Oliver's Cornwall
Miscellanea
Uniquely Cornish

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CHARACTERISTICS
Cornish Emblems-1
Cornish Emblems-2
Language
Old Direction Signs
Cornish Crosses
Cornish Hedges
 
 Trevithick Day
 Place Names
 Cliff Castles
 Ancient Bridges
 Boundary Stones
Cornish Stiles
PLACES
Mousehole Lights
 Minack Theatre
Don't Go To Land's End
Cornish Cyder Farm
Cowslip Quilts
Retallack
PEOPLE
Parson Hawker
King of Prussia
Richard Trevithick
William Murdoch
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney
John Opie
King Arthur
Daniel Gumb
Billy Bray
Ed Prynn & Prynnhenge
Thrussell & Thrussell
LITERARY CORNWALL
 Literary Fowey
 Literary Miscellanea
Poldark
A L Rowse
OUT AND ABOUT
Ferries
King Harry Ferry
Tamar Bridges
Wind Turbines
The Chough
Serpentine
Harveys of Hayle

CORNWALL REVIEWS INDEX and SITE CONTENTS

Introductory Guide
What's New?
Oliver's Cornwall Walking Pages
Homes
Gardens
Museums & Galleries
Countryside
Holy Sites & Churches
Antiquities
Castles
Towns & Villages
Miscellanea
Home Page
Contact Me
© Copyright Oliver Howes 2017
Page updated 26 January 2017


Cornish Emblems - 1
West of the Tamar you might be in another country.  Indeed, to many native Cornish you are.  The language, a Brythonic Celtic one, is being revived, a flag has been adopted (often obscuring the 'English Heritage' logo on tourist signs), and there is a coat of arms.  Despite incomers, a strong sense of identity remains.  The flag may represent St. Piran's supposed discovery of tin, white tin flowing from the black rock of his fireplace;  more realistically, but not much more so, it was the flag of Dark Age King Mark.  The coat of arms, adopted in 1337 by the Black Prince, shows 15 golden bezants, the ransom paid in the Crusades for his ancestor King Edward I, then Earl of Cornwall.

St. Piran's Flag, unofficial National Flag of Cornwall
The Cornish Coat of Arms
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Cornish Emblems - 2

The old Cornwall County Council coat of arms, granted in the 1940's, nicely sums up some of the history of the county.  The supporters represent Cornwall's two historic trades, fishing and tin-mining.  The bird is the chough, a member of the crow family, like the related raven a bird of the cliffs.  Long absent from Cornwall, a captive-breeding program was recently instituted to bring it back;  ironically, before the captives were released three wild choughs arrived from other Celtic parts of their own accord.  The chough rests one foot on a ducal coronet, representing the Duchy of Cornwall, the inheritance of the sovereign's oldest son;  in Cornwall Prince Charles is referred to as 'The Duke', just as the Queen is known as 'The Duke' in the Channel Islands in recognition of her sovereignty over them as Duke of Normandy.  For many years the Dukedom of Cornwall was an earldom.  The shield carries the coat of arms of the Earls of Cornwall, adopted by the Black Prince (see above);  it is surrounded by waves, as almost is Cornwall.  The legend 'One and All'  is claimed to represent the effort made by the Cornish to raise their Earl's ransom (see above).  Perhaps, to bring it entirely up to date, it needs some additions - a swarm of emmets (ants) as summer holiday makers are known;  a Cornish pasty and a cream tea, the emmet diet;  and a holiday park or bed and breakfast, where most stay.
The Old County Council Coat of Arms
Photo:  This was how it was before the 2009 unitary authority
. In 2009 Cornwall acquired administrative unitary status, the new body replacing the county and district councils.  Disgracefully, the old County Council's coat of arms, with all its historic significance, was replaced by a logo which looked more like a hopeful political party logo, that's to say meaningless.  Why on earth, for the sake of 'branding', should they have wished to discard something of such great historical importance.  I have made the image small to match the council's minds.
Good news.  Cornwall  Council has now bowed to public opinion.   Here, on the right, is the new acceptable logo.  Good for you Cornwall Council.
The failed logo
The acceptable 2009 logo
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The Cornish Language
The native Cornish are Brythonic Celts, the same stock as the Welsh and the Bretons.  Unlike those races, whose language survived, it may have been the early industrialisation of Cornwall, often with English finance, that saw their language die out.  Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1777 at Paul near Penzance, is often said to have been the last person to speak Cornish.  But John Davey of Boswednack, who died in 1890 and is buried in Zennor Churchyard, was speaking it - as an academic exercise - a century after Dolly died.  Be that as it may, it is likely that no one had spoken it as a living language for more than a couple of hundred years until a group of nationalist Cornish academics set about re-inventing it in the twentieth century.  With no spoken tradition and a paucity of literature on which to base their attempt, I suspect that this academic re-invention of Cornish might bear little relation to the (possibly somewhat anglicised) Cornish that Dolly spoke.  I admire the academics' Cornish pride but I fear their efforts may prove futile.  Amongst those driving the hoped-for re-introduction of the Cornish language there have been four or five schools of thought on many aspects.  Indeed, it is only recently that they seem to have agreed to relate it to Welsh rather than Breton, I suspect because the former is easier.  Despite all their continuing efforts, only a few hundred have a smattering of Cornish and it is said that less than 100 speak their re-invented language fluently.  It will be interesting to see what progress is made in the future.

Dolly Pentreath's Memorial
Memorial Tablet to John Davey
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Place Names
Cornish places names are a constant source of puzzlement to most visitors and, indeed, many of the Cornish.  Pronunciation is a major puzzle to many, as is the close proximity of English and non-English names in some parts.  For instance, on one bank of the River Camel is Wadebridge (Saxon bridge by the ford) on the other Egloshayle (Cornish church on tidal water), now part of Wadebridge.  The answer lies in when places were named.  Until Tudor times little was spoken except Cornish so most places names were in that Brythonic Celtic language.  As English influence became stronger, new settlements might get English names, some old ones might be re-named.  For example, Padstow was Petrocstow, the stow being a Saxon holy place;  and Slaughterford, once Cornish Melorn, is the Saxon ford by the marsh.  Perhaps a quarter of place names are in English, these predominantly in the more English settled north east.  A few have both Cornish and Saxon elements and a very few derive from the Norman-French.  And, even where settlement names are English, farm names are usually still Cornish.  Among the commonest prefixes are Tre farm, Pol pool or hollow, Pen head or end, Chy and Bos dwelling, Porth cove or landing place and Ros promontory.  The vast number of Saint prefixes reflects the evangelisation of Cornwall by Irish and Welsh priests in the dark ages.
Demelza - Cornish Dyn Malsa, Maelda's fort
Craig Weatherhill's Place Names in Cornwall and Scilly is the bible
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Old Direction Signs and Milestones

