Sunday, 27 September 2015

Polperro and Looe

Wednesday 16 September 2015. All week this had been forecast as the worst day of the week. Bright green splodges on the map threatened thunder and lightning followed by earthquakes and the rising of sea monsters. In the event by Wednesday night they had changed their mind and it was to be a pretty much rain-free day.

So after our usual hearty breakfast at the Blue Haven B&B we left Newquay and headed for my favourite place in Cornwall - Polperro.

If you were to be blindfolded and carried to any spot in Polperro, then spun round until you were facing a random direction, on removing the blindfold you would still be enchanted, no matter what you were facing. It is that sort of village.

Even the lack of sunshine fails to dampen my spirits as I wander down the long hill from the car park. The village is a collection of unique buildings, clustered one atop the other on either side of a steep river valley. The river, not much more than a stream really, runs in a channel at your side as you walk down the hill and eventually emerges into the harbour between buildings - one with an overhanging room supported, seemingly precariously on the most twisty long stilts imaginable - then under a tiny bridge into the harbour by the "House with the Lifeboat". The lifeboat was sadly absent today - perhaps the owners had had to abandon house...?

You can ride down from the car park on either a horse-drawn bus or a small electric bus - they call it a "tram" but it runs on tyres not tracks. To arrive on anything other than your own feet though is to deny yourself the leisure and time to take note of some lovely buildings. The Ship Inn has a figurehead jutting from the wall over the car park, some wall art over her shoulder, flower baskets and the Cornish flag of a white cross on a black background flying from the flagpole on the front wall.

The harbour is always colourful with boats. A small breakwater of a wall, seen towards the left of the photo behind the brown mast of the boat at the bottom creates the effect of twin harbours, inner and outer.

The outer harbour is sheltered by a harbour wall which has a couple of new huts and a collection of fishing paraphernalia along a stone seat which I always remember being crowded with people just enjoying the view. It will come as no surprise to learn that smuggling was once a way of life here. It was highly organised and financed but started to decline after 1798 when a local man was executed following the death of a customs officer.

Polperro's smuggling past is one aspect featured in the museum on the side of the harbour. There were a couple of benches in the small forecourt and I settled myself on one and got out the sketchpad.

I jammed as much detail as I could onto the paper and after an hour had more or less completed half of the drawing, roughly to the top left of a line from the bottom left to top right corner, when it started to rain. It was not raining hard, but I didn't want to risk spoiling the sketch, so we got up and went into the museum cafe for a spot of lunch. I still had the pad open and was mopping at a couple of splashes when the owner of the cafe came to take our orders. "Ooh, that's good!" she said. I blushed becomingly...

I thought a small prawn sandwich would suffice after our large breakfast... This was spectacular! Whilst I munched my way through this tiny repast the rain decided to go off somewhere else and although someone had taken my previous spot, I was able to sit on the next bench to finish my drawing. I could have gotten very big-headed at some of the overheard comments, but only one person had the courage to actually talk to me and paid some very nice compliments. In the end this drawing took around two hours, way beyond the amount of time I usually devote to an A5 sketch, but it did perhaps pay off.

Miss Franny had gone off around the shops whilst I was doodling and I texted her that I was finished and set off for the bridge under which the stream still gurgled its way down into the harbour. Once there I dialled her number, rounded the corner and ten feet away Fran raised her phone to her ear... We had another wander round the village before walking back up the hillside to the car park which by now was brimming with cars.

It was mid afternoon when we left Polperro and we thought about where to go for our evening meal and decided to try Looe. It was just a couple of minutes before four when we got there. The car park attendant pointed out that the charges stopped at six o'clock, so I paid for 2 hours parking and for that could have stayed overnight. It would have been an uncomfortable night though, so after eating and looking round we went back to our B&B in Newquay!

A music festival was due to start in the town, though nothing seemed to be scheduled before nine o'clock and they were still busily setting out stages and barriers by the side of the river. The river and town have the same name - Looe. In the Cornish tongue Logh is a deep water inlet. The river separates the town into West Looe where we parked and East Looe where we went to look for somewhere to eat.

We had a walk round the town (well the East Looe half of the town) before settling on The Golden Guinea restaurant as a likely looking place for good food and drink. After the tiny lunch I was in need of some substance to my sustenance... We had a roast beef dinner each and jolly good it was too!

A large sign tells how the Golden Guinea got its name:

The Golden Guinea is so called by reason of a vast treasure hoard of gold found on the premises. The treasure was probably gain (sic) from piratical exploit and it is recorded that it was taken to Liskeard by horse and cart. The building known throughout Looe's recent history as "Ye Olde House" was completed in 1632, is of historic interest and is scheduled and protected by the Nation.

I asked if there was any likelihood of there still being a trace or two of gold hoard still left lying about. "I'm afraid not..." came the reply. In the next article we set off for Falmouth but without looking at the map. So we'll have a look round Plymouth instead then...

Cornwall Holiday Index

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