On another glorious September day off we went and parked up by the excellent Carlyon Bay Hotel. What a joy it is to do what we want (well within reason, and as long as it doesn’t cost too much) whenever we want. After using the hotel’s facilities (very nice), we admired the view of the bay from the grounds……. and then set off passing some very nice new flats (starting at half a million), and being dazzled by the reflections on the sea……..We then came across a watch tower which was evidently manned. On closer inspection there was a notice saying ‘Visitors Welcome’ which I was very surprised to see, and so up the steps we went to a very warm welcome.The watchtower – Charlestown Station – is indeed an old coastguard station. Many will know of the concerns when in an economy drive they were nearly all shut. In fact in 1974 there were still 127 stations (permanently manned) and 245 auxiliary stations. Now there are just 10 Coastguard Operations Centers (CGOCs) and one National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC). Local concern all around the country about the loss of local visual watch and local knowledge led to the setting up of volunteer-run watch stations and the establishing of the National Coastwatch Institution (NCI). This watchtower is an NCI station. Built in the early twentieth century as an auxiliary Coastguard lookout, it became redundant in the cuts and was abandoned . Rediscovered and resurrected from its derelict state in 2001 it was re-opened after extensive work in 2003.Regarding its purpose, as our hosts noted…….”Whilst high technology and sophisticated systems are aids to improved safety, a computer can’t spot a distress flare, an overturned boat or a yachtsman or fisherman in trouble. Other vulnerable activities like diving, wind surfing and canoeing are made safer with visual surveillance.” It operates 365 days a year and provides visual watch over all users of St Austell Bay. The leaflet we got informs us that ‘NCI watchkeepers provide the eyes and ears along the coast, monitoring radio channels and providing a listening watch in poor visibility. They are trained to deal with emergencies, offering a variety of skills and experience and full training by the NCI ensures that high standards are met. Over 246,000 hours of organised coastal surveillance were completed in 2016 alone, all at no cost to the public. Funding is managed by a Board of Trustees.’ The Charlestown Station itself is sponsored by the Carlyon Bay Hotel amongst others, and relies like all the others totally on contributions. We donated £5, a small amount indeed but very gratefully received. The UK has a world-wide reputation for its charity work and volunteer giving. A total amount of £9.7 billion was donated by generous Brits in 2016. However it is salutary to note that whilst the UK is Europe’s most generous country it still lags behind the developing world, especially Africa. Indeed only six of the G20 largest economies in the world feature in this year’s top 20. Interesting. Just after this worthwhile diversion we saw these two seats placed so that you could look forwards or back! They perhaps represent what walking on the SW Coast Path is all about, and I never fail to look where I have been as well as where I am going……Proceeding, we soon had our first glimpse of Charlestown Harbour (where Poldark is filmed of course)…..and we dropped down towards it…..passing some beautiful cottages (a lot let out to rent, of course, as everywhere in Cornwall)….and we then hit the first objective (you’ve always got to have objectives)…the Pier House Hotel and Pub….Thirst slaked, we parted…..F. to return the way we had come and me to push on to be met by her later. There was a steep climb out of the village….. and an old kissing gate…..……before coming to another point of interest on this walk….Next a view along Porthpean beach…….I then came across a derelict tower (perhaps a Second World War watchtower?) to which I gained access…and the views – both ways of course – were worth it….Approaching the beach itself all was peace and solitude……with about three couples enjoying the sunI do love coming across weather-beaten wood of all kinds…they’d pay a fortune for this ‘Porthpean look’ in some expensive houses…and I loved this little antique jug which was tied to a post…perhaps water for dogs left by some kind soul, who knows? If it had been Rose wine…….Porthpean seems a good sort of place with a tiny village on the hill and an energetic boat club…The hedge adjacent to the clubhouse was all wild fuschias…of which I see many on my walks on the Path…..After admiring the scene before me for a while longer…..