Well, not strictly Cornwall, but Devon. Monday 4th July. I had sadly from my patio to say goodbye to the birds on the RSPB Hayle Estuary reserve, and start making my way home.
I was not going to be able to pick Bella up from her cattery until 4.30, so had plenty of time to make one last visit, and chose the National Trust’s Castle Drogo, near Exeter, a 20th century castle. I saw a robin in the grounds, and realised I had not seen one all week.
Castle Drogo was built by Julius Drewe, founder of the hugely successful Home and Colonial Stores . (He retired on his fortune in 1889 aged only 33.) He was convinced that he was descended from a Norman baron called called Drogo de Teigne, from Drewsteignton, and bought land there, overlooking the River Teign, to build a castle. He asked Edwin Lutyens to be its architect. Lutyens would much have preferred to design ‘a delicious loveable house’, but Drewe insisted. Construction started in 1911, but in the event, he lost heart after losing his eldest son in the First World War, and started to dislike the cost of it all, and only about a third of the original concept was realised by the time construction was completed in 1930. Drewe died a year later, but had been able to live there since 1925. It is the last castle to be built in England.
I just loved its Art Nouveau Tudor style. (That’s my description; I’ve not seen it elsewhere, and Wikipedia calls it ‘mixed-revivalist’.) It is entirely built in granite, and was given to the National Trust in 1974, its first 20th century acquisition.
The building may have been twentieth century, but the collected pieces were authentic.
To reach the undercroft, which became the chapel in the revised design, it is necessary to go outside. A chance to see the wonderful granite blocks again.
After some lunch in the recent visitor centre and cafe building, I spent an hour or so wandering in the gardens. The rose garden was outstanding, and would have been even more stunning had it been brighter and warmer. (It seems strange to be saying that at a time when UK all-time heat records have just been broken by a considerable margin.)
My final stop was at the circular lawn, where a mesmerising robot lawnmower entertained me for a few minutes.
But let my final picture in this series of posts about this so enjoyable holiday in Cornwall – and Devon – be of the class of animals which had given me such pleasure all week, the birds. Much more entertaining on the lawn than the robot was a pied wagtail, a species which, as with the robin, I hadn’t seen all week.
Wednesday 29th June, part 2. Very shortly after starting to explore the Tresco Abbey Gardens, by which time the threat of rain had lifted, and having had the obligatory and necessary coffee, I was absolutely delighted to see a red squirrel – and then another. I had no idea they were on the Isles of Scilly.
Here are just a few of the over 100 photos I took on my way round the very extensive gardens.
I had now been in the gardens perhaps an hour, totally absorbed in what I was seeing. But at this point I looked up and saw the sea in the distance. I came to, and suddenly remembered where I was. It was a strange feeling, coming back to space and time.
My peregrination had brought me back near the entrance. Whether these were the same two squirrels, I could not know, but as they played they rushed past me, apparently oblivious of my presence .
As I went back to the cafe at the entrance for a something to eat, I couldn’t resist taking another photo of the creature (was it the same?) that had greeted me earlier on.
Also at the entrance there was a small exhibition on the history of the Gardens.
Guess who visited while I was consuming my soup…
Resuming my exploration of the gardens, I was pleased to see these Echium candicans, ‘Pride of Madeira’. I had bought the T-shirt when on that island. The flowerhead is about one-and-a-half times the size of a lupin head and much more dense.
The sun had been out for some time now, and I was sitting contemplating this area (the following three pictures) when it occurred to me that it would be a shame to see nothing more of the island while I was there.
So I made my way to the exit,
then turned back past the heliport, to the nearest beach. The sun had gone in now, and the breeze, from which the gardens shelter their visitors, was quite fierce. I saw no attraction in hanging around there,
so retraced my steps, past the entrance to the gardens this time, making for a round lake I could see on my map, hoping to be able to get close to it.
