Monday, 28 February 2011


Dittisham, pronounced Ditsum, is a small village on the west shore of the River Dart. There is not a lot here apart from the obligatory church and pub, and lanes lined with cottages sloping steeply towards the river. However, it attracts a large number of visitors due to the fact that there is a ferry which crosses the river from Dittisham to the National Trust property Greenway Estate.

Greenway House is famous for being the former home of the crime writer Agatha Christie. Agatha and her husband Max Mallowan bought the house in 1938, and they used it as a holiday home until their deaths, which occurred within a couple of years of each other in the 1970s. Originally a Tudor mansion occupied the site of the present day house, but by the time Agatha and Max moved in this had been replaced by an elegant white Georgian house. During World War II the house was requisitioned by the US military for the D-Day preparations. The house is filled with mementoes of their time there: the Steinway piano she used to play, artefacts from the Middle East brought back by her husband, who organised archaeological digs there, and much much more. Meanwhile, the gardens, filled with plants such as camellias and rhododendrons, slope down towards the banks of the river.

Map of the area.

Sunday, 27 February 2011


Right, time for another ghost story. The Royal Castle Hotel in Dartmouth does not include the word Royal in its name for nothing. Its illustrious guest list over the years has included Queen Victoria and Edward VII. Much earlier, in 1688, Mary, wife of William of Orange, newly arrived in England following the flight of James II into exile, was brought to the hotel by a coach and horses where she was to await the arrival of William, who was travelling separately, and had been delayed by a storm in the Channel. In those days there was an alleyway where the hotel lobby now stands, and the coach and horses went in there with much clattering of hooves and wheels. To this day, around the time of year of Mary’s arrival, the sound of a coach and horses is sometimes heard apparently making its way right through the lobby.

Dartmouth's picturesque waterfront

Those who are old enough to remember 1970s TV might remember a series called the Onedin Line, about the fortunes of a shipping company. The series was set in Liverpool, but much of it was filmed in Dartmouth, which was as good a place as any to choose, because Dartmouth is a town with a rich seafaring past. Like many of the estuary towns in the South-West, it has an upmarket feel to it. The Dart estuary is brimming with boats, from small private craft to larger boats offering river trips up the Dart to Totnes, or out to the mouth of the river, which is dominated by Dartmouth Castle. There is also a ferry across to Kingswear, of which more later.

Dartmouth Castle

The end of town farthest away from the sea is dominated by the impressive Royal Naval College building.  Among the claims to fame of the college is the fact that it was here that the present Queen Elizabeth first fell for Prince Philip, around the time of their first publicised meeting in 1939.

According to my mother I caused a major drama in Dartmouth when I was a baby. We were staying at my auntie’s place in Dartmouth when my mother accidentally locked me into her apartment. Thankfully I came out of the incident in one piece, and I always smile to myself when I visit Dartmouth with the thought that I survived to tell the tale.

For a list of events in Dartmouth, see here.

Webcam view from the Royal Castle Hotel.

Map of the area.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Blackpool Sands, a small but perfectly formed sandy beach, is the last beach before the mouth of the River Dart forms a natural break in this part of the South Devon coast. The beach enjoys a sheltered position surrounded by evergreens and pines. A bit further along a church tower is visible in a lofty position above the cliff top. This is the tower of St Peter’s Church, in the Parish of Stoke Fleming, a small village just outside Dartmouth. The church dates back to the 12th century, but was restored in the 19th century. The village also has a traditional pub, whose earliest known landlord was recorded in 1607; his occupation was referred to as “Licensed Tippler” – nice work if you can get it. There are a couple of caravan and camping sites on the outskirts of the village, which makes a good base for those wanting a bit of tranquillity but with easy access to the delights of Dartmouth.

Map of the area.

File:Blackpool Sands - - 1502094.jpg
Photo by L. Willetts, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 25 February 2011


Further along from Start Point, the coastline continues to be vulnerable at the little village of Beesands, which was nearly obliterated by a horrific storm in 1979. Following this, a sea wall was erected to protect the village. The day we visited Start Point, we retreated to a cosy tearoom in Beesands afterwards, and the waves were crashing over the sea wall. I can remember few times when a tearoom felt more welcome.

