August Is A Wicked Month….and more

side-11.jpgIt certainly is, in Edna O’Brien’s hands! I wondered whether this might just be too dated but I found O’Brien’s powerful writing was for the ages. I remember reading a few Edna O’Brien’s in the Sixties. This novel is redolent of that time. Although London is supposed to be swinging, for many it was a placeof loneliness and frustration. The ‘heroine’ has a complicated personal life but seeks solace in the Med…it was ever thus! Things happen, good and bad, and then there comes tremendous, overpowering guilt (an Irish writer, so inevitable?). Not only is this a story you want to get into but the writing is terrific…she’s really good on location character, plot and sex, and there aren’t many writers you can say that about. Really enjoyed it ad must see if I have any more O’Briens.


These little Alison Hodge books about all aspects of Cornwall and Cornish life are generally excellent and this one ‘Exploring The Camel Estuary’ is no exception. Written by experts – in this case a naturalist and a bird sanctuary warden and professional photographer, they are fully illustrated in colour and give you an itch to get out and go to the places covered. We often go to Padstow but I really had no idea there was so much of interest in the whole estuary and that particularly applies to the countryside and the wildlife. Can’t wait to explore!

I have taken to reading Agatha Christie again for light bedtime reading. Ok her characterisations are a bit wooden but we can still add in our own details, for Poirot and Hastings anyway, from the TV series and fill out their characters a bit (which is what I inevitably do). It was lucky that I had ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ as this was her The-Mysterious-Affair-at-Styles.JPGfirst published novel and introduced those characters plus Japp who develops into an interesting addition to most Poirot stories. She also sets her story in a country manor house which of course becomes a recurring theme as does the means of death – poison.  Agatha was a pharmacy assistant during the Blitz and gained an extensive knowledge of poisons which she puts to good use in her novels. The plot is not straightforward especially for tired nighttime reading, and I found I had to keep going back and then didn’t totally understand the final denouement! However I console myselfDead-Mans-Folly.JPG with the fact that F. had to read it twice. I may read it again…..‘Dead Man’s Folly’ holds a particular fascination for us as it is ‘set’ in what was Agatha Christie’s holiday house (mansion) on the River Dart near where we used to live in Dartmouth, and the murder takes place in the boathouse which we know well. Again a bit convoluted at the end but most enjoyable……




Tuesday 14th November…to Trelissick for an Oxford Society lunch and talks..


In search of a little intellectual stimulus and a good lunch, we decided to go to our first Oxford Society meeting. We knew the location was great, having been twice to Trelissick recently. Having not looked up the times carefully enough beforehand we were just about last there and only just in time. We sat at our lunch table and were introduced to the first speaker retired Oxford academic Fenella Wojnarowska who explained how our immune systems can become misdirected so that, instead of attacking cancer or other negative cells, they attack our own proteins, causing autoimmune diseases. She had a clinic where she examined patients with serious skin diseases, being a dermatologist. And over time she noticed that quite a few of her patients also had something wrong with their brains….memory oss, Alzheimers or strokes of some kind. This led her to investigate the connection between the two. Well, eventually as it took her ten years to persuade people to give her funding. This led her into this whole area of how our immune systems work and how they can be ‘trained’ onto targets. The research was, as she said, ‘very promising’ but as the grant was coming to an end, and she retired, so did the research end. How unfortunate and how typical!

The secretary of the branch, Richard Cockram,  who is a retired Oxford mathematician, then talked about the quantum world of the very small and how quantum theory is being applied to a potential new generation of computers. This like the previous talk was exceptionally interesting and given in a very unassuming way. Richard explained that all the big companies, Google Apple, IBM etc are trying to develop quantum computers but that it may be a start-up company such as Rigetti that comes up trumps. Unlike regular computers, which store information in bits made up of either zeros and ones, quantum machines can use both zero and one at the same time in what’s called a “qubit.” It sounds like a small change, but it enables computers to run more tasks at once. Just 50 qubits can represent 10,000,000,000,000,000 numbers, a scale a regular computer would need petabytes of data to hold. What is difficult to get hold of is that a quantum computer will be built ‘within the near future’ that has the same computational power as every computer on earth today combined. Of course this has all kinds of implications, but the talk was too short to enable us to discuss this angle.

Basically here’s the underlying rationale…see ‘Futurism’

‘While a classical computer works with bits as information placeholders, a quantum computer works with quantum bits (qubits). While bits carry information in either a 0 or 1 state, qubits can be 0s and 1s at the same time thanks to quantum superposition.

Meanwhile, entanglement allows particles to be manipulated despite the distance between them — anything that happens to one particle will instantly be reflected in the other. Information can, therefore, be sent across greater distances far more quickly than with classical computers.’

The lunch? Not great unfortunately. I for instance had a quiche which was a ‘mush’ in a pot with a pastry topping (quiche?!), and a sponge pudding which was supposed to be ‘clementine’ but had no taste. With all the intellectual activity going on I could perhaps have found more than a small glass of wine acceptable too! However, I now know a lot more than I knew before about matters which would not necessarily have concerned me but which proved fascinating……

Monday 13th November…a strenuous walk at Crackington Haven


We decided on a very fair morning with cloudless skies to take ourselves off to the North Coast to Crackington Haven where we had not been before. A very pleasant drive to get there through some pretty countryside. The tide was in when we arrived so no beach to be seen, and the sky had clouded over, but a very atmospheric cove it was. I had seen a walk on the NT site which indicated it was ‘3 miles moderate’, the IWalkCornwall site said ‘4.3 miles moderate-strenuous’, and a book of walks we have in the car said ‘5 miles moderate-strenuous with some difficult bits’!! I set out on the walk without F. who decided it would be a bit much, and I can confirm now that the latter description fits the bill. With my bad knees it was strenuous, very very up and down.



