A week in a cottage in Cornwall sounded idyllic. And it was.
Gordon (my husband) and I travelled to "our special place" via the Welsh/English border towns and Devon. After 10 days of travel, staying at various B&Bs, we were looking forward to the luxury of staying put for a week. No early morning packing and unpacking again at the end of the day.
We reached our cottage, Little Tregaddick, near the village of Blisland (19km from Bodmin) after travelling down roads splashed with autumn hues (it was late September) which turned into leafy narrow lanes with tall hedges on either side. Thank goodness for "Lee", the calming resonant voice on our GPS navigator, he guided us smoothly right to our cottage door. I really do recommend a satnav (satellite navigation system), it really is a marriage saver and beats pouring over maps especially when you venture off the beaten track.
Debra - the delightful owner who with her husband Ross lives next door - was there to greet us. Freshly baked scones and tea were a lovely welcome to the delightful, comfy cottage which was to be our home for the week.
As we had not shopped for provisions for our stay we decided to check out the local pub for our evening meal. The Red Lion in Blisland is delightful, with tables and bench seats on the grassed area at the front where a traditional pint can be enjoyed on balmy evenings. Inside there were Toby jugs and old mugs hanging from every conceivable spot on the walls and ceiling beams. We enjoyed a delicious meal washed down with a local beer and then with the aid of "Lee" - even more appreciated in the dark - we headed for "home" and a spot of TV before climbing the stairs to bed. I awoke once in the night; the silence was amazing, only broken by the occasional hoot of an owl.
We awoke to a cool, clear morning with a cock crowing in the distance. Gordon went for a short walk while I prepared breakfast - our host had left provisions for the first morning in the fridge. We then returned to Blisland where across the green from The Red Lion lay a beautiful Norman church that had the rather wordy and unusual name of "Anglican Church of St Protus and St Hyacinth". The building was transformed in the 15th century by the addition of a tower and porch. Due to considerable decay over the centuries a major renovation was undertaken in the 19th century. A noticeably disconcerting pillar in the south transept is propped up by a carved beam, this was necessary due to the fact because of the many burials beneath the floor of the aisle which were reburied in the churchyard.
After the service we returned home and polished off Debra's scones then set the satnav for Polperro, a picture perfect town on the south coast. It was beautiful down by the sea watching small boats coming and going. Many holiday makers were taking advantage of the sunny weather to experience a thirty minute trip around the harbour.
With all this fresh sea air we soon became hungry and so enjoyed a traditional Cornish pastie as we further explored this quaint town. If walking over cobbles is a problem for you there is a horse drawn carriage which is available from the car park to transport you around this delightful town.
Sustained by our pastie we set the satnav for Fowey but couldn't resist stopping at Lerryn, an attractive grassy spot by the river where joined by many of the locals and their dogs we partook of a cooling ale.
Fowey is a large, picturesque town with an extremely steep road leading down to the harbour from the car park. You can drive down but be aware that there is no parking and it is extremely difficult to negotiate the car narrow streets full of sightseers on a sunny, Sunday afternoon. We returned to the top to park the car and then made our way down to join the pedestrians at the bottom. After a couple of hours of enjoying the numerous little shops and views around the harbour we labouriously climbed back up to the car park only to find that there is a town bus which for one pound we could have saved ourselves the struggle. Oh well I guess the exercise was good for us after the pasties and pints. Headed for home via a small friendly, small Costsaver supermarket, where we gathered provisions for the rest of the week including a couple of bottles of wine. They all sell wine so no need to hunt for a bottle shop. Leigh guided us home via Bodmin Moor where we encountered a number of wild ponies and sheep.
If you enjoy country walks there are many to be enjoyed from our cottage. Gordon took a different one early each morning while I languished in the comfy bed partaking of tea and toast while I planned the day.
Today we will go to St Ives, loved for its galleries, the most famous of which is The Tate - the haunt of artists and art lovers for decades. The journey from Little Tregaddick takes approximately forty minutes. On arrival you need to leave your vehicle at a long stay car park about 2km. out of town. From here there are buses to take you into the centre. We decided to drive closer, it was a Monday morning and not at all crowded. We found a spot in a side street from which it was a comfortable walk along a pathway overlooking the sand and sparkling sea - yes the beaches are sandy in Cornwall, unlike other parts of England where one has to negotiate painful pebbles before plunging into the water.