Once off main roads in Cornwall, with their totally standard British direction signs, you find a world of quite unexpected signposts, very different from those encountered anywhere else.  My fear is that, in an age where authority wants to standardise everything, we may lose them.  I sincerely hope not and I trust that the long ingrained Cornish sense of independence will ensure they remain with us.  The very earliest direction signs were simple way markers, individual tall standing stones.  In the early Christian era Cornish Crosses (a variant on the Irish Celtic Cross) began to appear as way markers, particularly on wild moorland.  From the 18th century, when roads were improved in the turnpike movement, small stone markers began to give the distance to London.  Modern signs are usually of metal, some rural signs in Cornwall are still of wood.  Of these, my favourite stands on Treslea Down on Bodmin Moor;  a granite column carries a wrought-iron bracket holding the wooden arms;  one arm points to Warleggan, its name used by Winston Graham for the villain in his 'Poldark' novels;  a photo is in the next item.  My next favourite is the one in this picture.  It stands on the Penzance-Land's End road, at the junction with a minor road to St. Just via Chapel Carn Brea.  One side has conventional directions to Penzance and Land's End;  I prefer the St. Just side.  Next to it is an ancient Cornish Cross;  behind it is a chapel converted to a home.  You will see many disfigured brown tourist signs, mostly those for government owned properties, operated by English Heritage.  Some Cornish nationalists like to overpaint the official logo with St. Piran's flag.  I would prefer that the nationalists negotiate with authority to have St.Piran's flag accepted.  I have to say that it looks most acceptable on the milestone in the picture. 
Milestone at Crows-an-wra
 More Old Direction Signs
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More Old Direction Signs
In 2008 Ian Thompson, the Cornish representative of the Milestone Society, started restoring Cornwall's milestones.  He is clearing growth, limewashing the stone and blacking the lettering.  There are around 700 in all and he plans to restore 70 a year in a rolling programme.  It has been a delight to see those that he has already restored, looking much as they would have looked more than 100 years ago.

Lanivet from Reperry
Lostwithiel 1776
At Treslea Down on Bodmin Moor
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Cornish Crosses
In the Dark Ages that followed the departure of the Romans in AD410,  Cornwall was evangelised by missionaries from Ireland and from Wales, which itself had been converted by the Irish.  Indeed, many Cornish saints (and there seem to be as many as in Wales) were of Irish origin.  It is hardly surprising then that the tradition of preaching crosses should have taken root in Cornwall.  Originally they were erected to mark a monk's cell or to mark a spot where Christians would gather for services.  Later they came to be used as way markers, particularly on the moors.  Less elaborate than their Irish counterparts, they tend to have round heads with a cross in the centre, sometimes the cross head bears an internal cross.  Carving is generally simple as granite is so difficult to work.  Look in almost any churchyard or on moorland roads; you will find dozens.  I have photographed more than 150;  I understand that there are actually more than 500.

Four of the crosses in St. Neot Churchyard
Lanivet C13 wheel cross
Longstone Cross near Minions
THE BIBLE:  Anyone seriously interested in seeking out Cornwall's multitude of Cornish Crosses should consult the bible, recommended to me by Jane's old school friend, Sue Holman.  She has made a serious study of Cornwall's churches and of old Cornish Crosses.  The Bible is Old Cornish Crosses by Arthur G. Langdon, published originally in 1896 by Joseph Pollard of Truro.  Happily all 540 pages of this massive tome are now available online.from the US Archive.
JULY 2016: In the course of my Cornish travels during July 2016, mostly visiting churches, I encountered a surprising number of Cornish Crosses, sometimes as many as four or five in one location.  The most obvious example was St. Neot, seen above left, where a fifth cross, a lantern cross, stands right of the porch.  Not far from St. Neot I found two more at Wenmouth Cross.  I found another four at Madron, two in the churchyard, one in a field south of the church, another in a lane near Madron Holy Well.  I saw two in Cardinham churchyard (and a holy well close by at Trezance Farm).  There were another three in St. Mawgan churchyard, plus an empty cross base.  At Lanteglos-by-Camelford there are four and inside the church is a useful information sheet about them.  At Luxulyan I saw a cross on the lych gate wall and a lantern cross near the porch.  Finally, I came across what looked very much like the remains of a broken up cross to the left of the porch of Tywardreath church.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016:  November seemed to be my month for finding Cornish Crosses, some by intent, some by chance. I encountered three in and around Camborne Church, one at St. Enoder, one in the garden of Bodwannick Manor, and roadside ones near Higher Woodley and on the Old Coach Road above Lanivet.  In St. Petroc's Chuirch Padstow I found one cross near the porch, the base and part-shaft of another by the south gate and the head of another near the font.  Then in December they kept coming thick-and-fast:  One at Gerrans church, above Portscatho, one at St. Dennis and two at St. Stephen.
JANUARY 2017: I had more profitable days for Cornish Crosses in mid-January 2017.  Heading down west I visited Zennor with its five regular crosses, two of them on William Borlase's tomb, one cross base and one lantern cross perched on an unassociated column.  Next to Towednack where there are two quite different crosses by the church porch.  Finally to Lelant where a plethora of crosses include two in the churchyard, 3 in the cemetery and one on the War Memorial opposite the Badger Inn.  During 2017 I shall continue to search for Cornish Crosses.
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The Cornish Hedge - not quite what you might expect

To the English a hedge is formed from small trees.  To the Cornish that is a hedgerow:  a Cornish hedge is an earthen bank, faced with field stone that is packed with earth.  It serves three main purposes.  It clears a field of rocks, it creates a barrier and a boundary, and it allows plantlife to flourish on it.  North of Wadebridge and high on the moors growth may be mostly grass and furze, elsewhere a hedge may be covered with wildflowers.  Hedgers all have their own styles.  Some lay their stones flat, some vertical, some in elaborate curzeyway (herringbone) pattern.  Character tends to differ also in North Cornwall where most of the hedges are built of slate rather than granite. When our neighbour Jim was a child, his father grew cabbages in his!  If you drive in a narrow, high-banked lane, beware, the banks may well be Cornish hedges.  My own most favoured colourful hedges are around Bedruthan Steps and near Kynance Cove on the Lizard but there are some superb examples between Porthreath and Gwithian and in West Penwith between St. Ives and Cape Cornwall     The hedge at Bedruthan Steps runs for a couple of miles, is constructed curzeyway style (herringbone pattern) and was once quite covered with wild flowers.  Sadly, when I last saw it in 2009, a stretch of it had been almost destroyed by an ignorant farm contractor.  I hope it will be colourfully re-colonised soon.
Guild of Cornish Hedgers Website
A lovely example of 'curzeyway' hedging near Carnewas
The Guild of Cornish Hedgers has an excellent and informative web site.  If you want to know more about Cornish Hedges than I shall ever know, you want to read Robin Menneer's clear and well illustrated pages on the subject. 
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Cornish Stiles
Robin Menneer, of the Guild of Cornish Hedgers, was kind enough to call me to compliment me on this web site.  I was flattered to think that a true native Cornishman should enjoy the web site of an incomer.  Thank you, Robin.  He did, however, take me to task for having too many photographs of English-type stiles and not enough of the traditional Cornish stile made of granite or slate.  I hope this item may compensate for the omission.  Disappointingly, many visitors to Cornwall never get to see a proper Cornish stile.  They walk the coast path, much of which is owned by the National Trust which seems to believe in wooden stiles or kissing gates, both really very English devices for providing pedestrian access while keeping animals in their field.  I suppose it is a matter of cost;  it must be a lot cheaper to make a wooden gate or stile than laboriously and skillfully to set granite cross-pieces into a Cornish hedge.  A shame, because the granite stile, in all its varied forms, expresses the character and the landscape of Cornwall where a few bits of wood never can.  There are three basic Cornish stile types, the open-stepped cattle stile, the sheep stile with projecting stones and the coffen stile, its stones laid across a pit in the ground.  In a few places, including Crugmeer, tall cattle stiles are topped with old granite field  rollers, tough to climb over, as are many slate stiles.
The cattle stile to nowhere at Higher Penquite
More information on Robin's website
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Bridges - Prehistoric, Medieval and Modern
We have a remarkable variety of bridges in Cornwall, everything from the prehistoric age through to the modern era, though we do lack the kind of 21st century 'millennium' project bridges that places like Newcastle, London and Manchester like to boast about. 
Prehistoric - No one knows the age of Cornwall's clapper bridges but some undoubtedly can count their age in millennia.  They are especially abundant on Bodmin Moor and I must have crossed dozens.  The finest examples are those at Bradford and at Delford Bridge, adapted to carry modern traffic.
Medieval - A surprising number of these survive unaltered on minor roads.  Some, like the famed 'bridge on wool' that crosses the Camel at Wadebridge, have been much altered to carry modern road vehicles.  To my mind the finest is Horsebridge, pictured left, over the Tamar near Kit Hill. 
Modern - There are a few 20th century road bridges - for instance crossing the Tamar at Plymouth and Launceston - but most are in fact Victorian.  The finest is undoubtedly Brunel's justly famed Royal Albert Bridgecarrying the railway over the Tamar but I also have a great fondness for the Tamar rail viaduct (not Brunel's) at Calstock and the rail bridge over the Carnon Valley near Devoran, alongside it the piers of Brunel's original bridge. 
Medieval Horsebridge over the River Tamar
 Brunel's great Royal Albert Bridge
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The Tamar Bridges