Torcross, a short way further along the coast, was also badly damaged in the 1979 storm, and also had a wall built to protect it. Torcross played an important role during World War II when it was used by allied troops to practice for the D-Day landings; unfortunately this entailed turfing out the local populace beforehand. A salvaged tank positioned by the car park serves as a reminder of that time. Behind the village lies Slapton Ley, which is the largest freshwater lake in South-West England, housing a nature reserve which is popular with twitchers. As well as our feathered friends, a number of mammals inhabit the area, and sightings during 2010 included otter and roe deer.

Map of the area.

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Seafront, Torcross. Photo by Derek Harper, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 24 February 2011


We visited Start Point a couple of years ago in the middle of the winter, and it was so windy that we could barely get the car doors open, and we abandoned all thoughts of going for a walk. Of all the wildest, most windswept spots on the South-West coast, Start Point is right up there, a fact which is borne out by two events in the past. On one fateful night in 1891, no fewer than five ships were wrecked in the seas off here. A few years later, in 1917, the village of Hallsands, whose defences had been weakened by dredging work which was carried out in order to provide sand and gravel for a naval dockyard near Plymouth, resulting in the level of the beach dropping lower and lower, finally succumbed to nature when a combination of strong gales and high seas tore into the village’s defences. The dredging had been stopped 15 years earlier after concerns were voiced, but this action proved too little too late. A salutary lesson for those in charge of such things: think twice before messing with our coastline.

Start Point’s other claim to fame is that the last sea pirate, one Henry Muge, was hanged at Start Point in 1582. It is rumoured that his ghost stalks the lighthouse.  Talking of which, the lighthouse at Start Point was built in 1836 and its tower stands at 28 metres high.  The lighthouse was automated in 1993.

Map of the area.

File:Start Point Lighthouse.jpg
Photo oby Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


The headland of Prawle Point, reachable from the village of East Prawle, houses a lookout station, part of the National Coastwatch Institute – in fact the name Prawle originates from an Anglo-Saxon word “prawhyll” or “lookout hill”. There is plenty to look out for here. For wildlife enthusiasts, this area plays host to migrating birds and butterflies, and provides a haven for the rare Cirl Bunting, while down below, orange-beaked oystercatchers go about their business. Gannets can also be seen wheeling around out to sea

Like many such wild, windswept headlands around the coast of Britain, Prawle Point has seen plenty of shipwreck action over the years, which has gained it the reputation of a “shiptrap”. A relatively recent event occurred in December 1992, when a freighter called Demetrios ran aground, ironically while being towed to a breaker’s yard in the Med. You can find out more about these and other fascinating facts about Prawle Point at the National Coastwatch visitor centre.

Map of the area.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Further back in this blog, we visited ports such as Charlestown from where large quantities of china clay were transported. That the china clay industry in Cornwall came into being at all is thanks to a native of Kingsbridge, William Cookworthy. Cookworthy, an apothecary, became fascinated by the provenance of Chinese porcelain and set about searching for the type of clay needed to make this fine china. He did not need to look far, because he found minerals in Cornwall known as Moorstone or Growan clay. Eventually, he was granted a patent for making porcelain from these materials. Today there is a museum devoted to him in the town.

Kingsbridge is situated five miles upstream from Salcombe, at the northern end of the estuary. Like Looe in Cornwall, in Kingsbridge you get two towns for the price of one, Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke. In the 19th century the town had an important cloth manufacturing industry, as well as being a thriving centre for shipbuilding and tannery. It has more recently grown into a popular tourist destination. There are pleasant walks along the estuary to nearby creeks, such as Bowcombe Creek.

For a list of events in the South Hams, see here.

Map of the area.