The Tate - which sits high on a cliff overlooking the sea - was unfortunately closed for renovations. However there were many small galleries to visit and of course a plethora of cafes where one can enjoy the traditional pasties and cream teas. We chose a cosy one and had a light lunch while being entertained by a group of ladies at the next table who had just finished decorating the church for Harvest Festival.
After checking out several more galleries it was 5pm so decided to head for home. Guess what? We couldn't find the car! We walked up and down the side streets in the vicinity of where we thought we had parked and just when we thought we might have to spend the night here we found it - a lesson learnt - make sure you note well the street names and land marks.
Lands End was our goal today. We stopped on the way at St Just a hilltop village which is also designated as lands end and is far more interesting than the legendary area which has become touristy and commercial - you have to pay to drive in. Not really worth a visit just to say you have been there - go to St Just instead.
One of the highlights of the week occurred today with a visit to the Minack open air theatre at Porthcurno. This truly amazing amphitheatre was the vision of a woman called Rowena Cade who as well as having the idea worked tirelessly laying many of the stones herself. Set high on a cliff top and jutting out over the sea this place is spectacular. Unfortunately we were a week too late in the season to experience a performance, they commence in April and end mid September. However for a small fee you can wander around this site and as you sit on the stone tiered seating, it is not hard to imagine a Greek tragedy or Shakespeare's Twelfth Night unfolding before you. A café serving light meals is there for you to gain sustenance before continuing your sightseeing day.
Along the southern coast we drove to Penzance, we didn't stop as we were keen to get to Marazion, the town from which one has access to St Michael's Mount. This island is topped by an historic castle (reminiscent of Mont St Michel on the north coast of France) has been inhabited by the St Aubyn family since 1647. In 1954 Francis St Aubyn gave the property to the National Trust while retaining a 999-year lease for the family. The island which is home to a thriving community is reached by walking at low tide or motor boat when the sand is not exposed. Cobbled paths lead up the steep path to the castle. Last admittance for the day is 4.15pm and unfortunately we arrived too late but we were able to witness a wonderful sunset which bathed the sea and castle in a translucent pink light.
We set the satnav for home, headed down the now familiar A30 but couldn't resist diverting from the main road down a leafy lane where we stopped, pulled out the thermos flask and cake and sustained ourselves for the hour's drive home.
I had been looking forward to today's excursion since leaving Oz. Being a fan of TV's Doc Martin series a visit to where it was filmed seemed - a must so we headed for Port Isaac (Port Wenn in the show). For those of you that are familiar with the series you will recognize the pretty harbour town on the north coast. All the narrow streets wind upwards from the harbour, in fact if you arrive when the tide is out you can park your car on harbour sand right in the idle of town. You will be reminded by the attendant that you must return by a certain time or it will be washed away when the tide comes in. This town is fascinating. I can understand why it was chosen as the location for this popular show. It is interesting that there is no sign that the town was recently host to hoards of actors and an extensive film crew, especially as the latest series had only been produced a month ago. I popped into a small shop exclusively selling cream fudge and asked the owner how we could locate the various venues and she replied: "You are standing in the pharmacy and along the road up the hill you will see a small unobtrusive sign indicating Doc Martin's house". The school was obvious as it is now a restaurant/guest house and called The Old School Hotel.
We did get back to the car before the tide came but stopped briefly on the way at a fishing shed and purchased a small tray of cockles; a shell fish to which we are very partial - they are sold with a small fork so you can pop them straight into your mouth. Yummy.
While we were in the seek-out-the-TV-show mood the next town on our list was Padstow, home of the popular chef Rick Stein. Once again this gorgeous town did not disappoint, we sat on the harbour wall munching really good fish and chips from one of the famous Rick's eateries - there are a number of establishments in the town bearing his name including four restaurants, a cookery school, deli, patisserie and gift shop.