Sadly, I could get no closer to the lake than this, despite walking all the way round its extensive perimeter.
In due course, I was back at the heliport, but on the wrong side.
As I said in my previous post, I saw the previous flight come in and take off. Once the barrier was lifted, it was safe for me to cross to reception.
Wednesday, 29th June. It promised to be a reasonably fine morning. As the sun came up, it caught the feathers of the birds as beautifully as the setting evening sun did.
But I couldn’t hang around, I had to be at Penzance Heliport by 9.30.
I had booked to go to St Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly by helicopter in 2021, but that had been cancelled because of fog. A helicopter trip would have completed my trio of aerial ambitions. I had been in a glider in 2009 on an incredibly hot day,
and in a balloon exactly four years ago today (blog post here). So a helicopter trip would complete the trio, and Penzance to the Scillies would do nicely. This time, I had booked, with Penzance Helicopters, not to St Mary’s but to Tresco, because of the lovely Gardens there.
Our helicopter arrived and, having disgorged its incoming passengers, refuelled.
Still inside the building, we had a safety briefing. In due course we were directed to seats inside the aircraft. I was fortunate and had a window seat. (Given that there were 12 passengers in three rows, that was a 50/50 chance.)
We were off! But I had no camera. It was in my small backpack, which I had had to surrender to the hold. (It really was sardines inside the copter, and of course I was the only one wearing a mask – an FFP3 one.) But I had grabbed my phone, which took this outward series of pictures.
Penzance to Tresco is just 15 minutes, so the first of the 145 (five inhabited) Isles of Scilly soon came into sight.
I spent almost all of my time on the island in the Tresco Abbey Gardens, which will be the subject of my next post. (The weather much improved and I had a lovely time!)
I had to be back at the Heliport at 3.45 pm, one hour before take off. (It did seem to be an awful imbalance of time – a whole hour passed waiting for a 15-minute flight!) But half an hour before that I was (stuck) on the other side of the heliport, and saw the flight before arrive and take off. I did take a video of the latter, but had not reckoned on the enormous buffeting I would receive from the beast, which rendered the video useless.
After that hour, and another briefing, we were guided to the helicopter, and again I had a window seat.
I was able to recognise points of the island now as we flew away, the round lake I had not been able to get near, a larger one I should perhaps have headed for rather, and the bay I had visited, and of course the sheltered dark green mass of the Abbey Gardens.
We flew at 1000 feet/300 metres.
The captain helpfully pointed out that we were to pass the Minack Theatre – something I had not expected to see, and certainly not from this angle, for another two days.
Neither had I thought to see my car from above – the small one, fourth along,in the near row of eight vehicles.
And I was pleased see, as I happened to look up, St Michaels Mount. (Actually some miles away, but I zoomed in on it.)
Back at the ranch (The Old Quay House, Hayle), I caught up with the wildlife – that’s The Causeway behind.
I took a cup of tea out on the the patio, and was joined by a Herring gull. To cut a long story short, over fifteen minutes or so he came and went three times, and I suspected his motives.
A firm but not shouted ‘No’, such as I use on the cats when necessary, was sufficient to stop him breaking and entering. I think he must have found booty inside on previous occasions.
But the cheekiest was, he attempted to lift my mug up!
My verdict on the helicopter part of my trip to Tresco? Well, I’ve completed the trio of experiences, but this was all rather prosaic. Outstanding by far was the balloon, and the glider flight was wonderful. (If only it hadn’t been 30 degrees C. That, along with the fact that the pilot had to do a lot of circling to catch the thermals, meant that my tendency to travel sickness had kicked in.)
I’m fantasising about having a holiday in the Isles of Scilly. Should it come off, I shall go by boat, not least for environmental reasons.
I’d so enjoyed my holiday in Cornwall in June 2021, and found there was so much more I wanted to see and do there, that I decided to book for this year, though in more comfortable accommodation, (the subject of my next post). I drove south-west on Monday 27th June, and, having now reviewed the more than 1000 photos I returned with, can see that I have about 11 blog posts to prepare, for a week’s holiday.
