Friday 25th August…to Plymouth, and a surprise..


Since I had an opticians appointment, off we went on the train to Plymouth, and immediately afterwards we walked down Armada Way to the Council House to see the Beryl Cook exhibition again. As we had plenty of time we were able to see the half-hour film about her life and work, and very interesting it was too. It gave a real insight into how she worked and what made her paint the way she did. Plus we  learned some interesting things such as the fact that she once lived in Looe. We also viewed the paintings and the display again, which was well worthwhile. Her objective, she said, was for someone to say ‘well that made me laugh’ or ‘that cheered me up’. She achieved it in spades with us.

20170825_134332.jpgMentally refreshed we proceeded past a group playing boules to the Hoe where I went up Smeaton’s lighthouse. This was free to us as Friends of Mount Edgcumbe, but F didn’t accompany me as she knew that the staircase and ladders would spell trouble. They certainly were difficult. There is a narrow circular stone staircase to begin with but
20170825_133839.jpg from the Lantern Room upwards another three or four floors it was all more or less vertical wooden ladders. And when I got to the top I couldn’t bring myself to go through the door onto the outside platform…vertigo struck again. That’s not to say I didn’t get amazing views …..I did. Of Plymouth, Bodmin, Dartmoor, west and east along the coast, of the beautiful sea-water lido tucked in to the cliffs underneath. All spectacular on this warm day. But it was the inside of the lighthouse that was just as interesting, seeing the conditions in which the keepers lived…furniture lined up with the curved walls, a stove, beds in cupboards. A fascinating visit and to think this lighthouse originally stood on Eddystone Rock which we can regularly see 14 miles out in the wide wide ocean from Hannafore or Looe.



We then ent past the Royal Plymouth Corinthian Yacht Club and seeing the lunch menu ventured inside (not so exclusive as Fowey where you have to be a member). We had lunch on the terrace overlooking a busy seaside scene what with the yachts and


speedboats and kayaks and fishing boats and ferries and cruise ships. Not bad.

Leaving the Club and walking towards the Barbican  we made our great discovery – what a wonderful area this is. On a sunny and hot day like today it was no exaggeration to say that it was equal to any Mediterranean port with its marina, ferry terminals, cafes,


historic buildings, pubs, seafood restaurants, shops, cobbled streets, gardens and goodness knows what else. After strolling enjoyably around we then made a beeline for The Dolphin Hotel which I had always wanted to visit…Beryl Cook’s ‘local’ and the setting for many of her paintings some of which hang there. A real pub, no food, beautiful real ales, characterful locals. Brilliant.







We will return hopefully to take one of the many possible trips by boat e.g. up the Tamar or up the river Realm……another great thing to look forward to.


Tuesday 22nd August 2017….To the beach dear friends….

lanhydrock768072house1400x788.jpgWell not quite. We had decided to do a 4-5 mile walk around the head at Holywell Bay. However! When we got there we were in a very large car jam to wait for available spaces in the car park. We turned round in the car park of the thatched 13th century Treguth Inn (which we noted for another occasion) and headed to Lerryn for a walk along the river. However, as we were passing Lanhydrock we decided on a whim to do a walk in 20170822_133534.jpgthe grounds. Right decision. The very affable guide in the entrance told us how beautiful the river walk was so having given us a map and guide to that off we went. The first part of the walk was all downhill through the Great Wood with its beech, oak, sycamore, ash, and sweet chestnut and was very pretty. However there were a few too many choices of path with not very good signposting so we went a little wrong at the bottom of the hill. However this gave us the opportunity to see even more of the river Fowey which was delightful, very fast-running and containing sea trout and salmon. We did in fact see a couple of rises which I take it were sea trout.20170822_140152.jpg

Eventually we reached Respryn bridge. There has been a bridge here since 1300. The present bridge has 5 arches of different sizes and dates….the middle one is the smallest and oldest dating from the fifteenth century.

From here we walked, to the accompaniment of a couple of buzzards mewing at some height, up the Avenue. This was originally planted in 1648 with a single row of sycamore on either side of the driveway to celebrate the Parliamentarian victory in the Civil War. In 1827 it was widened by the addition of two rows of Beech which is how we see it 20170822_143723.jpgtoday. A magnificent entrance to the House, surrounded by parkland and set in a bowl of hills. one quirky thing about the lodge at the entrance to the Avenue was that every upper window had large and rather spooky dolls. Worrying! The gateway to Lanhydrock is very impressive, almost as impressive as the house itself and is original, built in 1657 by The Lord John Robartes, whose initials along with those of his wife Lucy can be seen carved in the stone.20170822_144305.jpg


20170822_145723.jpgA cup of tea was earned, and this was followed by a walk past the church and into the splendid and rather unusual upper garden which is at roof height…..


There were some beautiful herbaceous borders only just past their prime and this got me thinking about our own garden. But as it is plagued by literally hundreds and hundreds of large slimy slugs with which I do daily battle, I think this is unfortunately a no no.20170822_153658.jpg


The formal gardens to the front and side of the House are what I would describe as Blackpool parks c 1960 and not at all to our taste!


