill side of the chapel and the ladies on the sea side.Our cup of tea was in the Old Coastguard Hotel with its great views and lovely atmosphere.There were some unusual views too on our walk back to the car….Wednesday was our day trip to the Scilly Isles. An early start from the cottage… and dawn breaking over the harbour….Our first glimpse of the Scillonian ferry showed it busily loading freight (including cars)and leaving harbour we were promised a pleasant day – which we had………..We knew Julia and Allan would enjoy the views of the Cornish coast before we headed out into the deep ocean….and we could see Mousehole, the Minack Theatre and Lamorna cove as well as Land’s End. During the voyage we saw gannets bombing the sea vertically at great speed, and we were very lucky to see several dolphins skimming in and out of the water….what a privilege………what wonderful creatures.The journey is two hours forty minutes, not long enough to get seasick on relatively placid seas, and we soon had our first sighting of the islands…..We hurried off the boat at Hugh Town as we were intent on catching the little boat to Tresco. However due to unusual tides there was no chance of us getting it there and back in time for the return trip to the mainland, a disappointment we quickly got over when we started to wander around the little capital….And we were soon sitting in the sun admiring the first of many beaches…..We were making for Juliet’s cafe where we knew we would get a reasonable lunch with a view and, on the way, called in a little gallery (there were many) where the local birdlife was as friendly as the locals!We could see Tresco sparkling with its white beaches across the channel but never mind!At Juliet’s it was still sitting-out weather….and more friendly wildlife was encountered.Leaving, we walked a short way down a path which we discovered was the coastal path for St Mary’s. This would be a great thing to do if one was staying overnight, and I made a mental note.Great views wherever you are in the Isles of Scilly and interesting to see the regular shuttle planes flying to and fro from the tiny airport….We just had time to climb the hill out of Hugh Town towards Star Castle which is now an excellent hotel, and enjoy a more panoramic vista………..as well as looking in some of the old buildings……..I was surprised that on our return voyage we went around St Mary’s in the opposite direction to our arrival, and consequently down very narrow channels where we were very close to the shore……Just about dark when we got back to Penzance after a fantastic day out…….On our last full day it was blowing a gale – Storm Callum actually – and torrential rain, so we decided to go to Penlee House Museum and Gallery, a favourite. There was an exhibition on the mainly marine painter of the Newlyn School – Borlase Smart. Here’s the man himself en plain aire painting The Pilots’ Boathouse…..After taking a couple of pics I was told off (no photos). That meant I could concentrate on the paintings!The cafe was full so we took the car to St Just where we knew we could get a good pasty, and drove down the byroad to Cape Cornwall where we enjoyed it – in the warmth and sunshine. We saw a little notice whilst we were eating saying the National Coastwatch Institution lookout was open so we bobbed round the corner of the Cape and climbed up to it. The views were even better than those we had had so far, and our talk with the volunteers was very interesting indeed. Plus, absolutely amazing sightings though their very powerful telescope……..On our way to Land’s End we stopped off at Sennen to look at the quaint little harbour and expanse of sands…….The visitor site at Land’s End itself was a massive improvement on the last time we were there. Then it had been frankly tawdry with amusement arcades, burger bars etc etc but now everything was painted a fresh white and all the buildings were spick and span. Just shows what you can do. Impressive scenery was enjoyed, and although we couldn’t today see the Isles of Scilly 32 miles away, we admired the Longships lighthouse which seemed from some viewpoints touchable but is in fact a mile and a half away.Almost our last stop on a very interesting tour of the Far West was the Minack Theatre. I wondered whether it would be worth visiting without a performance, but I need not have worried – it was magnificent. Our first view