Rain was spotting as we descended from the summit of Glastonbury Tor. By the time we got back into the town it was raining properly, presenting the conundrum of where to eat lunch. I suggested we had for the abbey, much to the protestation of Cee who was convinced they wouldn’t let us eat sandwiches inside the abbey despite my attempts to persuade her that it would be more ruins than anything else. The trouble with ruins is, though, that there’s not much shelter from the rain. Continue reading
Travelling northbound on the M5 the long ridge of the Malverns looms close on the westward horizon: a line of undulating peaks like the back of a great geological beast embedded in the land running North-South along the Worcestershire-Herefordshire border. One day, while wandering through the livestock exhibits of the Three Counties Show in Great Malvern right at the feet of the hillss Cee looked up and saw people walking along the top of the ridge and decided she wanted a go. Ok, I said, let’s do it. When do you want to go? Continue reading
I wouldn’t like to guess how many cups of tea I’ve drunk in my lifetime. Today’s definitely been an exception with only one (so far…) I started drinking tea as soon as I mastered draining the dregs from my mum’s mug, soon moving on to draining the mug when she unsuspectingly put it down half-finished and left it for a minute or two. This led to me getting my own mug, albeit slightly smaller, and a whole cup of tea to myself, and I’ve never looked back. When my housemate moved back to Cornwall I offered him a cup of tea while he was unpacking, querying his affirmative with, which kind? He replied that now he knew he was back in Falmouth – typically here everyone has an impressive range of tea in their cupboard.
As it happens Viscount Falmouth knows more than a bit about tea. Continue reading
A Tale of Salvaging History from the Wreck of Cultural Myth
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
A Tale of Getting Mired in Landscapes Past and Present on King Arthur’s Downs
It was windy up on Bodmin Moor, blowing hard from the north, with the sort of force that makes you want to hold out both arms, turn around and lie back supported only by the strength of the moving air. Underfoot was sheep shorn lumpy sward. The scrub was spattered with vibrant gorse blossoms. A quick perusal of the map at Matt and Jo’s holiday let had revealed several points of archaeological and historical interest within walking distance on the intriguingly named King Arthur’s Down. A path led almost directly from the house up past King Arthur’s Hall, several stone circles and up onto Garrow Tor which, according to the map, was encrusted with ancient field systems and settlements.
We strayed off the path sooner than intended Continue reading
It is a truth universally acknowledged that very few of the English can tell you when the feast day of their patron saint falls. St George’s Day is of course, for anyone who doesn’t know, 23rd April: the day the saint was martyred in 303 AD. (A handy way to remember the date is 23-4.)
George was not English. He was a Greek soldier of Palestinian descent in the Roman army, and although he has become one of the most venerated military saints in Europe there is much fantasy and little solid evidence about what it is he actually did. He is most famous for the legendary slaying of the dragon, a part of his mythology that became entangled in his hagiography around the 8th Century and was brought back to England from the Middle East by Crusaders.
As a child I loved dragons. I vividly believed in their existence and was as disappointed to find out that they were actually mythical beasts as I was to discover that my country’s patron saint was most famous for dispatching one. Continue reading
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