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Posts tagged ‘cornwall’

Minster Church & Valency Valley

We had arrived back in Boscastle after what had already been a full day’s outing to Tintagel and Bodmin Moor, but our time in Cornwall was running out. So with the remaining afternoon daylight we ticked off another local activity.

The sneaky turn-off on the outskirts of town to Minster Church found, we drove down this quiet shaded lane and dad pushed the eject button on mum and I. Happily for him, the plan required a drop off here and a pick up somewhere else, thus giving him a good ‘out’ from partaking in the activity himself.

Mum wanted to come here because it is another family church, my great x4 grandfather having lived in Boscastle.

Plus, there is a nice walk between church and village down the Valency Valley (or up, depending on your tendencies). If we’d been there a few weeks earlier we would have seen daffodils in bloom around the church which is apparently quite a sight. Never mind, it was still a beautiful place.

Neither Minster nor Forrabury, the two churches of Boscastle, are located particularly close to the village which is a bit unusual. They date back to Norman times which makes their origins older than the village but of the same era as the 12th century castle around which the village subsequently grew.

Minster is located on one side of the Valency Valley. In 2004, flood waters rushed down the River Valency, through the church, to Boscastle where much damage was caused. You would be hard pressed to find any residual evidence of this now.

What I assume is a remnant of flood damage on the floor

We got a runner!!

See the scissor shape? No one knows why it’s there. Strange huh.

After a bit of ferreting around inside and out we began the walk down to the village.

Bit of a novelty to see holly growing in the wild

Not a water nymph

On the valley floor not far from the end of the walk in the Boscastle carpark

We only walked one way, but it’s a very achievable two way exercise. Peace, quiet and green woodland scenery guaranteed.

Oh and yes dad did remember to pick us up.

Tintagel’s legendary cliff-top castle

Tintagel is quite a well-known and well-visited place, though I hadn’t heard of it prior to this trip. (Not that that should be a benchmark of whether something is famous or not!)

The main reason for its allure are the legends that Tintagel Castle was the birthplace of King Arthur.

Today the castle remains are greatly diminished but still quite extensive and owing especially to their dramatic location, are well worth a visit. And being only a few miles from our base in Boscastle, it was an obvious inclusion on our to-do list.

After some confusion about where the castle was and how we got there (strangely it didn’t seem to be well sign-posted) after parking the car we instinctively walked to the end of the village. From the grounds of the impressive Camelot Castle Hotel we looked across a gully and there was the elusive castle. I hadn’t researched this place beforehand and I was surprised about how large the site seemed to be. It was also going to require a bit of effort to get there.

But the path to the castle wasn’t anywhere to be seen (so much for instincts) and we backtracked into town until we found it. Rather, we just followed the trail of other tourists heading the same way.

A ways down the path we could choose to head left uphill to some of the castle remains, or right downhill to begin at the visitor centre. Which importantly also had toilet facilities. Right it was.

The castle ruins are in two main sections, the more extensive site is on an island (though there is still a narrow bit of mainland connecting to it) with the other part on the end of the mainland. Back in the day they were connected via a drawbridge, until that fell into the sea. Quite a few sections of castle on both sides met a similar fate thanks to the rugged coastal location and exposure to the elements. Today efforts have been made to strengthen and stabilise what’s left.

The coastline and a cove called Haven lay just beyond the visitor centre. Fortunately it was low tide and the beach was accessible so down I scooted for there were a couple of interesting features to see.

The Haven

In Merlin’s Cave. Given the whole Arthur thing the cave sounded really intriguing but it was only named as such after the 19th century when Tennyson wrote a few poems about King Arthur

Then it was time to go up, past the turnoff to the mainland castle ruins, around the large group of foreign students on the bridge, and up further.

Steep climb up to the island

Breathing a lot more heavily than I had been two minutes before I stepped through the big wooden door into the courtyard and Great Hall. Strolling around ruins, one of my favourite things to do.

A nice section of stone remains I thought. Later I checked it against the guidebook and, well, seems that it was part of a latrine

Island courtyard wall and gate

The path continued beyond here, past some Dark Age ruins (the site evolved over many centuries, chopping and changing as different rulers and landowners occupied it) and up to the top of the island.

Dark Age remains. While the guidebooks use this term apparently it is rarely used now by historians

Sitting low on the hill is the Iron Gate which was originally built to prevent access from the cove below

Looking down onto the courtyard and Great Hall

Pausing at the chapel where there is a mix of foundations from various ages, possibly back to the 5th century

A cave-like tunnel, no one knows for certain what it was used for

Looking from the island over to the mainland ruins

Then it was time to catch up with mum and dad who were making their way over to the mainland part. ‘Over’ = steep steps down + steep steps up.

From the mainland looking back to the island

Upper mainland courtyard

Lower mainland courtyard

You could spend all day wandering around here, or I could at least, but we had other stuff to go and see. Mum and dad’s respective dicky ankle and knee held up on the return walk to the village where we flopped into the closest watering hole.