before entering the site was of next door Porthcurno Sands really one of the best beaches in the world, but here foreshortened because of high tide.The Minack cafe is pretty spectacular too.What a unique place this is. Obviously you get many Greek and Roman theatres built into hillsides throughout the Med but this was largely and almost unbelievably built by one very strong-minded woman and her gardener…..Rowena Cade. Not by a whole army of soldiers and slaves. After excavating and pouring concrete during the day, and gouging designs with an old screwdriver, she would go down to Porthcurno beach and lug up bags of sand on her back ready for next day’s concrete mixing.It seems a bit glib to say they don’t make people like that any more, but really, do you know of anyone who would undertake a project like this (in all weathers of course) into their eighties? A redoubtable woman indeed….We all enjoyed clambering around the various levels of the site and experiencing the views the audience and actors would have…. I had one more location in mind to give Julia and Allan a full flavour of West Cornwall – the Tinner’s Arms at Zennor. On the way there we couldn’t help but stop at an old engine house too. This particular one was Carn Galver tin mine – looking very benign in the evening sunshine. It’s impossible for us these days to imagine all of Cornwall as one huge industrial site in Victorian times….dirty, noisy, dangerous and pulsating with work.After parking we had a quick look in at Zennor church to see the famous ‘Mermaid of Zennor’ and the ravishingly beautiful barrel roof.You don’t often see the bell ropes hanging freely…..Duty beckoned (Excise Duty!) and we had our well-deserved pint in The Tinner’s……..and I did like the ‘Fish Only’ entrance…..What a good way to end a day – a pint at The Tinner’s. On our way home to St Keyne the following day, if it had been nice, we would have called in at the incomparable St Michael’s Mount. As it was atrocious weather we had a drive round instead one of my favourite parts of Cornwall – the area around Helford. Pity the Shipwright’s wasn’t open. We had lunch at the Black Swan in Gweek….good pub fare.
Now this is one of those books for browsing. Subtitled, ‘A Spotter’s Guide To The British Landscape’, ‘Hidden Histories’ is just that. It answers lots and lots of interesting posers…..’Is that an ancient tomb?’; ‘It’s straight, but is it Roman?; ‘How old is this drystone wall?’; ‘What was kept in there?’. Basically it enjoins you to get out there and get your eye in. But many points of interest are mentioned throughout. For instance I didn’t know but Mary-Ann Ochota assures us, “Britain has more ancient trees than most of the rest of Europe”. Something we can all be delighted in. The Chartered Institute of Archaeologists concludes ‘This is an ideal introductory book for someone who wants to know more about British landscapes.’ And it is indeed, something to prepare you for the ‘deeper’ books of Richard Muir and Oliver Rackham. There are plenty of great photos and illustrations and each section is followed by a selection of the best sites and monuments. It certainly encouraged me. On our way to Plymouth just off the road we see a lump in the ground which looks to me exactly like a barrow. So I halted in the nearest lay-by and marched up the side of the busy dual-carriageway quite a long way to take a photo or two. I have consulted an archaeologist who says it may be a farm rubbish dump. I still favour a barrow.
Dusting my shelves one day I noted for the umpteenth time a set of two books in a slip-case looking very enticing but still in their plastic cover, unopened……‘Gaudi : Complete Works’ Why, when I love Gaudi so much, had they never been opened? I cannot answer that question. It was a sheer joy to revisit some of the Gaudi buildings and works which we know well ourselves from our many visits to Barcelona, and to see some of his work of which we were entirely unaware. Gaudi can be classed as working in the Art Nouveaux style, or in the Spanish or Catalan term as ‘Modernista’ but actually he was of course entirely unique. His work is a sheer joy calculated to bring a smile to anyone’s face. It is Arts and Crafts meets Gothic meets Mediterranean vernacular. Some of the buildings we see in Barcelona are now old friends…..these books make them resident right here…beautifully illustrated too.
