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Coastlining 5: Fowey – Par

Date: 12th April 2014         Distance walked: 6 miles         Height climbed: 1119 feet

2014.04.12  (11) Fowey

12th April 1931. A wife is brutally murdered by her husband in the beach cottage at Polridmouth Cove, on the wooded headland just west of the Fowey estuary. Her body is dumped in a boat which the murderer then sinks in the bay. Her death is passed off as a tragic accident until just over a year later, when a shipwreck nearby causes the discovery of her concealed body.

12th April 1951. The only person apart from the now-deceased murderer to know the truth – or his version of it – about what happened that night twenty years ago is his second wife. But there are ghosts afoot. The truth, and there are as many versions of that as there are people to perceive, or to narrate it, has become entwined with this landscape, the stories are now as much a part of the place as its wooded headland, the beach with the cottage, the grey slate pools in the cove.

12th April 2014. I’d just started reading a follow-up novel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and found myself taking the coast path out of Fowey – with its streets that wind around the contours of the nook in the river estuary, its artisanal boutiques, its nice houses, its sailboats moored in the estuary – and out towards the coves of Readymoney and Polridmouth on the same date as the serious action happens in the original work of fiction, and on which the events are returned to in the sequel. Continue reading

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False Lights

A Tale of Salvaging History from the Wreck of Cultural Myth

picture credit: BBC’s ‘Jamaica Inn’ (2014) fictional wreckers on location at Holywell Bay

Despite having lived in Cornwall for a while now I am still intrigued by the romanticism suggested by its rugged coastline and find myself drawn to the fantastic stories that accompany it. Here is a landscape that lends itself to adventure. To someone raised on a literary diet that began, pre-school, with Captain Pugwash, leading on – via Swallows and Amazons – to Daphne du Maurier’s gothic coastal romances involving shipwrecks, plunder and bodice-ripping encounters with pirates, every cove is a smugglers’ haven, every cliff path a desire line worn in through years of wreckers wreaking mischief with their lanterns on stormy nights. Barrels and caskets stacked in a sea cave above high water mark. Brandy for the Parson, ’baccy for the Clerk. Curtains drawn over the lighted windows of a nearby village. What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over: so watch the wall my darling…  Continue reading


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Happy St Piran’s Day

I know that no person will ever get into my blood as a place can, as Cornwall does. People and things pass away but not places.

– Daphne du Maurier

It was a dull old day about fifteen years ago when I first crossed over from the Other Side of the Tamar and began to discover the strange and compelling south-westerly tip of the British archipelago that I have since come to know as home. The A30 isn’t a forgiving route, and it was less so then, having since been dual-carriage-d for vast stretches to ease the tailbacks during the peak season. Entering the count(r)y on this road, rather than over the Tamar bridge at Plymouth is much less dramatic and for several miles much like the Devon you’re exiting. Then you reach the bleak stretch across Bodmin Moor, where the Queues Likely signs usually seem unnecessary from your near-stationary vehicle, and the weather is almost always either piss poor or Proper Cornish depending on where your alliegance lies. Continue reading