Given the problems on the railways at present, Mary’s train from London was only 15 minutes late. I had a coffee over the road from Bath Spa station to wait for her. We retrieved my car from the expensive car park there, and I was relieved that I hadn’t been ‘done’ for parking – I think and accidentally anyway – in a disabled space. We drove – more hold-ups, this time for traffic – to this National Trust property in south Gloucestershire. I had visited Dyrham Park several years previously, but could remember nothing of it, except that there was a long walk down to the main house.
There and at another refreshment place Mary and I spent a long time just sitting and talking, over lunch and two beverage breaks. At at one stage went for what was noted as the shortest of the suggested walks around the grounds, though we weren’t sure where it started despite the plan given us, and seem to have taken a long way round at one stage because one path had been blocked off. Beautiful views all around, in weather which was kind, given that the forecast had been for potential heavy showers. We ran out of time to visit the house. I didn’t take many pictures.
Once home, I thought I would remind myself of my previous visit. What a contrast – you’d scarcely have thought it was the same place! (The house is yet to be done – another seven years?)
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.
Sunday, 3rd July. Membership of The Newt in Somerset gives free entry to a few other gardens in the UK (and one in South Africa!). I had my eye on two of them as I considered what to do on my last day in Cornwall. But I found that neither Trebah nor Tregothnan opens on a Sunday. So I turned to my booklet, ‘Cornwall’s Archaeological Heritage’ for the first time this week, and also to my National Trust handbook. The former told me about Trencom Castle, a hill fort just a few minutes from where I was staying. Among other things it told me that, “The enclosure may have originated in the Neolithic period and many flint arrowheads were found here in the early 20th century.” So I made this my first destination. But first I had of course to look out to see what was happening in the RSPB reserve, and have some breakfast.
Guess who appeared while I was eating. But at least today he didn’t tap on my window.
I really like these Cornish stiles – especially if they provide a post to hold on to.
The top of the fort was not high, about 180 metres (the same as Glastonbury Tor), and my car was parked at 135, so not much effort was needed. The path was well trodden.
Yet another view of St Michael’s Mount
I didn’t stay at the top for long, not least because there was a party of walkers up there disturbing the peace.
The main visit of the day was to Trelissick House, National Trust. ‘The estate has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1955 when it was donated by Ida Copeland following the death of her son Geoffrey. A stained glass memorial bearing the Copeland coat of arms was donated to Feock parish church by Mrs. Copeland. The house and garden had formerly been owned and developed by the Daniell family, which had made its fortune in the 18th century Cornish copper mining industry.’ (Wikipedia, which does history so much better than does the National Trust on its site) The Copelands had been co-owners of Spode, the ceramics company based in Stoke-on-Trent.
I started in the garden and grounds.
At the entrance there had been a notice saying a choir would be singing on the terrace of the house at 1.00 pm. I heard their songs wafting towards me as I wandered around, and at one stage was near enough to zoom a photo on it. I thought how pragmatic the uniform was in the not very warm weather. Blue jeans of any hue and any black top.
I went round to the front of the house and looked round. ‘Trelissick is not your typical country house visit. It is presented as neither home nor museum, but was opened in 2014 simply as a place to enjoy the view. It plays host to a modest collection – including ceramics …’ Here is one which rather pleased me.
Arriving in the small café very late for lunch, I was fortunate to get the very last portion of soup. Visitors were allowed to take their food to any of several rooms. Most of the places were taken, and I ended up in what was called the Solarium, (which I would have called an Orangery otherwise). It was very warm there, unlike outdoors. This was my view.
I think these were ensconced in the Drawing Room for the afternoon!
It became warm and sunny enough to sit out on the sheltered terrace. The choir had long gone, and I found a vacant deckchair.
Not a bad view.
I heard someone nearby talk about a castle in the distance, and sure enough, with my camera on maximum zoom, I could see Pendennis Castle, about 800 metres away, in Falmouth. (It’s on the list for next year.)
Back for my last evening at The Old Quay House, I spent my time, as every evening bar Friday (Minack), divided between Wimbledon and bird-watching.
Friday, 1st July. As I was to be out that evening, I made plans just for the late morning/early afternoon. I had seen a walk on the National Trust website that rather appealed, not least for its (lack of) length.
But first just a couple of photos from my patio.
But this bird, no doubt my previous visitor, obviously thinks he’s a human being. While I was having my breakfast he actually tapped on the windowpane several times!
Before setting off for my walk, a further visit to the very convenient Marks and Spencer was required. I had noticed the day before that my trainers were starting to come apart, in a manner which could be dangerous given my plans for the day. I found a pair not ideal but at least satisfactory. (The ones I liked most were only available online.) I would definitely not have chosen pure white had there been more possibilities.