Last year I had extraordinary thoughts of returning to the Eden Project on my way, specifically to have a go on the zip wire there. But in the event I replaced that idea, for a variety of reasons, only one of them not being sure whether I really dared, with a visit to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. So, having dropped Bella off at her cattery (unvaccinated Tilly remaining at home) I arrived at the venue in good time for a light lunch during which I perused the guide.
Heligan has a history going back to the thirteenth century, but was ‘lost’ and increasingly overgrown between 1914 and 1990. Its timeline is here.
This view greets you as you step into the gardens.
I then took Beacon Path. As I often do in discovering a new place, I started by staking out the perimeter, clockwise. During my week in Cornwall, I saw many such tangles of rhododendron trunks.
After a while I found myself in an area called ‘New Zealand’.
The guide explains that the so called ‘Flower Garden’ is also about fruit and vegetables.
This is possibly my favourite photo of the visit,
or perhaps this.
I started to explore more widely than just the main gardens, and came across this wood turner, who was making honey dippers, near Home Farm.
The East Lawn was a large play area for children.
But I was headed much further on, down, down, down, through The Jungle to the Burma Rope Bridge.
This was great fun. I held back to get a clearer picture of what was before me (fortunately no-one was queuing behind me) and to avoid the stupidity of the not-so-young man two in front of me who insisted on bouncing around and disturbing others on the bridge.
At the other end, and after a few yards right, I followed none of these following directions, becoming conscious of the time, and took the Diagonal Path behind me. It was quite steep.
So I was glad of the several opportunities it gave to rest.
Approaching Home Farm again, I saw the very recently installed Bugginghum Palace, which hopes to make it into The Guinness Book of Records as the largest insect hotel in the world.
This is the “Thunderbox Room, a lighthearted title for the gardeners’ lavatory. … It was in the first of the two cubicles in 1990 that Tim Smit and John Nelson first noticed the names on the wall. …. numerous barely legible signatures… August 1914… shortly to depart to fight in the First World War. Of the total of thirteen Heligan men who were to serve… only four survived.”
I was disinclined to enter just to see an old-fashioned loo, especially given the low headroom, but then I noticed a swallow flying in, and suspected that it was visiting a nest.
I was right. Just inside the doorway, behind me …
I hung around, my camera at the ready, to be rewarded with this, for no more than two seconds.
I was doubly pleased to have entered the Thunderbox Room, as it led into the Italian Garden.
Minutes later I was in The Ravine,
then came across this curious tree. It is a Douglas Fir, with a Witch’s Broom ‘necklace’ round it, highly prized by bonsai specialists apparently.
It was time for me to leave – licking an ice-cream. I had not seen the entire estate, far from it, and this is only a tiny selection of the photos I took. But Marks and Spencer called…
I was homeward bound on Saturday, 11th September, but could not let pass the opportunity to visit on the way this world-renowned project. I had a booking for 11.00. My satnav the evening before told me that I would need 90 minutes to get there, which surprised me somewhat, but I allowed two hours. As I left my BnB at 9.00 it was saying I would need 65 minutes – the difference between Friday evening and Saturday morning traffic I suppose. But thank goodness I had all that leeway. There were huge hold-ups on the A30, due I think to road closures elsewhere, with traffic being funnelled on to this road. In the event I arrived just 10 minutes before my ticket’s time.
It was quite a walk between my car park down to the entrance – but not so far that I qualified for the shuttle bus. Just one more car park up and …
I find I have 108 photos, and have found it incredibly difficult to make a selection. I have only managed to cut them down to 58 – sorry – and they give only a glimpse into what was to be seen.
Here’s the plan from my pre-ordered guide. I should like to have been able to sit down and study it in greater depth before going round, but things were well-labelled.
