As part of our Christmas present from Katherine, we had a voucher for afternoon tea at the Fowey Hall Hotel. We had visited once before and came away extremely disgruntled with atrocious service. This time the service was impeccable.The tea was lovely, the weather great, and the setting and views tremendous.As you might expect we were sated and decided we had better work off some of the culinary inputs by steeply descending into Fowey.Some people might regard Fowey as twee. But it is one of my all-time favourites.The harbour and town were busy. Whilst enjoying the views, staring down into the waters we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a group of the most enormous jellyfish at least three or four feet long…..
No two ways about it gardening can be hard work and because of the weather we have started early this year. My son helped dismantle the rotten pergola but then there was still a lot of clearing up to do. A new one should be in place in the next month or two…Apart from that, the garden is lovelier than this time last year. I really enjoy the benefits of global warning (if that is what they are).And it’s the same in our lanes…primroses and daffodils out, and wonderful days for walking (when its not raining that is)….Let’s hear more about the benefits and really make them work for us……..
A lot of house walls and boundary walls in Cornwall have a veritable small world of green growth……they are almost becoming Cornish hedges.You don’t see many bricks but some incorporate ‘Looe bricks’ as a design feature…………..and here is the explanation for Looe bricks on a little glass panel to be found in a bus shelter on the front at Hannafore….I do love this feature in a tall wall at the end of the bridge in Looe……’Repeared By Ye County 1689’…..It wasn’t such a nice day when we were there this time!
Having just seen an episode of Flog It! from Mount Edgcumbe, and as it was such a nice day that is where we headed. The views on the coast road come from left and right….in this lay-by Plymouth is over the Sound to our left and to the right is Tregantle fort which had its red flag out signifying live shooting.Sometimes you believe you are surrounded by a landscape of water with the sea on one side and numerous creeks and inlets to the side, in front and behind…We started off at the bottom end of the Edgcumbe estate with a drink in front of the fire at the Edgcumbe Arms. This then steeled us to face the cold but beautiful day.First stop the Orangery…We then made our way along the coastal edge of the estate taking in various temples and follies….One of the gun batteries showed how strategically placed Edgcumbe is – looking out over Plymouth Hoe, and one of the many very good information boards showed the location of an amazing number of shipwrecks in this part of the Sound. I would have thought that when you had made these waters you were safe – but apparently not!The path took us through various parts of the garden which we hadn’t seen before…and we noticed our first burst of Camellias….This is ‘Milton’s Temple, c. 1755 – a circular Ionian temple, with a plaque inscribed with lines from the poem Paradise Lost, “overhead up grew, Insuperable heights of loftiest shade…..” John Milton, (1608–1674)’.The walk was not without its efforts, but all very worthwhile and we saw very few people indeed which was good.I intended to climb this folly I think for the views but on approaching it I noted some very serious snogging going on at the top level, so I left well alone!From here I tried out my panorama mode….not too bad……and it was just past here that we noted that the grounds do contain the National Camellia Collection….what a cheering sight on this winter’s day……..Back at the house we visited the Stables area where all the trades used to be located – the blacksmith, wood turner and so on, all the buildings now used by independent crafts people……The house itself is not open until April….We made our way back to the car along a splendid avenue of trees……..Days like this, cold and clear, remind us of winter days in York……they should be enjoyed to the full.
