Category Archives: Cornwall

On holiday with Ross Poldark (2)

Last time I talked in very general terms about the main, and most obvious, sights at Botallack, a disused tin mine in Cornwall:

First, there is the enormous stone chimney, to power the pumps that maintain low water levels in the mine:

And then there is something which I have never managed to fathom out. It looks rather like Cornwall’s attempt at Peru’s Nazca lines, but constructed with stone and concrete:

In among them were two Georgian missile silos, their “Hanover” ICBMs targeted on Napoléon’s distant boudoir. Spot the photographer, by the way:

Walk a little further on to the south and there is a view of  the winding gear, the top bits of a more modern chimney, and a ruined wall. And what a sky! :

Keep walking and there is a view back towards the car park. The metal winding gear has not been used for a long time, perhaps as far back as 1900.

Again, everywhere there are ruined buildings, all of them in local stone:

At least one of the forgotten buildings was an arsenic-refining works. In areas of volcanic rock where tin and copper are mined, some nasty substances may always  be encountered such as arsenic, cadmium, lithium and even uranium.
I suspect that perhaps, over the years, the local builders and farmers have been helping themselves to many of the pre-cut stone blocks for their own walls and/or barn building or perhaps even as the hard core for country roads.

If you turn round and walk past the big stone chimney:

You can then continue for fifty or a hundred yards, until you get to the “abandoned mine engine of Wheal Owles”:

That particular disused mine is frequently used in Poldark episodes when the work force is filmed  actually working the mine. I have walked over to the Wheal Owles on just one occasion but I didn’t take any photographs. To be honest there are so many of this type of ruined pump house in this part of West Cornwall that the old adage “Seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” comes into play.

This is the view straight ahead of the bench towards the north. There is another large ruined building and then what looks like the stump of a demolished chimney nearer to the tip of the headland.

Here’s that same view looking slightly more northwards;

You can just see the reason why the BBC people chose this site. It’s at the bottom left of the photograph above, and it’s one of the Crowns mines, the most photogenic industrial location in Cornwall and its second most photographed tourist site after the Men-an-Tol:

We’ll walk down to see  the Crowns mines next time.

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Filed under Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal, Science

On holiday with Ross Poldark (1)

We visited Cornwall on family holidays in every year between 1987-2012. Sometimes, the largest town, Penzance, can be really wet, wet, wet:

Overall, though, Cornwall can be a magical place:

The west of Cornwall, of course, is where the TV series “Poldark” is set.   Here is the cast without their TV make-up:

It was only in our last year in Cornwall that I realised that, on several occasions, we had visited one of the main filming locations for this popular TV series without even knowing it.
The site which we knew is near a ex-tin mining village called Botallack. First of all, this map shows where Cornwall is situated in England (although the native Cornish, it must be said, do not consider themselves to be English). The orange arrow points to the car-park for the National Trust site at Botallack:

The orange arrow, on all three maps, remember, is pointing to the car-park for the National Trust property where filming takes place. Here it is on a slightly more detailed level:

And here is the largest scale of all, where you can see just how convenient it is for filming, as both of the roads going north are dead ends, and the entrance road in the south can easily be blocked off from the public.

You’d never think that every household in the country is forced to pay the BBC an annual sum of £154.50 if they want to watch TV in this country. And that’s not watching BBC television. It’s to watch any channel at all. Hopefully,  my foreign friends will now realise that we English don’t get our TV for free.