….I met up with F. but decided to push on a little further…..loving the colours on the sea….I then came across what I call a see-saw stile. …..never seen anything like it…I’m sure it’s not meant to be like this – but it was quite good fun. I don’t know whether I have mentioned before but I am fascinated by all the varieties of stile and kissing gate and fencing and walling and so on there are around the country, some regional types, some NT Head Office inspired, some quirky builds of seemingly quirky minds. I am astonished that there is not a book in the amazing Shire Books series which covers just about everything else you can think of!Ascending the next hill past a few animal friends…..I passed, in a little clearing, the remains possibly of an old Celtic cross…..and looked down on the most beautiful little beach – to which there didn’t seem any access.My SW Coast Path guide refers next to ‘steps’. Well what can I say? I have never ever experienced such a steep descent followed by an almost vertical ascent, both long. Not on the SW Path nor climbing Bowfell or Scafell Pike or anywhere else. This pic gives a little idea…..but only a little.I was very glad to meet up with F. again at the remote little hamlet of Trenarren, and relax watching some gentle farming activity……
We hadn’t been to the cinema for a while, so having read the excellent book by Sarah Waters, set in Warwickshire where we lived for some time, a trip to Vue in Plymouth was looked forward to by us both. We went by bus and with time to spare had time to visit Waterstones in order to but the latest Cormoran Strike novel Lethal White which I am already enjoying. Then we walked the mile or so to the cinema and saw parts of Plymouth which were new to us, especially interesting being Sutton harbour. This is one of the regenerated parts of the waterfront in Plymouth, all of them very good. And there were some excellent flats, some in historic quayside buildings and some totally new. I looked to see what was for sale and was amazed that we could afford (just about) one or two of the 2-bed ones. A marina view almost as good as a sea view?And the harbour is still home to several big trawlers which is encouraging. Anyway the film…….. both F. and I enjoyed it very much. Whilst it does make a lot of the class system in late 40’s Britain, it is at heart a ghost story. Which makes it strange that the Times’ film critic Kevin Maher should comment…..dIt’s a profoundly perverse movie about two people who are essentially going mad (is the ghost real? Is it not?) because the political reality around them is changing so radically.’ I don’t think ghosts take account of the current political situation whether in this film or any other. And as for his crass comment ‘The director has made a movie that’s a Brexit Britain parable about the intoxicating, if futile, allure of national identity.’……what an idiot!! And how typical of a London Metro Remoaner to be unable to see anything away from their loss of the vote on Brexit. How pathetic. The actors involved – Charlotte Rampling obviously well-known, the others not so much – were brilliant. The setting was magnificent – a run-down country house (filmed in Ireland?). And the plot was tautly dealed with by the Director. I think there were perhaps nine other people watching apart from us. The cinema is so obviously so much superior to watching Netflix at home on a screen no matter what size it is. What then have cinemas to do? Just keep plugging away (like High-Street retailers) until the realisation dawns, as it will, that cinema and physical shopping are much better. Start living, get out more!
Dartmouth was our destination for lunch on Sunday at the first floor of the Dartmouth Yacht Club…good food, very reasonable and great service, much enjoyed all round. The first floor restaurant is actually run by Bushell’s Restaurant next door which we learned was due to re-open after flooding. It has a very good reputation – 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor. We’d give it 5 stars (well we will – I must write a review….).Next stop was Woodlands Family Theme Park a second visit for Katherine and Aiisha and a first for us. Excellent fun for children and adults……Another great day.
Non-stop good times as the very next day we had even more adventures…first stop today was The House of Marbles where not only did we enjoy the marble machines and the outside chess….. but we were fascinated by the experience of seeing two glass-blowers in action at the next door Teign Valley Glass a treat we hadn’t bargained for…Even Aiisha was entranced by the way in which molten glass was quickly transformed into a cat or an elephant under the expert hands of the blowers…and although I don’t usually like glass products, I did enjoy looking round the shop and found some things amazing…I particularly fell in love with the idea of 4 glass lampshades strung over a kitchen table…too dear for now, but….But this was also a mini Industrial site, and had a lovely feel all round…We proceeded then through some beautiful countryside (I had forgotten how pretty Dartmoor is) to The Cleave Restaurant and Bar at the charming little village of Lustleigh an above-average pub lunch at a characterful location… We still had time for the nearby Miniature Pony Centre which we all enjoyed, particularly the pony ride…..suitably kitted out of course…..and the ability to get up good and close to some of the residents…. not all of whom were miniature!
