June 2017…Devil Water and more…


Devil’s Water is the name of the river at Dipton in Northumberland, just a mile from where we used to live in Corbridge. Devil Water is the name of the novel by Anya Seton that I have just finished re-reading. It’s a book that I have often hovered over on my shelves but not having read it since the 1970’s I was reluctant to pick it up again in case of disappointment. I was not disappointed. Anya Seton is a most accomplished if old-fashioned novelist. The amount of research she did for this book set over fifty or so years around the twin Jacobite rebellions is absolutely astonishing. She talks about it somewhat in an epilogue, but the evidence is there to see all the way through. She mixes fiction, faction and fact with a magic hand. Even the soft Northumbrian dialect comes across as authentic. I just love reading about the Jacobite rebellions and visiting associated sites such as the hugely romantic Glen Finnan. I must admit to being a secret admirer of the loyalty inspired in the Highland clans and some good English folk (as in Preston where I come from) by the Kings across the water. Right or wrong, who cares? The romance of a lost cause is immense. What an enjoyable read.


A Shropshire Lad, a large illustrated edition with sumptuous photos of ‘Houseman Country’ was also a sheer delight to read. I took it in a few nightly chunks because it is serious stuff and needs thinking about. But I am left full of admiration for the imagination and the depth of feeling of a poet writing about the horrors of the First World War and contrasting it with life and death in the supposedly idyllic countryside. Something I could/should return to more often.

I have also read recently Wild Looe, a pocket book telling me of the flora and fauna of the area we continually visit. Whilst we are reasonably observant this little book shows how much there is still to see. From the same series I have read Exploring The Cornish Coast which obviously takes Exploring-South-East-Cornwall-cover-image-small.jpgthe wider view, and also Exploring SouthEast Cornwall which leads me wanting to visit the many places we haven’t been to all within half an hour’s drive of here! One of the foremost of these is Rame Head which we continually see on our walks in Looe but have not yet visited, and also Mount Edgcumbe and its extensive grounds. This was the house built (unsurprisingly) by the Edgcumbes who then put Cothele in mothballs for a few hundred years.

9780007301409.jpg.pngAlso read with great enjoyment was Simon Thurley’s The Building of England. Subtitled ‘How The History Of England Has Shaped our Buildings’ it does exactly that in tremendous detail with page after page of sumptuous photos and a very incisive text. Thurley who is of course in a very good position to do so tells us how our architecture has evolved and how it is inextricably linked to politics, culture and ideas. This book was such a good idea I am very surprised that nobody has seized on this compelling subject before. From why the Roman infrastructure was allowed to fall into disrepair rather than being used (a question that has always puzzled me), to why particular groups of people built as they did, what influences we exported and what we took on board ourselves this is a fascinating study told in a fresh style. Marvellous.

I finished today The Durrells of Corfu which was a straightforward tale of an usual (to9781781257883.jpg say the least) family. It was one of the books I bought F. for her birthday knowing I would be able to read them second-hand as it were. We haven’t seen any of the TV series but we were lucky enough to have our honeymoon in Corfu in the 70’s when it was still relatively unspoilt. We spent our time in a lovely whitewashed room with nothing other than a bed and small wardrobe but with blue shutters that when flung open looked over the beautiful beach to the wine-coloured sea. The room was above a taverna standing on its own on the beach, and every morning the owner would ask us what we wanted for dinner that night and if it was fish he would be out in his boat later in the day catching it for us. alternatively he ushered us into his kitchen where there were various pots on the boil or simmering and we would point to whatever we fancied. Usually as nearly always in Greece it involved lamb and aubergine and tomatoes. The pudding was always baclava ( a very good one it has to be said, but repeated each night over a fortnight? ). Anyway enough reminiscing. I enjoyed the book. I may read some of the Durrells’ books as a result. Perhaps especially ” My Family and Other Animals’ and the ‘Alexander Quartet’. As well as being odd in many ways, Gerald and Lawrence were apparently very good authors.






