Gribbin Head Daymark – Open for a Bird’s Eye View!

Every Sunday this summer you can enjoy what has to be one of the most outstanding views on the Cornish coast.

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The Gribbin Head Daymark is very striking. Its outline can be seen for literally miles, both inland and of course out to sea. That is after all the whole point.

The tower stands 84′ (26m) high and was constructed in 1832 by Trinity House. This historic corporation is still responsible for the majority of the lighthouses and markers that keep shipping safe around the entire coast of the UK. It was formed by Royal Charter more than 500 years by Henry VIII and its full name to this day is “The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild, Fraternity or Brotherhood of the Most Glorious and Undivided Trinity”.

The headland and the daymark are now owned and managed by the National Trust who open the tower to visitors a few days a year.

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This is a stunning piece of coastline with secluded coves, ancient woodland and epic views. This is also an area of Cornwall which was very familiar to the author Daphne du Maurier who lived in the derelict Menabilly House just a mile or so inland from Gribbin Head. I have walked past the stripped red and white tower many times but today was the first time I have climbed it. It is a steady 84 slate steps and a short ladder to the top.  The doorway is a bit of a squeeze but wow the view really is cracking!

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On a clear day you can see more than 40 miles along the coast. As far south as Carn Marth near Redruth and up past Rame Head and Plymouth and out to the Eddystone Lighthouse and beyond. The Daymark was built so that ships could distinguish Gribbin Head from nearby Dodman Point and St Anthony Head and therefore find safe passage into Fowey harbour.

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When I come here I usually leave my car in the Menabilly Farm field car park – they ask 50p for the whole day – leave your money in the old milk churn. Just make sure you are out of the field before they lock the gate at 9pm!DSC06032

PL24 2TN should get you there with your sat nav, just don’t drive through the gates into Menabilly Estate, keep going straight til you see the signs for the car park. From here it is about a half an hour walk, part of it up a steep hill. Alternatively if you are feeling fit you can walk from Fowey or Polkerris. There is a nice circular walk from Menabilly – Gribbin – Polkerris -Menabilly.

The Trust will be opening the tower every sunday between 2nd Jul- 10th Sept, 11am to 5pm.

 

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Take a Trip to Looe Island

It seems to me that there is nothing quite as romantic as living on your own private island. Looe Island lies just one mile off the Cornish coast but feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the busy summer seaside towns nearby.  It is home to a breath-taking range of wildlife and 2 very lucky people!

The Moonraker boat takes us the short journey from Buller Quay in East Looe to the makeshift landing point on the white shingle beach of the island. As our small party of 8 people jumps ashore we are greeted by Claire Lewis and her partner Jon Ross.  The pair have been wardens on the island for 9 years, “When the job came up in 2008 we were the lucky ones who got it” Claire laughs as she gives us a quick guide to the “dos and don’t” of the island. Continue reading

Tornado in Bodmin

There is nothing quite like a steam train! And there is no steam train quite like the Tornado! So when I had the chance to climb abroad I didn’t need to be asked twice.

The Tornado is the first steam train to be built in the UK since the 1960s, it was completed in 2009 with all new parts (apart from 3 bits) and so it actually testament to some really awesome old school British engineering. Continue reading

Cornish Blues

Of course the traditional colours of Cornwall are black and gold (or black and white like the St Pirans flag) but there is another colour that I know resonates through our landscape. Blue.

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As I was falling to sleep last night I was thinking back over my day. It had been a glorious May day, more like the height of summer really and I had spent it taking photographs on Gwithian beach.  The sea had be ever-changing shades of deep navy blue, emerald green and turquoise and the sky, well it was just the most wonderful shade of . . . how to describe it . . . well. . . it was Cornish blue. Continue reading

Randigal Rhymes

In the back of Joseph Thomas’ book of poems entitled “Randigal Rhymes” you will find, along with a list of Cornish proverbs and charm for toothache, a glossary of Cornish words.  The first one that you should look up of course is randigal and you will find that it means “a rigmarole, a nonsensical story”.

