We only discovered the Heritage Open Day was happening in Liskeard for two days by chance on the internet. We missed the first day. After parking the car on our walk into town we came to the first of the buildings we visited – a private house called Tregantle. What an eye opener this was. We had passed it many times, without a thought really, other than that it was quite a nice frontage. Stepping inside the owner had taken the trouble to do a tremendous amount of research about its history and its design by the famous Liskeard architect Henry Rice. Henry Rice started out as a land surveyor and architect who went on to transform Liskeard. He had a strong social conscience and made frequent sanitary inspections of the densely populated and poverty-stricken courts where the poor lived. His findings were recorded in his ‘Nuisance’ notebooks, which make fascinating, if sometimes gruesome, reading. As a result the corporation made him Inspector of Nuisances. He also brought piped water and sewers to the town.
Born in Kenwyn parish, Rice was a farmer’s son and staunch Methodist who lived the whole of his adult life in Liskeard. Over 100 of his buildings, mostly in the Classical style, survive, including a large number of terraces built along the roads into the town.
This is the front room as is. The owner had bought the house with all the ‘improvements’ you would expect from the early 70’s – artex ceilings, ripped out fireplaces, everywhere painted magnolia etc etc. Over a period of time, and particularly when she had retired from teaching, she gradually transformed the house reinstalling original Victorian fireplaces and reinstating appropriate colour schemes and trying to preserve every detail from the original designs. A true labour of love. I didn’t like to take photos as we were really guests in her house…..but this is one of the two staircases….and this picture shows industrial use right outside the rear of the property. And this is still in use as a glass making premises……The Glassworks address is actually Pavlova Mill. The mill dates back to the 19th century where it was used as a tannery making gloves. There is very little history on Pavlova Mill but it is said to have been named after the Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history! The tannery is said to have made gloves exclusively for the dancer, whether or not this is true, the mill has taken her name. Interesting!Next stop was the Weslyan Methodist Church which we had often admired from outside. The original chapel burnt down and was financed and rebuilt largely as now within a two year period. They didn’t mess about did they the Victorians? Inside a volunteer showed us around and pointed out the original and rough wooden stool used by John Wesley when he preached in Cornwall. The building was designed for 300 worshippers….and the plaster ceiling is impressive. Henry Rice designed an extension a little later.And the church became a very prominent organisation within Liskeard. Upstairs to one side this enormous hall was used for teaching. Indeed in the Second World War teaching still took place in the church’s cellars! Average congregation these days is about 30.On our way past Stuart House a late medieval house where King Charles stayed in the Civil War. F. showed me the garden which I hadn’t’t seen before, but which is very inviting for tea and cake.The Mayor’s Parlour and Civic Chamber were supposed to be open, but weren’t…….So off we went to St Martin’s Church unvisited before. It includes some Norman fragments, but is mostly 15th century. The South Chapel dates from 1428, the south chancel aisle from 1430, and additions to the north side from 1477. The tower was repaired in 1675, but was largely rebuilt between 1898 and 1902 at a cost of £6,400 (equivalent to £682,500 in 2018) by John Sampson of Liskeard. And the main point in coming today was to climb the tower.First we both had a go at bell ringing – unsuccessfully. It is much harder to get the knack than I thought.Then whilst F. had a coffee I climbed the tower. First we went to the bell ringers’ domain where they entertained us to a number of peals. Very interesting.Then, having been issued with ear plugs, we went up to the bell chamber, whilst the performance continued. Hands over ears were necessary as well as plugs!Partially deaf now, we ascended more steps to the top where we had the great privilege of seeing Liskeard and its surrounds from a viewpoint normally out of bounds……the day was fine and picture taking conditions good….It was good to see the uniform nature of the roofs nearly all with Delabole slates. This common pattern of roofing does add immeasurably to the character of any historic town. Time for one more photo out of one of the niche windows on the way down….Walking around the outside of the church we saw it from angles unfamiliar to us…..………and descended into town past some very nice rows of cottages. A very instructive two or three hours which made us much more appreciative of the buildings and community of Liskeard.