27th June 2017…trip to Trewithen near Truro


A bit of a grey day but no matter, we came to tour Trewithen house and not the gardens which we will save for next Spring. The house is only open in Spring and we went on the last day of opening to take advantage of our HHA membership. Historic England

20170627_142610.jpggives a history of the building, but I cannot find any more details on the net of either the history of the building or its contents which is rather annoying. I purposely didn’t buy the guide because I thought I would be able to find masses of information myself! Here is the entry from Trewithen’s website..

“When Phillip Hawkins first bought Trewithen in 1715 he established the estate as home to a dynasty that has, through the centuries, made a very significant contribution to Cornwall.

John Hawkins was the first member of the family to move to the county in 1554. Originally a courtier to Henry VIII, he settled at Trewinnard, near St Erth, married and established a maritime trading business through Mevagissey that thrived for many years.

Phillip Hawkins was a wealthy attorney and landowner who commissioned London architect Thomas Edwards to rebuild Trewithen and lay out the park. When he died childless the estate passed to his nephew, Thomas Hawkins, whose parents lived at Trewinnard – thereby uniting the two branches of the Hawkins family in Cornwall. Phillip’s will is very interesting and shows a man contrite at taking advantage of smuggling ( a not unusual activity for the gentry of Devon and cornwall ).

Thomas fell in love with Anne Heywood, whose father agreed they could marry on the proviso that his architect, Sir Robert Taylor, was commissioned to re-design and embellish Trewithen House. The work was carried out and, in addition, Thomas had plans drawn up for landscaping the gardens. Many fine specimen trees were planted and the famous vistas around the house were created.


When Thomas, shown here, died from a smallpox inoculation, the estate passed to his eldest son Christopher.  Although Christopher Hawkins never married, he did an enormous amount for both Trewithen and Cornwall – including opening new tin and copper mines, becoming involved with clay mining near St Austell, re-building the harbour at Pentewan and the great breakwater at St Ives, endowing local schools and building new ones. He also became Richard Trevithick’s patron and commissioned the world’s first steam thrashing machine from him. Trewithen was expanded to the extent that he ‘could ride from one side of Cornwall to the other without setting hoof on another man’s soil’.

On Sir Christopher’s death in 1829, Trewithen passed to his brother John Hawkins (who built and lived at Bignor Park in West Sussex), a man of great learning and intellect who planted many fine trees at Trewithen – including Holm oaks.

John was succeeded in 1841 by his young son Henry Hawkins – known to all as CHT – who chose not to live in Cornwall.  When he died in 1903, the estate passed to his nephew John Heywood Johnstone, changing the family name for the first time in nearly 200 years. Sadly John survived only a year after his inheritance – leaving his 22 year old son George Johnstone in charge.

It was George who was responsible for developing the gardens and, by sponsoring some of the great plant hunting expeditions to the Himalayas and China, introduced a wealth of new species.  When George died in 1960 his widow and eldest daughter Elizabeth continued his botanical work – with Elizabeth going on to be awarded the Bledisloe Gold Medal for services to Agriculture and Landowning.

Trewithen’s current owner is Michael Galsworthy, George Johnstone’s grandson. Equally committed to the care and further development of both the gardens and the wider estate, he came to live in the house with his family in 1980. Since then, he has overseen the planting of more than 30,000 trees to enlarge the shelter belts and surrounding woodlands – compensating for the many casualties of the great storm in 1990.”

In fact Michael has now died, and the new family members have only been in residence for 7 months…..

The tour with a guide of about an hour was very interesting although our guide was new and only feeling her way into the job. The most splendid of the ground-floor rooms, which is what you see, was the dining room or salon which originally had been the hall…very impressive indeed. But each of the rooms had interest. Definitely a family house, photos and belongings everywhere, one could even sit on the furniture…I quickly sat on one of the Chippendales just for the experience! There were many great paintings in particular portraits by Joshua Reynolds who was born in Plympton. One was particularly interesting because it was when Reynolds was experimenting with different flesh hues. He gave the sitter a rather greenish face which was most odd. I’m surprised he didn’t cut the whole thing up and start again. Some of the furnitures was exquisite, particularly some of the pieces brought to England by Raffles who was connected to the family through marriage. Interesting too was the family history with the house and estate passing between branches of the family as deaths occurred……one couple had nine children all of whom died. One head of the family, Thomas Hawkins, wanted to prove the new smallpox vaccination was fine to his children. He unfortunately died. Such brave men our ancestors…All in all a visit well worth while.