The River Tamar forms a natural barrier, and in consequence boundary, between Cornwall and England.  In medieval times it was easier to sail to London than to make the journey by road.  Bridges gradually got built and in 1485 New Bridge (it's still called that!) at Gunnislake provided the southernmost crossing.  It was not until 1961 that the Saltash ferry, the only direct vehicle access from Plymouth, was superceded by the suspension bridge on the right of the picture.  However, capable Victorian engineering had already provided a southern rail crossing.  The great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, builder of the first real ocean liner, the Great Britain, completed his Royal Albert Bridge in 1859.  Its height was dictated by the need for large naval vessels to pass underneath with 100 feet clearance at high tide.  Its construction was revolutionary:  its two massive spans were pre-fabricated, floated down the river on barges and jacked up into position.  Brunel demonstrated his confidence by standing on each span end as it was jacked up.  The bridge was opened by Prince Albert.  Sadly Brunel died shortly after.  There are two contrasting viewpoints - a high level car park on the Plymouth side and the waterfront (with pubs) on the Saltash side.
Royal Albert Rail Bridge and Tamar Road Bridge
The road bridge on the right carries the A38 into Cornwall
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Boundary Stones
I first learned about boundary stones when walking the Copper Trail in winter 2006.  Thanks to Mark Camp, I was able to find an Altarnun parish boundary stone when walking between Five Lanes and Trebartha.  In the summer I read about a project by Peter Davies and Blisland village to restore boundary stones on their part of Bodmin Moor, a project largely concerned with private property boundaries.  They succeeded in finding and restoring 101 of 146 stones believed to exist in the parish.  When walking on Manor Common I was able to find quite a number of these and keep comimg across many more on my Bodmin Moor walks.  Here are two Manor Common examples.
M stone in Trippet stone circle
Treswigga boundary stone
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Cliff Castles
Where other parts have their iron age hill forts - and indeed Cornwall has a number of these, most notably Castle an Dinas and Warbstowbury - Cornwall is unusual in having a vast number of cliff castles.  These appear to be exactly what the name suggests, iron age fortifications on clifftop sites.  But there is a puzzle.  Mostly all you find is a curving rampart, perhaps quarter of a circle, from clifftop to clifftop.  What useful purpose, you may well ask, did a fort like this serve.  It only encloses a tiny area which surely no one would want to live in or even defend.  There is a simple answer.  When constructed, as hill forts with a view of the coast, they were as much as quarter of a mile inland.  In 2000 and more years the coastline has eroded that much.  Some of the smaller ones may not have been forts at all, merely fortified farmsteads.  Be that as it may, they are now in stunning locations thanks to coastal erosion.  Amongst my favourites are Treryn Dinas near Treen in West Penwith, the Rumps near Polzeath, Griffin Point near Bedruthan Steps and Trevelgue Head near Newquay.  But take a look at the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps and you will find dozens, especially on Cornwall's north coast.  When you walk the coast path it can be difficult to identify some for growth of scrub and bracken but it's worth trying.
Rampart of the 'cliff castle' on Kelsey Head near Newquay
More on some of these locations on my Antiquities page
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Christmas Lights at Mousehole and Newlyn
The tradition of  Christmas lights at the fishing village of Mousehole began in the early 1960s.  Over the years numbers and ingenuity of lights have steadily grown and now, for three weeks over Christmas and New Year, the harbour is filled with nautical subjects, the village covered with the usual traditional themes and greetings and many windows feature private displays.  The famous Mousehole Cat appears on a harbour wall.  The custom spread to the nearby major fishing port of Newlyn where displays include a trawler, a church and a castle.  It gets particularly busy at lights time;  parking is usually almost impossible but a shuttle bus runs from Penzance.

Mousehole's Leaping Dolphin
Newlyn's Trawler
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Ferries - some for cars, most just for passengers

With a coastline so indented by rivers and tidal creeks, particularly in the south, it is no surprise that many ferries operate, mostly across south coast inlets.  Only three carry vehicles - Torpoint ferry from Plymouth to the Rame Peninsula;  King Harry, across the deep Fal estuary from the Roseland Peninsula;  and Bodinnick across the river at Fowey.  Pedestrians and cyclists are better served.  Theirs operate from Plymouth to the Rame Peninsula, from Fowey to Polruan, across the Helford River near Trebah Garden, and, in the north, across the Camel from Padstow to Rock.   There are said to be couple of seasonal high tide ones - over Gillan Creek in the south and over the Gannel to Crantock Beach in the north near Newquay. Falmouth is best served of all.  Ferries operate from here to St. Mawes across broad Carrick Roads;  to Flushing just across the Penryn River;  to Mylor Yacht Harbour up the Fal;  and to Truro by way of  the National Trust's Trelissick Garden, the Smugglers Cottage Tea Rooms at Tolverne, and Malpas, location of the excellent Heron Inn.  There is even a 'park-and-float' service which operates from Ponsharden, up the Penryn River, to the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth but, because of tides, this is only intermittent.  St. Mawes has a second ferry, across Percuil River to Place. 
Black Tor, Passenger Ferry from Rock to Padstow
 