Basically, I wandered around the Outdoor Gardens and then the Crops, which I think is how it is intended you should, then visited first the Rainforest Biome, followed by the Mediterranean one (only about a third the area, but with a few more species), then went along the Avenue to the Core. I seem to have missed the Zigzag through Time, and I don’t think I did justice to the Invisible Worlds.
My photos are largely without commentary.
I think this next picture is my very favourite of the day.
This queue (note one person peeling off left)…
… was for this. Good fun!
There was a link corridor, with shops and café, to the …
About 15 minutes into the Rainforest Biome, there was a notice warning people who were finding it too hot to turn back, as it was another 30 minutes to the exit. (A one-way system was in operation with little byways roped off, presumably because of Covid.) The Mediterranean Biome was also hot, in a lovely dry Mediterranean way, but I was very pleased to find this almost unpatronised drinks bar near its exit. Time for a chilled elderflower cordial.
Frim time to time there was a swooshing sound from above. I had just days ago watched Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin on television on a zipline, and thought, ‘How I would love to do that!’. And here would have been my opportunity! If I had known in advance about the possibility here, I would definitely have looked into it. As it was, I picked up a leaflet when I left.
‘Infinity Blue’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Seed’ were the two main attractions in the Core.
‘Infinity Blue’ from an upper floor. In about a decade it may be lowered into the sea as a reef habitat for marine life. (It’s not crooked, my camera was.)
Up a lift, across a bridge, and it was back to the entrance/visitor centre/exit…
… for a coffee before setting off on the rest of my journey home. I was amused to see this old coffee making machine on display, sadly not in use.
How to reflect on eight such days? I was absolutely shattered for a while after my return, but so happy to have spent my time so fully. Cornwall is a such a beautiful place, with so much to explore and experience. I tried, and I think I succeeded, not to let an underlying fear of Covid spoil my enjoyment, though it was unnerving to see so many people, freed of legal obligation, appearing to believe that if they did not wear masks indoors the risk was only to themselves, not to others. But it was heartening also to see how many did wear masks, especially those serving, in whatever setting.
I have to go back. I have to make that helicopter trip. I have to use more those various guides to archology, geology, walks, built places to visit. My Eden Project ticket is valid for a year! (I could – perhaps – go on that zipline…) I’m already thinking that I may take another holiday in the county next June, perhaps based at Hayle this time.
This was my choice for Monday morning, 9th September, the third day of my holiday in the far tip of Cornwall. I thought the walk would probably stretch me, but I had a reason for choosing it, from my other ‘walks’ book, by the Ordnance Survey.
It started at Perranuthnoe, the sun having cleared the heavy sea mist which prevailed just 20 minutes earlier as I had set off eastwards from Penzance.
For about half of its distance the walk would be through fields and lanes.
After half an hour I realised that I had failed to take my walking pole from my boot. Too far in now, I would have to manage without, something I was not looking forward to for the second part of the walk, along the South-west Coastal Path, up and down, up and down, cliff and cove, where my pole would, I thought, make all the difference to the ‘down’ bits.
I was most surprised to see this beehive to my right at one point, though further from me than this photo makes it appear.
Just metres further on I saw this shack, clearly party of a homestead. For the next couple of hundred metres, well spaced out, there were more dwellings, rather less ‘shacky’.
The last section of the inland part of the walk went north-south, along a path with, to me, a vertiginous descent, and very slippery because of little pebbles and soil. How I missed my walking pole to steady me, balance not being my strongest point. I grew increasingly fearful of the coastal path to come. At points down this steep path I used the method toddlers use when going down stairs…
As I neared the end of this descent, I could see Porth-en-Alls House, which took me back to 1973, though I had not seen it from this angle before. But I did recall seeing from the House the waves crashing onto the rocks of the promontory.