The walk started at the village of Helford and took in a large stretch of Frenchman’s Creek.
Sadly the tide was out, so the Helford River was not looking its best.
But the estuary was pretty.
From Helford village, the walk went to Penarvon Cove and then across country to Frenchman’s Creek. (I must read Daphne du Maurier’s novel again.)
There remained more cross country walking to return to Helford. I was dependant on only a description of the NT walk, with no plan, so I was very pleased to have downloaded the relevant Ordnance Survey map to my phone, which, as it tracked my path, enabled to to confirm where I was. (I can really recommend the latest generation of OS maps, which give this right to download permanently when you buy the paper map. I had hesitated, thinking that looking on a small phone screen would be useless, but it’s quite the opposite and you can zoom right in to see detail which would be difficult for aging eyes on the paper map. Or you can spend £25 a year and have the whole country’s maps on your device for the year.)
The instruction was to cross the yard at Kestle Barton. It did not mention an apparently very recent addition – the possibility to buy icecreams and cake there. (There was an honesty box. I did not have change – so I bought both and enjoyed consuming them in the lovely garden there. That was my only lunch.)
The final stretch of the walk was described as very muddy, and it certainly was. At some points it was possible to ‘rise above it’, as in the picture below, but not at others. My ‘lovely’ new white trainers, not to mention socks and trousers, got pretty messy. I was very glad not to be wearing my leaky old trainers, and pleased to reach my car.
The evening’s outing was a visit to the Minack Theatre, which I had seen from the air two days previously. I had booked my ticket from home, and the day before had seen this poster for the opera I was to see at St Erth station. A programme had been helpfully sent digitally the day before, and I had downloaded it to my phone.
A friend had told me that, when she went, she had seen dolphins while waiting for the start. No such luck this evening. Perhaps the chilly wind (note the sea below and the ribbons!) put them off. I certainly wished I had even more warm clothing with me.
The instrumentalists, mainly woodwind and brass, were in a tent just to my right. At times, they drowned out the singers. Catching the words in opera is tricky enough at times, but I knew theme of this ‘children’s opera’, and the spectacle and music were good.
During the interval, I was privy to a delightful episode right next to me. A party of 12 was there to celebrate the birthday of a two-year-old. They sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her, and cut a Colin the Caterpillar cake. The little girl was as good as gold throughout the full-length opera.
Easter Sunday, and I was spending it at my aunt’s in Berkshire. In the afternoon we went to West Green House Garden, over the county border in Hampshire, near Hartley Wintney. It is a National Trust garden (and non-visitable house), run on a day to day basis by their lessee. Among other things, opera performances take place there, by the lake.
There was an Easter Bunny hunt that day, which led me in advance to worry slightly about potential crowds, but in the event they were far from overwhelming. Needless to say, we did not join in, nor even visit the children’s petting zoo.
Join us on a roughly clockwise tour.
I don’t know enough about fish to say, but I was wondering whether this one (about 2 ft/60 cm long) was gulping the air because the water did not contain enough oxygen.
And we came to a wonderful tulip garden. I just couldn’t stop taking photos, of which these are a few.
Beyond the tulip garden.
Barbara agreed to pose by one of the many follies.
Above her was this plaque.
I looked this up later. It comes from a poem by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), written in 1711, ‘An Essay on Criticism’. More here on the Pierian Spring and Pope’s poem, and the writings of others, (not to mention magpies) but in brief the Spring is ‘the metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science’.
After a refreshing cup of tea, we completed our exploration.
Trengwainton Garden (National Trust) was my destination for the Monday afternoon, despite my very tired legs and feet. My plan was to have a gentle stroll around the gardens and then have a drink in the tea-room at the end. Sadly, the last part was thwarted, as the tea-room shut at 3.00 (staff shortage?). But the tea-tray in my room at my BnB was only minutes away.
The entry was at G below, right. I first explored the walled gardens, then went along the main avenue (gently ascending but not gently enough!) to the lawns by the main house, and returned via the woodland area with the stream running though it.
As everywhere I went in Cornwall, my impression was ‘lush and large’ with a dash of exoticism.
I wondered what this huge tree with red flowers could possibly be.
A close up with my camera revealed that it was a fuchsia.
And reaching its origins, I saw that the fuchsia was supported by a sequoia.
The house itself is still owned and lived in by the family that bought it in the 19th century, and a discreet rope keeps the public at bay.
I had been told at reception that the views from up here were ‘spectacular’. She didn’t know where I had been in the morning!