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King Harry Ferry

A ferry has crossed the heavily wooded River Fal from Philleigh to Feock for at least five centuries, probably far longer than that.  There are two tales about the origin of its name.  One has it that King Henry VIII crossed the Fal here on his way to his honeymoon with Anne Boleyn at St. Mawes Castle.  Since the marriage predated the castle, that is more than a little unlikely.  The other, more likely story is that it took its name from a chapel on the Philleigh side of the River Fal dedicated to St. Mary and King Henry, this king being 15th century King Henry VI.  The first steam powered chain ferry appeared in 1888 when a local company was formed to operate it.  The company eventually changed hands in 2001 and is now owned by a syndicate of five Cornish families.  No longer steam powered, diesel engines wind the 'floating bridge' across on massive chains.  If you are driving between St. Mawes and Falmouth, this is the only way to go.  You save at least half an hour and the cost of the fare is about the same as the cost of a gallon of petrol or diesel.   A surprisingly realistic statue watches you from a rail high above the deck;  its counterpart relaxes on a bench on the Feock side, where a path leads to Trelissick Garden;  a cousin can be found outside Trelawney Centre near Wadebridge.  The new blue ferry came into service in May 2006.  Rather nicely, local schoolchildren were consulted about the design.  Their input included the glass side and the view of the chain.
On B3289 from A39 at Playing Place to St. Just Lane near St. Mawes
The new King Harry Ferry crosses the River Fal
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Parson Hawker

Robert Stephen Hawker was a graduate of Oxford where he won the Newdigate Poetry Prize.  Vicar of Morwenstow for 40 years from 1834, he was a colourful, independent, charitable man.  His relaxations were the cliff-top and poetry.  The two were combined in a driftwood shack he built into a cliff near his church.  Known to all as Parson Hawker, his poetry brought fame.  Best known is 'Song of the Western Men', and its oft-quoted line "And shall Trelawney die?" became a Cornish anthem.  His other works include an Arthurian saga 'Quest of the Sangraal'.  He is also credited with introducing Harvest Festival to Britain (although Thanksgiving had long existed in the USA).  From the west side of the churchyard, climb a stone stile and cross a field.  Turn left to a National Trust plaque directing you down steps to Hawker's Hut.  Built into the cliff, its roof covered with turf, the shack commands views of Vicarage Cliff to the north and of vicious looking Higher Sharpnose Point to the south.  Walk out to Higher Sharpnose and you will understand why the 'Caledonia' was wrecked here;  this part of the North Cornwall coast is a treacherous as any you will find.  It is also true to say that the Cornish Coast Path around here is as tough as anywhere in its 312 miles or so.
Hawker's Hut
 
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The King of Prussia
Bessy's Cove on Cornwall's south coast, about three miles south-east of St. Michael's Mount, is better known as Prussia Cove - and thereby hangs a tale.  As children in the latter half of the 18th century, the eight Carter brothers, sons of a miner from Breage, played war games in which John was always Frederick the Great, King of Prussia.  When as adults John and Harry became Cornwall's leading smugglers, the nickname had stuck and their headquarters - John was the organiser, Harry the sailor trading with Brittany - became known as Prussia Cove.  It is easy to imagine remote Prussia Cove being a smuggler's haven.  Although little more than a mile from the main Helston to Penzance road, the lane even now stops at a small grassy car park, well short of the cove, and the path down is rough.  The cove itself forms a small natural harbour, well protected from the Atlantic.  Above the west side of the cove are some ancient and rather decrepit thatched huts once used by fishermen.  A little further west, on a headland named Little Cudden, you can make out the bases of what may well have been the Carters' smugglers' stores.  Continue west on the coast path for an exhilarating two mile walk (great views over Mount's Bay include St. Michael's Mount) as far as Perran Sands at Perranuthnoe with its sandy beach, snack shack and Victoria Inn gastro-pub.
Fishermen's (or Smuggler's) Hut above Prussia Cove
Signed from A394 Falmouth to Helston
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Richard Trevithick