Our daughter and granddaughter were here for a long weekend, all the way from Scotland. We met them at our local station which, as I have said before, has trains running to almost everywhere in the country – amazing for such a remote spot. Aiisha was quick to show us the fruits of her labours on the last part of their journey.After a nice cup of tea (you very rarely say a nice cup of coffee), it was a quick game of football in the garden and hide and seek in the acer.….before a drive to Black Rock, which turned into a drive to somewhere else entirely -Seaton due to the satnav! Katherine had been left behind for a recovery sleep, so we had a lovely time building sandcastles, paddling and having ice cream….well what else are you supposed to do at the seaside?After a lazy lunch off we went on the bus to Looe where the sun came out and a good time was had by all, especially on the slot machines in the Amusement Arcade where we won a Unicorn.Next day we took the train to Hayle on the North Coast where we visited Paradise Park a wildlife sanctuary and Play Park and very, very good in both aspects. The adults really enjoyed the amazing animal life, especially the hundreds of different birds all in excellent aviaries with plenty of space…and you can get very close to some of your favourites including flamingoes…and the very first Chough we had ever seen (we have looked out for them on the Lizard but to no avail)……We really enjoyed the flying display with an extremely knowledgeable and personable guide….and the opportunity to get up really close was terrific…Having said all that, it has to be said that the younger element did prefer the other side to Paradise Park! And why not?there was time for a late lunch, but first we had to get to St Ives on the lovely little railway round the bay….where the views from the train window were as breathtaking as usual….what beaches, what skies.For a change and to avoid walking all through town we decided to lunch at the Porthminster Kitchen Good choice..and straight out onto the beach afterwards…
F. had a jacket which we bought last time we were in Dartmouth and was faulty, so we decided another trip there would be good. We went a different way than normal, cutting across country from Avonwick and alongside the beautiful River Avon. We were lucky to find the only free parking space in Dartmouth although it did mean a bit of a trek into town. The business with the jacket was soon done…a replacement offered, no questions, terrific service, just as it should be if shops are to survive. Three cheers for The Crew Clothing Company.Although the day was overcast and mizzly it still didn’t detract from the loveliness of the town. Shown is the Lower Ferry busy as ever……And, over the road, the Dartmouth Yacht Club where we were hoping to have lunch…a brilliant place – but unfortunately the restaurant above was closed today. After looking at many possibilities we opted for sit-down fish ‘n chips which was fine. We then did our usual walkabout…Fosse Street looking one way…and then the other with Simon Drew’s latest edition of a giraffe poking out into the street…We decided to return via yet another route. We drove as far as we could towards Slapton Ley where Storm Emma in March had destroyed the road which sits precariously between the sea and the lake. Interesting video clip on Devon Live! And we could get as far as the private beach which we had visited a few times when living down here – Blackpool Sands. Lovely to go when no-one around….whatever the weather.Cutting inland from there we first of all passed a pretty group of cottages where I just had to stop and take a photo….and then went via very devious roads where sometimes the signposts were missing, or perhaps pointing the wrong way. Quite an adventurous little trip.
I love History, studied it at Manchester Grammar School and University, and have been reading History books of all kinds ever since. It is high on my list of most intense personal pleasures. Now here is a book which has taken me two or three months to read with lots of concentrated effort, but which has been a joy from start to finish. Not only was it sheer pleasure, but I learned something new on virtually every page. It is deeply researched, masterful in its breadth, written with a loving hand, entertaining, full of surprises, and comprehensively covers English history from around 600 AD up to the Cameron government. All the time it is drawing conclusions and comparisons and linkages across the ages which show we are in the hands of a master. And, really, really important for me as a historian, it is not politically correct. How wonderful and surprising is that in this age of ours where we are not allowed to celebrate, for instance, the pluses of Empire as well as the minuses, where we are not allowed to judge actions in their own context instead of imposing our own standards. I can do no better than quote an equally enthusiastic reviewer in that left-wing rag The Observer……
“The English and Their History, by the Professor of French History at Cambridge, Robert Tombs, is a work of supreme intelligence. Intelligence cuts its way through orthodoxy, dogmas, traditions and shibboleths rather as engineers hack their way through forests and mountains, slice open outcrops of nature and forge exciting new routes to old destinations. In this vigorous, subtle and penetrating book, Tombs defies the proprieties of our politically motivated national history curriculum to rethink and revise notions of national identity.”
You can read from Tombs himself the positive way in which he approached this masterwork….“By the standards of humanity as a whole, England over the centuries has been among the richest, safest and best governed places on earth, as periodical influxes of people testify,” he writes. “Its living standards in the 14th century were higher than much of the world in the 20th… We who have lived in England since 1945 have been among the luckiest people in the existence of Homo sapiens, rich, peaceful and healthy.” He holds no truck with declinism as espoused by nearly all historians when discussing our post-war history, but he does draw many conclusions about our current position and where we go from here which should make us stand back and analyse how to proceed very much based on the lessons of history…which of course is what history is for.
