Monday, 28 September 2015

Pilgrims and Pubs, Cannon and Lighthouses in Plymouth

Thursday 17 September 2016. We had originally set off to go to Falmouth but, instead of looking at the map, I remembered seeing signs on the way to Polperro so headed 90 degrees in the wrong direction and subsequently the wrong direction by 180 degrees on joining the A30 and we ended up deciding to carry on to Plymouth once we realised we had gone irreparably wrong!

So we crossed the Tamar Bridge with Brunel's famous Royal Albert Bridge to our side and found ourselves in Devon. Plymouth has one of those approaches that confuses the hell out of any drivers not from around those parts. You seem to describe several figures of eight before you get to where you want to be. In our case I had to do a nifty U-turn to avoid entering the Naval Dockyard...

We parked under a rather dubious sky near the Barbican and walked down to the waterside to this view of the Mayflower Steps. A boat trip was just waiting to go out with a party off a Shearings coach. There seemed to be a bit of a flap on because there were two people fewer on the boat than there had been on the coach...

The Mayflower was a 3-masted square rigger and by no means new by the year 1620. Whilst Plymouth has traditionally been thought of as her last port before setting out (she first picked up passengers in both London and Southampton), it is now thought that she called into Newlyn in Cornwall to replace water casks, the water loaded in Plymouth having found to have been responsible for illness in the city.

The Mayflower Steps, where those first brave pilgrims, 102 in number, embarked for the voyage. "Are we on the all-inclusive?" came a voice from the back. "Look at the size of that ship! God preserve us, it must be three decks at least!"

Whilst the other passengers argued as to who had booked the best excursions, the Purser checked in the hold to ensure the cask of Milk of Magnesia was safely stowed. He knew that they might have to settle the New World...

The Barbican these days plays host to a modern marina. There are a few empty places evident against the nearest jetty. Either no one has yet bought a boat to go there or the owners of the boats that moor there are unaware of the rule that boats in a marina should never ever move...

There are a couple of modern buildings on the wharf. One is the Mayflower Museum, another has shops. Thankfully though many of Plymouth's old buildings still stand and add character to the Barbican.

Many of them, it has to be said, are pubs. In the days when Plymouth was a busy port those sailors off the many ships that came in were a thirsty bunch. And a motley one too - there would have been a few different languages adding to the noise of the area. The French would be demandez-ing vin blanc et vin rouge; the Danes would be snatching off their horned helmets to be filled with lager ("Lager, ye swab?" What the heineken is that?"). Even our own brave Jack Tars would be given a swift kick for ordering beer ("That's for childer ye lubbers! We serves good English ale here!")

The Three Crowns pub sits on the opposite side of the harbour to most of the other pubs. I'm not sure how old it is - there was quite a bit of bombing here in the Second World War and certainly Wikipedia ignores this pub which is usually a sign that it's not that old. If anyone knows better, please do tell.

Similarly the Navy Inn, despite the great name seems to boast no history on either Wikipedia or its own website. It does have live music though - yay!

Sigh... And it's more of the same at the Maritime too. All these pubs do look the business though. I was driving so couldn't really afford to go for a pint in each one. In fact, had I not been driving I'm still no good at pub crawling. I enjoy a pint - dark mild is a favourite tipple but rather hard to find these days - but two pints is enough to make me feel slightly bloated and queasy. Three and you would be carrying me home... I have to say I've never thought of this as a handicap...

As well as all the drinking places, there are a good number of eating places. The big difference about these in the South West that we noticed from previous visits is that the small traditional tea rooms seem to be a dying breed. All the cafes want you to buy a huge cooked dinner no matter what the time of day and regardless of whether you might prefer to eat your main meal in the evening.

We did find a great tea room though behind a tiny area with benches set back from the waterfront. It had lots of framed prints of the Royals of England from the Middle Ages onwards and in the background Bing Crosby was crooning from a tape or CD recorded from his old radio shows of the 1930s and 40s. An American man in his 40s was sitting alone at a table, happily immersed in the sounds of his own country's past. He was enthusiastic in complimenting the owner about the music as he left.

The tea rooms was at the back of the little square behind and to the right of the green umbrella. When we came out the sun had made an appearance and we sat for a while here with three Frenchmen chattering away on the next bench.

We had a look round the shop of the Mayflower Museum without going into the museum itself and then a walk around the headland to Plymouth Hoe...

...where preparations are still in place should those rascals the Spanish decide to have another go.

We had an ice cream from the van - 80p each and they tasted wonderful. The woman in front of me ordered a tub with a big dollop of clotted cream on the side. That looked as though it would have tasted wonderful too...

The walls are those of the Royal Citadel, constructed by Charles II after his restoration to the throne. Nominally to protect the port in case the Spanish or anyone else did come for another go, King Charles was also giving a warning to the people of Plymouth who had veered towards the Roundhead side of the tiff between the Royals and Parliament. The fort remains in military use even today. I know... I almost drove into it by mistake...

The lighthouse tower on Plymouth Hoe is known as Smeaton's Tower. It is in fact the upper portion of John Smeaton's lighthouse that was the third lighthouse to be built on the Eddystone Rocks. It was built there in 1759 and was replaced by the current Eddystone Lighthouse in 1877 and the people of Plymouth paid for it to be moved stone by stone to this spot.