The compensation however was that the views were amazing….back towards Crackington Haven with gorse framing the picture (always in bloom in Cornwall they say)………


and forwards towards Tintagel where I counted at least 10 headlands in view….


The path was eroded in places and repairs were under way and this necessitated some zigzagging. The path was also quite ‘exposed’ in places, necessitating me to lean inland, as I am not great with heights. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed my walk to what is called ‘The Strangles’.


Some quite spectacular mushrooms were in evidence, and I know from seeing pictures that there are many many wildflowers in evidence in Spring and onwards, so I must return….


Apparently too this is quite a spectacular place for geologists and there were certainly some interesting views of the eroded cliffs. The Soay sheep which live in these parts were nowhere to be seen, however.


My return leg started with a longish downhill stretch to end up in the picturesque Ludon Valley where I followed the stream enjoying various little cataracts along the way through Autumnal splendour back to my starting point.



There, having joined forces with F. again, I was more than ready for my pint and we adjourned to the Coombe Barton Inn, and a very warm welcome we had there. It seemed excellent all round including the ale, the location, the view and the charming lady in charge.

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We decided to drive back along the coast and we had a little tour around Tintagel. No time for an exploration of the National Trust Post Office which is famous or the castle which we saved for another time. But we had a very favourable impression indeed of the place itself which was bigger than expected and surprisingly unspoilt>


Friday 10th Nov…another Abbey….this time Torre Abbey in Torquay…


A bit of an effort to get there….car, walk, bus, bus…but it was certainly worth it. We seem to be making a habit of visiting abbeys these days. Anyway we were here to make first use of our new National Art passes which I had worked out would save us money just by visiting about five local attractions (but giving us so much else besides…..). Torre Abbey sits in parkland, just outside Torquay, on the so-called English Riviera. Today it didn’t look anything like the South of France, but did it matter? No, it didn’t. The bus driver made sure we got off at the right stop, and we walked up to the Abbey through a beautiful garden by the side of a stream and overlooking a cricket ground, a rugby union ground complete with dinky stand, and the bowling club.


As we approached our destination, the first thing we saw was the tithe barn, impressive in its own right and, as we learned, with an interesting history…The tithe barn, built along with the abbey in the early thirteenth century, is known as The Spanish Barn after it was used for fourteen days to hold 397 prisoners of war from the Spanish Armada in 1588…..’


The Abbey itself consists of the rather grand house built out of the ruins after the Dissolution and extensive ruins….these are all extremely well signed with excellent information boards.


After looking at an exhibition of finds on entry we were informed that we should start on the top floor of the Abbey house and work our way down through the four levels. There is a major exhibition on the history of the Abbey on the top floor and very enjoyable and interesting it proved.  As usual, the Historic England entry has as much detail as you would wish about the history of the abbey. Suffice it to say that it was founded in 1196 as a monastery for Premonstratensian canons, and is now the best-preserved medieval monastery in Devon and Cornwall. In fact in 1196 six Premonstratensian canons from the Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire founded Torre Abbey when William Brewer, lord of the manor of Torre, gave them land. By 1536 the Abbey’s annual income made it the wealthiest of all the Premonstratensian houses in England. The canons surrendered to King Henry’s VIII commissioner in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and immediately thereafter in 1539 a 21-year lease of the site and demesne of Torre Abbey was acquired by Sir Hugh I Pollard (fl.1535,1545), lord of the manor of King’s Nympton, Sheriff of Devon in 1535/6 and Recorder of Barnstaple in 1545. In 1543 Pollard acquired the freehold from John St. Leger (d.1596) of Annery, who had himself acquired it in 1543 with other lands from the king in exchange for other lands and payment of a cash balance. Dissolution resulted in a widescale demolition of the church and east range, and all items of value, including the lead from the roofs, were taken. The south and west ranges were mostly unscathed and, in 1598, were converted into a house for Thomas Ridgeway. After a succession of various owners, the house became the possession of the Cary family in 1662. It stayed in the family until 1930 when, during worldwide economic crisis, financial difficulties forced Commander Henry Cary to sell it to Torquay Borough Council. It has since been used as a municipal art gallery; the mayor’s parlour and, during World War II, it was used by the Royal Air Force.

There is quite a good section on Nelson (who visited his boss who based himself here), and on Napoleon who ended up in Torquay of all places after defeat at Waterloo.


Following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo (1815) Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, surrendered to the British and was brought to Torbay on board HMS Bellerophon. This famous picture, which is part of the exhibition, shows the scene in Torbay on 7th August 1815, when Napoleon was transferred from the Bellerophon to HMS Northumberland for transportation to exile in the island of St. Helena.

The Bellerophon is to the right and the Northumberland, under the command of Captain Ross, is to the left; the central man-of-war being the Tonnant, flagship of Admiral Lord Keith, Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth. To the right of the Northumberland, the Tonnant’s barge is conveying Napoleon, Count Bertrand and his wife, General Gourgaud, Count de Las Casse and Admiral Keith to the Northumberland, which sailed for St. Helena at 6pm. Luny knew a number of naval personnel who were involved with this operation, and ‘The Exile’s Departure’ was doubtless painted from their accounts.