So, the day was not a disaster and in fact proved highly enjoyable……


Friday 18th August 2017… train to Falmouth and Truro


Falmouth has everything going for it as I have written before, so where better to buy my birthday present a ship’s barometer. We caught the 8.53 from Liskeard which we will use again as it was cheap, fast, clean and quiet – brilliant. After walking down from the station, our first stop was the Falmouth Watersports Centre for a coffee and a read of our paper. This was a terrific find, a lovely view as you can see above, and cheap as chips..£1.70 for a cappuccino, beat that! It looked as though it served nice food as well (white crab sandwich on Baker Tom’s bread sounded nice) so we will be back.

519zBUNCA5L.jpgHaving purchased the barometer, which is an extremely nice piece of kit, we left it for collection later and wound our way slowly down Falmouth’s main high street which is extremely long and always has new shops and restaurants of interest. Since we had not been in before we visited the Church of King Charles The Martyr which 20170818_125802.jpgis one of only about half a dozen in the UK dedicated thus. Outside the church seems a bit lopsided with a narrow tower in relation to the bulk of the church. Inside was a revelation and quite unique, a light and spacious building with high, barrel ceilings and a quite beautiful feel to it. What struck us immediately, apart from the light, was the width of the church with the two side aisles being seemingly as wide as the nave (which was wide in itself!).  There are some very interesting monuments, and a number of artefacts relating
to King Charles although the death warrant and letter of thanks to the people of Cornwall are seemingly copies. 20170818_115724.jpgThere is also a portrait of the king ‘by Peter Lely’ – amusingly Brian Sewell pours a bit of scorn on this. Lely is the first English painter who has left “an enormous mass of work”, although the quality of studio pieces is variable. As he put it:

There may well be thousands of these portraits, ranging from rare prime originals of often quite astonishing quality, to crass workshop replicas by assistants drilled to imitate Lely’s way with the fashionable face and repeat the stock patterns of the dress, landscapes, flowers, musical instruments and other essential embellishments of portraiture. On Lely’s death in 1680 his executors employed a dozen such slaves to complete for sale the many unfinished canvases stacked about his studio. It is these half-and-half and hardly-at-all Lelys that line the corridors of the indigent aristocracy whose houses are now administered by the National Trust, and no sight is more aesthetically and intellectually numbing, unless it is a corridor of Knellers.


Frustratingly I have found it extremely difficult to find out detailed information about the church….I have looked extensively on-line and consulted my Pevsner etc etc and we noticed there was one a very flimsy guide inside the church. I need to look into this further, as it cannot be right that so little history is available for such an important building.

Anyway, after the church visit we hot-footed it along to Harbour Lights fish and chips shop where we were just in time to beat the crowds. I had a voucher kindly sent by them entitling me to a free main course, it seemed a shame not to use it especially as Harbour Lights was voted the best fish and chips shop in Britain. Line-caught haddock and chips, mushy peas and tea was our choice. You get a lovely view of Falmouth harbour too which is a great bonus.

Refreshed we were walking past the shops again when I spotted a very attractive striped beach bag in the window of a charity shop (not a go-to destination for us usually!). On enquiry it was the princely sum of £5.50, so F. paid £6 (to their surprise) and acquired it. It was brand-new and probably worth £20 of anybody’s money, an unwanted present most likely. Perhaps we have found a new hobby…we also bought some pink shorts for me in a sale – can’t wait for an appropriate place to wear them!

Truro was a stop-off on the way home for a bit more window shopping. We didn’t find what we wanted, so back to the station and caught the train with seconds to spare.

That night I finished my latest read, ‘Cornwall From The Coast Path’ by Michael and Merryn Kent, an entertaining account of Michael’s 16 day trip to cover the 300 miles in51MH5xTuC3L._SX350_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Cornwall. Lots of research afterwards by his librarian wife on the places and wildlife along the way made this a particularly informative read. I also liked the fact that the author was just as tentative about going too near the cliff edges as me and just as likely to gorge on a couple of lollipops when a suitable opportunity arose. Plenty still for us to see in this wonderful county.  Here I must make mention of a book which is very very covetable ‘London Hidden Interiors’ which I have at last opened and read from cover to cover. It’s a coffee table book in large format and magnificently illustrated. Most of the interiors it says are not open to the public but on our September trip to hear Nicola Benedetti and our stay with friends Malcolm and Anne I 61bnhhV0E1L._SX421_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgwill see what I can do to get to  see some of them at least. I don’t know of a more inspiring book. Typically a high proportion of the lush interiors represent the Victorian era – what a magnificent lot of people they were, the Victorians, and how I envy their supreme self-confidence and wish (to a degree at least) I had been born in that era, and was able to shake some of them by the hand.





16th August 2017…..Recent reading….

Unknown.jpgWell, perhaps I picked it for the cover, but then again Graham Swift is an excellent writer. ‘Mothering Sunday’ is what the industry I suppose calls a novella. Anyway I made it last three nights as I was so enjoying it. It’s about upstairs downstairs, the tragedy of war years, a personal tragedy, a lifetime perhaps based on regret but fully lived, and the transformation of a maid into a well-known writer on the literary scene (which appealed to me because of all the authors we have had along to events). It is very sensuous and that is an extremely difficult art to pull off. Graham Swift does it with finesse. And cleverly it is one of those books where your own imagination has to supply gaps. All in all a mini masterpiece I should say, worth every penny of its 150 pages.