Photo by Stickman, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 21 February 2011


Salcombe is a beautiful, upmarket estuary town in the South Hams district of Devon. Its attractiveness as a place to live, as well as its long-standing reputation as a yachting paradise, has made it a magnet for the wealthy including a number of celebrities, pushing up house prices and leaving it out of reach for many, something which can be said for a lot of the loveliest towns around the south-west coast. The coast of South-West Britain has many exhilarating walks, but one of the best I have done is a walk starting from the car park of the National Trust Overbeck’s garden – not to be missed – and heading west towards Bolt Head. The day I did it was the day of  Diana’s funeral; hopefully I will get to do the walk again one day on a happier occasion.

During the Second World War, Salcombe played host to the US Navy, which set up an Advance Amphibious Base there, using the Salcombe Hotel as its headquarters, while a radar station was established on Bolt Head, now dismantled. Many ships and vessels left Salcombe on 4th June 1944 for Utah Beach, Normandy, as part of the D-Day Operations. Earlier war action saw the town siding with the Royalists during the English Civil War. The now ruined Fort Charles was the last remaining Royalist stronghold, having withstood two Roundhead sieges.

For events in Salcombe and surrounding area follow this link.

Map of the area.

View of the estuary from Overbecks

Sunday, 20 February 2011


The sight which greeted the gathered multitudes at Hope Cove and nearby Bolt Tail during the summer of 1588 must have sent shivers down their spines: a vast formation of ships belonging to the Spanish Armada, on their way to spoil for a fight in the English Channel. The fleet was defeated much further east off Gravelines in France, and did a runner up through the North Sea and back down to the west of Britain. However, during heavy storms, one of the vessels, the San Pedro el Mayor, was blown off course, and came to an ignominious end at the entrance to Hope Cove, where it was wrecked and the survivors threatened with the death sentence, although they were later ransomed back to Spain. As in Dollar Cove near Gunwalloe (see Gunwalloe post), those with metal detectors may want to pay Hope Cove a visit, since relics of the shipwreck, including coins, are still occasionally washed up.

Today, Hope Cove is an ideal holiday base for those who want an unspoilt seaside location, with a clean sandy beach, crab and lobster for seafood fans, and for the energetic, wonderful bracing walks along the coastal path towards Thurlestone to the west or up to Bolt Tail to the east. The village is divided into two, Outer Hope and Inner Hope, which has a charming cluster of thatched cottages around a square.

Live streaming webcam.

Map of the area.

Saturday, 19 February 2011


As you gaze out to sea from Thurlestone, a village in the part of Devon known as the South Hams, your eye cannot help but be drawn to the distinctive Thurlestone Rock, an impressive “archway” sticking up out of the sea made of New Red Sandstone. In fact, the rock gave rise to the name of this place, which derives from a Saxon term “thirled stone”. The village of Thurlestone dates back to Saxon times, and the local church tower once served as a lighthouse, and was used as a beacon to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588. One of the ships from the Spanish Armada was wrecked nearby, and timbers taken from it are built into the Village Inn. Back in the present day, Thurlestone offers a golf course with magnificent views towards Bolt Tail in the east and Plymouth in the west, and a safe and clean sandy beach, ideal for families.

Map of the area.

File:"The Books" off Thurlestone Sand - - 64483.jpg
Photo by Crispin Purdye, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 18 February 2011


Bigbury-on-Sea is most famous for the island which lies just offshore, called Burgh Island. This island is separated from Bigbury-on-Sea by a sandy causeway, and though small in size, manages to pack in a traditional inn called The Pilchard, and an art deco hotel called The Burgh Island Hotel. Originally built in the 1890s by music hall star George H Chirgwin as a venue for his weekend house parties, the site morphed into a hotel in the Art Deco style, and is now a Grade II listed building. Famous guests at the hotel over the years have included The Beatles, Noel Coward, and Edward and Mrs Simpson. The causeway becomes impassable at high tide, but this minor inconvenience is overcome by use of the “Sea Tractor”, a high wheeled vehicle which is used to ferry guests to the hotel at high tide.

Burgh Island was also the haunt of a smuggler named Thomas Crocker, who used to hide out in a cave on the island commonly known as “Tom Crocker’s Hole”. Crocker was also a regular at the island’s only inn, The Pilchard, which dates back to the 14th century, and his ghost is said to haunt the inn every year on the anniversary of his death – he was shot by customs on 13th August. Going even further back in time, the island was inhabited by monks, drawn by the seclusion of the place.

