Cornwall Holiday – Heligan and Charlestown

I have always wanted to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan since seeing them featured on TV many years ago, possibly on Gardener’s World which I used to enjoy watching in the 1980s and 1990s. It is probably the most romantic of stories behind a garden restoration ever and evocative of the changes in the social history of our country between the wars. In a nutshell, after the gardeners of Heligan Estate went off to fight in WW1, many of them never to return home, the gardens and indeed the estate fell into disrepair. After the heir emigrated to New Zealand, having no interest in Heligan it became forgotten and ‘lost’. It was in 1990 during excavations for new buildings where the old Heligan House had stood that they were rediscovered and the restoration began.

The weather was very misty as we set of from Bude to the south but we were optimistic in our shorts. We decided to cut across Bodmin Moor with trusty Google navigation leading the way. As I was driving, I was hoping we didn’t have a repetition of the hairy drive of yesterday. There were a couple of single track sections, characteristic of the area, very winding and then suddenly into a small village or hamlet. I think I coped fairly well and quite enjoyed the drive mostly.

Arriving at Heligan, the weather had brightened significantly and the car park was already very busy. We paid our entrance, bought a guidebook and set off to explore.

Roughly following the tours in the guidebook we spent around three and a half hours exploring. Around the formal and kitchen gardens there were several memorials in the form of a photograph of a gardener in his military uniform and a potted history of his life, I found these really moving. The woodland walk with the beautiful mud maid was really enjoyable, made more so by the chocolate ice-cream we scoffed on the way.

On the way to the jungle area, we passed a beautiful wildflower meadow buzzing with life. The jungle was stunningly planted with exotic plants of which I don’t know the names. The rope bridge is a bit of a gimmick though in my opinion. The walkways and steps up and down past the ponds and plants made for a really enjoyable walk.

We felt we’d had a good day out, we’d spent time enjoying the more formal gardens, ventured onto the further estate to walk through woodland and trek through the jungle. We visited the wildlife hide and watched the activities at the bird feeders. We saw the livestock, goats, pigs and ducks, geese, chickens and turkey and were thoroughly exhausted by the time we got back to the car.

On the way back to Bude we passed a sign for Charlestown and I remarked to Patrick that it was somewhere I’d have liked to visit. It’s been used in a few film and TV productions and was used as both Truro and also Falmouth in Poldark, when Verity elopes with Captain Blamey for those of you who are fans of show. At the next turning, also signposted Charlestown, I decided to turn in. What a pretty place, with its historic harbour complete with tall ships. We had a lovely walk around down to the harbour and round the beach to a rocky outcrop and then up to the pub overlooking the bay for some well earned refreshment. We were both pleased we’d stopped off there and I’d say its worth a visit if you’re around the area.

Cornwall Holiday – Coastal Hopping

Monday and the weather is dry. Yippee. The forecast wasn’t brilliant but we set off for a drive to Port Isaac, of TV’s Doc Martin fame. As there were some roadworks on the way, we decided to turn off the main road and pop into Boscastle and Tintagel via the more scenic route around the coast.

Boscastle

Boscastle was a nice surprise not knowing what to expect. The car park was packed and we were really surprised at how many visitors were there. Off we set down the main street towards the harbour, which was where everyone else was heading too! As the weather was still looking unsettled, although really warm, I persuaded Patrick to buy a waterproof jacket from an outdoor shop in the town. To be fair, I’ve been trying to get him to buy one for years.

The harbour area although busy with lots of people was strangely peaceful. After taking lots of photos and sitting for a while watching the sea, we set off back to the car, stopping at a tea room on the way for a snack. I had a Cornish cream tea, the scone was huge and Patrick a toasted teacake. We had taken sandwiches with us but they were still in the car!

Tintagel Castle

Next up was Tintagel. We knew that the castle was closed for some building work but decided to go for a walk up the cliff path to view it from afar anyway. The weather by now was bloody roasting, I’m sure Patrick was really chuffed he’d bought that waterproof jacket. The walk to the castle was firstly downhill, then up to the cliff top was quite steep and hard work. We sat on a bench at the top and ate our sandwiches and viewed the castle through the binoculars. A new bridge is being built and it was quite fascinating watching the guys perched wearing harnesses, working right at the end of the section they had made.

We walked down from the cliffs to the beach, which unfortunately isn’t accessible. We could see the cave known as Merlin’s Cave but it didn’t look overly exciting. I was more interested in the information boards showing old pictures of when the area was being mined for tin and silver.   I think we were both trying to put off the inevitable walk back up the steep path to the town but there was no way around it, it had to be done. It was certainly a relief to reach the top.

Tintagel itself is very commercialised. Arthur themed everything and lots of mystical gifts and jewellery shops. We had a look at the outside of the old post office, which is a pretty, medieval building. I took a photo of the outside but we didn’t bother to go inside. I’m pleased we visited though, the walk though hard work was well worth the effort.