I have been doing rather a lot of reading about Cornwall recently and the book I started with was an out of print ‘We Wander In The West’ by S P B Mais. I don’t like second-hand books. I don’t like the smell, I don’t like their grubbiness, and I don’t like the thought of who might have been handling them. But I really wanted this book out of Book-We-Wander-In-The-West-by-SPBMais.jpgnostalgia really, as whenever we went abroad when I was a schoolboy my mother always started by reading the relevant S P B Mais and quoting it with relish. A good writer in a nostalgic way. This particular book covers the counties of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, and a lot of it is to do with Mais’s childhood memories of being brought up in the West. When you gather that it was written in 1950, you will realise that Mais is talking about another world. To my son this would be pre-history. Hardly any cars on the roads, deserted villages, social mores vastly different to those of today. I have to say it was interesting, but it did strike me as having been rather thrown together. It doesn’t sound all the time as though Mais is making the trips he talks about but recalling them from yesteryear. There was an obvious faux pas when a full-page illustration of the church at Just-In-Roseland was inserted next to a discussion of the St Just near Land’s End.  Still, an enjoyable jaunt through historic West Country.

5171hVaWd8L._AC_US218_.jpg‘Cornwall’s China Clay Country’ was a different beast altogether. Much nearer to home, literally as we are fairly near to the land of the white pyramids around St Austell. I always remember when we were looking for houses despairing when we found just what we wanted but then found it was absolutely surrounded by very deep white pits on all sides. We all know that the Eden project was built in a china clay pit, but we perhaps don’t realise what an important industry this still is to Cornwall, employing 2000 people and carrying on exporting huge amounts. This book is all about the discovery of the china clay deposits in Cornwall and the history of their workings and a lot of it is based around walks and drives around the various mines – which makes for fascinating reading and a vow by me to follow some of these up.

‘Gardens of Cornwall’ is a coffee table book which is an absolute delight to read. We have visited a few of these gardens in51kwwHEE1zL._SX467_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg our time but this lavishly illustrated book brings together the famous and the not-so-well known making for a vow from us to get round to the ones we haven’t been to as soon as possible. And next time we are bemoaning the wet conditions (having spent a few years in Dartmouth we are used to them) we will remember that Cornwall’s climate is what makes it such a brilliant place for extravagant gardens.  And extravagant they are…lush, tropical and often with stupendous sites with views through to the sea they are utterly memorable, and one of the main reasons living in Cornwall is such a joy to retirees like us.

One other read was ‘Cornovia – Ancient Sites of Cornwall and Scilly 4000 BC – 1000 51e-3GRuTML._SY469_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAD’.    This explores in some detail 250 out of the incredible 50,000 ancient sites in Cornwall. The writer, who has great experience in examining such sites, certainly knows his stuff but he is also capable of explaining  the various types of site – from hill forts to fogous – with enthusiasm and clarity making this a great read even for those with no particular knowledge of, or interest in, our pre-history. I love the way he starts with an excerpt from the history of Diodorus of Sicily in the 1st century BC (expanding on an even earlier account) who was talking about how the Romans traded with Cornwall for its tin. He visited Cornwall and investigated the industry first-hand and recorded what he saw. Craig Wetherhill then takes us on an extended trip with him, expanding the rather sketchy account into something very plausible indeed. It is all quite exciting, and made even more interesting by the knowledge that here was the first part of Britain ever to be written about…West Cornwall.  We have been to a few sites, and indeed the stone circle at Duloe is in our next village, but what treasures this splendid book reveals are still for us to explore. Magical indeed.

My birthday weekend….kayaking, re-visiting old haunts, the Tropics (well not quite)


David and Jennifer as my birthday present paid for an escorted kayaking trip ( with the excellent Encounter Cornwall ) on the river Fowey for the four of us. We had been with David and Karen of Encounter Cornwall before, travelling up river from Golant to Lerryn. This time we were to go downriver 20170812_144322 2.jpgfrom Golant to Fowey. The day started off grey as you can see but, as promised, the weather quickly picked up and we had a very enjoyable trip indeed. The trip lasts 3 hours and includes a break of half an hour at Fowey. On the way we passed the china clay works (the mining is still a significant industry in Cornwall) and more importantly enjoyed the peace and quiet of the river and its wildlife. We saw and heard a couple of buzzards with their distinctive mewing sound. Some on the trip also saw a kingfisher although we missed that. 20170812_144329.jpgThe nearer we got to Fowey and Polruan the more boats and activity there was and this is always fascinating. At Fowey we paddled round a moored cruise ship which seemed huge from our viewpoint but in reality was one of the smaller of its brethren. And, since we were in double kayaks, it wasn’t always hard work paddling either! The thought arises….shall we invest in our own kayak….we could then get to know from the river some of the many creeks and inlets in Cornwall and Devon which make this whole area so beautiful. We shall see.20170812_144325.jpg

Back at home we, as usual I am afraid, called on David’s services to do some work…..this time putting up a pair of blinds in the living room. He is unusually competent in many IMG-20170812-WA0000.jpgthings (which is unfortunate for him when he comes round to our house!).