Devon engineer Thomas Newcomen devised the original steam-pressure beam engine, and Scot James Watt first refined it, but it was the high-pressure engine devised by Cornishman Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) that enabled the Cornish mines to flourish, pumping deep shafts and raising the tin and copper ore.  In 1801 he built a steam-powered road vehicle, known as 'Captain Dick's Puffer'.  In 1802 he built his remarkable 'London Road Carriage' and in 1804 his 'Penydaren' locomotive hauled 10 tons and 70 men for 9 miles near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.  A model of  'Penydaren' can be seen in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.  Born at Illogan, Trevithick was raised in Penponds, off the Helston road on the southern edge of Camborne.  His childhood home, now in the care of the Trevithick Trust, is open only on Wednesday afternoons from April to October. The little thatched cottage is filled with memorabilia.  A small memorial to him stands on a road to the east of South Crofty mine, not far from Cornish Mines and Engines site and his statue overlooks the junction of Commercial Street and Church Street.  However  his true memorial is 'Trevithick Day', celebrated in Camborne on the last Saturday of each April, when the town takes to the streets to enjoy brass bands, choirs, dancing and a parade of steam engines.
 Richard Trevithick's Penydaren locomotive
Now go to Trevithick Day
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Trevithick Day in Camborne
We would have gone to Trevithick Day in Camborne in 2005 but the steam parade had been cancelled for 'health and safety' reasons.  Happily, such nonsense didn't happen in April 2006 so we went then.  From early morning to late afternoon the central streets were closed to traffic.  The Camborne Town Band led dancers through the town;  a static steam traction engine display later trundled smokily throught the streets;  in Town Square we were treated to a pipe and drum band, the Holman Climax Choir, the Praze and Hayle Male Voice Choir, a circus clown, a saxophone quartet and a samba band.  We also saw a rousing steel band, fairground organs, vintage fire engines, classic cars, military vehicles and a Punch and Judy show.  The parades of traction engines and their miniatures were the true highlights but our small personal highlight was sitting in Town Square, eating Rowe's excellent pasties whilst enjoying multi-instrumentalist Graham Hart playing and singing his rousing version of 'Going up Camborne Hill, coming down' - which commemorates the first trial of Trevithick's 1801 Puffing Devil road loco, which the crowd of fascinated spectators were convinced was going backwards.  A great day - both for steam and Trevithick enthusiasts and for the folk of Camborne.  We shall go again. 
Photo from Trevithick Day - loco also known as Captain Dick's Puffer
Replica of Trevithick's 1801 Camborne Road Loco
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William Murdoch - Scottish born but invented in Cornwall
Cornishman Richard Trevithick is the man who is celebrated in his home town of Camborne - and rightly so - but a Scot who worked in adjoining Redruth may well deserve the credit for setting Trevithick on the road to fame.  Murdoch was born in Ayrshire in 1754 and in 1776 moved to Birmingham to work for the most successful makers of steam engines, Boulton and Watt.  In 1779 the company moved him to Cornwall to work as their Senior Engine Erector, a job he held for 20 years.  Had he had his company's support for his talent as an inventor, it might have been he who received the credit that Trevithick now enjoys.  In 1780 Murdoch acquired the Redruth house now known as Murdoch House and opened a foundry at the back.  There he worked on his inventions.  In 1784 he produced a small working model steam road vehicle, which is said to be in Birmingham's Science Museum (but you can't find it on their web site).  In 1792 he installed the world's first gas lighting in his own home.  In 1794 he built a large steam powered road vehicle - lighted with gas lighting - and is said to have driven it from mine to mine in the course of his work.  Sadly there is no record of it.  You have to wonder just what Murdoch might have achieved given the right backing.
Murdoch House in Cross Street in Redruth
Image of Murdoch Flyer replica
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Sir Goldsworthy Gurney
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney was one of the most under-rated inventors of the first part of the 19th century.  Born in 1793 at Treator, on the outskirts of Padstow, he was educated at Truro Grammar School.  While there, he met Richard Trevithick and saw his 'Puffing Devil' steam road carriage, perhaps his scientific inspiration.  Studying under a Wadebridge doctor, he took over that doctor's practice at the age of 19.  Aged 27, married to Elizabeth Symons of Launcells, he left for London where he created many of his inventions.  Returning to Bude in 1830, he built The Castle as his home, innovatively on concrete raft foundations on sand.  He died in 1875 and is buried near Bude at Launcells.  Best known for his work on steam road carriages, his 1827 carriage did the journey from London to Bath and back at an average speed of 14 miles per hour.  But his other work was more long lasting.  He devised the high pressure steam jet which was used to clean sewers and to extinguish a Scottish mine fire that had burned for 30 years.  He invented the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, which produced limelight, used with a system of mirrors to light Parliament of 60 years.  One of his inventions, the Gurney Stove, can still be seen in Ely, Durham and Peterborough cathedrals.
Gurney's steam road carriage
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John Opie (1761-1807) - Portrait painter to Georgian society
I sought out Harmony Cot, birthplace of the great Cornish portrait painter, during a walk from Trevellas Porth in August 2006.  Sadly, a visit is not possible but at least a plaque on the wall outside tells you that this relatively simple cottage near Mithian was his birthplace.  Sometimes the cottage is referred to as Blowing House but the lane is Blowing House Lane and I imagine the blowing house (smelter) was elsewhere.  This was mining country and John's father was carpenter at a local mine, perhaps Blue Hills in Trevellas Coombe.  John proved to be something of a self-taught prodigy.  By the age of twelve he had not only learned to draw but had apparently mastered Euclid and was teaching writing and arithmetic - and all this while apprenticed to a wheelwright.  His talent for portraiture was spotted by Truro writer Dr. John Wolcott who launched him as an artist and took him to London in 1780, where promotion as the self-taught 'Cornish Wonder' brought early success.  In 1787 his historical paintings brought him membership of the Royal Academy.  He lectured at the Academy and wrote a life of Joshua Reynolds, another fairly local man, born in Devon.  Opie's works can be seen at the Tate Britain, in the Royal Collection, in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro - and in many Cornish homes. 
Harmony Cot - John Opie's birthplace
Harmony Cot is marked on OS 104 at approximately 746/515
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Landscapes of King Arthur
You may or not believe in King Arthur - there is no physical evidence and scant contemporary record of the British hero killed in battle around AD500 - but he has had a hold on the imagination ever since the romantic chivalric tales of the early middle ages.  I choose to believe that there is no smoke without at least a hint of fire.  So I like to think that there is something to the legends that locate him in Cornwall.  The photo is of the medieval Great Hall on  the 'Island' at Tintagel where some archaeological remains of the appropriate period are known as Arthur's Castle;  the site is very steep and not for the faint hearted and there is quite a long walk down from the nearest car park.  A few miles away, at Slaughterbridge near Camelford, an inscribed stone is claimed to refer to Arthur's final fateful battle of Camlaan, where he was mortally wounded by Modred.  Near Wadebridge, a hill fort is named in the Welsh Mabinogion as Arthur's home 'Kelliwic'.  In the middle of Bodmin Moor, near Jamaica Inn, is Dozmary Pool;  here Sir Bedivere is said to have thrown Excalibur after Arthur's death.  Another Dozmary Pool legend has poor Jan Tregagle condemned forever to try to empty the pool with a leaky scallop shell.  Some way north of Dozmary Pool, also on Bodmin Moor, is King Arthur's Hall - there is no serious connection. 
Tintagel Castle from Glebe Cliff
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Daniel Gumb - Stonemason and self-taught mathematician
One of the great oddities of Bodmin Moor is the cave on the southern slope of Stowe's Hill, known as Daniel Gumb's Cave.  I had been up Stowe's Hill several times without ever spotting the cave - each time I had passed just above it - but in November 2006, with my sister Frances who was visiting, I made a point of seeking it out - and found it this time.  Daniel Gumb was born somewhere in the nearby Tamar Valley in 1703 and found work as a stone cutter at Minions.  Rather than rent lodgings there, it seems that he built himself a home on the slope of Stowe's Hill, where the workable stone was, by tunnelling into the hillside and constructing three stone-lined rooms in the hill itself.  There he is said to have raised 9 children by 3 wives.  It must be said that this is not the original cave dwelling.  When the present quarry was worked, some of Gumb's dwelling was reconstructed in its present location.  That at least some of the rocks were Gumb's is attested by one stone with his name and the date 1735, another bearing the self-taught mathematician's carvings of mathmetical symbols.  It is said that some of his work as a stone mason can be found on tombstones in several local graveyards including that at Linkinhorne. 
The 'cave' by the Cheesewring
An odd part of a curving column lies nearby;  Gumb's work?
The Cheesewring itself
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Billy Bray - Cornwall's fiery Methodist preacher
William Trewartha Bray was born in Twelveheads in mining country in 1794.  He died in 1868 and is buried in the churchyard of the former church of St. Michael and All Angels in Baldhu, his grave marked by a handsome granite memorial obelisk.  His father died while Billy was young and he was raied by his grandparents.  As a miner, in both Cornwall and Devon, he was an ill-behaved drunkard.  Married in 1821, he narrowly escaped death in a mining accident in 1823.  Later that year he read John Bunyan’s Visions of Heaven and Hell, became a Christian and soon joined the Methodist group, the Bible Christians.  Always an unconventional preacher, his sermons tended to break into song and dance.  Ever a generous man, he adopted two orphans and raised the money to build three chapels, at Twelveheads, Carharrack and, the sole survivor, Kerley Downs.  The latter is known as the "Three Eyes" Chapel for its three windows on each side.  One of Bray's favourite sayings, which he used to justify his over-enthusiastic singing and shouting, was:  “If they were to put me in a barrel, I would shout glory out through the bunghole”.   Billy Bray's life was celebrated by the Devon folk singer  Seth Lakeman in the song "Preacher's Ghost" on his 2010 album Hearts and Minds.
Baldhu Church and Billy Bray's obelisk
Billy Bray's 'Three Eyes' Chapel
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Ed Prynn and his Prynnhenge
Ed Prynn, former fork-lift truck driver, lives in a bungalow with a small garden near St. Merryn.  He has written 3 books about his life and has appeared on a number of television programmes.  He is a keen traveller and painter and enjoys writing stories.  Ed is the self-proclaimed Archdruid of Cornwall, and his small bungalow at Tresallyn Cross has has acquired a special sort of fame. The bungalow walls are hung with about 500 slate nameplates bearing such diverse names as Thomas Telford (the colossus of roads), Charles Dickens, Emmeline Pankhurst, Billy Graham and Marco Polo, covering the lower part of the walls.  The small lawned garden is almost covered by 21 giant granite standing stones, including replicas of Lanyon Quoit, Mên an Tol (the stone with a hole), a loggan (rocking) stone - and a 'holy well'.  Self-appointed Archdruid Ed sports long silky white hair, a strong Cornish accent and a glass eye, acquired after an industrial accident.
The Loggan (rocking) stone
Ed with his quoit
The replica Mên an Tol
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Thrussell and Thrussell - Artist Metalsmiths
I first encountered the work of the Thrussells, father and son Gary and Thomas, in 2005 when Jane and I started walking the Clay Trails, around Bugle and Wheal Martyn.  At beginning of what I like to call the White River Trail -Wheal Martyn to St, Austell and, after a gap, on to Pentewan - is a small metal chimney with cleverly cut out small individual clay country features, photo below right.  My next encounter, some years later was, when doing a round walk from St. Breward, I found "Arachnathrone", photo below left, on a grassy patch between the Primary School and the path to De Lank.  Then Jane and I were walking on Bodmin Beacon when we discovered Thrussell benches;  how pleasing to be able to rest on the work of one's favourite artist metalsmiths.  Since then we have encountered their work at two pubs, the Rann Wartha in St. Austell, below, and Weatherspoons Chapel an Gansblydhen in Bodmin, and at two more primary schools, in Pensilva and Wadebridge.  A favourite motif seems to be the salmon;  we particularly like the one near Wenford Dries on the northernmost section of the Camel Trail.  Now that I seem to be committed to seeing all the Thrussell works that we can reach in a day, I am compiling a list of those yet to see.  Already I have added the Penrice Cross at Penrice Academy in St. Austell, the Archway to the Children's Playground in Carharrack - happy memories of the Redruth and Chacewater Mining Trail.and the Bandstand in Launceston.  We also found an unexpected one on the slope below the Cornwall end of Tamar Bridge.  If our health and fitness hold out into 2017 we hope to cross the bridge to see their work on Plymouth Hoe and on the Plym Valley Trail.  The Thrussells work is not just in Cornwall and Devon;  see it also in Bilston in Staffordshire and Maldon Friars in Essex. 
Do visit their extensive Web Site.   More Thrussell  - and even more Thrussell  -  and yet more Thrussell
Arachnathrone, St. Breward Primary
Rann Wartha Inn, St. Austell
Wheal Martyn Chimney