I have absolutely no idea how Robert Tombs has managed to read around his subject so comprehensively and critically. Of course it is a lifetime’s work. The footnotes, references and further reading alone take up nearly 100 pages and believe it or not they are great reading. I take my hat off to this historian. This is a truly magnificent piece of work and yes I would say the best book I have ever read.
‘Absolutely filthy’ was how screenwriter Andrew Davies, (well-known to Frances as a customer of hers at Kenilworth Books) described his adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Victorian lesbian romp ‘Tipping The Velvet’. “What’s it about?” …..’people sometimes asked me’, says Sarah Waters herself ‘when they had heard I’d written a novel – and I always had to brace myself, slightly, to answer. There was the awkwardness of explaining the rather risque title. There was the fact that I outed myself the moment I began to reveal the plot. And then there was the plot itself – because, oh dear, how lurid it sounded, how improbable, above all how niche, the tale of a Victorian oyster girl who loses her heart to a male impersonator, becomes her partner in bed and on the music hall stage, and then, cruelly abandoned, has a spell as a cross-dressed Piccadilly prostitute and the sexual plaything of a rich older woman before finding true love and redemption with an East End socialist.’
If you can put up with the antique lesbian lingo, using, or cheerfully misusing, some of the words and phrases – “toms”, “mashers”, “tipping the velvet” itself, you can have an enjoyable time reading this novel. And Sarah Waters isn’t a half-bad story teller. Good, light bed-time reading.
Having recently walked past Menabilly, the house where Daphne Du Maurier was a tenant and which she restored, I thought it was about time I read ‘Rebecca’. The front cover of my copy quoted Sarah Waters ‘One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century….A stunning book’ – sentiments which I can understand, but don’t entirely agree with. Despite my 69 years of reading, amazingly I didn’t even know the plot line. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Du Maurier is a romantic novelist in the best sense of that term, not at all soppy, and she knows how to build and maintain a story. But this story is not a romance …it has rather darker themes. “It’s a bit on the gloomy side,” she told her publisher, Victor Gollancz. The idea for the book had emerged out of her own jealousy about the woman to whom her husband, Tommy “Boy” Browning, had briefly been engaged. She had looked at their love letters, and the big elegant “R” with which Jan Ricardo signed her name had made her painfully aware of her own shortcomings as a woman and a wife. On such foundations the tale is told. Well worth the read, I do enjoy Du Maurier as a writer.
Another short section for me, just over 4 miles. Not exactly the most scenic bit of the path but beautiful in parts and interesting….F. dropped me off at Polkerris where I walked down hill virtually onto the beach which was busyish even halfway through the morning. Last chance before schools go back for a lot of people. I then climbed away from the beach with its shouts and laughter to look ahead to the Western arm of Carlyon Bay. When the sun was out (most of the time) quite reminiscent of the Med.Steps helped climb the hill….the volunteers who do these things are amazing.And, after about a mile with good views ahead….. I spied what looked like a deserted beach to which I descended for the sheer pleasure of being on a beach on my own in August. Amazing!I then walked along above Par beach where there were a moderate number of people….and which is actually very nice with high quality fine white sand if you don’t mind the houses directly overlooking the beach and the China Clay Works at the far end.At this point there is quite a diversion through Par itself to get round the Works. The first bit however is along a river, the Par or Luxulyan, starting at the beach car park where I learned that the river actually contains sea trout, flounder and, from fairly recent times after historic pollution, salmon.There were several accesses onto the beach as well as from the car park and with dunes at the back it is all quite pleasant.The Works itself is still operational and of course China clay is still used in many industries. Anyway you are soon past all Industry and back to what the Path is all about…sand, sea, views…here the approach to Carlyon Bay…and flowers…The next little bit of the walk – it seems quite lengthy when doing it- is alongside the renowned Carlyon Bay Golf Club where ex European Tour golfer Mark Rowe is the professional. This really did make me want to pick up my golf clubs again! Some pretty views of the beach…and loads of sloes (we weren’t quite sure) and had no bag to collect. At this point F. had walked out from the golf club house to meet me….F. had already had a nice half-hour enjoying a cup of tea on the beach here which is extensive and fairly quiet. It is composed of three different stretches and all is made up with a waste product from the china clay Industry called stent. It looks fantastic.My need though was a pint in the club house overlooking the magnificent first and eighteenth tees. Great!