On Sunday we went in two cars to Dartmouth which Jennifer had never seen and which David had not seen since he left when about three years old. Both were very impressed – who wouldn’t be? We wandered past our old greengrocers shop in Front Street, saw the flat where we used to live with the town clock on its outside wall (which I had to wind once a week, occasionally forgetting, have they forgiven me?). We saw the old Butter Walk, had time to call in one of the many Art shops for a framed poster of Dartmouth for David and Jennifer’s new flat, looked up some of the quaint old streets where visitors rarely get, and had a very quick walk through the park (which was even more beautiful than ever) and a walk along the front with its incomparable vistas. We only lived in Dartmouth for 3 or 4 years, but whenever we return we wonder what on earth possessed us to leave. Still, there were good reasons at the time, and housing is very expensive. Our visit was unfortunately rushed as we had a birthday lunch appointment to keep at nearby Stoke Fleming…….




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20170813_124250.jpgAfter a most enjoyable lunch at Radius 7, we went our separate ways (the reason for the two cars). D + J off to a barbecue in London, whilst we took the very scenic route from 20170813_145728.jpgStoke Fleming, a beautiful village itself, through many other delightful places (Street Slapton, Blackpool Sands, where we took David and Katherine as children, Chillington, West Charleston, Kingsbridge, Salcombe amongst others) to end up at Overbecks which we had not visited before. This is a NT property where the major interest is in the subtropical gardens which are, one can only say, amazing with their profusion of tropical plants including a banana grove and echiums etc etc. We were entranced, and as the sun was now well out the Mediterranean backdrop of the bluest of seas was perfect. 20170813_160334 2.jpg



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And to cap it all (literally!) a new hat from the NT shop for £10……bargain!

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From The Siege….. to darkest Edinburgh

Having recently read Helen Dunmore’s obituary, and having liked some of her work I had read before (most recently I remember ‘Darkness in Zennor’ as being particularly interesting), I perused what else she had written and ordered ‘The Siege’ and ‘The Betrayal’ from our excellent local bookshop ( The Bookshop Liskeard rather Unknown.jpegunimaginative, like our Warwick Books and Kenilworth Books!). I was not disappointed and they kept me going over our holidays and our now being read by F. ‘The Siege’ is a family story set during the terrible siege of Leningrad, and evokes its harrowing events. However, as a Historian, I have to say it is nothing like as visceral as Antony Beevor’s masterly work on ‘Stalingrad’. You just can’t beat the real thing ( one only has to think of Juliet Barker’s splendid ‘Agincourt’ compared with novelist Bernard Cornwall’s ‘Azincourt’….the former wins hands down in every respect – factual base, atmosphere, excitement etc). Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the read and turned immediately to the follow-on ‘The Betrayal’. This was in many ways the more powerful and frightening51Xl7rGNTpL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg book. Taking the characters of its prequel and taking their story through post-war Stalinist Russia, it centres around Andrei as a young hospital doctor who is asked to treat the seriously ill child of a senior secret police officer. As the child fails to recover, so the lives of the people involved spiral out of control. Gripping is the one word I would use, and if asked to choose another – frightening. The events are too believable. An extremely good piece of writing.

Edinburgh does have a dark side (as we know from Trainspotting), and Ian Rankin has long dealed with the seamier 51uDogy-R-L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgside of this great city. Rebus is a much loved character, but how he gets away with interfering so much in police business when retired goodness knows. That part at least doesn’t seem at all plausible. However, with Rebus, Edinburgh as the background, and a cast of characters we know, and some introductions, Rankin can’t go far wrong. ‘Rather Be The Devil’ is what we have come to expect….a page-turner, lots of extremely witty one-liners, a convoluted plot, lots of human interest….therefore great bed-time reading. My main criticism doesn’t go away…the continual referencing to Rankin’s own choice of music, all pulled in in a strongly contrived way (even the title in this case)  really grates. Never mind I’ll put up with it…I’m sure there’s a lot more Rebus and Fox to come.

It was reported today that Amazon UK had increased turnover substantially yet again, and halved their tax bill. Our petition (and subsequent debate in Parliament) was a small contribution to opening the debate about this issue. Please support your local bookshops….remember (as with pubs and much else too) Use It Or Lose It!

3-7th August 2017…visit of Julia and Allan


We aimed to show Julia and Allan some parts they hadn’t seen before, and started with a trip to Falmouth on the train (a bargain £6.20 return) to then catch the ferry to St Mawes.  The station is at one end of Falmouth and the Prince of Wales pier at the other so an enjoyable walk is taken along the busy High Street…


Along the way you pass one of a very few churches dedicated to King Charles 1, Sir Peter Killigrew of the nearby Arwenack Manor providing the land, and the money mainly coming from King Charles II (quite right too).


The pier is always busy, and it is always exciting to watch your ferry coming in….