Katherine and Aiisha came hot-foot from Spain to share a birthday weekend. My 70th. On our way to our first ‘adventure’ – ice skating at the Pavilions in Plymouth, we passed Charles Church, bombed out during the war but given almost a sculptural quality with the background of the Drake Shopping Centre. It almost seems planned to set the old church off….perhaps it was. Skating was good. The next day we chose to have lunch at the Duchy Garden Centre so that Katherine could look at some plants for her new garden in Edinburgh. Aiisha and I decamped for a short while to the new children area which was very nice indeed…….and we loved the wheeled gypsy hut, where Aiisha showed off her versatility with her Dad’s instrument of choice… Lunch over we set off for Carlyon Bay where Katherine had bought tickets for a show by the Knee-High Theatre Company called The Dancing Frog. After a lacklustre start it developed into a really really fun show. I haven’t enjoyed myself as much for a long time, and I really must write them a review. Pleasure and laughs were had by all and I did think the puppetry was amazing. Ten out of ten. The audience of all ages were captivated.We then couldn’t’t resist the beach where the tail end of a storm was apparent. Luckily the weather held off for us.The biggest ‘adventure’ perhaps came the next day when we visited the nearby and well-named Adrenalin Quarry. Neither F. nor I were participants, but we certainly enjoyed watching. Katherine and Aiisha proved fearless in attempting first The Giant Swing…… Apparently the first drop from what seemed an enormous height was ‘scary’ but thereafter things got a little better. Aiisha was heard to say in the gentler parts ‘I want to do it again’ at which those watching burst into laughter…they were absolutely stupefied that one so young had attempted this in the first place!Next was the zip wire which went from the heights at one end of the quarry to the other. Not quite the longest or most terrifying in the world, but certainly up there. Rather them than me. Who knew such things were within 15 minutes drive of us?We then celebrated all that bravery with snacks in the nearby American Diner which was actually enjoyed by all of us.Whilst Katherine did some work the next day, Frances, Aiisha and I drove to Looe to play the arcades as it was a bit inclement. We all had a great time playing the twopenny dip where you roll coins to displace other coins (and prizes). Aiisha’s top said it all. Lucky. We won an enormous haul of sweets, of which you can see a part……We crossed the river on the little ferry for a change, and thoroughly enjoyed our trip to the seaside.Adventures were now coming thick and fast. A riding lesson got us up early the next day. After kitting out……. ……..Aiisha showed much aplomb in dealing with her horse – and with the lady instructor who was to say the least formidable. All the adults looking on were quaking in their shoes. However the lesson was indoor and out, and went down very well with our intrepid rider.A fine day was then promised so we went on one of our favourite walks the circular route from Lerryn (our favourite Cornish village) to St Winnow. After stocking up at the terrific local stores we set off along the for now dryish river…crossing the medieval bridge…..and crossing and re-crossing the stepping stones.All the cottages are without exception lovely and, unusually it seems to us, nearly all lived in as opposed to used or owned by holidaymakers. That accounts for the hugely lively village life.Our first objective was a particular bench with a view, and this is where we had our pasties and cakes from the shop. One of the best lunches ever!We then aimed for St Winnow’s and along the way Aiisha picked up and fashioned her own walking stick which not only proved useful but also was a great prop for her impressions of “an old lady walking”. Very good.The church was bedecked for a wedding and whilst this was all very pretty, it had meant the closure of the ice cream stall. Not as disappointing as it might have been as we were all ftb. Pulling up from the hamlet (just a farm and a cottage and a church (plus usually an ice cream stall!), we soon had good views.There were several kinds of trees with plenteous nuts (perhaps betokening a hard winter?).And pretty garden fronts as we descended once more to Lerryn.The tide was now in. All in all a special day and a very long seven and a half miles for young feet…all done without a grumble!Our last full day together was my birthday and we had lunch at the Godolphin Arms now turned into a somewhat boutique hotel. Sensational views from the car park…and the restaurant where we eat well.We planned to look at the beautiful gardens on St Michael’s Mount but on the way to the ferry (the tide was in) we were waylaid. Marazion itself is quite captivating…….Six ferries were in continuous use (it was Bank Holiday after all), so we didn’t wait too long.On reaching the island we found the gardens were closed, but this enabled us to climb up to the castle itself, looking for the Giant’s Heart on the way up…… and making use of the odd canon for a resting point…..Inside we did a rapid tour and completed a successful quiz, and enjoyed the special atmosphere of this amazing place. We also were able to see some of the gardens! The queues for the ferries to get back to the mainland were long to say the least, but we made our own amusements.
