17th February 2017…using our Senior Railcards to Truro and Falmouth



Decided to see what use we could make of our Senior Railcards, and we used them to visit Truro and Falmouth today. Total cost for 2 people from our local station £13, so very good value. Pleasant journey, although as this was a local 2 carriage train I had to stand up to St Austell. At Truro we had just a 10 minute wait for our train to Falmouth town on the so-called maritime line. There was a view of the estuary at Penryn and the sea, but overall not a very ‘maritime’ trip. The next and last stop is Falmouth Docks, so we will try going there next time and see what the views are like. In Falmouth we first went to the studio of Nick Gibbard whose art we had seen in his windows before, and liked. He and his partner opened up the studio for us and we had a very interesting chat and looked at his work. The size of picture we want for above our fireplace is, it seems, just too dear….we shall see.nWe then wandered through the town, with its great selection of Independent shops, and went to the fish and chip shop which had just won the 2017 ‘Best UK Fish and Chip Shop’ award (one of the reasons for our coming) – Harbour Lights. With a great view of the harbour and dockyards, and super eating it was a good choice.

20170216_124511.jpgAfterwards we sat on the quay for 10 minutes in the sun and admired the busy scene on the water, although we were quite puzzled by 2 boats which were going round and round in ever tightening circles…testing maybe, or rank beginners? We got the train back to Truro, and were relieved to find we could break our journey without penalty, and made our way down the hill into Cornwall’s only city. Our main purpose here was to exchange a faulty book in Waterstones’ which we duly did and of course bought three more! It’s still nice to be on the other side of the counter.

14th February 2017…Valentine’s Day at the cinema

1200.jpgValentine’s Day. Because I had not had the opportunity of being on my own to buy a card (yet received one myself), I thought we better go out somewhere! We went to an afternoon showing of ‘Jackie’ at the Vue cinema in Plymouth about 40 minutes away. Terrific multiplex with, I think, 15 screens, so plenty of choice. ‘Jackie’ took us back to a time when optimism was in the air which was to be shattered by Kennedy’s assassination. The film was all about the one week after the event as seen from Jackie Kennedy’s point of view. A very brave and polished lady who loved her husband but couldn’t forgive his affairs, these mixed feelings were to point her in all kinds of directions after the death. Yet the overall feeling that remains with you (if you remember the times as we do), apart from sympathy for Jackie of course, is one of opportunity lost – of a Camelot that proved to be a chimera. I have a small bust of Kennedy in front of me as I write (picked up in the Kennedy Centre when we were there), and he is with Churchill, and Nelson one of my truly great heroes. Flawed all of them but great, great men. Meal afterwards in the adjoining Pizza Express (you always get a reasonable standard there, but that’s about it).

9th February 2017….home-made bread


For a present our children paid for a bread-making course for us at The Old Bakery Cawsand. It was run by the owner Chris Gunn who together with his wife Liz have made a very successful business at the premises selling sour dough bread, running a cafe and a B+B. We spent a whole day learning how to make sour dough bread, and rye bread, and baguettes, and pizzas and very enjoyable it was too. We came home laden with the fruits of our hard day’s work (and it was non-stop apart from lunch), but the next day with the aid of the starters provided by Chris we launched our home bread-making and the first results seen above were creditable and certainly tasted wonderful. Now that’s what I call a good present!

7th February 2017….up and down in Looe

20170207_104706.jpgWe’ve discovered a little twist to our walk around Looe which involves ascending the  (very steep) hill in West Looe and getting the full scenic reward. Apart from anything else it is fascinating being able to see the variety of housing styles and see how people have approached making the best of steep sites. In the old days it was said that the divorced wives of sea captains lived in West Looe and their ex’s in East Looe…whatever, each side of the river has a distinct character.

5th February 2017…from Mozart to PSmith

mozart-the-man-revealed-suchet-1472481907-list-handheld-0.pngFinished John Suchet’s ‘Mozart’. For one who knows nothing about music, but who loves biography, this was a really rewarding read. What a man, what a prodigy, and yet, as John shows, full of flaws and incomparably human. A driven soul, exploited by his family, and who dies tragically young, Mozart could dash off music at the drop of a hat. And we learn how and where all his great music was written, and the circumstances which were often fraught. Written in a very chatty style which was only occasionally annoying, I loved this book and am so glad I have found out so much more about Mozart which now enables even 51p5y6pIevL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI to appreciate his music more. This weekend I also finished my very first P G Wodehouse – ‘Leave It To Psmith’. An instance where my son is ahead of me. Highly enjoyable for many reasons..the period charm, the characterisation, and the muted humour, I shall definitely want to read more Wodehouse.