The estuary was particularly busy today and in the far distance we could see a group of enormous ships on the horizon. On asking the ferryman it seemed that these were freighters awaiting orders. This was of interest because we had just been talking about the phrase ‘Falmouth For Orders’…’Whilst ships were returning to England, often on a voyage of several months, merchants would explore the markets to find the best port to land the goods. They had no means of communicating with the ships whilst at sea, so ships were often told to sail for “Falmouth for Orders”. Falmouth, being the first large port on The Channel, provided a “holding pen” for ships with incoming cargoes whilst their final destination was being decided and communicated. The ships were often badly in need of repair and supplies from their journey across the Atlantic so during the wait they could be restocked and patched up. It is thought the practice and possibly also the phrase originated in the late 17th century, soon after the Royal Mail Packet Station was established at Falmouth which involved relatively fast communications with London’.

As always it was interesting to pass close to St Mawes Castle with its twin across the bay Pendennis Castle still in site. these are two of the best preserved of King Henry VIII’s coastal fortifications.


It is a pleasant experience to walk along the front at St Mawes looking at the marvellous houses, all in fine fettle because of their wealthy owners…



and the little streets above are also full of interest…



and it was very pleasant indeed to sit for a few moments in The Grammar School garden which not many people seem to know about and watch the maritime goings-onimage1.JPG

we also made a nostalgic visit to the garage where we called with our Mini in the 1970’s…the pumps are a little bit older!


and we were here to have a nice lunch on the balcony of the Hotel Inspector’s own hotel The Tresanton now expanded onto the cliffs below with a BBQ area and jazzy sun area…


the meal was enjoyed despite the threat of dark clouds…in the event they held off.


Pity we couldn’t have the mediterranean colours we have so often enjoyed in this area, but ‘rain-free’ at the moment is a bonus!

Unknown-1.jpegNearer to home, we explored the church at Duloe with its slightly leaning tower.The tower is mainly 13th century, the Coleshull chantry chapel and the overarching perpendicular-style character of the church is late 15th century, while the remainder of the fabric, with the exception of reinstated architectural details and fittings, is the result of a regrettably, if perhaps necessarily, thorough Victorian rebuilding!

We also examined the petite stone circle in a field opposite the church….Nestled 20170805_122534.jpgunobtrusively in the corner of a field beside a Cornish hedge stands Duloe stone circle, the smallest stone circle in Cornwall (is it the smallest stone circle anywhere?!). The flat ridge top on which it lies is flanked half a mile to either side by deep valleys containing the Looe and West Looe rivers. The circle is in many respects unique, consisting of eight large and irregular white quartz blocks set in a pattern of alternating large and small stones. Seven of the stones are upright with one fallen. The ‘circle’ appears to have been set out by eye in an ovoid design, elongated in a north-south direction. There is a lead lode which outcrops two miles to the north of Duloe which may be the source of the stones.

Restoration carried out in the mid 1800s included the removal of a hedge that ran through the middle of the circle and incorporated two of the original stones. It is also thought that there was some attempt to re-erect the fallen stone but unfortunately part of it broke off and the fragment has now vanished from the site. During this early attempt at restoration, a Bronze Age ribbon handled urn was discovered which contained cremated human bone. There is some discrepancy over accounts of this discovery – whether the urn was found beneath the fallen stone or recovered from the hedge that bisected the site. WC Borlase inferred from the discovery that there may have been a raised mound or stony cairn within the circle and it does seem reasonable to interpret the monument as the impressive kerb or peristalith of an imposing Bronze Age burial monument. In support of this it has been noted that there are no accompanying megalithic monuments in the vicinity and no alignments to other sites or horizon features, although the stones do roughly align to the points of the compass suggesting a possible ceremonial observance of astronomical events.

Shortly after WC Borlase’s publication on Cornish antiquities (Nænia Cornubiæ, 1872), the site became know as “The Druids Circle” and appears as such on the Ordnance Survey map of 1880. The connection between stone circles and the Druid religion was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, made so in part by the antiquarians John Aubrey and William Stukeley, but this idea has now been largely discredited.

The nearby settlement of Stonetown, first recorded in 1329 is probably referring to the stone circle at Duloe. The circle can be accessed via a signposted track between two houses in Higher Stonetown to the south-west’.

Saturday evening we caught the bus into Looe and walked to Hannafore where the Looe carnival procession was gathering…20170805_184849.jpg20170805_185016.jpg

A walk on the upper lanes then gave us a bird’s eye view20170805_190350.jpg

before we descended to watch the procession proper which was highly old-fashioned and highly entertaining…20170805_192136.jpg





we just made the last bus back to St Keyne.

What seemed like an excellent idea and started off well on the Sunday – a drive along the coast to Mount Edgcumbe became a little less enjoyable when we joined heavy traffic. A classic car show was being attended by thousands. 20170806_131022.jpg

Nevertheless we still enjoyed our tour of the house (if very disappointed by the lack of guides and information)



Making an executive decision we cancelled our lunch at The Orangery and drove the short distance to Kingsand and Cawsand where we found a nice quiet spot in the Halfway House Inn for a late lunch. The stroll through both villages is always delightful..with plenty of opportunity for photos….20170806_142523.jpg






Sometimes you feel that days out in this area of South East Cornwall where we live are like stepping back a few decades..nice!