Back in Bigbury, there is a Surf School and a Golf Club.  The neighbouring Challaborough Bay mostly consists of a holiday park and attached food and drink outlets.

Map of the area.

Thursday, 17 February 2011


Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo are two villages on the River Yealm. Newton Ferrers was listed as plain Newton in the Domesday Book of 1086, and acquired the Ferrers part from the Ferrers family who had come over with William the Conqueror, specifically Ralph Ferrers. Noss Mayo had its first mention in the 13th century, when it was owned by Matthieu Fitz Herbert, and the village was known as “la nasse de Matthieu”, or “Matthew’s nose”, for reasons I have been unable to find out – this has since evolved into Noss Mayo. In the mid-19th century there was an outbreak of cholera in the area which claimed 50 lives out of 600, and the sad reminders of this can be seen in the churchyard of St Peters Church in Noss Mayo.

Happier times can be had today, this spot being ideal for waterborne activities such as yachting and sea-kayaking, as the estuary is well protected from inclement weather further out in the Channel. Walkers can set out on a path leading out to the mouth of the River Yealm to pick up the South West Coast Path. Or you can take a long, lazy lunch outside the waterside Ship Inn in Noss Mayo.

Map of the area.

File:Newton and Noss, Noss Creek - - 546369.jpg
Photo by Martin Bodman, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


The main attraction at this little coastal village is its rich marine and bird life, which is considered important enough for the area to have been made a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. Wembury Point was used as a gunnery school between the end of World War II and 2001, then in 2006 the National Trust took it over and set about restoring it to its former natural state in order to woo back the birdlife which once occupied the site. The horizon out to sea is dominated by the almost triangular shaped Mew Stone, whose name does not derive from a feline population, but from the gulls that frequent it – the word ‘mew’ means gull. Allegedly, a prisoner was kept there for 7 years for a wrongdoing committed in 1744. The beach at Wembury is famed for its rockpools, which provide endless fascination for visiting children, and there are 'rockpool safaris' and other events organized by the Wembury Marine Centre.

The village of Wembury is thought to date back to at least Saxon times. The church, which occupies an elevated position behind the beach and boasts an uninterrupted view across to the Mew Stone, is dedicated to St Werburgh, who was the niece of the Saxon King Ethelred. Another imposing building just outside the village is Langdon Court, which was an Elizabethan mansion house, built in 1577, but is now a hotel and restaurant.

Map of the area.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Welcome to Devon! When I was growing up in West Cornwall, Plymouth, a good two hours away by train, was the nearest place with a remotely decent shopping centre, so every so often my mother and I would make the long trek the length of Cornwall for our shopping day in Plymouth. Plymouth was also the first place where I ate in a Chinese restaurant. I still remember the sense of wonder at the exotic taste and texture of the chicken in my chow mein. Unfortunately, Plymouth has during this century suffered two onslaughts on its aesthetics. The first was during World War II when the city suffered badly at the hands of enemy bombers. A ruined church, Charles Church, still stands in the city centre as a reminder of that time. The second onslaught came courtesy of the architects responsible for so much of the hideous post-war architecture visited upon war-torn cities such as Plymouth. However, there are signs of hope on the horizon with a scheme called “Vision for Plymouth”, which aims to give the city a much-needed makeover. Let’s hope the economic mess the country is in doesn’t put paid to it, because if it comes off, it will give this magnificently situated maritime city the kudos it deserves.