The start of my walk today Tregantle fort is one of several forts surrounding Plymouth that were built as a result of a decision in Lord Palmerston’s premiership to deter the French from attacking naval bases on the Channel coast. It is still used by all 3 services today especially as a rifle range and when red flags fly a lot of the area is inaccessible. Luckily no flags today….We parked on the road by the side of the fort….it’s great that we are outside the tourist season as parking is eased all over Cornwall. We then walked down by the side of some of the ranges (later on we were to hear plenty of small-arms fire). An interesting notice for my collection…You can just see some of the targets in the pic below….here we are looking back towards Looe in the far distance.And it wasn’t long before we started to see the wonderful extent of Whitsand Bay which we have never visited, one of the longest stretches of sand in Cornwall, but difficult of access.F. walked with me for a short while and we could just see ahead my objective – Rame Head. Throughout the walk it was extremely difficult to take pics of the way ahead as the sun was so dazzling (October in Cornwall!).It was in between tides so at absolute low tide one can imagine how magnificent the beach looks.F. turned around after a while and was due to meet me with the car somewhere on Rame Head…final destination open although I was hoping it would be the chapel on the end of the Head. Separate little coves soon started to appear, all accessible down very steep paths and indeed I met several groups of families in swimwear who were heading down to the beaches.At one isolated spot a lookout appeared, and I assume this is one of the National Coastwatch Institution’s as there is one somewhere around here. Having visited two in the last couple of weeks I gave this one a miss.All at once chalets appeared which seemed to cover the whole cliffside. What a lovely unspoilt walk this would be without them. Looks like a shanty town.I assumed this walk would be quite flat. Wrong again, and I was glad F. had insisted I take my walking stick which is a tremendous help.The path appears and disappears as you have to make your way through all the chalets (or huts)…..Quite a few I noticed had Indian names, so I am assuming they were from the thirties or thereabouts…
The thirties was a period before planning regulations, so the huts sprang up in a fashion that was at once anarchic and strictly governed by the landscape. As there were no natural ledges, families would dig out a bit of cliff and put the rubble at the front as a patch of garden. There was talk apparently, fairly recently, by the Council of knocking them all down. however what has happened is that they have just absolved themselves of all responsibilities and state that the whole cliffside is unprotected and they have no plans to manage erosion here. My own personal hope would be that in a thousand years erosion has tumbled them all into the sea. This bus stop has a fine view!There are things blooming in Cornwall at all times of the year. Gorse is well-known to flower here all year round. This hedgerow was brightened up considerably. And I did see some wildlife!Whilst the temptation is always to look seawards on a walk like this I did cross over the road (which you have to use occasionally) to get a great view in the distance of Plymouth.Of course there is danger wherever you go on the Cornish coast but this little monument was very poignant….I did see one restaurant with excellent views called rather unimaginatively ‘The View’. It had an exceptionally good-sounding menu. As an example I remember dabs for the first course and skate wing for the main with pancetta and gremolata. 2 courses for £14.50. Sounds great.I do like benches with a view and this was one of those walks where there were many.Nearing Rame Head the cliffs were still dangerous. I could just see Polhawn Fort another one of the three along here. Polhawn Fort faces out over the beach and was built in the early 1860s to defend the eastern approach to Whitsand Bay. If was armed with a battery of seven 68-pounder guns. A design flaw was that its exposed left side could be attacked from the sea and this was not as heavily fortified as the front which faces onto the beach. Rather than improving it, its role was taken over by the batteries at Tregantle and Raleigh and Polhawn was abandoned by the MOD in 1928. The building survives in good condition as a hotel.It was round about here with the Rame Head chapel just in reach that I received a message from F. saying she couldn’t get to Rame Head because the road was closed. I therefore decided to cut across the peninsula and meet her at Kingsand. My path led to the charming little hamlet of Trehill. It reminded me very much of a Lakeland village.As I dropped down into Kingsand I saw the third of the forts. Cawsand Fort was originally a Palmerston fort, and was remodelled as part of the late nineteenth-century defences that included the batteries at Pier Cellars and Penlee Point. Today it is a complex of luxury apartments. Good to see the variety of uses to which Palmerston’s forts have been put.Perhaps you can just see a couple of bathers near the little beach at Cawsand – it was warm!As I have said before Kingsand and Cawsand together are one of the most delightful spots in Cornwall, and we always discover some new angle….Pity the houses are so expensive……..