26th to 29th July and 2nd August 2017…Morpeth


Whilst we provided a modicum of help to Julia and Allan for their preparations for a big entertainment day in their gardens, we also managed to fit in a visit to Chillingham Castle.

This is a very very quirky place indeed, from the cannons supposedly from HMS Victory…..


to the rooms stuffed full of family heirlooms and artefacts of an absolutely incredible variety….




one can only assume that the present Sir Humphry Wakefield who collected most of what is there is raving mad! Simon Jenkins who awards the castle 4 stars in his ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’ is more or less of the same opinion….’Wakefield’s magpie acquisition of anything he can find to fill his castle is eccentric. It includes Antarctic sledges. Yet his rescue has been thorough, Wakefield fighting the purists of English Heritage from room to room like a Hollywood musketeer.’

The medieval courtyard with the great hall rising magisterially at one side is magnificent and very atmospheric.


and the gardens which were a jungle when the Wakefields took possession of the castle (bought in 1981 as Humphrey’s present to his wife whose ancestors had lived here!) are lovely..




What a very unusual property, let us hope it stays that way and does not have to succumb to the deadening hands of EH or the National Trust!

Julia and Allan live by Dyke Neuk (meaning unclear….corner of a wall, hedge or river?). This is in the little village of Meldon – like our next door neighbour Herodsfoot one of the 51 Thankful Villages in the United Kingdom that suffered no fatalities during the Great War of 1914-1918. On-line history is sketchy to say the least. Nearby Meldon Park  was the subject of a TV ‘rescue’ series and is a beautiful Georgian house built by Dobson.


29th July – 2nd August….to Edinburgh


Just a day at home before flying to Morpeth to stay with friend Julia and Allan, and then on to Edinburgh to stay with Katherine and Nasar, before coming back to Morpeth and then on to Cornwall. Who arranges these schedules?! In Edinburgh we had the delightful company of Nasar’s elder sister Khalda, but our focus was as always on doing things with Aiisha whenever possible.

However one morning the adults (minus Nasar) went on the local bus to Rosslyn Chapel, an amazing ride all through the suburbs and into the beautiful countryside for only £1.60  (our bus passes don’t work in Scotland).


What is absolutely incredible about Edinburgh is how the ashlar facing of the houses, even when bungalows, is maintained all the way to the outer rim of the city. No other place so large can be so ‘complete’ as this in the building stone presented. Anyway, to Rosslyn…….


Everyone of course now knows of Rosslyn Chapel from the Dan Brown stories, but it is a magnificent building, and in the ownership of the Rosslyn family since its foundation in 1446, and still used today as a place of worship. “Undiscovered Scotland’ gives a useful summary of its history..

‘In the village of Roslin, just a couple of miles south of Edinburgh’s bypass, lies one of the 5b7432c5a5d2c5517881631310412ade.jpgmost remarkable pieces of church architecture in Scotland. Since its construction began in 1446 Rosslyn Chapel has evoked wonder and surprise with the beauty and intricacy of its stonework. And it has consistently defied categorisation by those architectural historians who like nothing better than to attach labels to buildings.

Possibly the most surprising thing about Rosslyn is that it is only a small part of what its founder had in mind. Sir William St Clair’s original intention in founding the Collegiate Church of St Matthew was to build a large cruciform church with a tower at its centre. Quality took precedence over speed and by the time of Sir William’s death in 1484 only the walls of the choir of his church and parts of the east walls of the transepts had been built, together with the foundations of part of the nave. Sir William was buried in the incomplete choir which was subsequently roofed by his son and turned into a chapel, but work ceased on the rest of the church.

The chapel served as a family house of worship through most of the 1500s, though the St Clair’s continued Catholicism after the Reformation in 1560 led to considerable tensions with the Kirk. The altars were finally destroyed in August 1592 and the chapel fell into disuse. During their attack on nearby Rosslyn Castle in 1650,Cromwell’s troops used the chapel as stables, but left it otherwise unharmed. In December 1688 locals attacked the “popish” chapel during the “Glorious Revolution” that led to the accession to the crowns of England and Scotland of William and Mary(see our Historical Timeline).

Restoration of the chapel was begun in 1736 by James St Clair, who reglazed the windows and made the building weatherproof once more. More repairs followed through the 1800s, and in 1861 the 3rd Earl of Rosslyn restarted Sunday services at the chapel. The baptistry and organ loft were added to the west end in 1881. The chapel continues to this day to be a working church, and is part of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion which traces its history back to St Columba and the early days of Christianity in Scotland.

The 1900s were a story of ongoing restoration of the chapel, some with unwanted side-effects. Work in the 1950s to weatherproof the roof led to dampness throughout the structure and in 1997 a free-standing steel roof was erected over the chapel to protect it and allow it to dry out.