More Thrussell and Thrussell - and even more Thrussell
Plaque on the slope below the Tamar Bridge
Pensilva Primary School Tree
Wadebridge Primary Bench
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And Even More Thrussell
Archway to Carharrack Playground
Penrice Cross at Penrice Academy
Launceston Bandstand
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And yet more Thrussell
 
Jane & Meg by Salmon near Wenford Dries
 
Salmon near Wenford Dries
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Harvey's of Hayle - The Great Cornish Engineers

Walking around the run-down town of Hayle these days, you would never guess that the industrial heart of Cornwall once beat strongest here.  Yet in the mid-18th century Hayle boasted perhaps 5000 jobs in industry. The National Explosive Company, the Cornish Copper Company and the docks were all major employers but the greatest of them all was Harveys. 
In 1779 Gwinear blacksmith John Harvey started a small works in Hayle to make hand tools and pumps for the mines.  Three generations of Harveys built the country's greatest engineering company, employing geniuses like Richard Trevithick and building beam engines, locomotives and iron packet ships. 
Beam engines were the company's best known product and included the largest ever built, draining a polder at Cruquis in Holland and still in working order as a museum piece 150 years later.  Cornish examples can be seen at Levant Mine and at Taylor's Shaft in Pool
Most remarkable ship that Harveys built was the Cornubia, an iron-built paddle steamer, originally operating out of Bristol as a packet boat, bought by the Confederacy to act as an American Civil War blockade runner, then captured by the Union and used by them as a blockader of Gulf ports.  Harveys final throw was to build 2nd World War landing craft.
You can see remains of Harveys in the area known as Foundry 
Part of Harveys Hammermill and Ropewalk complex
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Literary Cornwall - 1 - Fowey - mostly Daphne du Maurier

Fowey is best known for its connection with Daphne du Maurier.  In 1926 her parents bought 'Ferryside' at Bodinnick and she fell in love with it and Fowey.  In 1932 she married Boy Browning at Lanteglos church.  They lived in London but in 1943, with Boy away at war, Daphne rented a house at Readymoney Cove south of Fowey.  She then persuaded local landowners, the Rashleighs (builders of  Charlestown harbour), to rent her Menabilly, a mile west.  Menabilly was the model for  'Manderley' in Rebecca.  When her lease expired in 1969 she moved to another Rashleigh home, Kilmarth, where she died in 1989.  There is a du Maurier Literary Centre shop at 5 South Street in Fowey and each May a Literary Festival honours her.  Other du Maurier locations are Frenchman's Creek on the Helford River and Jamaica Inn at Bolventor.  Before du Maurier, Q - Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch - was the literary lion of Fowey.  Born in Bodmin and, although Professor of Literature at Jesus College Cambridge, he lived most of his life at The Haven on The Esplanade, where a plaque commemorates him;  his memorial stands high on Hall Walk across the river.  One of his friends and visitors was Kenneth Graham, author of Wind in the Willows;  Graham was inspired by the Fowey River and Q himself - who loved 'simply messing about in boats' - is believed to have been the model for Ratty.
View across the Fowey to Ferryside, Bodinnick
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Literary Cornwall - 2 - A Miscellany

A. L. Rowse - he would have wanted to be first in the list - was born of a poor family in Clay Country, won a place at Oxford and became a Fellow of All Souls.  Major historian, Shakespearean, controversialist;  lived at Trenarren near St. Austell;  memorial stands on nearby Black Head.   Richard Carew - of Antony - was Cornwall's first historian, publishing his Survey of Cornwall in 1602;  a plaque on Hall Walk opposite Fowey remembers him. D. H. Lawrence rented a house in Porthcothan in 1915, then at Higher Tregerthen Farm near Zennor in 1917.  Hounded out as a German spy!   Hugh Walpole, of Herries Chronicle fame, stayed in St. Ives, visited Truro renaming its cathedral Polchester in Cathedral and Old Ladies. John Betjeman, late 20th century Poet Laureate, loved his holiday home by Daymer Bay.  He is buried in St. Enodoc churchyard. Virginia Woolf spent childhood summers at Talland House in St. Ives, from which she could see Godrevy Light (From the Lighthouse). Thomas Hardy came to St. Juliot in 1870 as architect.  He stayed at the rectory and in 1874 married the rector's sister Emma Gifford.  A Lawrence Whistler window in the church commemorates him.  In A Pair of Blue Eyes St. Juliot appears as Endelstow, Boscastle as Castle Botterel.  Charles Causley - poet and children's author - was a Launceston man. Maria Branwell, the Brontes' mother, lived at  25 Chapel Street, Penzance
Godrevy Light was inspiration for Virginia Woolf
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Literary Cornwall - 3 - Winston Graham and the Poldark Novels