In contrast to the visually-challenged shopping and business districts of Plymouth, the Hoe and the Barbican are attractive to wander round. The pleasant, grassy expanse of the Hoe, dominated by the jauntily red-and-white striped Smeaton’s Tower, was the scene of a famous game of bowls in 1588, which Sir Francis Drake insisted on finishing before setting off to give the Spanish Armada a thrashing. The lovely view of  Plymouth Sound from The Hoe takes in Drake's Island, named after the famous bowler.  The city has seen two other famous departures: Captain Cook sailed from Plymouth in the Resolution in 1772 on his circumnavigation of the globe, and the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth for the New World in the Mayflower in 1620.  The Mayflower Steps by the Barbican serve as a reminder of this event.  A more recent development for visitors to enjoy is Sutton Harbour, with its Marina and a great selection of restaurants, bars and shops, as well as The National Marine Aquarium.  A number of boat trips are available from near The Mayflower Steps, including one which takes in the Naval Dockyard for those who are interested in militaria.

For a list of events in Plymouth, follow this link.

Webcam view of The Hoe and Plymouth Sound.

of the area.

File:Smeatons' Tower and the Hoe from the sea - - 1680191.jpg
Photo by Paul Buckingham, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 14 February 2011


The River Tamar acts as a natural as well as official border between Cornwall and Devon, and there are two ways of making the crossing between the two counties at its southern end: the vehicle ferry from Torpoint and the toll bridge from Saltash, the latter the work of one of Britain’s most distinguished engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which carries not only cars, but trains as well. The bridge is a sight for sore eyes for homesick Cornish expats coming home after a long time away as well as an impressive crossing point for visitors to Cornwall. The government is threatening to create a new constituency which would cross the Tamar forcing a Devon-Cornwall border merge, which has created an outcry among the locals.

Saltash has a long history of providing passage across the River Tamar, starting with a ferry set up by fishermen. This was an important crossing point during the Norman conquest, and later on the Ferry was granted by Elizabeth I’s charter in 1585. During the 1800s a chain guided steam ferry came into use. Then finally in 1961, after 700 years of ferry crossings at this point on the Tamar, the ferry ceased operation when a road bridge was opened by Elizabeth I’s namesake, H.M. Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, just over a hundred years after the rail bridge.

Webcam view of bridge.

Map of the area.

Photo by Kicior99, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 12 February 2011


And so we come to the opposite ‘bookend’ of Cornwall to Lands End – the Rame Peninsula, tipped by the wild and windswept Rame Head. Rame Head is very different from its brash western opposite number, with not a theme park or entrance turnstile in sight, just an 11th century monks’ chapel and an assortment of animals, including deer and Dartmoor ponies.

Further round the Rame peninsula, on the Western shore of Plymouth Sound, is the stately Mount Edgcumbe Estate, an 865-acre country park surrounding a tudor mansion, Mount Edgcumbe House. Plymouth and its surrounding area was badly hit during the Second World War, due to the strategic importance of its naval facilities, and sadly, Mount Edgcumbe House was caught up in the blitz in 1941, with many of its treasures including paintings and furniture lost in the resulting fire. Rebuilding started in the late 1950s, and now the House is open for visits, while the Estate offers wonderful walks with fantastic views over Plymouth Sound.

Map of the area.

File:Rame Head from the sea.jpg
Rame Head from the sea. Photo by Mark Murphy, via Wikimedia Commons


Beyond Looe, the shore arcs gently round towards Rame Head, the headland which marks the Easternmost point of the South Cornish coast. This stretch of coast is Whitsand Bay, a 6-mile stretch of sandy beach. There are a series of small villages along this coast, including Downderry and the delightfully named Portwrinkle, with the adjacent Whitsand Bay Golf Club. Eight miles offshore from these two little villages, and visible on a clear day, lies the Eddystone lighthouse. The original construction of this lighthouse took place in the 17th century, and it has undergone various incarnations since, culminating in the present design, by James Douglass; it is now operated by Trinity House. It was the first Trinity lighthouse to be automated, in 1982.

Map of the area.

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View of  Downderry from Batten Cliffs. Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 11 February 2011


Looe, no doubt the butt of numerous jokes due to its unfortunate name, is the last major seaside resort on the South Cornwall coast before we reach the mouth of the River Tamar. It is a town of two halves, West Looe and East Looe, divided by the River Looe. Just offshore is Looe Island, aka St George’s Island, which has the last vestiges of a chapel dating back to the 12th century, when it was inhabited by monks. Everyone dreams of owning their own island, but for two sisters, the Atkins sisters, that dream became a reality in 1965 when they bought this island and actually lived there, writing a couple of books about their experiences. On the death of the longest-living sister, Babs, the island was bequeathed to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and is now a nature reserve.

