Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cornwall

First, a London snippet I forgot to mention: While Bronnie and I were wandering around Hyde Park Corner we noticed that there were an awful lot of police vehicles parked all over the place. A bit later, as we crossed into Knightsbridge, we saw the police themselves - dozens of them hanging around in various places. So, I asked one of them what was going on. She gave me just a simple two word answer: Libyan Embassy. Sure enough, there was the Libyan flag on one of the buildings. Directly across the road were a few tents and the rebel Libyan flag. Nothing seemed to be happening though.

Anyway.... I spent the last week in Cornwall, the south-west corner of England. The pointy bit. Beautiful part of the country too. I stayed in Carlyon Bay, just out of St Austell on the south coast, and reasonably central for the whole county. The sun was out for the whole week and it even got quite warm, up to the low 20sC. Haha, the locals were all wilting.
The south coast of Cornwall is on the English Channel, the north coast is on the Atlantic Ocean.
I visited a few places but it'd take a lot longer than a week to investigate all that Cornwall has to offer. St Austell is just a town but there are some lovely coves and beaches scattered along its coast. Charlestown is a cute harbour and village just around the corner. There were a couple of tall ships being worked on and there's also a shipwreck and diving museum. There's some interesting stuff in there: relics from the Titanic and the Mary Rose as well as hundreds of other objects from the many, many ships that have foundered off the Cornish coast over the centuries. It's certainly not a forgiving coastline!
Penzance and St Ives are two towns I remember from my childhood. I'm not sure if we went to both places (they're not that far apart) but I remember the wind and the ice cream. Both are still there. I tried ice cream in a few places and it varies a lot. The "made on the premises" stuff is by far the best.
Not far from Penzance is St Michael's Mount: an old abbey on a hill that is now separated from the mainland by the sea.

St Michael's Mount

Centuries ago it was apparently a few miles inland, or so the story goes. It ties in with the legend of the lost land of Lyonesse, which was supposed to have been in these parts until it sank beneath the sea.
At low tide you can walk to the Mount, either across the sand or along the manmade causeway. At high tide you'd have to go by boat. I walked across the sand and up through the small harbour at the bottom of the island. The tide was starting to come in as I left so I had to take the causeway back.
Further on from Penzance is Land's End: the most westerly point of the UK mainland. It's where the Channel and the Atlantic meet.

This is The End

Land's End coastline

Right at the edge is The First and Last House - a cafe/pub/refreshment place. It was closed. (In the nearby village is the original First and Last House, a proper pub.) Further up is a bigger complex with pub, restaurant, souvenir shops and kids' theme park. Kind of spoils the beauty of the coastline.
A mile or so off Land's End are the Longships; a collection of rocks with a small lighthouse. Because it was so hazy my pics didn't really turn out though. 28 miles further out are the Isles of Scilly. Apparently you can see them on a clear day.

The Lizard Peninsula is another picturesque area. Lizard Point is the UK mainland's most southerly point. Much of the peninsula's coastline is now National Trust property and the emphasis is on conservation of the area.

Lizard Peninsula

Kynance Cove, the next cove along, is an example of the Trust's work as the original cafe complex on the cliff has been demolished and moved down to the cove itself. Consequently, the views along the cliffs are unspoiled.

Kynance Cove

Mullion Cove, on the western coast of the peninsula, is a little fishing harbour.

Mullion Harbour

It's also maintained by the National Trust and they've had to spend several hundred thousand pounds keeping the harbour walls intact. The sea can get pretty wild.

The main places I visited on the north coast are St Ives and Tintagel.
There's a roundabout as you enter the St Ives area and you can go left or right to get to the town according to the signs. To the left it says "St Ives (Day visits)"; to the right it says "St Ives (Ignore your satnav)". That's really what the sign says. Go left! The town is a maze of narrow, one way streets and dead ends that spread up the steep hills from the coast. The harbour/beach area is very busy though: a mecca for tourists. The sun was out so the beach was busy.

Mad dogs and Englishmen

Tintagel is a lovely little town. Its claim to fame is, of course, the ruins of the castle up on the cliff. It's supposed to have been King Arthur's castle. There's not much of it left now.
The coastline is really picturesque though.

Tintagel

Apart from the more touristy places, Cornwall is awash with tiny fishing villages and harbours along the coast and farming villages inland. I really only touched the surface while I was there.
I was amused by the names of some of the places though: Gweek, Shortlanesend, Mousehole, Inwardleigh; just a few examples. The highland areas around Bodmin are moorland, not unlike Yorkshire and parts of Ireland. I saw some wild ponies up there but stupidly didn't stop to take a photo. Many of the inland place names begin with Tre, which translates from Cornish as "farm". Tresillian sticks in my mind as it has one of the best looking pubs I've ever seen:

Wheel Inn

Traditionally, Cornwall has more in common with Brittany and the Celtic lands than with the rest of England. I saw quite a few Celtic crosses, the first since Ireland. The Cornish flag, black with a white cross, was also common. I think there's a fair amount of support for an independent Cornwall in the county. I'm not sure that's an economically viable option though. There used to be a lot of tin and china clay mining but now there's not much of either. There are a few quarries still and lots of fishing. I think the main earner now though is tourism.

Anyway...I had a lovely week down there. The weather was great and the scenery even better. Another place I'd love to go back to.

Later....

Mevagissey Harbour

PS. On the way back north I stopped at the Ironbridge in Coakbrookdale, Telford in Shropshire. The world's oldest iron bridge, built 1777-79. I went for a little 40 minute cruise along the Severn River, Britain's longest river. A nice break in the journey.

Ironbridge

1 comment:

9fragments - CJStrahan said...

Lovely, lovely, lovely. See any fairies or mysterious women beckoning?