Winston Graham (1910-2003) lived 30 years in Perranporth. His vast Poldark saga made a great TV series;  many locations can be visited, many are on the coast path.  Trenwith, Francis's home, later Warleggan's, was based on Trerice, but shot at Godolphin.   Ralph Allen Daniell's home is Trelissick (house and garden open).   Penrice, Aunt Agatha's home, is Boconnoc (takes paying guests).   Nampara, Ross's home, is variously Pendeen Manor, Botallack Manor Farm (both West Penwith) and Roscarrock near Port Isaac (none open but all visible on foot).   Sawle, Ross's village, is a mix of  Port Quin, Mousehole, Lamorna and Roscarrock.   Weddings - Francis and Elizabeth at Towednack near St. Ives, Drake and Morwenna at Bradoc near Bodmin, Rowella Chynoweth at St. Enodoc, Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen at St. Winnow near Lerryn.   Dwight's home was Doyden Castle near Port Isaac.  Roscoff was Portholland.    Sir Francis Basset's home was the National Trust's Lanhydrock.    Fort Baton in Brittany was St. Mawes Castle.    Other locations include Lundy Bay and Pentireglaze, both on the north coast;  Porthluney Beach and Portholland on the south coast;  and Porthcurno, Prussia Cove and the Cape Cornwall, Levant and Pendeen area in West Penwith.
Botallack Manor Farm
Demelza, Warleggan and Tregirls are all real villages near Bodmin
All the above locations are from the original 1975 TV series.  I hope to add an item on the 2015 series later. 
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Literary Cornwall - 4 - A. L. Rowse

Arthur Leslie Rowse (1903-1997) would not have liked to be featured as Literary Cornwall - 4.  Almost from the moment of his birth he clearly knew he was destined to be number one.  Born to a poor family in Tregonissey in Clay Country, he won a scholarship to Christchurch College, Oxford, and was elected a Fellow of All Souls at the astonishingly early age of twenty-one.  He went on to become a leading historian of the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, the foremost Shakespearean scholar of the age, a not very good poet, and a supreme egotist.  Despite his success at Oxford, in the United States and in the world at large, he always remained a Cornishman at heart and lived for many later years at Trenarren, not far from his birthplace.  Appropriately, he is commemorated by a memorial on nearby Black Head.  Its inscription, in English and Cornish, describes him as 'The Voice of Cornwall'.  His own words are below:  'This was the land of my content'.  Sadly, you can neither visit nor even get a good view of Trenarren but the memorial on Black Head stands right on the Cornish Coast Path.  Park in Porthpean to walk about 2 miles to reach it. 
Recommended reading: A Cornish Childhood
Trenarren is at the top of the hill
Although I prefer to walk to Black Head and the Rowse Memorial from Porthpean, Bill Hobba of Charlestown has kindly pointed out to me that some people may prefer to park closer.  There is room for about 8 cars close to A. L. Rowse's house, from where the walk is only about half-a-mile.  I assume this to be the car park shown on OS Explorer Sheet 107.  Bill also says there may be space further up the track to Black Head.
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Wind Turbines - What a waste of money and effort

An unexpected and controversial feature of the Cornish landscape is the wind farm. Unexpected because you somehow assume you will find wind turbines in remote Scottish or Welsh places.  Controversial because not only do some find them a terrible blot on the landscape but there is a very great deal of doubt as to whether they truly serve any useful purpose.  Heavily promoted as the green answer to renewable energy production, the wind turbine produces incredibly expensive power that has to be heavily subsidised.  It is far less efficient than its promoters like to suggest since it cannot operate in too little or too much wind and even has to draw power from the grid if stationary for too long.  Worst of all, since it cannot be relied on, it requires 100% back-up of stand-by conventional power plant.  After publication of reports in 2004, about new and safer methods of nuclear generation and waste storage, I am surprised that successive governments fail to pursue the nuclear option.  Whilst we are strongly against wind turbines on practical grounds, and understand the controversy about the thrumming noise a wind farm can produce, we really don't mind the look of them.  Anywhere in North Cornwall we are usually near one farm with a couple more in sight.  With only a dozen or so turbines to a farm, they can look quite elegant against a background of sky or sea.
Part of a wind farm on the A30 highway
UPDATE DECEMBER 2014:  Since I wrote this wind farm item there have been a lot of developments.  At that time there were 6 wind turbine sites in Cornwall, each with no more than about a dozen turbine towers.  Since then they have proliferated.  Small towers have been replaced by large (or massive) ones, numbers on many sites have doubled, there have been many new sites and individual massive turbines have sprung up all over the place.  As if that were not bad enough - all that subsidy straight down the drain - we now have a proliferation of solar panels.  These cover what would otherwise be productive farmland, produce electricity only during daylight hours and then only if the sun shines.  Apologists for solar panels will tell you that they don't reduce the extent of farmland because animals can graze under them.  Rubbish!  the grass dies or at least loses its nutritional value because of the lack of sunlight, and how on earth could you graze a cow under a solar panel.  And, of course, just like wind turbines, they require 100% conventional back-up.  Who profits?  greedy landowners and electricity companies!  Who loses? all the rest of us! 
To see the proliferation, go to the relevant Cornwall Coucil page, scroll down and click on the appropriate links. 
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The Chough - Another Emblem of Cornwall

Along with the fisherman and the miner, the chough was the third symbol of Cornwall on the old county coat of arms.  A member of the crow family, it is distinguished by its red beak and legs and by its habitat, nesting in cracks or caves on high cliffs and feeding on short clifftop pasture.  Once a feature of all the western coasts of the British Isles, the chough disappeared from Cornwall around 1952.  A breeding programme had been established at Paradise Park in Hayle when suddenly, in 2001, a breeding pair appeared on the Lizard.  The first young were fledged in summer 2002.  It seems they have spread, probably largely thanks to the National Trust which has introduced highland cattle to increase clifftop grazing and create their ideal feeding ground.  Their location is around Kynance Cove but don't even think of stealing their eggs;  they are guarded 24 hours a day by a dedicated team of chough watchers.  I am convinced that in February 2005 I saw two pairs in the air above the cliffs during a north coast walk and heard their distinctive call.  The chough is important in Cornwall for its mythological connection with King Arthur.  It is said that, when Arthur was killed, his soul migrated into a chough and his blood stained its beak and legs red.  It is wonderful that, after a break of more than 50 years, the chough is back in its spiritual home;  long may it breed successfully in Cornwall.  As for pronounciation of its name, everyone seems to calls it the chuff.  However the Cornish pronunciation of ough is ow - as in Roughtor - so it should really be pronounced chow, which approximates its distinctive call. 
The Chough (pronounced chow)
 
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Serpentine - The Lizard's Unique (to England) and Colourful Rock