Obviously it was all of tremendous public interest, and Torquay became the centre of the universe for a while….


The exhibition occupied quite a lot of our time, and we adjourned for a bite to eat….as the cafe had just closed we went to the large leisure centre in the park. Next time we plan to visit the Grand Hotel which we found out later is just as near for a cup of tea and a sandwich. Returning to the museum we found we had no time to view the other floors, as we wished to look round the gardens. The Abbeys has a terrific art collection…….we just glimpsed some paintings on the stairways


‘With over 600 incredible works of art from the 18th century to present day, the Abbey’s collection includes Pre- Raphaelite works including Holman Hunt’s ‘The Children’s Holiday’ and Burne-Jones’ drawings of ‘The Planets’. Highlights are the watercolours by Thomas Luny and FJ Widgery and a rare proof set of William Blakes’s Book of Job…..there are also various other galleries…the Frederick Thrupp Gallery, Battle Scenes, Green and Pleasant Land, The Call of the Sea and Seaside Fun for instance. Next time for all this.

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Even at this time of year the gardens were beautiful, and the glass houses amazing….


and we had a very interesting chat with the gardener in the hot house who was explaining how quickly the plants grew. Next week scaffolding would arrive to enable them all to be chopped down to near ground level ( a job he used to do on ladders before the strict emphasis on Health and Safety ), and within weeks they would be soaring up again. He showed us, and told us about, some of the exotic blooms on display….magnificent they were too……




A very full three or four hours, and we certainly look forward to returning.


Mon 6th November…in search of the Giant’s Hedge….


After a quick look at the OS map, we thought we would have a nice little walk around Lerryn on the south side of the river which we have not explored before, and I have to say we were really looking forwards to visiting the brilliant shop and having one of their excellent pasties. As soon as we arrived in the pretty village we were shocked to find that the shop (which was the best local shop we have ever seen) was permanently closed. A notice in the window addressed to the villagers said something about they would know what a lot of messing about they had been subjected to. We were none the wiser – presumably something to do with a rate or rent increase (we have plenty of experience of those ourselves!).

Anyway off we went past an old tarred boat hut and into the woods.




and of course it was lovely and Autumnal, just as it is everywhere….we are so lucky to have four seasons in our country.




……we went as far as we could but we came across a bit of a steep drop which we decided F. wouldn’t want to negotiate, and returned along a slightly different route lower down. Just as we were coming into the village again, we made a totally unexpected discovery. There was a wall with various arches which I assumed was some kind of industrial structure such as you find all over Cornwall. However, to our great surprise on  going to its far side we found it was a very large and ornate fountain with the wall being obviously part of a pleasure garden of sorts. Research showed that it was indeed just that……


‘The Lerryn Regatta was a popular annual event and at one time it was called The Henley of the West. It was mentioned in the Royal Cornwall Gazette of 1870. There was a break for the first World War and the regatta restarted with a Peace Regatta in 1919. There was a second break for the second World War and the regatta restarted in 1953 and ran until 1968 when four thousand people attended.[17]

Frank Parkyn, one of the members of the regatta committee and a successful miner, bought some woodland on the south of the river from the Rashleigh Estate in 1911. In about 1920 most of the trees were cut and started construction of a pleasure ground named Tivoli Park after the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen which Parkyn had visited. The park featured fountains, a pond, a cascade, obelisks plunge pool and bandstand. The park played a central role in subsequent regattas housing a fun fair, field sports and a pavilion. The park has now become overgrown but remains of the plunge pool can still be seen.’

I must say that all of this is quite incredible. Little did we realise that this, our favourite peaceful little village in these parts, was once quite famous! Having said that, it should come as no surprise in one way as the villagers remain incredibly enterprising….the events going on at the Red Store  are wide and varied and out of proportion for a hamlet of this size.

Shop closed, we went into the great pub the Ship Inn for a pint and a bag of nuts to help

20171106_134034.jpgus on our way. I noticed then on our OS map that a short way out of the village the so-called Giant’s Hedge was indicated. Having seen reference to this in Looe we decided to explore. It was a bit further than we thought (and more hilly!), but we persevered and eventually found it. The walk to it was picturesque.




I thought it might be difficult to recognise but it was indeed a prominent feature in the landscape, quite wide and bulky…..



A rhyme  goes as follows….

“Jack the Giant having nothing to do built a hedge from Lerryn to Looe!”

Other versions attribute it to the Devil, who also found himself with nothing to do one day.

The bank stretches some nine miles, from the Fowey Estuary to the Looe Estuary, and it is one of the largest ancient earth banks in the UK. In places it is up to 15 feet high and 24 feet wide, and parts of it are stone-faced. It represents the northern boundary of a territory defined by south flowing rivers on its eastern and western sides, and by the ocean on its southern side.

It is thought to date from the Dark Ages, and historians think that it was probably the boundary of a tribal chief’s petty kingdom (one of many small kingdoms around Britain before the tenth century creation of the kingdom of England). Another theory is that it may have been a “last-ditch” defence of the Cornish against the Saxon incursions of the ninth and tenth centuries.

