Saturday, 21 May 2016


Trebarwith Strand was a favourite landing place for smugglers bound for Jamaica Inn, bringing brandy and other contraband.  They may have made use of the caves backing the long stretch of white sand which makes this spot so popular with present-day visitors.  The beach is backed by cliffs, from where slate was once quarried, and there are waterfalls tumbling down towards the sea.  On the horizon is a large lump of rock known as Gull Rock.  The beach is popular with bodyboarders and surfers, and there is gear available to hire as well as a surf school.  Anyone entering the water here should heed the signs warning of potential danger, including the danger of being swept off the rocks by the powerful waves prevalent on this stretch of coast.  There is car parking and a pub with accommodation for anyone wanting to stay overnight, with the chance to experience the wonderful sunset.  Up above the beach is the Trebarwith Valley, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with bluebell woods and a nature trail.  It made the news in 2014 with reports that Prince Charles was selling the valley, complete with an engine house and a waterfall, for £40,000.

Map of the area. 

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Wednesday, 11 May 2016


The main draw at Tintagel has always been the romantically sited castle ruins perched on a promontory, or 'island', surrounded by the angry North Cornwall seas.  The castle is famous for its links to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, celebrated by the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth in ‘The History of the Kings of England', and later by Lord Tennyson in his work ‘Idylls of the King’ in the 19th century.  There is no evidence that King Arthur actually ever lived there, however there is no doubting the historic significance of the site, which reputedly goes back to the Romans.  In fact, fragments of Mediterranean amphorae have been discovered at the site, suggesting early imports of wine and olive oil. 

According to recent news reports, English Heritage, which runs the site, has incited the wrath of the locals, who have accused them of the ‘Disneyfication’ of the castle.  The embellishments placed on the site by EH which led to these complaints consist of the bronze statue of a king clutching a sword and a carving of Merlin’s face in a rockface.  While not exactly on the scale of the touristic vandalism visited on Land’s  End (see my first blog post), some people consider this a step too far in such a beautiful and historic spot. 

As for the village itself, most of the cafes, inns, shops and other visitor attractions are strung out along the stretch of road leading from the Visitor Centre to a car park proclaiming itself the nearest to the castle.  Those heading down from here on foot make their way down a minor road through a valley before facing some taxing steps to get up to the castle, while there is a land rover available for the visually impaired and the disabled for access to the exhibition and shop.  All the clambering up and down the steps giving access to the ruins will no doubt work up an appetite for the pasties, fudge and other Cornish delicacies on offer back in the village.  As well as EH, the National Trust gets a look in with the 14th century Tintagel Old Post Office, a quaint stone house with a slate roof by the side of Fore Street.  The house was originally built in the style of a medieval manor house serving as a farmhouse, but in the 1870s it assumed its role as the village post office.

Map of the area. 

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Tintagel Castle. Photo by Alan Simkins, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 1 May 2016


In early 2004 Boscastle reached our TV screens with the launch of A Seaside Parish, a series documenting the everyday life of this coastal village, with the lady vicar the star of the show.  The village was portrayed as a close-knit community which, with its scenic location set among the dramatic cliffs of North Cornwall, appeared an idyllic place to live.  Then in August the same year, while the series was still being filmed, all hell let loose with the onset of the great 2004 floods.  Suddenly it was a very different Boscastle filling our screens, with people clinging desperately to roofs waiting to be rescued, cars being carried helplessly down the valley towards the sea and people’s homes, gardens, businesses and lives being ripped apart by the merciless flood waters.  The series gave a sensitive portrayal of the heartrending aftermath of this disaster, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the 1952 Lynmouth flood.

Today this terrible event is firmly in the past, though undoubtedly not forgotten.  Boscastle’s harbour was once a busy commercial port, with coal and timber coming in and slate and china clay going out.  Though this activity has now disappeared, the harbour continues to provide a much-needed shelter for boats on this wild stretch of coastline.  The lively nature of the sea beyond the harbour can be seen in the plumes of spray coming out of a blowhole in the outer harbour.  The village itself has a range of accommodation, including a hotel, the ‘Wellie’, (Wellington) which featured regularly in A Seaside Parish, a small number of shops and eateries, and a Museum of Witchcraft.  I remember visiting the latter as a child and being fascinated by the exhibits.  The museum’s website warns that children of a sensitive disposition may find some of the exhibits ‘controversial’, but I seem to have come out of the experience unscathed!

There is a lovely walk from Boscastle leading up to the Valency Valley and St Juliot’s Church, where Thomas Hardy met Emma, his future wife, while he was working on the church as an architect.  Hardy’s novel ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’ was set in the area. 

Map of the area. 

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Photo by JUweL, via Wikimedia  Commons

Saturday, 23 April 2016


The Church of St Gennys provides a clue to the treacherous nature of the water off the coast of the small coastal village of Crackington Haven.  The graveyard includes memorials to seamen who have lost their lives over the years in a series of shipwrecks.  One such was the Swedish brigantine William which lost 7 men in a storm in 1894.  Just six years later a further 7 men were lost when the steamer City of Vienna and the barque Capricornia were lost to storms.  The harbour here used to be used for importing coal and limestone from Wales, and for exporting the slate that was quarried here, but it has reverted to a sleepy cove with a pebble and sand beach, a pub and a bistro.  Pencarrow Point towers over the beach at a height of over 400 feet, and there is spectacular coastal walking to be had over a stretch of coast towards Boscastle given to the National Trust in 1959 by Wing Commander A. G. Parnall to commemorate the airmen who died during the Battle of Britain, including his brother.   Crackington Haven suffered extensive damage from flooding in the great flood of 2004, of which Boscastle was the more famous victim – more about this in the next post.  The area around the village has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The latter is partly due to the geology, with the carvoniferous rocks giving rise to the name 'The Crackington Formation'.

Map of the area.

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Photo by Rob Wilcox, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 5 April 2016


Cornish pirates once held sway with a reign of terror here in Widemouth Bay.  The 14th century was a particularly turbulent time, with groups of robbers and pirates at each others’ throats.  Even the local vicar in the nearby village of Poundstock was embroiled in one of the gangs, a fact which resulted in a grisly end when he was murdered by a band of intruders to his church just after Christmas 1357.  His ghost is rumoured to haunt the area still.  Smuggling was also rife, helped along by the numerous isolated inlets and coves in the area.

All these nefarious activities are forgotten today, as Widemouth Bay proves a magnet for beachgoers, surfers and walkers alike.  There is plenty of interest on the beach itself, with a mix of wide stretches of sand, interesting rock formations and rock pools.  On a sunny day it is worth lingering into the evening, as the sunsets here are legendary.  Bathers should take care as the tide comes in very quickly; in the summer there are lifeguards on duty.  For water sports enthusiasts, as well as the obligatory surfing, there is sailing, windsurfing and canoeing.  The beach is backed by a village of low-slung buildings with a small selection of shops, cafes and holiday accommodation.

Map of the area. 

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Photo by Rob Noble, via Wikimedia Commons