The free standing roof was finally removed in 2010, after the 1950s work had been undone and the roof made weathertight. The freestanding roof had the disadvantage of dominating external views of the chapel, and it also deprived the interior of much of the natural light that would otherwise have flooded in through the windows. On the other hand, a walkway below the roof did allow close-up views of the upper parts of the outside of the chapel that literally added another dimension to the appreciation of the building.

Today’s visitor starts their visit to Rosslyn Chapel in a second beautiful piece of architecture, the visitor centre that opened to the public in 2011. This is a suitably remarkable building that seems to hover above its site, and which looks wonderfully insubstantial when viewed from some angles. Quite a trick, given that it is actually quite a large building offering reception facilities and background information about the chapel; plus a shop selling tastefully appropriate merchandise, and a cafe with a superb view over the glen behind.

After emerging from the visitor centre you approach the chapel from the north. When images-3.jpegyou enter Rosslyn Chapel for the first time you finally begin to understand why it has exerted such a powerful influence for over five centuries over many generations of visitors including Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II. The beauty and detail and sheer extravagance of its carved stonework has to be seen to be believed. You get the real sense that the people who worked here really enjoyed showing off their skills for the benefit of future generations. There is virtually no surface in any part of the chapel that has not been painstakingly worked on, with magnificent results.

dscf0316.jpgOne element stands out as worthy of particular mention. At the meeting of the South Aisle and the Lady Chapel is the stunningly carved pillar known as the apprentice pillar. It is said that the master mason was instructed by Sir William St Clair to build a pillar to match a drawing he had provided. The master mason went to Italy to study the original, and in his absence an apprentice produced the magnificent pillar on view today. The story does not have a happy ending: the master mason was so consumed with envy on his return that he killed the apprentice with a blow from his mallet.

The mason and the apprentice are believed to have inspired two of the gargoyles placed high up in the west end of the choir, supporting structures that once housed statues. The “apprentice” has a dent in his head, and the mason is placed so that, as a punishment for his crime, he must forever gaze diagonally across the chapel to the apprentice pillar that so offended his professional pride.

If Rosslyn Chapel’s sheer beauty has served to attract visitors from around the world, so has the aura of mystery and legend that surrounds it. One popular story is that Sir William St Clair’s grandfather, Henry Sinclair, was part of an expedition which reached Nova Scotia in 1398, and this is supported by carvings in the chapel which certainly look as if they depict Indian corn, supposedly unknown in Europe at the time of the building of the chapel.

There are other legends which link Rosslyn Chapel with the Knights Templar and the Masons. Sealed burial vaults below the chapel are said to contain the remains of ten Barons of Rosslyn in their full armour. And some people believe that these vaults, or other parts of the chapel, may also contain the Holy Grail, or the Ark of the Covenant, or part of the actual cross on which Christ was crucified. Meanwhile the chapel’s alleged Masonic links are held by some to explain why Cromwell’s troops spared the chapel in 1650. Some of these theories are intriguing and some are attractive, while others veer towards the fanciful. But they certainly add to the atmosphere of this wonderful place.

The legends surrounding Rosslyn Chapel found a point of focus when the chapel served as the setting for the climactic closing scenes of Dan Brown’s hugely popular novel “The Da Vinci Code” published in 2003, and the Ron Howard film of the same name released in 2006. Dan Brown has succeeded in bringing Rosslyn Chapel to an even wider audience and visitor numbers have increased dramatically as a result. It is a wonderful place at any time, but as it is open all year round, we’d recommend you pick the most off-season moment possible, as you only really begin to appreciate the magic of the chapel to the full if you are fortunate enough to find yourself visiting on a quiet day……..’

Remarkably, the whole chapel is built of stone with no wooden structures, and every possible surface seems to be carved, making it a truly unique building. Even the roof is an explosion of carving. rosslyn_chapel15.jpg












Rosslyn Chapel Trust is also responsible for the conservation and care of Rosslyn Castle, the ancestral home of the St Clair family, which is just a short walk from the Chapel. The Castle, which is category A listed, is not open to visitors but is available to rent as holiday 92x7mio57evk.jpgaccommodation through The Landmark Trust.

Rosslyn Castle has evolved over centuries and this Castle probably replaced an even earlier one, situated nearby. The oldest part of the Castle is the remains of the ‘lantern’ or ‘lamp tower’ by the bridge and this was probably built around 1304, after the Battle of Roslin.

A round keep was built on the south-west corner around 1390 by Sir Henry St Clair, the second Prince of Orkney. His son, Sir William, succeeded to the estate in 1417 and was responsible for the building of Rosslyn Chapel.

He enlarged and strengthened the Castle and, as he had travelled extensively in France, he introduced a number of French influences such as the round buttresses, the remains of which can still be seen.

In his work the ‘Genealogie of the Saint Clairs’, Father Hay wrote that Sir William and his Princess, Lady Elizabeth Douglas, had the ‘halls and chamber richly hung with embroidered hangings’ and were ‘royally served in gold and silver vessels, in most princely manner.’

Not long after the improvements were completed, a fire destroyed part of the building although this was subsequently repaired.


The Castle was attacked and set on fire again in 1544 at the time known as the ‘rough wooing’ when several other nearby castles suffered the same fate.