All very interesting. As we wound our way back to Lerryn, we chatted to a farmer who had lost a sheep, and saw an amazing zip wire crossing a whole field……they obviously know how to enjoy themselves down here.  A very interesting trip indeed…….we hope the shop re-opens.

Friday 3rd November….Talland Bay to Polperro again….


It’s Autumn, but not looking out of the front bedroom window where the pink rose is still in full bloom with plenty of buds. Anyway off we went today for a short blow on the Coast Path. We walked down Bridal Lane from the bus stop at Killigarth, and a new site I have found ‘The South West Coast Path’  has this to say….

‘The settlement of Bridals (spelt Bridles on modern OS maps) was first recorded in 1356, when it was spelt ‘Bridewelle’, meaning ‘brides well’. This is thought to refer to a natural spring in the fields nearby, which is traditionally referred to as a holy well, although there is no evidence of it ever having been used as such.  It has also been suggested that brides used this lane to travel to the church at Talland.


The secluded beach at Talland Bay has been a popular place for landing contraband over the centuries, and there are a number of smugglers’ tales associated with the cove, including that of ‘Battling Billy’, who used a hearse to convey his kegs of brandy inland, knowing that the Customs men were unlikely to search a coffin for smuggled goods. He swore that, if they ever killed him, his body would still drive the hearse to Polperro; and legend has it that when the Revenue men did shoot him, his corpse went on to drive the hearse over the cliffs despite the gunshot wounds to his neck. Locals say that his spirit still haunts the bay on a windy night.’


‘The huge landmark towers to right and left of you as you walk down towards Talland are matched by a further pair on the hillside at Hannfore, just down the coast, and together they constitute a measured nautical mile.

Although advances in technology mean that ships can measure their speed accurately, these pairs of towers are still sometimes used for this purpose by ships coming out of Plymouth Sound. The run is timed from when the first pair of markers line up when viewed from the ship, and the clock is stopped when the second pair line up. The run has to be repeated as many as five or six times in each direction to allow for winds and tides.

Talland Church was built in the thirteenth century, supposedly on the site of a Celtic altar

image-bg.jpgset up by St Tallanus in the fifth century. The medieval building was enlarged and reconstructed in the fifteenth century, and the bench-ends from that time survive to this day, although the sixteenth century wall paintings were destroyed in the restoration carried out in 1848. As well as the carvings on the bench-ends, the church is known for its unusual bell-tower, which was detached until it was joined to the church by the construction of a coach-house roof between church and tower.

Records from 1400 suggest that there was a cross on the hillside above the church, known as ‘Tallan Crosse’, which may have been a wayside cross marking the path to the original Celtic church. ‘Tallan’ in Cornish means ‘holy place on the brow of a hill’.

There are more than 400 ancient crosses throughout Cornwall. The most common ones are the wayside crosses, which stand at the side of roads, trackways and paths and once marked the route to the parish church, although sometimes it was to a pilgrimage or monastic site, an ancient chapel, a holy well. Sometimes these crosses marked a burial ground which existed before the church, and the cross was used to mark the site.’

20171103_113402.jpgWell, it’s definitely Autumn on Bridal Lane…and we both love a good shuffle through the leaves, reminding us in different ways of our childhood. In my case it’s outside our house in Upper Chorlton Road Manchester where there was always a good fall of leaves and i am taking our alsatian ‘Flash’ for a walk, his head down snuffling all the leaves. Funny how something, sometimes even a smell, can take you back. Autumn in Cornwall gives you a chance to see all the Cornish hedges stripped back, and all of ours are always covered in ferns with the hart’s tongue in particular lasting all through the winter. I’m always interested in the hedges, what they contain, how old they are. Alongside pics taken on our walk today the official CornwallGov site has this to say….

‘Exploring Cornish Hedges

Wildlife Zones of a Cornish Hedge

There are three main wildlife zones:- hedge bottom, sides and top:-

The hedge bottom is the dampest and most fertile area. It usually reflects the herbage which naturally grows in the land alongside the hedge and is always richer when a wildlife field margin is left uncultivated.

The sides of the hedge are the most variable. Wildlife varies with the physical structure of the hedge, its aspect, age and management. Typically the soil is less fertile than in the fields nearby.

The tops of Cornish and turf hedges often provide a moisture-retentive support for plants that would occur naturally in scrub or woodland. The top of a stone hedge resembles a dry scree habitat.

All three zones may be enriched by appropriately managed hedgerow trees providing variable and dappled shade.


The habitat diversity of Cornish hedges includes grassy or variously wooded tops, exposed or sheltered sides, shaded or sunny aspects, dry top or damp foot, and an intimate mosaic of varying rock aspects and micro-textures, small stable or semi-mobile earth slopes, dry or humid pockets, and deep damp crevices.

This array of available niches, with their continuous history, has encouraged a rich population of native plants and animals. Today, Cornish hedges form vital refuges for wildlife, as well as being migration corridors. These enduring values become more precious as the landscapes around them are tidied up and intensively managed.

The vast majority of species in Cornish hedges are refugees from habitats long vanished, but are able to find all their needs there. These are the self-sustaining hedge species. In contrast, the non-sustaining hedge species rely on nearby habitats for their survival in hard times, or for part of their life-cycles.

Controlled rotational grazing of fields and hedges by farm livestock is good because it reduces the smothering effects of more vigorous plants. But excessive trimming makes a hedge too dry, and destroys the yearly cycle of nature’s renewal. Species are lost, and unwelcome changes occur, for example the invasion of pretty but rampant non-native species, eg. three-cornered leek, montbretia, winter heliotrope.


