Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cornwall 2013 - The Lost Gardens of Heligan

First of all a confession is necessary. I attached myself to a party of German tourists and walked through without paying. In my defence I knew I only had a couple of hours there before Marina finished work and came to pick me up. Having been to Heligan a few times before I knew my way around pretty well and decided I would get off the usual tourist trails this time. I have to say The Lost Gardens are for me the greatest visitor attraction in Cornwall if not the UK. I have been to the Eden Project which was fine but wouldn't want to go back again particularly. Yet with Heligan I can keep returning time after time and never feel bored. The gardens were created by members of the Cornish Tremayne family, over a period from the mid-18th century up to the beginning of the 20th century. The gardens were neglected after the First World War and restored only in the 1990s. The gardens now boast a fabulous collection of amazing Rhododendrons and a series of lakes, a wonderful flower and vegetable gardens, an Italian garden, and a stunning wild area filled with primaeval-looking sub-tropical ferns and trees called the 'jungle'. If you look hard enough there are lots of hidden treasures such as grottos, wishing wells and caves. The picture above shows me with the giant 'Gunnera Manicata' which can grow up to 11 feet high and leaves 9 feet wide. native to the Serra do Mar mountains of southeastern Brazil and thrives in the mild and humid conditions of Heligan. As mentioned I went off the beaten track and went down to the 'Hidden Valley' which was packed with wildlife including Buzzards, Woodpeckers, Kestrels, Meadow Pipits, Swallows, Foxes and the occcasional Hare. There were even some Saddleback Pigs in their woodland pen who were very jolly. There are various quirky attractions to be seen and floral art was commissioned as well, resulting in the Giant’s Head and the Mud Maid, a sleeping woman of the forest made out of wood, grass and earth

Cornwall 2013 - Looe & Fowey

Another day and more fishing ports to see starting with Looe. There is actually an East Looe and a West Looe divided by the river Looe of all things. I read somewhere that back in the 16th Century both Looe's had 2 members of Parliament to the House of Commons despite their tiny populations. East Looe centres on its broad sandy beach, with the distinctive Banjo Pier. I wasn't over impressed in all honesty but it was a bit overcast and dull and the Seagulls were in angry bird mode stealing food at will. The intention was to move on to Polperro further along the coast. The mere mention of the name conjures up an image of rum soaked pirates in eye patches with parrots perched precariously upon their shoulders. However they wanted £4 for 2 hours car parking so we told them to stuff it . Good to see that a modern day piracy lives on at least. We had a bit of inside knowledge for the visit to Fowey. On the last visit we parked on top of what seemed like a mountain top and had a horrendously steep descent to the centre. The walk back to the car was even more horrendous an left me pretty breathless. One of the 'locals' tipped me off to park at the ferry car park and the walk in would be on the flat. It was perfect apart from the toilets being shut and having to make use of an empty cider can in some sort of grotto in the car park.... Fowey does seem to be a haven for authors most notably Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows)and Daphne Du-Maurier (Jamaica Inn). Daphne lived at Ferryside, Bodinnick across the water (pictured above) wrote her first novel 'The Loving Spirit' at the family holiday home in 1929. Today celebrities like the dreadful 'Richard and Judy, Dawn French and Gloria Hunniford have homes here. The best way to see Fowey is by taking the Town Tour on the train. Well Its not a train at all its just a carriage towed by a Land Rover that causes mayhem and blocks the already congested narrow streets. So of course we had to jump on and do the tour! In fairness it was quite interesting and we did see some parts otherwise left blissfully ignorant to. The sun decided to put in an overdue and welcome appearance and given our new found sense of adventure after the train we went a little 'off piste'. We discovered a lovely little beach or to give it it's proper name 'Readymoney Cove' right to the South of Fowey.

Cornwall 2013 - Charlestown & Mevagissey

First Port of call on Sunday morning was Charlestown formerly called West Polmear and named after local landowner Charles Rashleigh. The harbour itself is owned by Square Sail, a company that owns and sails a small fleet of tall ships. One or two of these can often be found at anchor in the harbour, and are frequently open for tours during the summer months. The best-known tall ship to regularly visit the port was the 'Maria Asumpta'. First launched in 1858 and the world's oldest working square rigger. Unfortunately the ship ran aground and broke up on the north Cornish coast in May 1995, with the loss of three of her sixteen crew. The harbour today has been used to shoot some well known films including; Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, The Curse of the Black Spot as well as an episode of Dr Who.
Next stop was another fishing harbour 'Mevagissey' lying 5 miles south of St Austell. Tourism seems to have taken over from the traditional fishing industry here judging by the buses and overflowing car parks. As luck would have it today was the first day of Feast Week, a week of fun, music, and floral dances through the streets; finally at the end of the week there is a carnival and a fireworks display. Not to mention some fine local Real Ales straight from the barrel at a very tempting £2.50 a pint!
Mevagissey village centre consists of narrow streets with many places to eat and shops aimed at the tourist trade.I really enjoyed 'The Lavender Pillow' very gothic and everything you need for the budding witch or satanist.
I got chatting to a chap who wanted me to take his picture with a backdrop of the harbour. He told me that he was walking the south coast footpath and had started out a week or so ago in Bournemouth. He was aiming to finish in Minehead in Somerset a total journey of somethinh like 610 miles. He reckoned it would take him 38 days and camping in his tent. He looked a bit thin and I had doubts that he may not make it? He re-assured me that he was only 10 stones on his wedding day! Amazing what you find out isn't it.
Amongst the festivities was a regatta although deciphering the winner was a thankless task as there was some complex handicapping system in place. It didn't seem to matter and was more a question of which boat could display the most flags and advertising banners.

Cornwall 2013 - Newquay

The Island House

Good to be back in Cornwall again albeit a short visit and a different location to the usual haunts. This time we are down towards St Austell in a place called Par. Not much happening in Par so we caught the train to Newquay from Par conveniently just over the road.
Towan Beach
Have to say that for a £4 return ticket and an hours journey it represented pretty good value. The countryside was lovely and a chance to see some different scenery. Newquay is the Surf capital of the UK and probably the stag weekend and hen night capital too. Unfortunately the place has gone down hill in recent years which is a shame as the beaches are great.
Newquay Harbour
I've always been fascinated by the 'Island House' or 'The House in the Sea'. It is a 3 bedroomed house perched on an enormous beach rock and recently went on sale for 1 million pounds. The house was built on the top of Towan Island on the beach at , in the 1930s. The bridge was built in 1901 and is the only privately-owned suspension bridge in the country. When the tide is in the island is completely surrounded by water and from the top of the granite rock there are 360 degree views. Even today Newquay is still an important fishing port. Newquay once thrived as a Pilchard fishing port. When the shoals of Pilchards where spotted off the cliffs the Huer would call the fishermen to sea from his lookout in the hut. There are still tunnels under the town where railways used to run down to the harbour to take the catch to market. I wasn't expecting to see Grey Seals swimming in the harbour however! Apparently they are very well known and seen quite regularly and started by following the fishing boats carrying Mackerel into the harbour. They put on quite a show and knew we were watching them from up above on the harbour wall. Just enough time for a couple of swift beers before catching the last train back to Par.