And if the BBC programmes are good, then so should they be with an annual income in 2019 of £4,889,000,000. Incidentally, none of the roads that have to be blocked are a public right of way, so there are no legal problems:


This is the view looking away from the car park. There are lots and lots of shattered buildings, as if the demolition company one day got a better offer and just cleared off in the middle of the job:

Up near the car park is the most modern structure, a set of nineteenth century metal winding gear:

Outside the museum type building which acts as a tourist centre, there were two scarecrows, or at least, we took them to be scarecrows, rather than peasants starved by Sir George Warleggan:

As you walk down towards the mine, the first thing you see is one of the area’s two or three large stone chimneys and a ruined building. Beyond that is the mighty Atlantic Ocean and ultimately, America. Almost invisible, gannets pass by ceaselessly:

And then there is a welcoming bench, from which you can see most of the best attractions. It’s good for mother and daughter:

And for two dear friends:

Next time, we’ll take a closer look at the attractions that have made Botallack one of the hidden treasures of West Penrith, as this area is more properly called.

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Filed under Cornwall, Film & TV, History, Humour, Personal

A strange photograph (3)

In 2009, we were on our annual holiday in Cornwall, staying in a cottage near Penzance.  Here is Penzance, the last town in England and still plagued by pirates. Look for the sun tanned arrow:

On ‎August ‎17th , ‏‎around half past eleven in the morning, we arrived at Men an Tol, one of the most famous landmarks in this part of the world. Here’s  its location, right out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other megalithic sites and lots of place names in Cornish. Look for the orange arrow again:

Men an Tol is a megalithic monument, supposedly, and we set off along the rough path out to the moors:

It was a nice day, lots of heather in bloom:

Standing stones are so plentiful in Cornwall that farmers even used them to build dry stone walls:

Here is a decidedly average photograph of the monument we were going to see. It  is a uniquely arranged Stone Age structure, although I have always felt that if it is uniquely arranged, that may be a negative feature rather than a positive one:

Here’s a better one:

Just for scale, the stones are perhaps three or four feet tall. I didn’t dare try to crawl through the hole, for obvious reasons.
There were a number of buzzards circling in the blue sky. This is a Common Buzzard:

The birds were all little dots high in the sky but I took some photographs, thinking that I could perhaps blow them up later on.
It must have been a couple of months later, as I worked my way through far too many mediocre photographs of our holiday that I noticed something a little out of the ordinary. Here is a full size photograph and the buzzards are still just tiny dots. Note the bracken though, because that will prove where I took all the photographs:

Here it is blown up. There are three buzzards in shot and the bracken is still there. Notice the tiny white cloud because that will reappear.

I started to try and look at the buzzards by blowing the picture up a little more. The little white puff of cloud is still there:

I immediately noticed something strange off to the right so I blew it up yet again. The white puff of cloud provides continuity of evidence:

What on earth is that? I blew it up again :

And again:

And this is the best I could do. I used “unsharp mask” on it this time:

I do not know what this object was. At the time I did not even know it was there.  It may have been an inflatable balloon or something from a pop concert or a festival of some kind, but that really is clutching at straws. No events like that happened in the area during our stay there. And it must have been quite big. A buzzard’s wingspan is around five feet and it is certainly bigger than that. I have never seen a children’s balloon that big. You could argue that it was a lot closer than the buzzards. But surely then I would have noticed it. Sooooo….by definition, it must have been a UFO. I just wish I’d seen it!

Incidentally. I have done very little with Photoshop to these pictures. They have been cropped, resized and may have had their brilliance and contrast levels changed to make the images clearer. These photographs are completely honest, in other words.

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Filed under Aviation, Cornwall, History, Personal, Science, Wildlife and Nature

The Starfish Thrower (4)

In my previous posts about St Ives, in western Cornwall, I mentioned a good many of its attractions:

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I also mentioned Alfred Wallis, the most famous artist to have lived and worked there. Alfred was born in Devon in 1855 but moved with his parents to Penzance at quite an early age. He became a deep sea fisherman and sailed on trawlers as far away as Newfoundland. When he was 20 he married Susan Ward who was then 41 years of age. Alfred still worked as a fisherman, but on land he was also a labourer and a dealer in marine supplies.  Around this time, the family all moved to St Ives. As he grew older, Alfred worked for a local antique seller and it was perhaps this which pointed him towards painting. After his wife died in 1922, he began to paint, making use of the limited number of colours available in chandlers’ shops to paint ships and boats. Here he is as an old man and a young artist:

Instead of canvas, Alfred made use of scraps of cardboard which had been used as packaging.