What to See in a Cornish Hedge

A great variety of wildlife is commonly seen in most Cornish hedges.

Wildflowers include red campion, herb-robert, bluebell, foxglove, vetches, ground-ivy, fumitory, hawkweeds, woundworts, common violet, speedwells, cinquefoils, yarrow, plantains, sorrels, trefoils, betony, wood sage, scabious, ox-eye daisy, toadflaxes, cow parsley.

Cornish hedges support an amazing variety of ferns, some 12 species have been recorded, including the harts-tongue, male-fern, broad buckler, black spleenwort and shoft shield fern.

Hedge-top trees and scrub commonly include hawthorn, blackthorn, gorse, Atlantic ivy, roses, oaks, ash, elms (incl. Cornish elm), sycamore, holly, elder, hazel, honeysuckle and brambles.

Birds most frequently seen are crows, finches, wren, robin, blackbird, hedge sparrow, also buzzard which haunts the hedges to prey on rabbits and large insects. Mammals most frequently seen are rabbit, fox, stoat, wood mouse, voles and shrews.

South-facing hedges provide excellent basking opportunities and shelter for reptiles:- adder, grass snake, slow worm, and common lizard. Damp hedge bottoms harbour toads and frogs.

Wildflowers especially seen in stone hedges are wall pennywort, stonecrop and wild thyme, with spleenworts and polypody ferns, drystone mosses, yellow crustose and grey-green foliose lichens, dog’s tooth lichen, and cladonia species.

Turf hedges are particularly good for hedgerow shrubs such as guelder rose, spindle, bullace; and for wildflowers such as wild arum, hemp agrimony, deadnettle, and meadow vetchling. Hedge-nesting birds such as thrush, blackbird, greenfinch, chaffinch and whitethroat, and the less common small mammals such as weasel and dormouse may be found in turf hedges.

When to See Biodiversity in Cornish Hedges


The early golden “stars and suns” of lesser celandine and dandelion are followed by blackthorn blossom, stitchworts, primroses, violets and early purple orchids. Birds are gathering nesting materials. Bumblebees and other insects are waking from hibernation. Lizards warm themselves on sunny stones. Croziers of abundant fern fronds are emerging.


The high season for wildflowers and insects. Butterflies often seen along hedges are speckled wood, holly blue, green-veined white, hedge brown, wall brown, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and painted lady. Less common are the orange tip, comma, silver-washed fritillary. Pretty daytime moths include magpie moth, common carpet and burnet moths. Also attractive caterpillars such as mullein moth and elephant hawk feed on hedgerow plants. Birds are nesting and swallows may be seen swooping over hedges for insects.


Late flowers of purple and gold, betony, golden rod and hawkweeds; and all the berries, hawthorn, holly, blackberry, elder, bryony. This is the time to see spiders when on a misty morning the hedges are sparkling with various gossamer, funnel and orb webs. Moth caterpillars eg “woolly bears” such as drinker, roam over the hedge to find a place to pupate. Look out for toadstools, puffballs and other fungi.


The time to see the hedge structure when the growth has died down. Foraging birds are visible, including redwing and other winter migrants. The masses of mosses become fresh and green, and show up well. Many wildflowers such as red campion produce blooms throughout winter. On mild evenings, bats come out to feed.

Early Morning

This is the time to see hedgerow mammals quietly going home to their burrows in the hedges, and the birds waking up.

A Sunny Day

This is the time to see wildflowers and the myriad insects, beetles, shield bugs, hoverflies etc that are associated with them, and to hear grasshoppers and crickets.

A Wet Day

This is the time to see snails, especially the pretty yellow, brown or pink brown-lipped snail which is often seen on hogweed. Many interesting tiny snails such as two-toothed snail, round snail, chrysalis snail and hairy snail also live in Cornish hedges.


This is the time to see birds going to roost. In summer, bats come out to hunt along the hedges, usually the pipistrelle. As it gets dark the many species of moths wake from their daytime sleep in the hedge, and feed on the hedgerow flowers. Badgers and foxes forage along the hedges. Tawny and barn owls hunt over the hedges for mice and voles. Hedgehogs emerge from hiding.

All the year round

Our Cornish hedges show a panorama of nature’s seasons. The structure of stone, earth, bark and greenery forms a unique motherland for the annual cycle of a multitude of species. It provides the food chain through flower to seed, and for hunter and prey. Our hedges have their own system to support life, which continues indefinitely as long as man’s necessary work keeps disturbance to the minimum; for example trimming alternate sides of the hedge rotationally, and only during the winter.

Looking at Wildlife in Cornish Hedges

Most hedges are on private land and the owner’s consent should be obtained before visiting, except where using a public footpath or bridleway.

Fortunately Cornwall is blessed with very many public footpaths in every part of the county. These usually run alongside field hedges in the countryside, giving ample access to them and opportunities for their close study. Many of the footpaths are sign-posted from the roadside, but a map is useful for following footpaths across fields.

Roadside hedges are more accessible but traffic can be a real hazard, especially in our narrow lanes.

Some land, particularly moorland, has open access, under legislation or by agreement. Enquires should be made locally.’

The views over the Cornish hedges are pretty amazing too!