I love old pubs with a rich seafaring past, and The Jolly Sailor in West Looe, built in 1516, fits the bill perfectly. The pub claims to be one of the oldest in Britain and is a Grade II listed building. There is a beam in the pub which allegedly dates from the Battle of Trafalgar. There are many stories associated with this pub, but one of my favourites concerns the landlady who hid an illicit haul by covering it with her petticoats. Those who are interested in smuggling should visit the Old Guildhall Museum and Gaol, which has displays on this as well as fishing and boat building.

For events in Looe and the surrounding area see here.

Webcam views of the bay and harbour.

Map of the area.

File:East Looe Beach and the mouth of the River Looe (9899).jpg
Photo by Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 10 February 2011


Are you sitting comfortably? Are you reading this just before bedtime? If so, you may want to come back again in the morning. Because I have a very spooky tale for you. There is in Talland a vicarage built in an old-fashioned architectural style. The vicar who lived there from 1713 to 1747, Parson Dodge, who had built up a local reputation for exorcisms, received a request from the vicar of the nearby Lanreath parish, to get rid of a demon coach with coachman and headless horses which was terrifying the people of Lanreath. The request appears to have had the desired effect, since at the mere sight of Dodge the apparition went on its way and was never seen again. Such was Dodge’s reputation for chasing away spirits that the locals were loath to go anywhere near Talland Church at night for fear of happening upon the Rev Dodge doing his exorcisms. However, a more cynical point of view prevailed that this reputation was entirely made up in order to deter people from poking their noses around Talland Church so that the local smugglers could go about their business with impunity.

Talland Bay is a very quiet spot, with two shingle beaches, Talland Sand and Rotterdam Beach, with a beach cafĂ©, an upscale hotel and not a lot else.  At low tide the remains of a ship's boiler can be seen at low tide.  This is from the Marguerite, a French trawler which came aground there in 1922.  Thankfully all 21 people on board were saved.

Map of the area.

File:Talland Bay - panoramio.jpg
Photo by Mark A. Coleman, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


The streets of the impossibly picturesque fishing village of Polperro are so narrow and winding that if you are staying overnight, unless you are in a hotel with dedicated parking, you are obliged to leave the car in the large car park at the top of the village, in the marvellously named Crumplehorn. In summer, the hordes of daytrippers who are disgorged into the car park from cars and coaches have to make their way down to the harbourside on foot.  There used to be a horsedrawn carriage, but this has now been discontinued. There are boat trips available in the summer months. The Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing tells the history of the village and its smuggling past.

A number of interesting characters are known to have lived in or near Polperro. One of the most colourful was a financier, back in the days before banking became a dirty word, who went by the exquisite name of Zephaniah Job. Following his arrival in Polperro in the early 1770s, after fleeing from the scene of a vicious fight he became involved in during his previous existence as a miner on the north coast, Job did a spell of teaching, then ended up looking after the financial affairs of the local people. Among his more altruistic acts, he repaired the harbour after it was badly damaged by a winter storm. However, some of his activities were more dubious: for example he acted as a benefactor to the smuggling trade, even sending money to imprisoned smugglers. Meanwhile, he took the concept of printing money to giddy new heights by issuing his own Polperro bank notes.

For a list of events in Polperro, see here.

view of the harbour.

Map of the area.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


In this part of the South Cornish coast we are well and truly back in the land of estuaries and creeks, and therefore getting around is made much easier by the little ferries plying back and forth. There are two ferries linking Fowey to the east bank of the river: the car ferry to Bodinnick and the pedestrian ferry to Polruan. The importance of Bodinnick as a ferry terminal in times gone by is evident from the presence of an inn on the Bodinnick side of the crossing called the Old Ferry Inn. If you want to visit both of these delightful little places, it is possible to walk between the two, on a path above Pont Creek, though be warned it is a fairly strenuous walk in places, but your hard work will be rewarded by wonderful views of the creek and estuary below.