A lovely few days was completed when we dropped Katherine and Aiisha off for a night’s camping with friends. We escaped to a night of central heating and TV viewing at home! Don’t know who had the best bargain……….
A last-minute decision to take advantage of the Locals offer (£25 each return) to visit the Scillies again on a day trip meant an early start. The alarm was set for 5.45am and that proved just right. In arriving at Penzance we joined the small queue to pick up our tickets – the staff were incredibly helpful and efficient………and in no time at all we were wandering along the harbour to board the Scillonian. These are the mini containers which hold passengers’ luggage, but also anything and everything that the Scillies need that they don’t have or grow themselves.Seeing Penzance like this early in the morning makes you wonder why you don’t get up early more often.Anyhow we were soon settled in for the 2 hours 45 minutes journey with a coffee and lovely fresh warm pastry each and the Times crossword, sudoku, word wheel etc which are our daily attempt to activate our brains for the strenuous days of retirement. The sea was placid, the day hot and sunny as we exited the harbour.Everything secured nice and firmly….It’s always interesting to see places from a different angle…here Mousehole.And it’s a joy to arrive in the scattered isles of the Scillies……before berthing in St Mary’s……where we hopped off rather sharpish to ensure we made the inter-island ferry to Tresco our destination for the day.You see all kinds of craft, and nearing Tresco…………….the incredible white-sanded beaches gleamed in the sun, and all of them were, as they often are apparently, practically deserted. Paradise!On our walk to the Abbey and Gardens there were flowers galore growing wild..here one of my particular favourites Agapanthus…and everything was super-sized…All this before we got to the Gardens….Before visiting the Gardens themselves we had a light lunch in their cafe sitting in the beflowered courtyard soaking up the sun. After that we were ready. Now if you don’t like pictures of flowers, plants, settings like the Garden of Eden look away now…….and there was wildlife too…here a magnificent Golden Pheasant…I don’t think you should be feeding them bananas but still. I also saw a red squirrel, apparently introduced on the island by Judy Dench’s husband of all people……The shapes against the blue sky were pretty special and the feeling you were in some tropical paradise, rather like the Eden project but all outside in real-life as it were, never left you.And it wasn’t just plants and flowers that were special, there was a huge range of modern sculpture something I would normally take with a pinch of salt but here somehow all very appropriate…..This particular sculpture of a balancing box lies below the Abbey house itself where the Dorrien-Smiths who own Tresco (yes it is a private island) live……even the well was turned into a piece of sculpture…..The Shell House (1994), a pretty shell grotto designed and made by Lucy Dorrien-Smith, has a shell-themed tile floor, and individual initialled tiles commemorating members of the family can be seen amongst the shells on its internal walls. But the craftsmanship was incredible. The finest shell house I have seen, and I have seen a few.Towards the end of our stroll around the gardens we happened upon a fruit and vegetable area which was patently not part of the main run of things. Our assumption was that this was maintained (in tip-top condition) for the Abbey owners themselves.It also contained cutting beds, again probably for the owners vases.We had the ferry to catch at 3.30pm to link up with the Scillonian, so we reluctantly left the gardens. On our way to New Grimsby a mile away we passed huge swathes of Agapanthus..the outside of the house itself….and finally had beautiful vistas opening up of the sea……I noted in the outskirts of the hamlet that they had even named a square after me (very nice of them)and passing the beautiful cottages in their verdant setting we made our way…. ……to the Flying Boat Bar and Bistro with its enviable views….where we just had time for a quick if very expensive pint no doubt delivered by the Scillonian and then ferried to the island….
I end with a poem for Stephen Booth, who passed away in 2013. Stephen was a regular visitor to Tresco for fifty years and the poem was written by his brother, Ted Booth.
What island is this
Prospero’s cell perhaps
there the grey beard goes
and isn’t that pretty gardener
Miranda in disguise
or are we all Crusoes
shipwrecked on the beach
waiting for man Friday
and a ready cooked pie
or is this Treasure Island
with Jim and Captain Flint
making for the village store
where X marks the spot
and untold treasures wait
or is it a mad hatter’s
golf course with untold buggies
criss crossing the greens
or has a bit of Barbados
broken loose and floated
its palm trees
across the Gulf Stream
and into our garden.