The walk on the Path is only just over a mile and a half and soon we are coming into Polperro hunkered into itself away from the full force of the sea, and its little harbour now well protected by a special barrier. Still plenty of tourists around even at this time of year.


and I never cease to be amazed by the fierceness of the coast surrounding Cornwall……these rocks are actually seen coming into Polperro harbour…it’s no wonder there are hundreds of shipwrecks at every point.



Wed 1st November….by bus to Port Isaac


We keep trying to work out new destinations for using our free bus pass and decided to visit Port Isaac. This involved parking at Liskeard station, walking into town, catching the 11 bus to Wadebridge, and then the local bus from there to Port Isaac via Rock and Polzeath ( which I always have to remember to pronounce as ‘Polzerth’ as a previous bus driver told us and not our posh ‘Poleeth’ which he didn’t understand!). A nice trip. You get off the bus at the top of the steep hill in Port Isaac, but rather than go straight there


we decided to walk the opposite way and visit Port Gaverne which is half a mile away. It is “a tiny hamlet clustered around a sheltered cove half a mile east of Port Isaac. Port Gaverne was originally developed as a nineteenth century industrial port. Grey slate from Delabole Quarry, five miles away, was loaded onto heavy sailing ketches too wide for Port Isaac. After losing most of its trade when the North Cornwall railway line to Wadebridge opened in the 1890s, Port Gaverne reverted to a sleepy fishing cove.” Today it is mainly holiday cottages.

Arriving in the cove we walked out onto the headland for magnificent views of the north Cornish coast up towards Tintagel one way and past Port Isaac the other.



A local group maintains this headland called ‘The Main’ and there is a mini rope bridge crossing one of the chasms which was interesting to cross.

Having had our brief look around we then adjourned to the Port Gaverne hotel for lunch….


…’s a gastro-pub cum hotel which has excellent reviews (voted Cornwall’s best gastropub this year for example). Very good it was too.  Having fortified ourselves with food and drink we walked up the hill and then down the other side to Port Isaac itself (which we had had a brief drive around the other day to show Malcolm and Ann).


We got our first views (including the famous Doc Martin house pictured at the head of this piece) on our walk down….and followed the mass of tourists (even in November) through the crowded streets….


but as with most tourist resorts, when you leave the main run, you soon leave people behind you, and we took delight in the back streets with their eighteenth and nineteenth century cottages.





After walking up the hill on the other side of the harbour to gawp for a few seconds at ‘the Doc Martin house’ along with everyone else, I had a short walk on my own up to the headland which leads to the next harbour Port Quin, and enjoyed the views…… the fishermen were especially busy at this time…..





before returning to F.  and a nice cup of coffee at the Old School Hotel a rather nice place perched on the cliff. We wandered slowly back to our bus stop and made the (last) bus homewards. A great day out, and Ports Gaverne and Isaac were surprisingly unspoilt despite all the publicity…….


Sat 28th October….by steam train to Buckfast Abbey


It was the last weekend of the season for trips on the South Devon steam railway and tickets were half-price, so what better excuse for a visit? Bus to Plymouth, then the excellent Gold service bus to Totnes (leather seats, wi-fi, excellent views from the upper deck), where we walked the short distance to the steam rail terminus. As expected this was like stepping back to the fifties (or earlier?), and the atmosphere on the station, and its general feel, was great.


and you never know who you might bump into on a station like this…


our loco arrived after we had had a pleasant wait (coal fire in the waiting room was one pleasant touch), and we were surprised to see that it was a London loco…


once aboard, we were soon pulling out..


and what a lovely journey it proved to be (right alongside the beautiful River Dart)…





There was one stop at Staverton from where there are riverside walks to the pretty village with its pub and 14th century church. We must do that some other time. After a perfect length of journey taking 30 minutes, our destination was reached…



We decided to walk the short distance to Buckfast Abbey, and were pretty soon walking through one of the Abbey gateways. We had no idea what to expect, but we were shortly to be astounded. The first thing we did (as usual) was make for the cafe/restaurant in this case the Grange restaurant, and what a pleasant experience this was….great food, a glass of wine ( I was a bit worried they might be TT, I should have known better!), and a lovely environment with tremendous views.



the mural in the restaurant was spectacular, and showed real-life scenes from the building of the Abbey


and we were truly amazed to learn its story……. its history dates back to 1018, but it is its modern history which is truly astonishing. By 1872 it was in private hands but lay in ruins. The owner “decided to sell the property, but was keen to offer it to a religious community. An advert was placed in The Tablet, describing the Abbey as “a grand acquisition could it be restored to its original purpose.” Six weeks later, monks were again living at Buckfast after a gap of 343 years.

The monks who returned to Buckfast came here by a very roundabout route, for they were exiled from their own monastery in France, and eventually made their way to England. They were given shelter by the community of St. Augustine’s Priory (later Abbey) at Ramsgate, who loaned them a large property in Leopardstown on the outskirts of Dublin.

Two years later, they noticed the advert in The Tablet, and the superior, Pere Duperou, travelled with Dom Adam Hamilton (a monk of Ramsgate, who acted as translator) to Plymouth, where they met Dr. Gale. They immediately took out a lease on the property. The first six monks arrived at Buckfast on 28th October, 1882. The remainder arrived during the next few weeks.