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Joseph Thomas spent his life listening.  He listened to the stories of fishwives and tin-miners, circus performers and princes, old men and school children and what he heard inspired his writing.

Joseph almost certainly didn’t write with any expectation of publication, indeed we can only read his poems now because they were printed by subscription by his friends after his death. My copy of his book was printed in 1895 and is rather battered and bruised but you can find reprints of “Randigal Rhymes and a Glossary of Cornish Words” here.

Joseph Thomas wrote because he loved it and because he seemed to want to record the comedy, beauty and whimsy of his world. Continue reading

Cornish Saffron

For most people Saffron is a captivating and expensive spice which conjures up images of mysterious distant lands but for hundreds of years to the Cornish it has been a more homely than exotic ingredient.

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It is a story of much conjecture and hot debate as to when saffron first arrived in Cornwall.  There are stories of Phoenician and Roman traders from more than 2000 years ago but the more likely answer is a little later than that.  In the 14th century Cornwall had a healthy trade in tin with its Spanish neighbours, who in turn had trade routes across the globe, one theory is that saffron first arrived through them.

And this fantastic aromatic spice made its way into our Cornish cooking.  Saffron buns and saffron cake are an integral part of any cakey tea (well they always have been in my house anyway!) just as much as clotted cream.  And there is even evidence that saffron was cultivated in a few select places in Cornwall for a while – there are records of saffron fields in Launcells near Bude, Fowey, Penryn, Feock and Gerrans. Continue reading

What has St Piran ever done for us?

 

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St Piran & his millstone at Helston Flora

Today is the 5th March, Saint Piran’s Day, a festival celebrated across Cornwall with marches, parades, music and some delightfully over-enthusiastic nationalism.

I went to my first St Piran’s Day pilgrimage to the cross and chapel in the dunes near Perranporth today below are some of my pictures.  I was freezing cold and the wind did it’s best to blow me over but I thoroughly enjoyed myself as did the couple of hundred other people there.  But really what’s it all about? Continue reading

Alone on Strangles Beach

Strangles is a pretty ominous name for anything.  And it appears that this darkly beautiful beach, on arguably the most dramatic part of Cornwall’s northern coast, gets it’s name for equally ominous reasons.  The dangerous currents and jagged rocks that surround Strangles make this a particularly treacherous part of our coastline.

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There is a much repeated local adage about the ruthless nature of this stretch of water:

“From Pentire Point to Hartland Light,

A watery grave by day or by night”

and Strangles beach lies right inside this danger zone, not far from the more picturesquely named Crackington Haven. Continue reading

The Bucca

 

Winter, 1811

A gull’s wing tip topped the wave and just for a moment the air currents caught hold of its white feathers and the bird swung in the air, weightless as thistle-down.  The sea twisted, turned and undulated but the stark unmoving line of the horizon didn’t alter.   It was empty, a deep blue ribbon floating between an ocean of silver and a grey sky.  There was not a shadow to be seen beneath the surface of the lulling waves and other than the gull not a single living thing above.  The clouds stretched out over the water, still, in the last of the fading winter light.

Closer to the shore she watched, the sea spray was dancing up like a haze on the breeze.  Moisture thrown up by the insistent waves butting time after time against the rocks below the cliff.   The wet settled like a shining dust on her lashes and hair.  The red woollen shawl she clawed around her with rough tired hands had a feather-like dusting of salty droplets on it and a wintery chill was setting in her bones.  Time to leave. Continue reading

Mystery: One Gallant Little Boat: 11,000 miles to Australia

Lets face it most of the decisions you make in the pub are at best misguided and at worst dangerous.  We have all read or heard about some crazy misadventure and thought to ourselves that decision was definately made after several pints of Spingo!?  I have to admit that was my first thought when I read about the voyage of Captain Richard Nicholls and his six crew.

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One day in the middle of the winter of 1854 they set sail in their 37ft fishing boat called Mystery.  As they left the safety of the small harbour of Newlyn their next stop was to be the coast of Australia.  A treacherous journey of roughly 11,000 miles. . . Through some of the world’s roughest seas. . . In a small fishing boat. . . Somebody pass the rum! Continue reading