Saturday, 31 December 2016

ST MARY'S, ISLES OF SCILLY



When I was growing up in Penzance in the 1960s during Harold Wilson’s time as Prime Minister you could guarantee that every summer, regular as clockwork, the local news would feature the arrival of the PM at Penzance station en route to his holiday retreat on the island of St Mary’s.  On arriving at the station he would transfer to the Scillonian for the choppy crossing to the Scillies, then he and his wife Mary and their two sons would set up in their three-bedroom bungalow, Lowenva, a Cornish word meaning “house of happiness”.  Wilson’s idyllic time on the island nearly came to a dramatic end in 1973, when he got into difficulties trying to get into a rubber dinghy.  His submersion in the cold water brought him close to death, but luckily a passing family from Rugby were able to fetch a boat to rescue him with.

The sea crossing, now on the Scillonian III, is still going, but the helicopter service that once supplemented it ended in 2012, prompting fears among the Scillonians that economic decline would ensue.  However, earlier this year it was reported that a multi-million pound investment was being unveiled for a resumption of the helicopter crossing.  An alternative air crossing is available from Land’s End Airport.  St Mary’s is the largest island in the Scillies, and the main town is Hugh Town, which occupies a narrow neck of land to the south-west of the island, between Porthcressa Beach and Town Bay.  This is where the Scillonian anchors, and  inter-island boat trips set off from here.  There are also round island coach tours available from Hugh Town which are geared up for day trippers off the Scillonian. The busiest time of the year is during May Day bank holiday weekend, when the World Pilot Gig Championships are held. For a list of events on the islands, follow this link.



File:Hugh Town - geograph.org.uk - 473796.jpg
Hugh Town. Photo by Chris Downer, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 17 December 2016

SENNEN



When I was growing up in Cornwall Sennen was one of my favourite places to go to the beach, with the long sweeping sands of Whitesands Beach backed by sheltered dunes.  Sennen is one of Cornwall’s most popular surfing spots, and not wanting to miss out on the action, I acquired a polystyrene child’s surfboard which was meant to be used lying down.  However one day, in a fit of surfing dude envy, I decided I was going to stand on it and it promptly broke, and that, sadly, was the end of my surfing ambitions.

The village itself is small, with a pub and a small collection of cafes and shops, and a gallery which occupies a building known as the Roundhouse, a distinctive round building which was erected in 1876 to house a large capstan wheel which was previously open to the elements.  And the elements here can be dramatic, given Sennen’s exposed location at the end of the country.  In February 2014 the village was battered by a monster storm during which massive waves up to 200 feet crashed over the shore.  Follow this link for footage of the action.  Up the hill from the village is another pub called the First And Last Inn which is famous for being haunted by a landlady from the 1800s called Annie George.  She was left to drown on the beach after giving evidence of the actions of a notorious local smuggler.  She has been seen roaming the corridors and in her old bedroom, and other manifestations include glasses moving of their own accord.  Sennen was a hive of smuggling activity at that time, when ‘wreckers’ would lure ships to the rocks, kill the crew and loot the cargo.  Tunnels at the pub were used to conceal the contraband.

From Sennen, the South West Coast Path heads past the Mayon Old Coastguard Lookout, and barely a mile further on we come to Land’s End, which is where I started this blog in January 2011!  But don’t go away, because there’s still the Scillies and the coast of Northern Ireland to come.

Map of the area.

Live streaming webcam of the beach.

File:Whitesand Bay from Mayon Cliff (7090).jpg
Photo by Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CAPE CORNWALL AND ST JUST



Cape Cornwall is the second most prominent headland on the West Cornwall coast after Land’s End.  In my very first post at the start of this blog, I cautioned that Land’s End is not the cheap option it once was, due to the ‘Disneyfication’ of the site with a range of shops and attractions.  Some people like that sort of thing, but for those who do not, I strongly recommend a visit to Cape Cornwall, where you will get the same “end of the world” feeling without the fanfare.  There is a National Trust car park (free to members), and a refreshment van, and that is about it, apart from the Cape Cornwall Golf Club just above the headland.  For those who want to stretch their legs there is a path around the headland, and wonderful views of Land’s End and the Longships lighthouse.  The Cape is crowned by the chimney which is all that remains of the Cape Cornwall Mine, a tin mine which operated between 1838 and 1883.   Another option for walkers is the path descending from the car park to Priest’s Cove, from where the South West Coast Path heads southwards, passing Ballowall Barrow, a Bronze Age burial chamber (English Heritage, free entry).

Cape Cornwall is reached by a minor road from the vibrant small town of St Just, England’s most westerly town.  The town was a thriving hive of activity during Victorian times thanks to the area’s tin-mining activities.  Up to the 17th century medieval miracle plays were performed in Plain-an-Gwarry, the natural grassy amphitheatre in the centre of St Just, and this continues to be used today for more modern festivities such as the annual Lafrowda Festival in July, a vibrant and colourful music and arts festival.  St Just is also home to the original Warren’s Bakery, founded in 1860, which now has branches all over the county, and which makes some of the best pasties around.

Map of the area. 

File:Cape Cornwall (Judithili).jpg
Photo by Judithili, via Wikimedia Commons