Much public interest and support was shown for the monks’ plans to restore the Abbey. Mr. Frederick Walters, one of the leading architects of his day, was appointed to draw up plans for the restoration, which he did using the evidence of the Buck print of 1734 (a picture of the ruins of the Abbey at that time), and the few ruins still standing. As it turned out, Walters’ original plans for the restored Abbey Church turned out to be 107---rebuildingthemonastary-1.jpgwrong, for shortly after Walters made his proposal, one of the monks discovered part of the medieval foundations whilst digging in the vegetable garden. The monks then uncovered most of the rest of the foundations of the 12th century Cistercian Abbey. Substantial foundations of the domestic buildings were being uncovered as late as 1997. By March 1884, Walters had made accurate drawings of the foundations, and put forward another design for the rebuilding of the Abbey in the style of the mid-12th century, based on studies of other Cistercian Abbeys such as Kirkstall and Fountains.

In the meantime, work was under way to improve the monastery buildings. The Abbot’s108---rebuildingthemonastary-2.jpg Tower had been restored, and a temporary church (now the Chapter House) had been erected next to it. This was opened on 25th March, 1884. Also in 1884, work started on the South Wing of the monastery, which was to include the kitchen, refectory and cloister, mostly paid for by Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

109---Boniface_Natter.jpgBoniface Natter was blessed as Abbot on 24th February, 1903 – by pure coincidence, exactly 365 years after the closure of the medieval Abbey. After the blessing, a cheque was found in the collection basket for £1,000. This money was used to complete the West Wing of the monastery, providing much-needed bedrooms, as well as rooms for the novitiate. Abbot Natter also arranged for the medieval statue of Our Lady of Buckfast to be restored. The lower part of the statue had been discovered in an old wall, still retaining its original colouring and gilding. This is now in the Lady Chapel of the Abbey Church.

Abbot Natter was tragically drowned in a shipwreck in 1906. Anscar Vonier, who had been with Natter at the time of the shipwreck, managed to survive. Shortly after his return to Buckfast, Anscar Vonier was elected as the new Abbot.

Soon after becoming Abbot, Vonier announced to the community that his first project would be to rebuild the Abbey Church. Br. Peter Schrode, who had been sent to a monastery in France to learn the art of masonry, was to lead the project. On January 5th, 1907, the whole community gathered at the north-east corner of the foundations, and watched as Abbot Anscar laid the first stone.

The Abbey Church was built piecemeal, according to the funds available – but at no time did work come to a halt until the whole church was completed, thirty-two years later. The builders – normally only four monks, and never more than six – began with the east end, the sanctuary, transepts and two bays of the nave. At first, while funds were low, all the stone had to be cut and dressed by the monks. In later years, they were able to buy the stone ready-dressed from the quarries. Scaffolding was made from wooden poles, lashed together with ropes and chains. Stone was lifted with manual hoists or block and tackle.

The building work continued throughout the First World War, during which time the community (two-thirds of whom were German) were prohibited from leaving the monastery without special licence, as well as having to endure the hostility of some of the local population.

Nevertheless, funds still came in. In 1910, Sir Robert Harvey donated a peal of fourteen bells. Most of the furnishings in the church were also donated by individuals, such as the Stations of the Cross, the stone carvings on the altars in the side-chapels, the stained glass, candelabra, and the great Corona Lucis above the sanctuary.  (Pictures of the candelabra and the Corona Lucis can be seen on the Abbey Church page).

Life at Buckfast in the early years was quite austere – this was a legacy from the Abbey’s origins in France. The 2-00am Night Office was retained until 1933; silence was strictly observed in the monastery, leading to the use of traditional monastic sign language; monks knelt when speaking to the Abbot, and newspapers were a rarity.

The 25th August, 1932 was the day chosen for the Consecration of the Abbey Church. After 25 years of labour, all but the upper section of the tower had been completed. Cardinal Bourne was chosen by the Pope as his representative; also taking part were five Archbishops, sixteen Bishops, thirty Abbots and many priests. Not only was the Church full to capacity, but thousands heard the service outside, where loud speakers had been installed. The service was also broadcast by the B.B.C.

The final phase of the rebuilding of the Church was the completion of the tower to accommodate the superb set of bells which had been donated in 1910. The final stone was laid on the tower on 24th July, 1937, completing thirty-two years work. It was not until December of the following year that the pointing was finished and the scaffolding removed.

Abbot Anscar was away on a lecture tour in the last weeks of 1938, returning on December 6th. The builders had hurried to remove the last of the scaffolding for his return, so that Vonier, exhausted and ill with a cold he had caught on the long journey home, could see the great work completed. He died three weeks later. Abbot Anscar was internationally known as a writer, preacher and scholar, but it was his life’s work as a builder that he was best known. One writer in the Telegraph recalled a conversation that they had recently had with Vonier, in which Vonier had said, “Once the Church is completed and the whole building finished, I have done my task and I can go.” Abbot Anscar was buried in the Church. A Bronze memorial plaque, showing the achievements of Vonier’s life was made by Benno Elkan, was erected in the south aisle.”


Seeing this magnificent set of buildings, and realising that they were built by a tiny group of monks (4 or 6 at a time) with self-taught skills, well it really takes the breathe away. It is quite quite unbelievable.

And what awaited us inside was equally astounding. We had to be super quiet!

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The detailed work of building, carving, woodwork, artwork, metalwork, mosaics and more must surely be the equal of anything one sees in our older abbeys and cathedrals…….






It was a real privilege to see all this, and afterwards to relax by walking round the prize-winning gardens (lavender garden, physic garden, sensory garden, fruit garden……) in the beautiful surroundings of the bowl of wooded hills and the river Dart.