To give it its full geological name, serpentinised mantle peridodites is found nowhere else in England, only on the east coast of the Lizard Peninsula between Landewadnack Church Cove and Coverack.  It really shouldn't be here at all as it's part of the earth's mantle and ought to be some 10 miles below the surface.  Be that as it may, it was once the source of a major Cornish industry and still flourishes on a small scale.  It was a visit to Cornwall in 1846 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that started the craze for Serpentine.  The dark green rock, with its blue and red veins, polishes like marble to a wonderful deep sheen.  It was much used for architectural and decorative features and for monumental masonry.  Sadly, it does not weather well and those uses have died out.  However, it is still worked for small decorative objects - a favourite is the miniature lighthouse.  Half the shops in Lizard Town stock them.  The biggest Serpentine Works was in Carleon Cove just below Poltesco. The old pilchard cellars there were extended and converted for the purpose.  What remains now is a warehouse and the round pilchard boat capstan house.  It is a charming and tranquil cove accessible only from Poltesco or from the coast path north of Cadgwith.  Rocks on the beach are massive. 
Warehouse and Capstan House in Carleon Cove
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Minack Theatre at Porthcurno

This is a pretty remote and often windswept part of Cornwall, in West Penwith beyond Penzance and not far from Land's End.  All the more remarkable therefore that this should be the location of the most unusual theatre in Britain, Minack Theatre.  Created in the 1930s by an amazing lady, Miss Rowena Cade - much of it literally by her own hands - this cliff-top open-air theatre was hewn from solid rock, looking for all the world like an ancient Greek theatre.  Seating looks out over the Atlantic and the balconies, terraces and steps are all part of the unusual stage on which the action sometimes surrounds the audience.  Minack's season runs from May to September but you do take your chances with the weather.  Highly professional productions run from such as Beowulf, through Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde to opera.  Throughout the year you can visit Minack's Visitor Centre to learn the amazing story of the theatre's creation in an excellent small exhibition.  There is a good coffee shop (note that you have to pay an entrance fee to use this), a shop and a small sub-tropical garden.  We revisited in October 2004, as part of an outing that included nearby Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and a coast path walk to the charming fishing cove of Porthgwarra.
Minack, what a setting! 
From Penzance, take A30, B3283 through St. Buryan, and B3315
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Land's End - and why not to go there

It is difficult to find words to express the shame for what has been done to Land's End.  Both Jane and I remember it from our childhood as a place of magic with an end-of-the-world feeling, the only human intervention a small hotel and a tearoom.  Then in 1981 Welsh entrepreneur David Goldstone outbid the National Trust for the estate.  He sold on to the mysterious Peter de Savary (Skibo Castle, Bovey Castle and Caribbean resorts) in 1987.  De Savary bought John o'Groats in 1989 but then got into financial trouble and sold both in 1991 to Isle of Man entrepreneur Graham Ferguson Lacey.  Now the hotel has been greatly extended and vulgarised and a small and tatty theme park introduced to separate the visitor from his money.  Much of the clifftop is roped off and inaccessible.  Even the famed direction sign (New York 3147 miles) is subject to a fee if you want to be pictured by it.  What a sad place it is!  For a real end-of-the-world feeling you would do far better to go a mere five miles or so north to Cape Cornwall, which is owned by the National Trust but which, in the way of 'visitor attractions', has only the summer ice cream wagon in the car park.  This is far more representative of the real Cornwall.
Sign on Dr. Johnson's Head
 Only good reason to go there is to start the Land's End Trail
I was at Land's End again in April 2008, starting a walk from there.  I have to say that it was looking a lot smarter than when I last saw it with a fairly attractive initial entrance, a vast neat car park and a pastiche Palladian portico leading to the theme park, shops and restaurants.  But I still don't like it and feel it such a shame that a significant site should have been turned into a tourist trap. 
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Cornish Cyder Farm (now Healey's Cider Farm)
It may surprise my regular visitors that I should include an item on the Cornish Cyder Farm at Penhallow near St. Piran's Church at Perranzabuloe.  I don't usually do 'tourist attractions' and you will find no mention on these pages of the Eden Project, Flambards, Crealy Adventure Park and their like.  But, when Jane and I called in there to get some tea on our way back from visiting Roseland House Garden, we were impressed so here it is.  David and Kay Healey bought the farm in 1986 in order to produce cider.  Orchards were planted and farm buildings beautifully converted.  Now they produce several grades of cider (including scrumpy), apple brandy, country wines, fruit juices and superb whole fruit jams.  Entry to the site is free though there are charges for tractor-drawn farm tours and guided tours of the production areas.  There is a small cider museum and animals to entertain the children .  The busy shop looks good and sells Cornish Cyder Farm's own products, some of them really quite expensive.  The restaurant is simple and has plenty of umbrellaed outside tables.  There is a simple and fairly straightforward lunch menu and we can strongly recommend the cream teas, served with generous amounts of clotted cream and their own jam.  Signage to the site is clear and there is ample car parking.
One of the two courtyards at Cornish Cyder Farm
The Land's End Trail passes through here
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Cowslip Quilting Workshops at Newhouse Farm near Launceston
This may seem like an odd image to use in an item about quilting workshops but then Jo Colwill's business runs in and from a purpose built workshop set in the midst of farm buildings on husband Steve's organic dairy farm where the Colwills have farmed for about a century.  Jane has been a Cowslip devotee for some years now, has attended classes there and has had help from Jo with some of here more difficult quilts.  She and her friend Mary have made regular trips to Cowslip to admire the works displayed and to buy supplies.  It was during the major BSE scare, when the Colwill's feared for their dairy farm, that Jo decided she could make a living from her quilting skills.  The business has grown and a vast range of classes and workshops are held - not just quilting but also knitting, appliqué, silk painting, stencil work, basket making and more.  The well-stocked shop carries a range of fine fabrics, threads, accessories, tutorial books and hand-made greetings cards.   A café (open daily 10-5) serves morning coffee, light lunches and cream teas.  Lunches include a variety of baguettes and filled jacket potatoes and the specials board includes home made desserts.  Jane recommends the place, the shop and the food.  If you want to know more, do take a look at Cowslip's web site.
Newhouse Farm is on the minor road from Egloskerry to Launceston
Organic cow and calf on Jo's Newhouse Farm
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Retallack
In late May 2016 we decided to have a look at, and try a meal at, the Pickwick Inn near St. Issey above the Camel Estuary upstream from Padstow.  Just before noon we were greeted by a grumpy lady, mop and bucket in hand.  We beat a hasty retreat and headed for Retallack Resort, just off the A39 at the Wynards Perch roundabout.  This has changed radically since it was the American Wild West Theme Park, a slightly tawdry attraction.  There is a lake with a wakeboarding set-up, entertaining but, compared with that at Sibleyback Lakenear Minions, quite unsophisticated.  A snack-shack stands by the lake.  More sophisticated is the restaurant and bar overlooking the Flow Rider (pictured left).  The Flow Rider is an entertaining way of surfing without going anywhere.  The rider stands on a simple board and rides the flow of water running fast up a slope.  We enjoyed coffee in the restaurant, watching the activity on the Flow Rider.  We haven't looked at the accommodation but, if Retallack's web site is to be believed, it appears to be of a high standard, with a variety of lodges available to purchase or for holiday rental.  Retallack is owned by Galliard Homes who apparently plan much further development.
The Retallack Flow Rider
L on B3274 from Winnard's Perch roundabout on A39, S of Wadebridge
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Page updated 26 January 2017

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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