Finally on to Port Isaac, using our ‘trusty’ Google navigation! We were directed but missed the turning so after turning around about a mile down the road, came back and turned into a road that appeared to be a single-track, tarmaced replica of Mount Everest with a hairpin bend immediately after turning into it. Thankfully Patrick was driving because my reaction was complete panic and to flap my arms wildly whilst repeatedly shouting “shit”. There was nowhere to go apart from forward so we continued only to round another bend and come face to face with another car. Now at this point I was wondering if I could just get out and run because I was seriously worried about Daisy’s ability to continue up this hill after having to stop! Thankfully the other driver reversed up to a passing place and we were able to squeeze past and be on our way. The road probably wasn’t that long but it felt endless and we were rather relieved to get to the end.

In Port Isaac we parked in the car park which claimed to be 750 metres from the village. We had decided by now that a Cornish meter is much longer that a normal, metric metre but even allowing for that it was a damn long walk down a hill that we were very conscious of having to come back up again. The harbour area was pretty, in that Cornish way of coloured cottages climbing up from the harbour and lots of narrow, winding lanes. Not having watched Doc Martin at all, we didn’t have that fun of trying to recognise landmarks though and I think we were both a bit too tired to be much bothered to be honest and after wandering around for half an hour and spotting a mama and baby herring gull having a bite to eat, we decided we’d earned a beer so popped into one of the pubs, the Golden Lion.

Mama & baby Herring Gulls

All in all we’d had a really enjoyable but tiring day but pleased we saw the places we visited.

See below for a slideshow of today’s photographs.

Cornwall Holiday – Sir Goldsworthy Gurney

Sunday morning dawned chucking down with rain. What a horrid start to our holiday after the glorious weather of the journey down. After a little research we decided to pop into Bude and visit the Heritage centre, Bude Castle. It was built by and the home of Cornwall’s forgotten genius Sir Goldsworthy Gurney (what a fabulous name) in 1830, it was the first building on sand with specially constructed foundations and though he was mocked at the time and people said the building wouldn’t last, it’s still standing and in use today. Well worth a visit, the museum was absolutely fascinating and I’m astounded that we’d never heard of this man before. Inventor of the steam drag, a precursor to steam engines on railways which ultimately failed due to lack of investment because the smart money was going into railways, he went on to invent limelight and the Bude Light which illuminated the House of commons and Trafalgar Square among others and he developed the system of the light with a revolving shield still used in lighthouses to this day.

I really enjoyed learning about the man and his inventions.

We enjoyed the other exhibits on shipwrecks and the Bude canal as well as a moving display dedicated to the American rangers stationed at Bude to train for the D-Day landings. A walk around the art on show in the various galleries in the castle and a sandwich and cuppa in the cafe conservatory overlooking the beach completed our visit.

With the weather getting even wetter, we jumped back into the car to drive round to Widemouth Bay for a look. Then back to Morrisons to buy ingredients for fish pie. My turn to cook tonight!

So wet and miserable that there are no photos taken today apart from the ones of the cottage that I added to the post for yesterday.

Cornwall Holiday – Arrival

After an uneventful drive of just short of three hours we arrived in Stratton and found our cottage. It was evident that parking was going to be difficult, the ‘ample street parking’ as described by the owner is clearly only available at times when the village is deserted! We were very early for check-in anyway so headed off to Bude for shopping.

When we got back to Stratton, we were lucky that a kindly neighbour took pity on us trying to unload the car (parked halfway back to Bude) and directed us to a space nearby.

Higher Townsend cottage is very old and rustic shall we say! It’s very quaint with its thatched roof and rickety wooden door, complete with enormous key.

Cottage exterior.
Living room

The living room is comfortable but the furniture is shabby and a bit fusty smelling to be truthful. The staircase to the bedroom leads off the living room and is wonderfully wonky, typical of a cottage of this age obviously. The kitchen is a small extension and is adequately equipped for a holiday let but by no means as good as some we’ve stayed in. There is a sweet little courtyard area at the back next to the kitchen which was bathed in sunshine when we had unpacked the shopping so what better than to sit out there and enjoy a beer!

The bedroom and bathroom are furnished nicely and are clean and welcoming. The wonky floors slope just enough to fool you and trip you up late at night…. and Patrick found a little secret door in the bathroom that leads to another staircase down into the dining room.

It’s

It’s a really quirky little place but I have to say that the living room lets it down a bit for me. The place is old but that doesn’t mean the furniture has to be!

We decided to see the lay of the land around Stratton, or specifically the local hostelries of which there are two. We thought that we may eat at one or both of them during the week so a bit of a reccy really. First up was The Tree Inn. I was expecting a bit of a gastropub after reading online reviews but we only popped into the public bar so didn’t see the restaurant. We bought a drink and sat out in the yard at a table. There was a table of local characters at the next table who seemed to find us very interesting. I felt like a zoo exhibit and it didn’t endear the place to me. Next up was the Kings Arms. I preferred this one but Patrick didn’t care for it. We again sat outside as there was no one at all in the pub, as there hadn’t been in the Tree. We may give them another try one evening but we didn’t feel comfortable in either of them on Saturday afternoon.