There were several benches up by the lawns, but it took a while for one to be vacated, and how my legs were longing to sit down. Eventually I was able to rest on this bench. I’ve been unable to find anything about the coat of arms – but I have a plea out to the Fleur-de-Lys History Society by social media!
I was intrigued by the apparently perfect square shape of the hole in this trunk.
It turned out not to be a perfect square, and to contain some fascinating fungi.
Back through the tree ferns of the woodland area. I was reminded of my trip with a friend to Tasmania.
One final picture near the entrance.
When eating my huge sandwich at Perranuthnoe at lunchtime, I had been sitting on a bench, with a local woman at the other end. When I told her of my plan for the afternoon, she told me I would learn of the slavery connections of Trengwainton. I didn’t, but, local paper style, it is here. A more sober account, part of a very long description of the property, is by Historic England.
The coolness of the mainly shady gardens of Trengwainton had been most welcome, on the hottest day of my stay in Cornwall. The rest of the week remained largely dry, during the day, but at times was very misty.
The National Trust tour I had pre-booked for the Sunday afternoon of my Cornwall holiday was of the Levant Mine and Beam Engine, in the St Just area on the north coast of the Penwith peninsula. As requested by the Trust, because of the earlier start of the Tour of Britain, I had allowed plenty of time to get there, and, also at their request, parked not at the Mine itself but a 20-minute walk away at Geevor mine, open to the public, but not NT property.
It was a very grey day, with rain threatening all the time.
As I had thought, the Tour of Britain had no impact on access, having passed surely three hours previously – but thank you, National Trust, for having alerted me to it! I had therefore, even allowing for the walk to Levant, some 30 minutes in hand, so I wandered around the desolate landscape for some while.
I was surprised to see how little nature had taken over from the abandoned terrain, but later learned that Geevor had only closed in 1991.
Vince was our volunteer guide, a geology teacher of both aspiring mining engineers and of A level students. (In reply to a question from me, he said that the future’s in lithium, indium and gallium apparently, although the first two are running out, especially indium, essential for our touch screens to work, and that will be all mined out by 2030.) From his style, I would guess that Vince is an excellent and passionate teacher.
He gave us full and fascinating explanations, and was also a mine (sorry) of historical anecdotes. I was very conscious that I would manage to hang on to very little of what he said, which is perhaps fortunate, since this post would be very long if so. But I do recall that he said that mining in this area had started some 4500 years ago. Beaker people from Switzerland had brought the skills here, but it was not known how they had acquired those skills. Here is a full account of mining in Cornwall and Devon.
Vince explained about lodes and the way their valuable constituents separated themselves out, into tin, copper, arsenic and silver, and how they went for miles out to sea.
After a while, Vince took us to the beam engine, and handed us over to Peter, the engineer, who explained how steam was raised and worked the engine. For various reasons I was able to follow little, and just concentrated on the sheer beauty of the thing, and loved seeing it set in motion.
Ahead was the Miners’ Dry. a huge room where the miners dried out at the end of a shift. But before that, Vince explained why some parts of the land were so dangerous.
When a shaft was closed, it was just covered with wooden boards which were grown over and just rotted in due course. Tread on one of those areas and…
In its heyday this was the Miners’ Dry:
Just the floor remains now, with the Compressor house chimney beyond.
Next and last we descended to the start of the the man engine shaft. The man engine was an ingenious but very dangerous mechanism for lowering the miners to their working areas. It broke in 1919, killing 31 people, after which mining the lowest levels was abandoned.
Botallack mine (also National Trust, though not part of this tour) was just a kilometre further down the coast. I was shattered, and had a 15-minute climb back to the car park ahead of me, so I decided I would not join a couple who were planning to visit, but returned to my car tired, but very happy, at the end of two excellent days.
I had planned nothing yet for the Monday, but had lots of competing ideas.
Faced on Saturday, 19th June, with another long day’s drive, from West Yorkshire to home in Somerset, I planned to stop off at a National Trust property for a bite of lunch. I remembered to book (Covid-required) entry in advance.
Digital aids told me I would need about three hours to get to Hanbury Hall, in Worcestershire, so I added half an hour for luck, and booked for 1 pm, which was precisely the time I drew in to the car park. (The clock below appears to belie this, but it has just an hour hand.) I reckoned I could spend about 90 minutes there before I wanted to be away for the final leg home. I called at the front door of the beautiful Queen Anne house just to ask where the Stables Café was, since the fact that would be open had determined my choice of stopping place.
Having partaken of a delicious vegetarian pasty, I prioritised a stroll in the grounds over a house visit. Here is a map of the property, though I did not have it available at the time. I reckon that nevertheless I covered most of the grounds, though it would have been nice just to sit down and savour the views for a little longer.
