Devonian sandstone and slate landscape, with granite batholith …
… creates a nostalgic Cornish ambience in its middle lands, mystical echos of smugglers, legends, grand houses, wind swept moorland, tempestuous coastline and alluring villages. Seasonal variation welcomes abundant inspiration for the Kernewek traveller. Do please join us as we venture further into mid Cornwall.
Probably the most imposing and well known feature of this area is rolling Bodmin Moor. Dissected by the A30, it’s solitude scattered with granite Tors, circles and prehistoric sites. The tallest Tor, Brown Willy, stands audaciously at a height of 1375 feet, the highest point in Cornwall. Settlers from 4000 years ago farmed the moorland, itself the source of Cornish rivers. Through the writing of her novel, Daphne du Maurier made famous the haunted Jamaica Inn of the same name, a coaching inn high on the moor that has been welcoming travellers for over 300 years. To the North of Brown Willy and on the Northern edge of the Moor is the village of Altarnun, the parish of the vicar featured in the novel. Cottages made of stone and charming frontages, with an ancient Packhorse bridge, often built on trade routes that links the 15th century church to the village. This ‘Cathedral of the Moors’ has a notable 109 ft tower.
900 acre Colliford Lake sits centrally in Bodmin Moor, a wild and beautiful place, alive with both lakeside plants and bird life to be admired on one of three lakeside walks. A mile away, Dozmary pool is home to the fabled Lady of the lake, where King Arthur’s sword Excalibur, was surrendered to an emerging hand from the water. The prodigious Cheesewring rock pile is a natural phenomenon moulded by erosion, whilst the Hurlers megalithic stone circles is said to be men turned into stone as punishment for playing Cornish Hurling on a Sunday.
To the Southwest of Bodmin Moor lies the town of Bodmin with narrow streets, granite buildings and echos of its monastic beginning. Here, Shire Hall hosts the award winning Courtroom Experience with visitor interaction as a participating jury member in a litigious Victorian murder trial. Bodmin Town Museum showcases Bodmin’s history with artefacts and a replica Cornish kitchen from days gone by. Bodmin Jail, built in 1779 and said to be haunted, gives us an close up encounter with its gruesome past. St Petroc’s Church is the largest Parish Church in Cornwall and Cornwall’s Regimental Museum has some excellent displays of military artefacts with many wars and battles depicted right up until the present day. Virtually opposite the museum is the Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway, a preserved branch line that closed its services to the public in 1967.
Grade II listed Pencarrow House and garden is a palatial Georgian mansion ‘at the ‘head of the valley’, once a hill fort from where it name is derived. The 19th century garden contains 160 species of specimen conifers, 700 species of rhododendrons and 60 species of camellias, an Italian garden, a granite rockery and lake. It is here that the Monkey Puzzle tree acquired its name.
St Austell and Newquay region
Further South and standing guard on the coasts of mid Cornwall are the ports of St Austell and Newquay. St Austell, home to the St Austell Brewery Visitor Centre, is a bustling town once centre of the clay industry, it’s impressive Italianate town hall built in 1844. A mile away is the Port of Charleston dating from the 18th century, with naval guns and shipping memorabilia displayed outside the Charlestown Shipwreck Centre. Wheal Martyn china clay museum parades the history of the Cornwall’s greatest industry, with Cornwall’s largest working 35 foot water wheel plus woodland and clay constitutional walks. St Austell’s innovative Eden Project, houses thousands of plant varieties, where domed Biomes replicate rainforest and Mediterranean verdure with additional outdoor gardens.
Fowey, once home to Daphne du Maurier, is a deep water harbour that attracts the sailing community and the annual summer regatta. Edwardian and Victorian houses abound on various levels as they cascade down to the waters edge, guarded by the medieval St Catherine’s Castle which superintends the harbour entrance. Needless to say, its maritime aura beckons water activities, ferry rides, boat hire and boat trips.
Mevagissey to the South of St Austell is a wonderful old fishing port, with narrow streets, trinket shops, free folk museum attracting many visitors a year and a model railway that has more than 2000 models on display. The 200 acre Lost Gardens of Heligan near Mevagissey were reclaimed following neglect after the first world war. The Victorian productive gardens, pleasure grounds and subtropical ‘Jungle’ are an acclaimed masterpiece of best gardening practice.
Surfers paradise Newquay was originally a pilchard port, the most popular attractions for visitors include its vibrant nightlife, ravishing coastline, access to nine beaches, a zoo, aquarium and Museum. The formation of the coastline is what makes the surf so notable. The town’s trail, designed by sculptor Peter Martin has 14 waypoints, each a glimpse into Newquay’s past.
Westerley Trevose head has a featured lighthouse built in 1847 which is open to the public affording beautiful views of Lundy Island and vast stretches of sand ideal for surfing. The neighbouring town of Padstow, its sea food bounty made famous by Rick and Jill Stein, is a fishing port with a quaint harbour and splendid 15th century church looking down on the old streets and lineage. Wadebridge has the oldest working road bridge in Britain. Built in 1485, it can be reached along path following in the abandoned railway line. The town hosts the annual Royal Cornwall Show. Port Isaac is a lobster pot harbour with 18th century white washed cottages and a stream that runs through the village. Synonymous with the TV series Doc Martin, there are craft shops and galleries to browse. Boat trips are available in the summer.
In the next blog, we venture Easterly towards Dartmoor and Plymouth. See you then.
See these places and more
These places and many others are listed as markers on the map on our home page. Places to visit in the UK and Ireland. www.touring-britain.heralded.co.uk