Polruan, reached by the pedestrian ferry, is bigger than Bodinnick and lies at the tip of a mini-peninsula completely surrounded by water courtesy of the River Fowey, Pont Creek and the English Channel. It has a long history of nautical activity such as boat-building, and more recently yachting. As for defences from the French and other would-be assailants, Polruan was ahead of the game, with the building of the Blockhouse predating Henry VIII’s fortifications further back along the coast by almost a hundred years. This fortification had a twin on the Fowey side, and the idea was to block entry to the river by means of a chain between the two – clever eh?

Map of the area.

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Polruan.  Photo by Humphrey Bolton, via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, 7 February 2011


The estuary town of Fowey, which lies at the mouth of a river of the same name, saw a certain amount of action during the Civil War, when the peninsula surrounding the largely Royalist town was occupied by a Parliamentarian army. King Charles I had a close shave later on the opposite side of the river, when this army came to blows with a Royalist army. Going further back in time, just outside Fowey, near Readymoney Cove, our old friend Henry VIII built a castle in 1536 called St Catherine’s Castle to protect the area from invasion by the French. Visitors can learn more about the town's history at the Fowey Museum.

Back in the 21st century, the town has an upmarket air about it, with its liberal sprinkling of yachts and its elegant, solid old Cornish houses surrounding the harbour and clinging to the wooded slopes behind the town centre. There are a variety of boat trips available during the summer months. The town has long proved a popular base for luminaries such as writers, and more recently television personalities, for example Kenneth Grahame of Wind In The Willows fame, and longtime stalwarts of British daytime TV Richard and Judy.

For a list of events in Fowey, see here.

Live webcam.

Map of the area.

File:Fowey Harbour from Polruan - - 535297.jpg
Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Charles Rashleigh rears his head again at Polkerris, with yet another pub named after him, in fact this little hamlet forms part of the Rashleigh Estate, which also includes Menabilly House, which was occupied for a time by the author Daphne du Maurier. Polkerris is a tiny sandy cove on the east coast of St Austell Bay. The fishing industry here dates back to at least the age of the Stuarts, when a building known as the “fish palace” was built here, while at one time the fish cellars in this place were the largest on the South Coast. As with so many such places, smuggling was rife at one time, so much so that the coast around here was patrolled by an outfit named the Preventative Service whose mission was to discourage smuggling. There are a number of watersports available here, such as windsurfing and sailing.

Map of the area.

File:Polkerris - - 412907.jpg
Photo by Robin Lucas, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 5 February 2011


The port of Charlestown has a long history as a trading post, but it was developed into a proper harbour with quays in Georgian times. The original settlement here was called West Polmear, but the present name derives from the local man responsible for this development, Charles Rashleigh. His legacy lives on to this day, including in the name of one of the port’s pubs, The Rashleigh Arms. The main business of the port when the Cornish mining industry was still in full flow was the transport of copper, but this was later replaced by china clay.

For those interested in shipwrecks, Charlestown plays host to a Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, a fascinating collection of artefacts including a display from the most famous shipwreck of them all, the Titanic. The necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the film Titanic is one of the items shown. There is also a collection of Nelson memorabilia. Meanwhile, the harbour itself is a Grade II listed harbour. Because its appearance has remained largely unchanged over the years, it has been used in a number of TV and film productions, such as the 1970s series Poldark, and the film The Eagle Has Landed, for which Charlestown and surrounding area was used to depict Alderney. Just to the east of Charlestown is Carlyon Bay, a popular holiday spot, while a bit further to the east again is Par Sands, with a popular caravan park.

Live streaming webcam view of the harbour. 

Map of the area.

File:Dock Gate and Cottages, Charlestown, Cornwall. - - 397081.jpg
Photo by Gary Radford, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 4 February 2011


Mevagissey must have had an interesting smell hanging over it in the late 1800s. It had a power station which ran on pilchard oil, and which was used to provide electricity for the lighthouse and streets. In fact, it is claimed to have been the first town in Britain to have electric street lighting. Perhaps the pilchard smell was washed off using Pear’s soap; the founder of Pear’s Soap, Andrew Pears, was born here in 1768. The town’s name is derived from the names of two saints, Meva and Issey. The town's story is told in Mevagissey Museum.