Time to go find some lunch

Like the umbrella says…

Bodmin Moor animals & air force ghosts

After leaving Lizard Point I pointed the car back to Boscastle, via Bodmin Moor.

We made a point of including three moors on our travels. Our arrival in Boscastle had taken us through Exmoor and in a couple of days we would see Dartmoor. Today we took the opportunity to drive through Bodmin Moor since it was sort of on the way, but would return when we had more time to stop.

But the drive-through was more of a drive-stop-drive-stop-drive-stop because of what we found.

Upon entering or leaving the moor you drive across a cattle stop, as we call them in NZ, or cattle grid in the local terminology. Within these boundaries the livestock just seem to roam across the big expanse of marshy moor landscape, including the road. A lower speed limit applies but I guess the occasional animal may get clobbered.

I had pulled off to one side for photos when we started to look beyond the wandering livestock and notice the ruins of buildings ahead. After pondering this some, dad said it looked like a WW2 era air force base.

Suddenly this place had become really interesting: cute moor animals and a disused military base. Something for everyone!

Later that evening I did a quick bit of research and was able to confirm that it had indeed been an air base: RAF Davidstow Moor. And dad was right – it opened in Oct 1942 and closed at the end of 1945. It was exposed to extreme weather which hampered reliability (driving through you get an inkling of how miserable it must have been in winter) and while really busy at times it wasn’t used consistently during coastal defence operations.

The runways are now very run down but one is apparently still in use by light aircraft.

This place had already registered pretty strongly on my Hmmm-This-is-Quite-an-Interesting-Place radar, and then I discovered it was also used as a motor racing circuit. Wow. What’s more, three Formula One (albeit non-championship) races were hosted there. This was in the 1950s, a few years after the air base ceased operating, and it went by the name of Davidstow Circuit.

This is a 1951 photo of the air base. The racing circuit opened in 1952 using the runway and perimeter roads at the top of the picture. Almost 3km long most of which was straight lines – it would’ve been fast.

The next day we returned to find the museum that we had seen a sign for. I’m not generally a museum person but sometimes there are exceptions and the Cornwall at War Museum was one. Covering the Davidstow Airfield as well as other bases and military operations in Cornwall, it was an excellent example of what local enthusiasts can achieve with a lot of hard work and dedication.

We were the only visitors. Mum had a sleep in the car while dad and I paid the modest entry fee and went exploring.

I didn’t see the ‘no photography’ signs for the indoor exhibits until we were nearly finished. Oops.

RAF Davidstow Moor was a busy place on D-Day

Mascots! How cute is that.

There was plenty to look at outside, including original buildings from the airbase. During summer they offer guided tours of the airfield which is something I would have loved to do.

Er, peek-a-boo

Inside the air raid shelter

This was a great example of the unexpected highlights that can pop up while travelling.

Where doctors, chefs, pirates & mice roam

Posts have been a little sporadic lately. I returned from the UK and had a couple of things going on for my birthday in and around being reunited with my job. Now that things are settling back down I will get back to writing up the rest of the trip.

The day we visited Lizard Point began with a whistlestop tour through some Cornish towns.


Port Isaac

The phrase ‘picturesque fishing village’ is a bit of a cliche in this part of the world but it is accurate enough. One of mum’s reasons for suggesting we stop here was its use as a location for a few TV series and things.

After finding one of the village carparks – now that were getting used to the fact that you’re hardly ever able to just pull off to the side of the road here – we rugged up for a walk. It was cold and it was windy.

Mum found her TV doctor’s house. Turns out she doesn’t actually care that much for the doctor but does like the rest of the show

I will also remember Port Issac as being where my DSLR started spitting its proverbial dummy. Swearing at it had no effect and frustrating as all this was, I was grateful that I always travel with a compact camera as well.



Obeying the crisp instructions from the satnav (by now I had changed it to a soothing English accent – it seemed appropriate) we arrived swiftly in Padstow. Another suggestion from mum, this was included because of the extensive sandbanks at low tide and because it is home to a few Rick Stein eateries.

As always with these coastal Cornish villages, there were plenty of sights in and around the water that one could study with a camera.

We saw some of the effects of the sand but it wasn’t anything spectacular – we probably weren’t in the right place and the tide may not have been fully out – and we didn’t have time to wait for it!

We found out where to find Rick Stein’s Cafe. I don’t care much about cooking and ‘celebrity chefs’ but tagged along nonetheless, lest I ended up with another case of AWOL parent.

We weren’t there to eat but apparently it would’ve been pretty good


Just somewhere on the way

Had to make a quick photo stop when we drove through the town that is very nearly my name. Really wanted some paint so that I could add a Y at the end – it just looks… unfinished…



I’m not a fan of stage shows but I can’t think of Penzance without mentally attaching the words ‘Pirates of’ in front. There was no particular agenda with our stop here, lunch and a bit of a wander.