Where inland met coast was my reason for wanting to do this walk. When I was in this tip of Cornwall for the only previous time, in 1973, I had stayed for three weeks at Prussia Cove, near Marazion. This was, and still is, an estate of holiday cottages on the coast, and mine was one of the Coastguard Cottages, which I had all to myself. I was there, on unpaid leave from H M Treasury, as secretary to the International Musicians Seminar, founded just the year earlier by the celebrated Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, and by Hilary Tunstall-Behrens. It still runs, and still takes place at Prussia Cove, based on Porth-en-Alls House. (I had no knowledge of H T-B’s exploits when I was introduced to him on taking the job!)
Two longer term consequences of my involvement in this event arose for me personally. The broadcaster and music critic John Amis, and radio presenter Natalie Wheen, visited for a couple days on behalf of the BBC. I found myself singing 4-part music with them once or twice. We remained in touch and had few further sessions, this time with five singers, back in London, once in my flat in Kentish Town.
The other consequence arose because it was my task, on the eve of Sandor Vegh’s arrival, to visit the cottage where he was to stay to check on, (or was it to light?), a fire to warm the place. (I think this was April.) The ‘cottages’ on the estate are well spread out, and a black and white cat was hanging around one of them. I can never resist talking to a cat, and I was a little embarrassed that she followed me all the way back to my own cottage. Free to leave if she wanted, she adopted me, and my reward was to find a dead mouse by my slippers nearly every morning when I woke up. I was informed, by the estate owners I think, that they thought she had been left behind by some previous holiday makers. Missy, as she became, virtually jumped in my car as I left Prussia Cove to return to London, my lovely companion for the next 12 years.
After 15 minutes or so, I arrived at Porth-en-Alls House. From that angle it did not seem at all familiar to me. But I was delighted to hear string chamber music emerging from this building, stopping and starting as if learning/rehearsing was going on – for these concerts perhaps?
I snuck this photo, in which a violinist can just been seen. One of these presumably.
I failed to see the Coastguard Cottages, and I had neither the energy nor the time to go searching for them. It was very hot, not a cloud in the sky all day.
My dread of the Coastal Path was unnecessary. That descent to the coastal path had been much worse than anything I encountered from then on. That said, this climb was steep!
Reached the top, I sat down on the narrow path, rested and took this photo. Fortunately no-one wanted to get by in either direction while I was there.
I arrived at Cudden Point.
This was the view as I passed over it, with Perranuthnoe in the far distance.
Brief exchanges with people coming in the other direction, or just resting, added to the pleasure of the walk. Footsore and very weary, I could see Perranurthnoe was getting nearer,
and then as I rounded every headland, it came nearer and nearer (as it were).
Three hours and 15 minutes after setting off, I arrived at the Beach Cabin Café, where a cheese sandwich and some apple juice refreshed. And I hadn’t even had to queue, despite the staff shortages in hospitality venues announced everywhere.
My ‘sandwich’ half eaten (it was a doorstep with copious filling, salad and crisps, much more than I wanted) I walked the few paces down to the beach to see what was attracting those going by, before climbing wearily back to my car.
It was only 2 pm, so the day’s entertainment could not end there.
The last (and indeed only) time I had been in Penwith, the very tip of Cornwall, including Lands End, was way back in 1973. For some years now, I had harboured a desire to go back. I made it as far as north Cornwall in 2013, on a geology field trip, and for some years had been gathering together material on furthest Cornwall. So when, last January, I abandoned all thought of a wildlife holiday on the Continent, I booked a week in a BnB in Penzance. Already availability was low; I think many other retirees had the same thought as I had – grab the first week the schools are back.
On my journey down, the augurs were good. Just minutes from home, as I took Bella to the cattery (Tilly was left well provided for at home, as she is not vaccinated) as I drove through Meare there was a young woman walking along the pavement with a large owl on her arm! I was not quick enough to stop and take a photo, sadly.