20th June 2017…walk from Lerryn to St Winnow


We had done a short walk of our own devising before but today we followed the five and a half mile round walk to St Winnow found in the splendid IWalkCornwall. I had noticed that the local history society were doing some metal detecting by the stepping stones, Roman coins having been found in the vicinity before, so we thought we would have a nose at their activities…all a little disorganised whilst we were there!20170620_111950.jpg

We thought we better press on as it was a boiling hot day and luckily a large part of the walk was on a shady path through the woods and alongside the Lerryn creek….


What a lovely walk it was and as the Lerryn broadened out into the River Fowey a strategic bench gave us a wonderful view and a chance to replenish the water in our body.



Nice to see all the boats moored and, in the distance, Golant on the opposite side of the river. during the walk we had to cross a variety of stiles and gates (always fascinating to me ( I have often thought a book on the subject is deserved). A lifting gate/stile was particularly unusual….and probably unique!




Eventually we came to St Winnow the beautiful church on the river..”St Winnow was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Sanwinnel, and early maps indicate that the churchyard was originally oval in shape, typical of Celtic religions enclosures know as a lann. It is therefore thought that the churchyard may be on the site of the 7th Century chapel of St Winnoc. A stone church was built in the 12th Century and a few traces of this remain in the current church which was built in the 15th Century and restored in the 19th. Much of the stained glass added in the Tudor period survived and can still be seen in the church.”

20170620_130305 2.jpg

One good thing about this stop on our walk was the brilliant food van from which we bought most welcome ice creams and sat in the garden to eat them. Within sight were a blacksmiths and a farm shop. The hamlet had virtually no other buildings.



We were rather glad of our break when the next stage of the walk was a steep climb uphill with great views back of the church in its setting, and then a walk across open fields in blistering heat. We were very glad to make the shaded relief of Ethy woods…



A blissful last part of the walk was back along the Lerryn river, where we noted the splendid gardens of nearly all the houses (minimum £750,000 in Lerryn unfortunately), and then we got pasties and drinks from the wonderful village shop and enjoyed them in the shop’s riverside garden….a great end to a lovely trip.



25th to 29th May 2017…Visit of Katherine and Aiisha


One of those visits when we were more or less lucky with the weather. On the first day we experimented with our new buy…a £9.99 beach tent from Trago Mills, and we had a picnic in the garden…a real success.


A last minute look at the weather reports on the Thursday morning encouraged us to go to St Ives..just over £6 each on the train, a real bargain. What fantastic weather!



20170526_133659_005 2.jpg

Can this really be England in May? Well, yes. And if we didn’t like it as busy as this, we could always go beyond Hayle (in the distance) to the miles of deserted sands there. But we were here for fun, and the sea was (just about) warm enough for games…..


Katherine treated us to lunch in our favourite Porthmeor cafe, and then when more sustenance was needed she took the little one to the downstairs section which this pic seems to show she enjoyed.


Everyone caught the sun. As good as days can be in my opinion! Katherine was down for work and so we drove across to Penryn on the Friday where her meeting was, and visited the SeaSalt seconds shop whilst there. We took our tent for a try-out to Gyllngvase beach Falmouth, and despite (or because of) slightly windy conditions it did the job and gained admiring comments. We also made a mental note that the Gylly beach cafe was well worth a visit. We also scouted out the soft play location at Raze The Roof in Penryn. So, on Saturday when her main meeting took place we went with Aiisha to the soft play. We were first there at 10am, but not the first to leave as we were still there at 2pm (something of a record). Aiisha made a couple of friends human and unspeaking too (enter Bob The Builder)…..


All in all a lovely few days.