Just outside the town there is a heritage manor bearing the name of Prideaux Place, a stunningly beautiful Edwardian building set in extensive manicured grounds from which there is a view of the sea. Several of the famous author Rosamunde Pilcher's novels that have been made into TV films have been set here. The Prideaux family has been in residence since its completion in 1592. Of its 81 rooms 46 are bedrooms and only six of these are habitable, the rest remain as they were when the American army left them at the end of the Second World War So as not to encroach on the privacy of the family you can only view the interior of the house as part of a guided tour. Check the website for opening hours - www.prideauxplace.co.uk.
There is a delightful café set on the terrace where you can purchase light meals and of course cream teas!
A week in Cornwall would not be complete without a visit to The Eden Project. What is it? It's global garden where you can travel around the world in a day and as the guide book says "it is a charity working to inspire dreams of a positive future and make them happen". Originally an old clay pit until 1999, the project began to transform it into a thirteen hectare living theatre of plants and people, showing that degraded environments can be fixed.
We drove to St Austell from where sign posts direct you to the project's large parking area from which you are transported by coaches to the visitors centre. From there you can make your way through rain forest and Mediterranean Biomes (huge greenhouses covered with transparent foil). The rain forest biome is 50m tall, in fact you could fit the Tower of London inside. Make sure you wear layered clothing as it gets very, very hot and humid inside. The Mediterranean one, as the name suggests has a far more pleasant atmosphere with fresh air blowing through the open windows.
There are a range of cafes across the site, each with a distinct theme. All the food is fresh, locally sourced and organic where possible. A large shop sells books, beautiful recycled gifts and clothes made without trashing the environment.
If you don't fancy walking around the large site there is a land train from the visitors centre and wheel chairs for those who are less able. All the profits from this amazing project are poured back into the Eden Trust and used to support projects working towards a sustainable future.
After three hours spent at this wonderful place we still had time to drive down the road to Mevagissey - another picture perfect Cornish harbour town. I really cannot decide which is my favourite - Polperro, Port Isaac or Mevagissey. We enjoyed yet another picnic lunch on yet another harbour wall watching small boats bobbing about disturbing the otherwise calm water of the bay. We explored the plethora of gift shops selling locally crafted needlework and pottery. (Ideal gifts to take back to Oz).
This was to be our last day in Cornwall so thought we would check out two of the closest large towns to Blisland. Wadebridge and Bodmin were both about 12km away. Wadebridge, a handsome town reached by traversing a wide bridge (now we know how it got its name) over the River Camel. There is also a Camel Trail, 27km long, traffic free and once an old railway track - Gordon walked a different part of this every morning before breakfast
Not far from Wadebridge lies Lanhydrock House, a National Trust property which proved to be well worth a visit, in fact one of the best we have seen. It is set in expansive gardens with a large grassed area for picnicking - which we did. Feeling refreshed we walked through the gate and down the path to the house flashing our Trust cards as we went. We had purchased Australian National trust membership before we left home - it is much cheaper than buying the British version and readily accepted in all countries.
The original Lanhydrock House (circa 1650) was burnt down, the replacement is Victorian .There were fifty one rooms spread over three floors, each perfectly furnished and decorated as it was when the family lived there in the late 19th century. Two surviving maiden sisters were the last of the family to inhabit and there wills bequeathed it to the National Trust. Now everyone can enjoy.
After spending so much time at Lanhydrock we arrived at Bodmin just as everything was closing so cannot really comment on this large market town.
That evening - on recommendation from a local who gleaned we loved clocks we drove to the quaint, little village of Egloshayle which boasts a 12th century pub called The Earl of St Vincent. Built as a boarding house for masons who constructed the village church, it now houses an amazing collection of old clocks that are all in perfect working order. Every hour is punctuated by a cacophony of chimes, bangs and cuckoos. We sat in comfy arm chairs by a cosy fire sipping our drinks waiting for the hour to strike, it was great fun. There is also an award winning garden attached where one can enjoy refreshments on a sunny day.
Sadly our week in Cornwall has come to an end and in a couple of days we will return to Oz. Little Tregaddick has been our delightful home while exploring this wonderfully scenic part of England. Of course we couldn't cover all there is to see but we hope this piece will whet your appetite to pay a visit for yourselves.