The town still retains its traditional feel to this day, and still has a thriving fishing industry. It is a popular pitstop for tourists, not least because of its proximity to The Lost Gardens of Heligan, several miles outside the town, one of the many famous gardens in the county of Cornwall. A walk westwards along the South West Coast Path will take you past tiny Portmellon and out to Chapel Point, where the listed Chapel Point House stands proud.  The  house was featured in the Daphne Du Maurier novel The House on the Strand.  Like Mousehole, Mevagissey is charming at Christmas, with festive lights arranged at strategic points around the harbor.

Webcam view of the harbor.

Map of the area.

Photo by JK the Unwise, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 3 February 2011


I have only been to Gorran Haven once. We set out from Mevagissey on a wonderful walk along the South West coastal path, finishing up in Gorran Haven. We were hoping to find a nice little traditional pub to quench our thirst in, but there was no pub in sight. However, there was a beach cafe which did the job nicely.

The village dates from the 13th century, and there is a lovely, safe sandy beach partly facing onto the ancient harbour wall. Towering over all of this is the majestic Dodman Point, 400 feet high and once an Iron Age fort. This headland, like so many others in Cornwall, has seen more than its fair share of shipwrecks over the years, so much so that in the late 1800s a local clergyman erected a granite cross on it to act as a warning to shipping. Sadly, this did not prevent a number of further maritime tragedies, including the sinking of two warships and a pleasure boat.

Map of the area.

File:Gorran Haven - - 1463761.jpg
Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


There is a famous book written by Mary Wesley in 1984 called “The Camomile Lawn”, which was adapted for TV in 1992. It tells the story of a family gathering together in an idyllilic cliff-top house overlooking the sea just before the outbreak of the Second World War, this beautiful stretch of the Cornish coastline providing the backdrop for all sorts of intrigues and hi-jinx, no doubt fuelled further by “pre-war tension”. The house which featured in the TV adaptation is called Broom Parc, and lies a short distance south of Portloe, and if you want to relive Wesley’s story it is now a bed and breakfast – but go easy on the hi-jinx for the sake of the owners!

Portloe is a tiny place nestling in a fold of land behind the familiar Cornish sight of a minuscule harbour with its clutch of many-coloured boats hauled up on the beach. Backing onto the beach is an upmarket hotel called The Lugger, and there is a pub up the hill leading out from the harbour towards the outskirts of the village. Beyond that there’s not much to do here apart from marvel at the majestic coastal scenery adjoing the village, and maybe take a walk along the ever-present South-West coastal path which, if heading in an easterly direction, takes you past a derelict 1950s coastguard cottage.

Map of the area.

File:Portloe (St. Gweep) - - 470098.jpg
Photo by Nicholas Mutton, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Such is the complexity of the coastline in this part of Cornwall that the Roseland Peninsula is divided by yet another river, the Percuil River, giving it the appearance of a knobbly cloven hoof. St Mawes lies at its mouth, so to get to my next port of call, Portscatho, you have to drive up the west side of the peninsula before hopping across to the eastern flank of Roseland. For walkers tackling the South-West Coastal Path there is a ferry linking St Mawes to St Anthony on the opposite side of the river mouth.

Portscatho is a cheery-looking little seaside village, with plenty of whitewash on the houses surrounding the harbour to reflect the sun when it deigns to show its face. Pilchard fishing was the economic mainstay in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the village housed a large fishing fleet for this purpose, but that has now given way to tourism, and most of the boats hauled up on the little sandy beach are now pleasure craft. The view over the harbour from the high grassy banks above, with Gerrans Bay and Nare Head stretching into the distance, provides a nice photo opportunity for amateur snappers.

Map of the area.

File:Beach at Portscatho - - 561805.jpg
Photo by Trevor Rickard, via Wikimedia Commons