I had something specific in mind for lunch, something I hadn’t yet tried.

When in Cornwall, eat a pasty

I’m sure they weren’t supreme examples, but they did the job.

Our walk was confined to the immediate area around where we parked and had lunch so there was plenty of Penzance that we missed.

Next time you go to throw out old footwear, think again!



Not far from Penzance is the village of Mousehole. Lonely Planet convinced me that we should go here on account of its description of Mousehole (apparently said like mowzle) as one of Cornwall’s most appealing villages.

Once there I felt like the archetypal tourist, but hey. Sometimes you just are.

On the edge of the village we saw a bus, presumably not familiar with the area, react to a sign advising that buses would not be able to turn beyond that point. The driver began a very awkward attempt to turn around and he was still trying to extract himself and his (amused? embarrassed?) passengers 10 minutes later after we’d parked and walked past. First and last time he went to Mousehole I bet.

Dad was content to rest his dicky knee and stay with the car. Mum and I set off in separate directions with a half hour time budget. I strode very purposefully through the teensy weensy streets to the far side of the small harbour and back. And LP was right, it is a very cute place.


Could have been somewhere else on the way

I was tempted to make another detour to get closer to the impressive looking St Michael’s Mount, which was an obvious landmark across the water, but time was marching on and I was keen that we get to Lizard Point.

St Michael’s Mount, from afar

The Lizard (place, not reptile)

During our week in Cornwall we made a day trip from the north coast to the south coast. I originally assumed Lands End would be something to see and tick off, being the most westerly point of the British mainland. But after a quick peruse of Lonely Planet I decided to go with the most southerly place: Lizard Point. Maybe it just sounded more interesting. I don’t mind lizards. Turns out it is derived from a Cornish name that has nothing to do with reptiles. Lizard Point is at the end of The Lizard, a peninsula in between the towns of Penzance and Falmouth. After the other stops en route it didn’t seem to take that long to get there whereupon money was thrust at a man from the National Trust so that we could park the car. We joined the path and went to find the end of it.

Walking down from the carpark - hang a right to Lizard Point lookout, cafe etc

Walking down from the carpark – hang a right to Lizard Point lookout, cafe etc

Loved the wildflowers

Loved the wildflowers

Looking up to the lighthouse and heritage centre

Looking up to the lighthouse and heritage centre

Lizard Point

There was a definite bite in the breeze

There was a definite bite in the breeze


At the main terminus for people visiting Lizard Point there is a cafe, shop and visitor centre, not to mention fantastic views of the English Channel. It was a little weird to think that it was the English Channel with France yonder. Probably more due to my dodgy knowledge of geography than anything else. From here though you can walk further, down the hill (boat ramp) to Polpeor Cove. There is the old lifeboat station, used between 1914 and 1961, and a couple other old buildings. Interesting to have a nosey around.

On the way down to Polpeor Cove and the old lifeboat station

On the way down to Polpeor Cove and the old lifeboat station

Polpeor, Lizard Point

Polpeor, Lizard Point

Polpeor, Lizard Point

I went back up to locate mum and dad and go to the cafe for a late lunch.

Probably not surprisingly there are quite a few ship wrecks off this coast

Probably not surprisingly there are quite a few ship wrecks off this coast

There are worse places to have lunch

There are worse places to have lunch

Don't move mum, a bird's about to peck your head

Don’t move mum, a bird’s about to peck your head

We returned back up the trail, intending to have a closer look at the lighthouse.

Unfortunately the lighthouse and heritage centre were closed by the time we'd finished down at the point, but never mind - saved us a few quid

Unfortunately the lighthouse and heritage centre were closed by the time we’d finished down at the point, but never mind – saved us a few quid

With that plan scuttled we left. It was the same road back as we took to get there but the k’s (whoops, miles) ticked over fairly quickly and before long we realised we’d (whoops, I’d) overshot the turnoff to an airbase viewing area that we’d noted earlier on. Cue rapid u-turn. As we pulled into the viewing area for the Culdrose Royal Navy Airbase, a helicopter flew in overhead to land. Cue rapid parking and exiting of vehicle.

If my cross-checking is correct it was a Merlin Mk1 which landed in front of us, "the world’s most potent submarine hunting helicopter"

If my cross-checking is correct it was a Merlin Mk1 which landed in front of us, “the world’s most potent submarine hunting helicopter”

Show over, I pointed the car north.

Update January 2015: Another feature of Lizard Point we missed was Polbrean House, built in 1868 by artist Thomas Hart and lived in by his family until 1921 before becoming a hotel and now a hostel. Several of the Hart children also became artists and one of them, Claude, built a small art studio away from the house since his father was using the studio inside the house. That studio was the small building in the 8th and 9th photos of this post. One of the family descendants, who helps maintain a website about the family art history, contacted me with this information which is great as I had no idea what the small building had been used for and am always fascinated by ‘then and now’ stories.

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