Yet another trip to the tip and another trip to Fowey as a reward. Parking free at this time of year. Great. Some Edwardian houses we hadn’t really noticed before gleaming in the bright sunshine on this February day. Fairly quiet although half-term, and a pleasure to wander around the streets.I thought I would use this trip to take some shots of the typically Cornish surfaces, and doorways. Interesting I think.This time we wandered down through town to the Bodinnick ferry with a view across to Daphne Du Maurier’s house Ferryside.Liveable houses down here too!I liked the idea of having my boat slung under the house ready for action and a quick get-away! Good view of Ferryside on the opposite bank….This shot shows that Fowey and environs isn’t all about pretty houses and views…you can just see the china clay works downriver……The statue at the ferry terminus is rather good…and always interesting to look inside the RNLI station….we donated.You are nearly always guaranteed a good view with a pint in Fowey….here from The King of Prussia……Now for some doors…..and door-knockers….Then on the way back I noticed the old house of Q, or Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, with its plaque.
Heaving spent a little time as a journalist in London he returned to Cornwall in 1891, and settled in Fowey. In addition to publishing a series of critical articles, he completed Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel, “St Ives”. He was also known as a writer of excellent verse and a compiler of poetic works, most notably the “Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900”, which appeared in 1900. This book is often quoted by John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey”. Quiller-Couch was an active worker in local politics for the Liberal party. He was also Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club from 1911 until his death. He was knighted in 1910 and received a professorship of English at Cambridge in 1912. He retained this post for the remainder of his life. He later became Chair of English at the university and oversaw the beginnings of the English Faculty there. Many of Quiller-Couch’s fictional works have been long neglected but contain a wealth of Cornish folk lore. He was a noted literary critic, and published several volumes of criticism. He died in 1944, leaving his autobiography, “Memories and Opinions”, unfinished. This was published the following year. His novel, “Castle Dor” was also unfinished on Quiller-Couch’s death, and his daughter asked her friend Daphne du Maurier to complete this version of Tristan and Isolde, set in 19th century Cornwall.
We were trying to find the beach we had visited when first in Cornwall that has a small boardwalk and freshwater pond in the dunes. We thought it might be Perranporth so that is where we headed. We were wrong. Perranporth is the beach with a good bar/restaurant right on the beach and ‘unofficial’ nude bathing at the far end. What a lovely February day, and no Photoshop here!At the far end, having encountered no nudes unfortunately, we climbed up the Coast Path to a viewing point. The bench was obviously constructed for Giants as you can see!Next to Trevaunce Cove….never been here before and a quaint harbour and beach (mostly covered when we were there). A fascinating place indeed. Most of the Cove is designated as an SSI because of the interesting geology and exposed lodes, and the village of St Agnes just above here was famous for its high quality tin….the last mine closing in 1941. There were outcrops of pure tin on the beach itself which were worked at low tide, others running under the sea, and more in the cliff face. Some of the spoil is still visible on the cliff top…….This little cove in its time was a real hive of industrial activity with hammer mills, loading of ships and much else apart from the mines themselves. However over a period of almost 400 years five attempts were made at constructing a harbour…all failed due to the rough seas. Huge granite slabs just washed away. On of the attempts was by Winstanley of Eddystone lighthouse fame.Trevaunce was also a fishery and the odd fishing boat remains as a reminder of the past…We climbed the cliffs and sat on the lowest bench I have come across (Guinness Book of Records?) to watch the surfers at play.We then adjourned to the Driftwood Spars pub and brewery for a pint. The name stems from the huge beams (or spars) that comprise its structure, salvaged from shipwrecks along the coast and utilised for the building in the 1650s. The pub began life as a tin mining warehouse and has since been a chandlery, sail making loft and fish cellar, before it was eventually converted into a hotel and bar in the early 1900s.Suitably refreshed off we went to have one more try at finding the elusive beach of memory. Success at last, it was Holywell Bay, just as charming as we remembered!…..with its freshwater pool and river…nice little boardwalk….and beautiful dunes…..The beach was pretty fantastic too…..A lovely day by the seaside full of interest, and only 50 minutes away by car. Marvellous.