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.

 

Survival Guide to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Yes I am aware that Stonehenge is not in Cornwall. However firstly I had such a wonderful experience that I wanted to share it and secondly I could find out very little information about the proceedings before I went so I thought that anyone thinking of going another year might like to read my top tips!

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So this is it – the season has rolled round again and we are now heading towards Autumn and ultimately Winter. Not the best thought when we are all just getting used to the sun on our shoulders and the sand between our Cornish toes. 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

To the Stripple Stones

Whatever the time of year I love the moors. Whether it is in the depths of winter when the air is sharp with cold, one of those days the wind tugs at you and takes your breath away or at the height of a bright blue-skied summers day. Then its a very different place, you can hear the heat coming from the stones and the grass cracks under your feet.

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Watching the cloud shadows moving across those wide empty spaces, that is where I feel really at peace.  But of course these are not really empty spaces and each time I visit I find another new reason to go back.

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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

The Propped Stone of Leskernick Hill

The connections between ancient man, the stones structures they built and the natural rulers of the skies – the sun and the moon – are overwhelming.  It seems to me impossible to understand what mattered to our ancestors without taking into account the struggle they faced with the elements and their battle to understand their often hostile world.

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On the top of Leskernick hill hidden in a little visited part of Bodmin Moor lies a simple yet wonderfully intriguing pile of stones.  This stone construction pre-dates all the others that surrounded it and there are many!   Close by you can find the remains of numerous hut circles, a stone row and 2 stone circles. Continue reading

Quenchwell Spring & a Pocket full of Nonsense.

There are literally hundreds of Holy Wells in Cornwall, each associated with a saint and usually famous for providing some kind of miraculous cure for some ailment – from rickets to infertility to lameness and eye complaints, there’s a well out there that will help you. dsc02306

We forget of course that the vast majority of wells and springs were precious for a far more mundane but vitally important reason – they provided the local population with clean drinking water.  So important were these supplies of water that there are still numerous laws protecting springs and wells from interference or pollution.

You might be surprised to know that mains drinking water didn’t arrive to some of Cornwall’s smaller villages and isolated hamlets until the 1950s, some as late as 1970.

The spring at Quenchwell in Feock really doesn’t seem anything special.  It can be found just beside a public footpath near Carnon Downs but this little well still actually supplies a number of properties with water to this day.  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

Samuel Wallis: Cornish Explorer

I am not a huge fan of that old habit of just sailing up to a place, sticking a flag in it and calling it whatever you liked – I mean lets face it Aotearoa is a far better name for New Zealand!  But when I read that there was an island and a language named after a Cornishman, well, of course I had to find out more!

Samuel Wallis

Our world no longer seems full of intrepid explorers but back in the 18th century they were all the rage.  Samuel Wallis, born in Lanteglos by Camelford in 1728, was to become one.

His parents John Wallis and Sarah Barrett had married in the quiet moorland town of St Tudy not far from Bodmin in 1720. The couple had 3 sons and all were born at the family home of Fentonwoon (which means the spring on the downs in Cornish).  A small estate, Fentonwoon had been owned by the family since the time of Elizabeth I.

As a minor landowner and therefore a gentleman John Wallis was able to provide the boys with a good education.  Samuel like many young men of the era joined the Navy in 1744, no doubt looking for adventure.  He fought in the wars Continue reading

Cornwall’s Highest Cliff

 

The romantically named Atlantic Highway which runs along the length of Cornwall’s north coast is, I believe, one of the best drives in the county.  The road, otherwise known as the A39, links Falmouth in Cornwall to Bath in Somerset.  The route takes in some stunning scenery as it hugs the coast and heads for the heights of Exmoor.  It is a little ambition of mine to drive the entire length in one long hot summer’s day (perhaps spotting frequently for ice cream and photographs.

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But today is not that day and I turn off the Atlantic Highway on to quieter roads soon after the little harbour of Boscastle. Continue reading