Traffic down the M5 was heavy but rarely slow, and I arrived at my planned lunch and walk stop just before midday. One of the many bits of paper I had gathered was about the beautiful and interesting Luxulyan valley, in North Cornwall. As I pulled into the village, I had needed to find just two things: a loo and coffee, preferably in that order.
No difficulty in finding either. For the second, just yards/metres away from where I was able to park my car, was a Memorial Hall,
where a ‘Plant swap and butties’ event going on. (I was later to find out more about Captain Agar-Robartes, a local MP, who had been killed in 1915 while trying to rescue a wounded comrade, during WWI.) There they were very happy to serve me a coffee for £1.
I didn’t stay inside to drink it. The room was small and noisy, and a dozen apparent locals were sitting around, not a mask between them, and one of them was holding forth on political matters in an extremely loud voice. I sat outside on this rather beautiful bench, which took me straight back to my week in Huissen, singing with an international choir in commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.
Three people passed by in the road, and two of them said hello. Friendly place, Luxulyan.
From my reading, I knew there was a beautiful walk along the valley, and was delighted to find a description of one in a ‘Short walks in Cornwall’ booklet I had just bought.
I set off,
and soon came across this well,
which pleased me for itself, and because it confirmed I had taken the right direction from the church.
The walk soon left the country lanes for footpaths through the woods, alongside leats for much of the time..
In due course I arrived at the Treffry Viaduct, wondering what it (had) carried. I now know that ‘firstly it carried the mine trucks over the valley and secondly it carried the water used to power the water wheel at Carmears. ‘
Overall, I don’t think I have ever said ‘Wow’ so frequently during a walk, not just for the viaduct, but also for the huge blocks of granite and the wonderful views…..
I had said to myself that I would stop to eat my sandwich at the first available place to sit after 1 pm. At 12.58 this came into view, the first bench I had seen (and indeed the last on this walk). I decided not to obsess over two 2 minutes!
The view as I ate.
Whwn I set off again, there were several temptations to wander off either side of the path but I resisted them.
The gap to the left where the 9-metre diameter water wheel had been was unmistakeable. It wound wagons up the incline
From here the water ran to drive it, a tiny trickle today. The Carmears incline was to haul crushed minerals up the slope.
Looking back at the furthest point, (I’ve come from the left and must return on the right) except that the instruction was to continue for a short while down to a bridge over the incline.
This was the turning point of the walk.
There were several ruined buildings on my route.
But this is the top of the wheel machinery.
Not only were stone sleeper supports visible all along the incline, but also the occasional rail support
and even rail.
The walk continues to follow the track, as far as the viaduct.
‘At the end of the viaduct turn left and go up some wooden steps to enter a field.’
And then it all went wrong. I could find no wooden post at which to turn right. But I did find a stile and hoped it was the right one. It was, later confirmed. But I should not have been able to take these next three photos.
When I had what I reckoned from the map was about 20 minutes to go to get back to the church, I realised that something was wrong: no longer did the terrain fit the description. I tried take a common sense approach, knowing that my car was north, (the sun was out) but it proved impossible. Long story short, it was with mixed feelings that I found myself back at the end of the viaduct, pleased to know exactly where I was, but unsure how not to make the same error again. I had literally gone round in a circle. I climbed the steps again, nervous of how to escape the vicious circle!
I took the stile again, and decided to ignore what I had previously taken to be a junction at which I was to turn right, and – phew – this worked. A much more obvious junction soon appeared, and all went smoothly from then on. I was very pleased to see this waymark, indicating, as I hoped, the church from which I had started off.
The ice cream I bought at the village shop was well-deserved, I thought.
The M and S food hall on the outskirts of Hayle, 50 minutes away, was my next planned stop, and from there it was only 20 minutes or so to my BnB. Or should have been. Traffic was incredibly slow through the town, through which I was forced to take an unexpected diversion, for reasons which will become clear in my next post. I went out for a very short wander on foot around 7.30, but likewise the theme of that is more appropriate to my next post…