A beautiful October day again saw us drive to Trenarren the end-point of my last walk. My destination from here this time was Pentewan which we had never visited. F. drove there after a short stroll with me on the first bit of my walk. I optimistically thought I would see her in an hour. It was more like three. Such are the vagaries of the Coast Path.Very wooded to start off, it was interesting to note some private accesses to the Coast Path (must be nice).The view back was towards St Austell (mining country still) but the whole bay could be seen at times.In places the sea was the beautiful turquoise colour which you find in photos of more exotic places….I soon saw ahead my first objective – the little promontory of Black Head. I found the engraved stone at the neck….This granite memorial engraved with “This was the land of my content”, was erected in the memory of Arthur Leslie Rowse, a Cornish writer and historian. Rowse was born in 1903, the son of an uneducated china clay worker, and was the first Cornishman to win a university scholarship, reading English at Christchurch College, Oxford. Rowse published about 100 books. By the mid-20th century, he was a celebrated author and much-travelled lecturer, especially in the United States. He also published many popular articles in newspapers and magazines in Great Britain and the United States. His brilliance was widely recognised. His knack for the sensational, as well as his academic boldness (which some considered to be irresponsible carelessness), sustained his reputation. His opinions on rival popular historians, such as Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. P. Taylor, were expressed sometimes in very strident terms. All three were well-known to me when I studied History at Oxford in the late Sixties……..And in fact Rowse retired to Trenarren House. I enjoyed learning all this.Great views of the bay and unsurprisingly there is a stone-age fort at the head. I thought I could discern some of the outline of ditches……Walking back along the promontory I discovered what I assume is a First or Second World War gun emplacement….Moving on steeply down, after leaving Black Head, I could see the isolated little hamlet of Hallane with two or three houses or cottages strung down the combe ending up at a rocky cove. Ideal for smugglers. The problem was that each building had carefully marked off grounds with the sort of ‘Strictly Private’ notices some folk love to put up. Failing to discern the correct route for the Coast Path I nearly ended up back at Trenarren, before consulting the OS map on my mobile. You would think that on a coastal path you may not need a map at all. Just keep the sea to your left! But it certainly doesn’t always work out like that.Presumably horses can get tired with the gradients round here too!The correct route took me off into a wood along a pretty little brook on a stretch of land called The Vans (derivation?).Next one of the brutal sections with very steep ascents and descents via steps, of which this shows just a small part. One can only laud the people who keep these footpaths in repair, but when you are using them you despair that they seem designed to be as difficult as possible, being half a step too long or too short between each riser…just the wrong amount especially for someone with bad knees like me.Another individually designed bridge,,,Good views of isolated little coves with no apparent access. Let’s hope the bamboo doesn’t become as much as a problem as in our garden. I do think Cornwall is in real danger of being suffocated by bamboo.What I had estimated and told F. in the beginning was starting to look silly now. What looks a short distance on the map, if full of these ups and downs can take 2 or 3 times as long as you think…..very dispiriting too to see them ahead of you, and to know from experience that what goes up must come down!Looking back at this point I could just about discern the red and white stripes of the distant Gribbin Head marker as well as Black Head itself.And since I have no head at all for heights I must mention that parts of this section of the Coast Path do seem very exposed with steep drops inches away from the path….At last my destination of Pentewan Sands can be glimpsed..But as it gets nearer the whole view and all sense of rural idyll is spoilt by the horrendous mobile home park typical of much else that totally spoils Cornwall. How could any sensible Planning Department give permission for all of this – plus deem the beach private to the Park. It’s an absolute disgrace. Cornwall really could be the place of your dreams or The Land Of My Content. But it isn’t. It’s despoiled and ravaged by caravan parks, mobile homes, wind farms, scruffy towns, no seeming overall plan, and the fact that it is is the end outcome of profit and cost control versus the environment.As I move down the last hill (thank God) into Pentewan itself it is revealed as a quite charming village hunkered over its own bit of inland water and with some well-preserved remains of its previous industrial past. The always excellent Iwalkcornwall site has this to say…..”Pentewan dates back to mediaeval times when it was mainly a fishing village with a harbour. The harbour was rebuilt in the 1820s both for the pilchard fishery and to create a china clay port. At its peak, a third of Cornwall’s china clay was shipped from Pentewan. However the harbour had continual silting problems which meant that it was eventually overtaken by Charlestown and Par. As well as longshore drift carrying sand east across Mevagissey Bay, there was also silt being washed down the river from china clay works and tin streaming. Consequently, the harbour gradually silted up with the last trading ship leaving in 1940 and World War II literally sealing its fate. By the 1960s, the harbour was only accessible to small boats and today the harbour basin is entirely cut off from the sea………… names of many coastal features are derived from words in the Cornish language:
- Pen – Headland (Cornish for “top” or “head”)
- Pol – often used to mean Harbour (literally “Pool”)
- Porth – Port but often used to mean Cove
- Zawn – sea inlet (from the Cornish “sawan” meaning chasm)
Note that Haven has Saxon origins (hæfen in Old English) which is why it tends to occur more in North East Cornwall (Millook, Crackington, Bude etc)……..
In fact the more I see of Pentewan the more charming it becomes. And, meeting Frances, we wander off to the local pub the Ship which is very presentable indeed…….…. and as well as bars and beer garden has a library. Who would have thought it? And a sense of humour of sorts…We sit on benches outside enjoying the afternoon warmth and in front of us is a ‘Gin and Sorbet’ bar which would make London Metropolitans jealous. As it says with humour a bit like my own….’Let The Good Times BeGin’. Well, well.Walking to the car we pass through the heart of the village….….which even has a village green of the sort you might expect in Yorkshire or the Lake District……what a lovely place. How even more angry I am at the blot on earth that is the dominating mobile home park….and the concept of a ‘private’ beach….ugh.
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…