We must return when they are at their best….


A visit to the excellent shop was repaid with some purchases. And then it was time to walk slowly back to the station where we found the vintage bus which we will catch on another occasion.




All in all, the day could not have been improved upon….

Recent reading…


I had a very old and slim volume, but I wanted to re-read ‘Montrose’ by C V Wedgwood after visiting the Jacobites exhibition at the National Museum in Edinburgh recently. Wedgwood was regarded as a good popular historian in the sixties. She covers the story alright but reads into it lots of moods, how the characters felt etc etc which make it seem very light indeed. The subtitle is ‘A Man Unmatched In Britain’s History’ so you can see which sympathetic angle she is coming from!  And the prose is rather flowery…’s an example. “Whilst Montrose lay in the best bed, tired and thankful, Assynt and his wife (perhaps chiefly his wife) bethought them of the blood money for his capture. Twenty five thousand pounds. It was a great deal of money for a poor little chieftain at the back of beyond………..etc ” I shall have to look out a more serious biography.

Having read Philip Marsden’s book on the history of Falmouth, and recommended it to F. who also enjoyed it very much, I was really looking forward to this. It’s subtitle is ‘The download-1.jpgSpirit of Place’ and that gives a fair idea of what it is about. Philip feels very strongly that Cornwall is a special place with the past having as much relevance as the present if I can put it that way. And he travels West rather like the Georgian and Victorian antiquarians interested in everything and with a keen eye for anything historical or unusual.

He also likes out-of-the-way spots. He happens upon Tolverne Barton, “one of those forgotten, time-rinsed corners with which Cornwall rewards path-strayers and the persistently nosy”, and after being brought up short for straying onto private land he then sits and has a great conversation with the owner over a cup of tea! He pauses to contemplate Ruan Langhorne, “now a backwater, verdant and spongy in its silted-up creek”, a lovely place we know ourselves.

I must admit I was a bit wary for the first few chapters as he started to go overboard about the prehistoric sites he loves visiting and reading into them rather too much, and I dreaded him getting mystical. However things soon evened out and I started to thoroughly enjoy his curiosity and his historical skills. In the end it made me wonder at the perseverance of all the people in whose footsteps he was treading and admire his own approach tremendously. Inspiring.

download-2.jpgLooking in my ‘library’ for something to read I hit upon ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’ and remembered it well from the eighties television series. In fact so well that I could picture every one of the characters with great clarity (bit like say All Creatures Great and Small, great book, great television, never forgotten). Having worked in a ‘new’ university myself  (the setting for the erstwhile practice) I found it both hilarious and so true to life that one cringes to think that it should have been like this. I really really enjoyed it. And it was a surprise to find that it was written and dramatised by Andrew Davies who used to be one of F.’s customers in our bookshops. A brilliant man, the book is very clever indeed and great fun. I am off to see if I can find the TV series on You Tube….


Tuesday 24th October…Drake’s house, Buckland Abbey, where we encounter him in extra large size….


Malcolm and Ann’s last day so where better to take them than a historic house in a grand setting with a pretty drive to get there. As it happens Buckland Abbey is in Devon but where we are in South-East Cornwall we don’t let boundaries worry us. The house belonged to the Grenvilles


but was then acquired by Drake with the results of much Spanish booty. It is an intriguing conversion of the old abbey with much to delight –  whether it be the breath-taking tithe barn


the accretions to the building itself including the flying buttress which is actually a flue….


or the carvings…


When entering the house I was filled with dread as we were told that a modern artist Andrew Logan was exhibiting his work all through the house. However I was proved wrong as his work was not only impressive but added to my enjoyment of the historic pieces on display…



and the display inside the tithe barn was quite spectacular as well as appropriate with its  outsize sheaths of corn, butterflies etc etc



One of the rooms in the house had a magnificent plaster ceiling which on asking I found was twentieth century….here is a small detail…


and it was interesting to compare this with the genuine article later on!



Great craftsmanship all round. The Tudor ceiling is in the Great Hall where we had a lovely talk to the volunteer who proved absolutely chock-full of information and enthusiasm….so nice to see. The original tiled floor was particularly spectacular. She the directed us across the way to the Roman Catholic chapel, where a colleague gave us a detailed account of its history, revealed by the diligence and care of the very last Drake to own Buckland Abbey – Elizabeth Beatrice Fuller-Eliott-Drake who only died in 1937…a beautiful portrait of her is in the house…


Of course we had look at Drake’s Drum which is perhaps the most famous object associated with Buckland, and we re-lived its history accompanied by the poetry of Sir Henry Newbolt…very evocative indeed.


Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
An’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
Wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
An’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
He sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
Roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
A’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
Strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
If the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
An’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
Slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
An’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
Call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
Where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
They shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!

I did imply we met an outsized Drake and so we did….on the top floor is the plaster model for the statues of him in Tavistock (the original) and Plymouth Hoe. Alarming to encounter as you climb the stairs and meet all ten feet of him!



As they had finished serving lunches in the cafe by the time we had had enough of Francis, we adjourned to Tavistock where there was a real find which we will make plenty of use of in future….the wonderful Cornish Arms two real fires, newspapers, comfy seating, a smart restaurant and fabulous gastropub-food at very reasonable prices. What a great end to the day and to Malcolm and Ann’s visit….