28th January 2017….a rethink on Elizabeth

Elizabeth_I_Armada_Portrait_British_School.jpgFinished ‘Elizabeth : the Forgotten Years’ by John Guy, a serious read, and one of my Christmas presents. Guy mined forgotten archives, and made new discoveries, and undoubtedly this is a heavily researched work, and yes it does make us re-appraise Elizabeth (who I studied at school and Oxford). She comes across as a tremendously insecure ruler, often manipulated by her advisers, particularly Burleigh, and often in thrall to a succession of handsome courtiers some of whom twist her round their little finger. The important thing was that these very personal courtly relationships actually drove the politics of England very often, both domestic and foreign. She also comes across as a very unsympathetic monarch, happy to send people to war but not to repatriate or pay them, nor indeed look after them once returned…..quite the opposite in fact…she decreed that those soldiers who managed to drag themselves back from fighting her wars and who were roaming the streets, penniless, often badly wounded, be classed as vagabonds and imprisoned or even worse. She wrote personally to the hangman on one occasion demanding that he make sure that the victim be still alive when taken down for drawing Unknown-4.jpegand quartering. Guy emphasises too that she disliked and feared puritans just as much as Catholics and persecuted both groups severely. A very interesting and thought-provoking read indeed. I also re-read ‘1974’ over the past few weeks. A brilliant portrayal by David Peace of Yorkshire crime and corruption at the time, hard-hitting, breathless, visceral. He is an incredible writer, and to think we had the chance to get him across from Japan, where he lives, to Warwick to give a talk for our bookshop….but nobody was interested! Words fail me.

27th January 2017…minibus to Polruan

fowey-polruan-view.jpgToday we went in search of a bus service frankly I didn’t believe existed. I was wrong. We took the car to Hannafore, great place to park for Looe, then waited for the 381 which turned out to be a minibus holding 16 people (or, strangely I thought, 4 wheelchairs plus the driver ). The bus service was free for us with our passes and again this was a surprise. The driver took us up the steep residential hill in West Looe, full of fishermen’s cottages and impassable to a normal bus, then via Polperro to Lansallo, and down very rural narrow 20170127_104337.jpglanes with lots of grass growing in the middle, to end up in Polruan. Here we took the ferry across to Fowey, £2 each, each way, so we were glad the bus was free! As the day was cold we went straight for a warming coffee in the new restaurant on the front Havener’s…fantastic location, very nicely done up, excellent welcome, prices a little high. We then did our usual amble up Fore Street, seeing some good paintings for over our fireplace but too expensive, and buying a lovely rosemary and walnut loaf from Quay Bakery. It was already time to go to the ferry back across to Polruan as we only had just over two hours at our location (the following and last bus was another 4 hours away). Whilst waiting we had a quick drink in the Lugger Inn on the quay, nice pint from their own micro-brewery in Looe, and log fire. We made a mental note of the start of the famous Hall walk which we will do soon. More great scenery on the way back and we noted the NT car park which would be our access for Lantic Bay in the future. Picnic on the beach and then short mile and a half walk to Polruan? Today we were home by 2pm and considered it a lovely little trip out.

‘Cornwall Guide’ says….

Polruan is an ancient fishing village just across the water from the better-known Fowey. Built on a very steep hill, Polruan is bounded on three sides by water; Pont Creek to the north, the River Fowey to the west and the English Channel to the south. At the top of Polruan Hill stands St Saviour’s Ruin, which pre-dates all of the churches in the area and is built on a site first occupied by St Ruan, after whom Polruan is named. St Saviour’s ruin, which was equipped with bells, would have been both a landmark for ships and a good lookout point over the strategically important Fowey harbour. The ruin dates from the eighth century, although it was enlarged by Sir Richard Edgcumbe in 1488.

At the bottom of the hill, and sheltered by it, is Polruan Pool, which has long been a haven for small boats. Two blockhouses were built in Polruan and Fowey in the fourteenth century to protect the harbour from attack by pirates or the French. A chain was pulled tight across the river between the blockhouses to stop vessels entering in times of crisis. Although the one on the Fowey side is collapsing beyond repair, the one on the the Polruan side has been lovingly restored.

Below the cliffs to the south west of St Saviour’s Point, on the eastern tip of the Fowey river, stands Punche’s Cross. There are numerous theories as to the origins of the cross, which is marked on very early charts. One story holds that it is named after Pontius Pilate. Another says that the cross was put there to mark a visit to Polruan by Jesus and his uncle, Joseph of Arimethea, who apparently came to inspect the tin mines! Today the cross is in the care of the harbour commissioners.