Here are some of his paintings. This is called “Windjammer and Cutter”:

This is called “Four luggers leaving a harbour”:

This one is “Wreck of the Alba”. It is possible to recognise Godrevy Island, the beach at Porthmeor, and The Island with the Coast Guard Lookout:

“The Hold House Port Meor Island” also has recognisable features of St Ives such as Porthmeor Beach, The Island with St Nicholas Chapel on the top as well as Wallis’ own house:

Here is the map of these two paintings. The white area at the top is called “The Island”:

Here is Alfred’s rather unusual grave in Porthmeor Cemetery which overlooks the sea to the west of the word “(w)ater” on the map:

Here is the top, created in ceramic tiles by Bernard Leach:

One of the paintings above, and Wallis’ grave, both carry illustrations of a lighthouse. It is on Godrevy Island, a view which I have birdwatched for countless hundreds of hours over the years:

To study Wallis, your first port of call should be the Great Mother of Us All   After that, many of his paintings can be viewed at the Tate St Ives, which again, has a beautiful view over the Atlantic Ocean.

I have used some of these paintings at the Tate St Ives to illustrate this little introduction. If you are going to Cornwall this summer, make sure that you go there and check out this wonderful old man’s paintings. It’s certainly time better spent than wandering around the interminable surf shops and fast food eateries that are being allowed to spoil one of Britain’s most beautiful places.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Cornwall, History

The Starfish Thrower (3)

(If you haven’t already read “The Starfish Thrower (2)”, just let me say that you will understand this post a lot more easily if you do.)

OK. Back to St Ives:

And back to the moral of that story.

I was once told by a wise man, “You can always find a reason for not doing something”. And that is so true.

Why bother helping starfish?

It’s too hot

There are too many of them

What’s the point?

and so on.

But don’t just look for a reason to do nothing. It’s easy. Just throw the starfish back. You don’t need to train for 20 years and spend £300 on special equipment:

You don’t need to gather a crowd and you don’t need to wear special clothes:

And you never know. You might attract a helper:

Or get the grateful thanks of a mermaid.

With me, it’s always contributions to charity that I baulk at, whether that be my valuable time or my hard earned cash.

I give a little money to the Salvation Army because my Dad said that if you were freezing cold on a foggy station platform during the winter of 1943, the Salvation Army would always be there to help you. The Church of England never was. Nor was anybody else. So my Dad ordered me to donate a little money to them from time to time. But equally I could say to myself, “Well, I never saw my Dad give them any money himself, so why should I bother?”

In other words, “You can always find a reason for not doing something”.


Four days later, I was back in St Ives, wandering round a gallery stuffed with art that I like. Pictures of dogs, pictures of dogs playing cards, pictures of very large sharks, undersea divers, undersea divers being attacked by very large sharks, and most of all, aeroplanes.

I used to read war comics when I was little. Ones like this…

And this…

And this…

Just look at that fantastic line “Spitfeuer! Achtung!!” I’m fluent in that kind of German. I often think I could have been a Kommandant of a Prisoner of War Camp, using just the German from war comics and films.

This art gallery had dogs and sharks and undersea divers. And it also had this wonderful print:

Nowadays, lots of Germans visit Cornwall and they visit St Ives. They all like to look around the art galleries.

Suddenly a little boy came in, closely followed by his Dad. He looked up at the aircraft print on the wall.

He pointed up at it and loudly and clearly, he said to his Dad, the line I had waited to hear somebody say for 50 years. He shouted:

“Achtung Spitfeuer!  Achtung Spitfeuer!  Achtung Spitfeuer!”

 

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Filed under Cornwall, Cryptozoology, History, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

The Starfish Thrower (2)

(And now, at last, you get to know exactly why these posts have such a bizarre title…..)