‘Sweet Heart’ by Peter James is a book I picked up in Morrisons for £4, something I have never done before…… I usually give a quick glance at the book section and conclude….’trash’. But I thought I was short of something to read and we know Peter from events he did for us at our bookshops and know he is an excellent author. It is not one of his usual and very good detective novels with DS Roy Grace set in the streets of Brighton. Rather it is a ghost story, but one with a difference. It is about someone who regresses under hypnosis, something I happen to believe in. After all if genes can be passed through the generations with all kinds of information why on earth not memory? On Peter’s site the blurb gives… ‘After Charley and her husband Tom move into Elmwood Mill, sinister memories of a previous experience start to haunt her. Despite both their attempts to dismiss everything with rational explanations, the feeling turns to certainty as these memories become increasingly vivid and more terrifying. Persuaded to undergo hypnosis, each session stops in a feeling of doom and terror. There is something hidden that the therapist cannot reach. Something that was safely buried in her past – until now. In searching back she has unwittingly opened a Pandora’s box of evil. It is too late to close the lid. The terror is free.’ The book did remind me very much of a Stephen King. You are drawn in and become part of the story. The only quibble I have is that the main character seems incredibly brave, far more so than I would be, and I did begin to query some of her actions. Other than that, a creepy read which will almost certainly have you on edge.
Now why have I not read ‘The Making of the British Landscape’ before now as it has been in my possession quite a long while and it is my type of book. Or so I thought. In fact I have found it extremely annoying. When one talks of the peoples who lived here thousands of years ago, obviously material remains are few, and assumptions will be made, which you can agree with or not. But not to the extent of telling us their daily lives and how they were feeling. It’s absolute rubbish, and I don’t know why Nicholas Crane expects to get away with it. On and on he drones ‘acquainting’ us with our remote ancestors. It reminds me very much of ‘Time Team’ and the way that at prehistoric sites if they can’t think of anything else, or have no real evidence, they conclude that such and such a site must have been developed ‘for important ritual purposes.’ What nonsense! If there is no evidence, don’t try to draw any conclusions. I persevered with Nicholas Crane for several chapters and, as a historian myself, at great mental and emotional expense, thinking it all might get a bit more realistic, but no. A very, very disappointing book which I had been looking forward to. Shame.
On another glorious September day off we went and parked up by the excellent Carlyon Bay Hotel. What a joy it is to do what we want (well within reason, and as long as it doesn’t cost too much) whenever we want. After using the hotel’s facilities (very nice), we admired the view of the bay from the grounds……. and then set off passing some very nice new flats (starting at half a million), and being dazzled by the reflections on the sea……..We then came across a watch tower which was evidently manned. On closer inspection there was a notice saying ‘Visitors Welcome’ which I was very surprised to see, and so up the steps we went to a very warm welcome.The watchtower – Charlestown Station – is indeed an old coastguard station. Many will know of the concerns when in an economy drive they were nearly all shut. In fact in 1974 there were still 127 stations (permanently manned) and 245 auxiliary stations. Now there are just 10 Coastguard Operations Centers (CGOCs) and one National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC). Local concern all around the country about the loss of local visual watch and local knowledge led to the setting up of volunteer-run watch stations and the establishing of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI). This watchtower is an NCI station. Built in the early twentieth century as an auxiliary Coastguard lookout, it became redundant in the cuts and was abandoned . Rediscovered and resurrected from its derelict state in 2001 it was re-opened after extensive work in 2003.Regarding its purpose, as our hosts noted…….”Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer can’t spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillance.” It operates 365 days a year and provides visual watch over all users of St Austell Bay. The leaflet we got informs us that ‘NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies, offering a variety of skills and experience and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met. Over 246,000 hours of organised coastal surveillance were completed in 2016 alone, all at no cost to the public. Funding is managed by a Board of Trustees.’ The Charlestown Station itself is sponsored by the Carlyon Bay Hotel amongst others, and relies like all the others totally on contributions. We donated £5, a small amount indeed but very gratefully received. The UK has a world-wide reputation for its charity work and volunteer giving. A total amount of £9.7 billion was donated by generous Brits in 2016. However it is salutary to note that whilst the UK is Europe’s most generous country it still lags behind the developing world, especially Africa. Indeed only six of the G20 largest economies in the world feature in this year’s top 20. Interesting. Just after this worthwhile diversion we saw these two seats placed so that you could look forwards or back! They perhaps represent what walking on the SW Coast Path is all about, and I never fail to look where I have been as well as where I am going……Proceeding, we soon had our first glimpse of Charlestown Harbour (where Poldark is filmed of course)…..and we dropped down towards it…..passing some beautiful cottages (a lot let out to rent, of course, as everywhere in Cornwall)….and we then hit the first objective (you’ve always got to have objectives)…the Pier House Hotel and Pub….Thirst slaked, we parted…..F. to return the way we had come and me to push on to be met by her later. There was a steep climb out of the village….. and an old kissing gate…..……before coming to another point of interest on this walk….Next a view along Porthpean beach…….I then came across a derelict tower (perhaps a Second World War watchtower?) to which I gained access…and the views – both ways of course – were worth it….Approaching the beach itself all was peace and solitude……with about three couples enjoying the sunI do love coming across weather-beaten wood of all kinds…they’d pay a fortune for this ‘Porthpean look’ in some expensive houses…and I loved this little antique jug which was tied to a post…perhaps water for dogs left by some kind soul, who knows? If it had been Rose wine…….Porthpean seems a good sort of place with a tiny village on the hill and an energetic boat club…The hedge adjacent to the clubhouse was all wild fuschias…of which I see many on my walks on the Path…..After admiring the scene before me for a while longer…..….I met up with F. but decided to push on a little further…..loving the colours on the sea….I then came across what I call a see-saw stile. …..never seen anything like it…I’m sure it’s not meant to be like this – but it was quite good fun. I don’t know whether I have mentioned before but I am fascinated by all the varieties of stile and kissing gate and fencing and walling and so on there are around the country, some regional types, some NT Head Office inspired, some quirky builds of seemingly quirky minds. I am astonished that there is not a book in the amazing Shire Books series which covers just about everything else you can think of!Ascending the next hill past a few animal friends…..I passed, in a little clearing, the remains possibly of an old Celtic cross…..and looked down on the most beautiful little beach – to which there didn’t seem any access.My SW Coast Path guide refers next to ‘steps’. Well what can I say? I have never ever experienced such a steep descent followed by an almost vertical ascent, both long. Not on the SW Path nor climbing Bowfell or Scafell Pike or anywhere else. This pic gives a little idea…..but only a little.I was very glad to meet up with F. again at the remote little hamlet of Trenarren, and relax watching some gentle farming activity……
We hadn’t been to the cinema for a while, so having read the excellent book by Sarah Waters, set in Warwickshire where we lived for some time, a trip to Vue in Plymouth was looked forward to by us both. We went by bus and with time to spare had time to visit Waterstones in order to but the latest Cormoran Strike novel Lethal White which I am already enjoying. Then we walked the mile or so to the cinema and saw parts of Plymouth which were new to us, especially interesting being Sutton harbour. This is one of the regenerated parts of the waterfront in Plymouth, all of them very good. And there were some excellent flats, some in historic quayside buildings and some totally new. I looked to see what was for sale and was amazed that we could afford (just about) one or two of the 2-bed ones. A marina view almost as good as a sea view?And the harbour is still home to several big trawlers which is encouraging. Anyway the film…….. both F. and I enjoyed it very much. Whilst it does make a lot of the class system in late 40’s Britain, it is at heart a ghost story. Which makes it strange that the Times’ film critic Kevin Maher should comment…..dIt’s a profoundly perverse movie about two people who are essentially going mad (is the ghost real? Is it not?) because the political reality around them is changing so radically.’ I don’t think ghosts take account of the current political situation whether in this film or any other. And as for his crass comment ‘The director has made a movie that’s a Brexit Britain parable about the intoxicating, if futile, allure of national identity.’……what an idiot!! And how typical of a London Metro Remoaner to be unable to see anything away from their loss of the vote on Brexit. How pathetic. The actors involved – Charlotte Rampling obviously well-known, the others not so much – were brilliant. The setting was magnificent – a run-down country house (filmed in Ireland?). And the plot was tautly dealed with by the Director. I think there were perhaps nine other people watching apart from us. The cinema is so obviously so much superior to watching Netflix at home on a screen no matter what size it is. What then have cinemas to do? Just keep plugging away (like High-Street retailers) until the realisation dawns, as it will, that cinema and physical shopping are much better. Start living, get out more!