Unknown-7.jpegJust outside the village lies a house called Ferryside, which was bought by the DuMaurier family in 1927 and whose back wall consists entirely of the cliff face. Daphne DuMaurier wrote her first novel here in 1928 and her son and his family still live there. Polruan is connected to Fowey by the Polruan Ferry, which crosses the harbour every fifteen minutes throughout the year.

Aside from fishing, Polruan has a long history of boatbuilding and there is still an active boatyard today.

23rd January 2017….coastal path from Millendreath to Seaton


A walk today of around three and a half miles for F. from Millendreath, seen above, to Seaton, and seven miles for me (somebody had to go back and get the car!). Plenty of gorse in flower but according to the excellent iwalkcornwall site…..Gorse, also known as furze, is 20170123_131214.jpgpresent as two species (Common Gorse and Western Gorse) along the Atlantic coast. Between the species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: “when gorse is out of blossom, kissing’s out of fashion” (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and “when the furze is in bloom, my love’s in tune” (which dates from the mid-18th century). Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.’ and here is the old recipe for furze wine….’Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in Spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant’.

What a glorious day for January…let’s hope for many more!


20th January 2017…the delights of Lansallos


We started our walk today in the NT car park just by Lansallos church. Here is the entry in the Cornwall Historic Churches Trust site….’Dedicated to St Ildierna on 16th October 1321, the present church may have replaced a Norman one built on the site of a Celtic “lan”, perhaps the hermitage of St Salwys after whom the village of Lansallos (Lan Salwys) is named. A Celtic Cross, dug up in a field near the church, is in the churchyard about 25 metres west of the tower. William of Worcester recorded that, when passing through Fowey in 1478, he heard that “Saint Hyldren, a bishop, lies buried in the parish of Lansalux”. This may be the origin of the dedication, though another school of thought believed St Ildierna to be a virgin.

The exceptionally fine wagon roofs have all been dendro- or tree ring dated. This new dating suggests that the church was extended from the very late 15th and early 16th century with a south aisle and porch, and then a two phase north chapel which was still being built in the 1540s as the Reformation unfolded. The nave and chancel were probably reroofed in the 1530s-40s due to the introduction of a rood screen and loft. Some Norman worked stones were reused when the south aisle was constructed. Equally remarkable are the oak pews, probably dating from no earlier than the 1520s and continuing through to the 1560s; one of the best surviving sets of carved Renaissance designs. The font, dating from about 1100, is from the previous Norman church. One half of a Celtic font found in a field nearby, and which may have been used by St Salwys over eleven hundred years ago, is now displayed at the east end of the south aisle.

Similarly displayed are relics dug up from the nave during restoration work in 1883 and 1908, which include the mutilated stone effigies of a knight in armour and his lady, possibly members of the Hywys family who were lords of the manor in the 14th century and earlier. A slate coffin slab, now mounted on the south wall, depicts in full Elizabethan costume a Margery Smith, who died in 1579. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, signed by the maker Peter Crocker. Set in the floor by the main door is a wedge-shaped foliated cross grave slab, probably used to cover the grave of an important person now unknown. Also on display is a cracked bell, the only one left of three medieval bells that once hung in the church and which were broken by drunken villagers at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The church now possesses a fine peal of eight bells installed by the Revd N Rivers-Tippett, rector in 1937.

After a lightning strike in 1923, a fallen tower pinnacle was used as a base for a new pulpit. A serious arson attack on 23rd February 2005 caused great damage, destroying the organ and burning out all the Lady Chapel roof and much of the chancel roof. Fortunately, all the medieval pews survived unscathed and the church has since been fully restored. After the fire restoration, oak and glass screens were installed in 2011 across the three arches of the Lady Chapel. Don’t miss the splendid green man carving on one capital of the tower arch’.


We were walking to Lansallos cove which I had read was particularly attractive. The walk was a delight down a shaded path with, at intervals, wooden features for children to play on, a very nice touch. When you reach the beach it is a world of its own and not much visited compared to many. More sand when the tide is fully out when you can walk round the rocks to another sandy cove. The atmosphere was terrific, and it would have been good to have brought a picnic. Interesting rock formations and just before you step down onto the beach parallel ruts carved into the stone floor by generations of carts (farmers bringing back seaweed and smugglers no doubt).20170120_120642.jpg


We took the alternative route back through the woods, and finished by visiting the church.20170120_123037.jpg