In 1580, the estate passed to another Sir William St Clair who created the vaults and ‘great turnpike of Rosslyn’ – the impressive four feet wide staircase which leads from the basement up through the present Castle – and added more buildings including the clock tower in 1596 and the Great Hall over the vaults.

The fireplace from the Great Hall still exists today, inscribed with the date of 1596.

His son, also Sir William, finished the building over the vaults and his initials ‘S.W.S (for Sir William St Clair) 1622’ are inscribed above the door of the present Castle.

The vaults below the present building provided the kitchen, bakehouse and dungeon. Sir William’s son, Sir John, tried to resist the attack on the Castle in 1650 by Cromwell’s troops, led by General Monk, but much damage was caused and the Castle never recovered.

In 1788, the Castle was described as ‘haggard and utterly dilapidated’. For much of the 20th century, it was occupied by Miss Leech, a tenant, followed by a period of restoration, which was instigated by the Earl and Countess of Rosslyn and completed in 1984. The Castle’s change in use to holiday accommodation took effect in 1985.

Our visit was in ‘Scottish’ weather as can be seen, otherwise we would have descended to the magnificent glen over which the castle is built.


All in all a day of great interest, and one I would certainly repeat…

With Aiisha we spent a terrific day at Dalkeith Country Park which gets a 10/10  score

100_3699.jpgfrom me. The setting, in the grounds of Dalkeith Palace, (currently leased to the University of Wisconsin!) is incomparable. The first ‘adventure’ undertaken by the intrepid Aiisha was one which I wouldn’t undergo in a hundred years, snaking through a wire mesh tube which was suspended from a bridge high over the river below and totally exposed. Good on her is what I say!



Other happenings were just as exciting…







The food was very good too in a high-class restaurant. We sat outside and enjoyed the sun…



and if the meal got a little boring the river was steps away,

WP_20170730_12_17_32_Pro.jpg and there was a horse to befriend..

One morning was spent at the National Museum of Scotland (terrific in its own right) at their major exhibition on The Jacobites. This featured a splendid collection of paintings
and artefacts from a lot of sources. The whole story of the Jacobites was related sometimes in panels sometimes in video clips, and it was thoroughly absorbing. We must have spent 3 hours there but I could easily have stayed much longer. Of course in the timeline more emphasis was given to the Romantic hero (if you are of my ilk) the Bonnie Prince himself here depicted in a typical portrait from the Royal collection (the present Royals seem to have a fascination with their Stuart line).


Here is an elaborate set of travelling cutlery and two wine beakers brought with him to Scotland in 1745. He always lived in some style.


and here a back sword presented to him in 1740 by the Duke of Perth.


Of course, in the end, the story was a tragedy culminating in the butchery of Culloden, a last hurrah for the brave folk who supported Charles against the odds…..that’s how I like to see it anyhow.images.jpeg

I think it was the same afternoon we picked up Aiisha from nursery and took her to the dinosaur exhibition at the Ocean Terminal. With animatronics the dinosaurs moved and roared, and an exciting time was had by all. There was even a play pit with hidden dinosaur bones…




and a coffee at one of the eateries enabled us to look at the ships moored outside including the Royal Britannia (which we had visited on a previous occasion).



17th – 24th July 2017….to Spain..



A week at Punta Mongo to celebrate Judy’s 80th Birthday…she is F’s sister. I met family and friends  I hadn’t met before which was great ( Oswaldo and Oswaldito from Tenerife were lovely ), as were the various boyfriends and girlfriends. Oswaldo told us he was a dab-hand at the barbecue, so we let him loose….

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It was nice to relax but it was interesting that the Brits (F, me, David and Jennifer) felt a little overwhelmed in the presence of so many people particularly at meal times….


well we just aren’t used to so many people at once! Here big Judy and little Judy are examining presents…


Here is F relaxing in our favourite spot..


The pool was as inviting as usual….a discovery for me was that this is a mulberry tree with some very nice fruit on it….



The views were as spectacular as usual (if a little blocked by greenery). A shot I have taken hundreds of times….



One of the best things as usual was the walk down the steps to collect our breakfast (fresh bread, or similar and fresh orange juice).


Other meals were cooked by our family..


and we had at least one pollo a laste..


Some walks were included…here along the promenade at L’Escala with a view of the Punta..20170719_180936 2.jpg


David was his usual too adventurous self jumping off the top at the rocky beach…



But we didn’t worry too much as can be seen…


The Birthday meal itself was memorable in a lovely location on a finca with olive groves and vines and beautiful gardens (which we were told went down to the sea….we will look next time). Not the least adding to our enjoyment was the fact that because of a slip-up in table location (which didn’t bother us one whit) we had free wine for the night…not plonk but decent stuff. We certainly availed ourselves readily.



David and Jennifer tried the very expensive but very exciting jet skis and thoroughly enjoyed it…


although Jennifer was slightly disappointed I didn’t get any better shots of them (with my phone?!)


One evening Judy treated us to a wine tasting and musical evening in the old salt warehouse in L’Escala…..much enjoyed.


All in all a terrific break and a memorable Birthday (we hope…)