There is a second beach at St Ives in western Cornwall, just north of the pier. It is to the west of the Coast Guard (CG) Lookout and the Chapel of St Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen.  On the map, it is the yellow area between the two words ‘brothers’ and ‘(w)ater’:

Here’s a general view from the chapel:

A closer view shows you the huge concrete monolith of the Tate St Ives Gallery. To the right is Porthmeor Cemetery which holds the grave of St Ives greatest artist, Alfred Wallis.


Which brings me back to the Art Gallery theme. More about it in a moment. In the meantime, here is St Ives’ most ironic hairdresser…

Last time, I gave you a brief introduction to St Ives. Its seals and its gulls and its main beach.
One day I strolled nonchalantly into an art gallery, looking for a picture with dogs in it because I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. I was looking in particular for that picture where the dogs are all playing cards and they have cigars and shades over their eyes. Here is a map with the Orange Arrow marking the place:

I actually found a painting with a story written on the canvas. The story was obviously designed to be uplifting:

Now normally I don’t really go in a great deal for the bumper sticker wisdom you can find on many sites on the Internet. If Life were that easy, we’d all be perfect (inadvertently, I’ve just created one. Sorry about that).
I don’t think you’ll be able to read the story off the photograph, so I’ve copied it out.
I know it’s probably been printed and reprinted a thousand times over, but I had never seen it before, and I can still remember the effect it had on me the very first time I ever saw it:

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.  One day he was walking along the shore.
As he looked down the beach,  he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.  He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day.  He began to walk faster to catch up.  As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore,  picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
He called out, “Good morning! What are you doing? ”
The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
I suppose that I should have asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean? ”
” The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it.

You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves. “It made a difference for that one ! “

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Filed under Cornwall, History, Humour, Personal

The Starfish Thrower (1)

Until 2012, we always spent our family holidays in the very far west of Cornwall, near Penzance in a district called Penwith. One of the most famous places to visit is St Ives, a small town on the north coast. The map shows roughly where we are in England:

And here is St Ives. Welcome back, O Orange Arrow, which today marks the site of an Art Gallery, of which more later:

I love St Ives, even though it has changed enormously since we first went there in 1987.  Tiny interesting shops, faced with weekly rents of £2000 for a glorified phone box have all departed, unsurprisingly, leaving just fast food shops selling either traditional Cornish pizza and burgers, or surfwear shops, all tight and rubbery, and presumably not meant for the people who visit the fast food shops. St Ives is now really too expensive for locals to live there, thanks in the main to the London bankers and financiers, who can buy a house or two with their annual bonuses. Some streets are completely full of second homes so that from October to April, some areas of St Ives can become a ghost town.
In summer though, it’s different. Here’s the beach on the map above, and in the background, all the houses have saffron yellow lichen on their roofs, a sure sign of clean air:

When the tide is completely in, the beach disappears and the real locals come in to see what they can steal. A male Grey Seal knows he can come swimming into the waters near the Pier and a fisherman will throw him some unwanted fish:

On the promenade, the cleverest individuals in St Ives move to the attack. They are Herring Gulls larus argentatus argenteus. The gulls just walk around on the pavement and people might give them a chip or some other scrap of food:

On other occasions they operate in twos and threes and behave just like velociraptors:

One gull will get your attention and the second one will fly in from the side and snatch your lunch. Don’t ever taunt them. I saw a slack jawed teenager do this once. She waved her ice cream to the female gull in front of her, taunting her with how much food she had and the bird had none. The teenager didn’t even see the male gull who crashed into her head from the side. She dropped her ice cream on the floor. The female picked it up and they both flew off. How I wish I’d been filming it!

I found this among many other photographs of naughty gulls on Google. The good proportion of them were taken at St Ives:

This lady is not the silly teenager that I spoke about earlier. She is a completely innocent and trusting bystander.

Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

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Filed under Cornwall, History, Personal, Wildlife and Nature