The formality of the gardens, recreated from original drawings in the 1990s by the National Trust, was very soothing.
I didn’t get to visit the Orangery. Indeed, I’m not sure it was open.
I had 20 minutes in hand, so went into the house. They were obliged, because of Covid restrictions, to monitor the numbers entering very carefully, and I was fortunate.
Only the ground floor was open to the public, presumably because they could not manage a one-way system on the first floor. I whizzed round, taking photos rather desultorily.
Various members of the Vernon family built, at the beginning of the 18th century, and over the centuries adapted and converted, and finally transferred the property to the National Trust in 1962. (Talking of ghosts, Emma Vernon is said to haunt the grounds between the house and the church.)
Usually formal dining tables are furnished with eating paraphernalia…
I arrived home, where Tilly was awaiting me, at 5 pm, Bella to be collected from the cattery the following morning. I had been away for 13 days, 12 nights.
I saw this poster at Hanbury Hall.
I feel that with this trip I began to collect the fruits of enforced patience over the previous 15 months, and certainly appreciate my ability to have done so. The weather was cold to indifferent, and I missed a heatwave that had occurred in the south. (Some would envy my having done so, but I would have enjoyed it.) I had 13 wonderful days of seeing friends, wildlife, countryside – spectacular at times – and manmade constructions ranging from a 12th century abbey, through a 16th century castle, to a 21st century bridge. Eaten excellent food, met new people, and driven some huge distances. I didn’t make a note as I went along, but retrospective calculation makes it about 1400 miles (2250 km) in total.
What an adventure, and I’ve been reliving it through doing these blog posts, which have taken longer than usual because of Wimbledon.
What am I going to do tomorrow?
PS Yesterday evening I watched on Channel 4, ‘A Lake District Farm Shop’, the first of four programmes about the enterprise behind the Tebay Service Station on the M6 where I stopped on Day 2 of my trip. It focussed on several of the local providers and described the ethos of the founders, and showed much of the beautiful Lake District scenery. All four episodes are available on All 4.
Having used my car just for trips for Click and Collect and other essential shopping since the beginning of January, I decided yesterday to extend my definition of ‘local’ yesterday, my eyes so in need of some beautiful stimulation. And there is little more formally beautiful than the gardens of Stourhead, run by the National Trust.
I met a friend in the car park to hand over some knitting I had done for her, and we just marvelled at what we were seeing on the strictly socially distanced one-way walk round the grounds. From the, apparently newly presented, message from the Trust’s founder at the beginning, to the coffee in the Spread Eagle courtyard near the end of the walk, (where it felt really weird once more see people, just relaxing and enjoying themselves) I offer only photos and no further commentary.
Time for another visit to a National Trust place. When I booked, for last Wednesday, 10th November, the forecast was for a 14% chance of rain. By the time the day came it was more like 50%. But we were lucky. Driving though showers to get there, I feared another rain-sodden visit, as to Park Cottage, but not a drop of rain fell during our wanderings, (unlike the journey home).
Montacute House is the most splendid of houses to visit in the area, (paceBarrington Court, which runs it a close second, and whose gardens I also visited recently) much used as a filming location, including for the recent television version of Wolf Hall. While the house was not open to the public, under current lockdown regulations, the gardens were, and we had them almost to ourselves.
As you drive there, you have a tantalising glimpse from the road of the long drive and the house at the end, but cannot stop. Here it is from the other direction.
I had forgotten to pick up my camera as I left home, but am quite pleased with the service my phone gave me, and by the time Daphne and I met up at this point, I had already taken photos of the displayed map,
of the amazing house front,
and of the crest emblazoned thereon.
We ambled round the gardens together, looking inwards and outwards.
The back of the house is even more impressive than the front.
A gate entices you into the formal, walled garden,
of which I select just one photo.
We were soon on the other side of the wall once more.
Daphne could not stay much longer, with a delivery to receive at home, but found time to have a takeaway coffee bought from the café (I had to improvise a mask, my nearest being in the car). We sat on a bench, which was just long enough to enable us to be socially distanced, with the view at the top of this post ahead of us.
I was not in a hurry, and had never walked round the village before. The car park was not closing for another 30 minutes, so I took the opportunity to rectify that lack.
If the house at the far end of this row looks a little wonky, that’s because
I felt so good after that visit, and all evening. With all the electronic means of communication and entertainment that I have at my disposal, I had not felt at all lonely during this or the previous lockdown, but I had not realised how much good some real face to face conversation with a friend – enhanced by a beautiful setting both during and after – would do me. That was great!