Dartmouth was our destination for lunch on Sunday at the first floor of the Dartmouth Yacht Club…good food, very reasonable and great service, much enjoyed all round. The first floor restaurant is actually run by Bushell’s Restaurant next door which we learned was due to re-open after flooding. It has a very good reputation – 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor. We’d give it 5 stars (well we will – I must write a review….).Next stop was Woodlands Family Theme Park a second visit for Katherine and Aiisha and a first for us. Excellent fun for children and adults……Another great day.
Non-stop good times as the very next day we had even more adventures…first stop today was The House of Marbles where not only did we enjoy the marble machines and the outside chess….. but we were fascinated by the experience of seeing two glass-blowers in action at the next door Teign Valley Glass a treat we hadn’t bargained for…Even Aiisha was entranced by the way in which molten glass was quickly transformed into a cat or an elephant under the expert hands of the blowers…and although I don’t usually like glass products, I did enjoy looking round the shop and found some things amazing…I particularly fell in love with the idea of 4 glass lampshades strung over a kitchen table…too dear for now, but….But this was also a mini Industrial site, and had a lovely feel all round…We proceeded then through some beautiful countryside (I had forgotten how pretty Dartmoor is) to The Cleave Restaurant and Bar at the charming little village of Lustleigh an above-average pub lunch at a characterful location… We still had time for the nearby Miniature Pony Centre which we all enjoyed, particularly the pony ride…..suitably kitted out of course…..and the ability to get up good and close to some of the residents…. not all of whom were miniature!
Our daughter and granddaughter were here for a long weekend, all the way from Scotland. We met them at our local station which, as I have said before, has trains running to almost everywhere in the country – amazing for such a remote spot. Aiisha was quick to show us the fruits of her labours on the last part of their journey.After a nice cup of tea (you very rarely say a nice cup of coffee), it was a quick game of football in the garden and hide and seek in the acer.….before a drive to Black Rock, which turned into a drive to somewhere else entirely -Seaton due to the satnav! Katherine had been left behind for a recovery sleep, so we had a lovely time building sandcastles, paddling and having ice cream….well what else are you supposed to do at the seaside?After a lazy lunch off we went on the bus to Looe where the sun came out and a good time was had by all, especially on the slot machines in the Amusement Arcade where we won a Unicorn.Next day we took the train to Hayle on the North Coast where we visited Paradise Park a wildlife sanctuary and Play Park and very, very good in both aspects. The adults really enjoyed the amazing animal life, especially the hundreds of different birds all in excellent aviaries with plenty of space…and you can get very close to some of your favourites including flamingoes…and the very first Chough we had ever seen (we have looked out for them on the Lizard but to no avail)……We really enjoyed the flying display with an extremely knowledgeable and personable guide….and the opportunity to get up really close was terrific…Having said all that, it has to be said that the younger element did prefer the other side to Paradise Park! And why not?there was time for a late lunch, but first we had to get to St Ives on the lovely little railway round the bay….where the views from the train window were as breathtaking as usual….what beaches, what skies.For a change and to avoid walking all through town we decided to lunch at the Porthminster Kitchen Good choice..and straight out onto the beach afterwards…