We returned to Newquay for our evening meal which repast was served up in grand traditional style in a typical seaside cafe called Bunter's.

It was very windy and therefore not all that warm in Newquay and we decided to take to the car once again and head north along the coast for a little run out. This is Watergate Bay,

Tomorrow we'll have another attempt to get to Falmouth. It's an early night back at the B&B - I need to consult a map...

Cornwall Holiday Index

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

Saturday, 26 September 2015

1970s-2000s - People In Blackpool, Part 2

A couple of the photos from this bunch of candid shots of people in Blackpool come right up into the current century. Most of them were taken on the Pleasure Beach this time but there are a couple which weren't, so let's start with one of them...

I just absolutely love this one. The year is 1979 and the lady is in the middle of processing in her mind the skimpy nature of the girl's shorts. She falters and then can't resist looking back to confirm what she thought she saw!

On the Pleasure Beach and from the same year. For several years this set of Gallopers was to be found on the park south of Watson Road.

Whoops, I've been clocked! But what was it they were all so intent on gathering around? Answers on a postcard to...

By 1995 The Big One was the big draw on the Pleasure Beach. Opened the previous year, the ride followed Pleasure Beach traditions in setting a number of records: on its opening date it was the tallest and the steepest roller coaster in the world. It was the fastest in Europe, second fastest in the world and was the longest in the UK.

Ah, the old faithful! Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Machine. It was a bit of a disappointment to him as he had originally wanted the public to experience the sensation of flight and his original intention was to fit controls to let riders raise and lower the carriages. The fairground trade (several of these rides existed), no doubt wary of the potential for riders plunging into the ground, vetoed this and he thought the end result little better than a "glorified merry-go-round!"

Whilst undoubtedly a great viewing spot for watching the Grand National coasters race for the finish line, the window looking over the track as the cars dipped beneath the paving to rise again to the station was at its best late in the afternoons or early evenings. Before that on sunny days you had to contend with the shadows of the row of buildings containing toilet blocks, popcorn and sideshow stalls etc.

The trick was to expose for the shadows. After all of these articles no one yet has admitted to spotting themselves... Don't be shy folks!

We are all the way through time up to 2006 for the last two shots (including the second one of the Grand National). This is the Roller Coaster emerging from its station and banking left to join the chain lift for the pull to the summit.

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Friday, 25 September 2015

A Steam Railway and Jamaica Inn

Tuesday 15 September 2015. We set off after breakfast for Bodmin & Wenford Railway, a steam railway operating out of Bodmin. We got there slightly before opening time and were joined by another couple from our B&B who had also decided to do the train today.

We went for a cuppa in the station buffet whilst we waited for the ticket office to open and then bought tickets and headed onto the platform to watch the preparations for our journey. It wasn't a totally promising day as you can tell from the damp on the platform and the sky, but just at this point it decided to be sunny for a while.

Our loco was a Great Western Railway 2-8-0 tender locomotive, No.4247. Built in 1916 this was one of many such in its class designed to pull coal trains from South Wales mines to the ports. They had to be "strong" for such work and were built with large boilers and limited water tank capacity. The lines between mine and port were equipped with water supply points in abundance to make up for the narrow side tanks.

4247 also had a spell hauling china clay in Cornwall. It was withdrawn from service in the 1960s and was recovered from the Barry scrapyard around 20 years later. (Source: Bodmin & Wenford Railway website)

The Bodmin station is nicely maintained too with little touches like this railway advert for Weston-Super-Mare. Nearby was the disintegrating but interesting remains of a corrugated iron nissan hut containing a bench with a hole...

There's a toot from the whistle - it's time to get into the carriages! We join Carl and Sandra in a compartment on a corridor carriage and take our seats. The train sets off from the mid point on its route. So we will travel first to Boscarne Junction where the locomotive will swap to the other end and take us back to Bodmin General. Then after a short wait it will go the other way to Bodmin Parkway and back again to complete the journey.

About halfway to Boscarne Junction the train comes out of a cutting and I spot a female red deer racing up a field away from the sudden apparition of this noisy, smelly thing puffing smoke out of its funnel. As the ticket collector checks our tickets we go through a dark tunnel and she says afterwards "Sometimes I nip to the next compartment in the dark and then when we come out of the tunnel I'm standing there and they all jump!"

The end of our journey. We arrive back at Bodmin General for the second time and take a few last photos before moving on.

We have several hours to pass before our booking at Jamaica Inn so we head west from Bodmin towards Padstow. It's a nice drive, but on reaching Padstow we find the car parks full to bursting. The road ends at one of them and there is no choice but to turn into it where we immediately join a queue of cars who are waiting for spaces. These will never materialise because the cars trying to exit are blocked by this same queue... It takes 20 minutes to get from the car park entrance to the exit - approx 60 yards distance. We retrace our steps and go for some lunch in the middle of nowhere at a large garden centre. The photo of Padstow (taken on a similarly wet day) was taken in 1992.

We headed back to Bodmin and to the Jamaica Inn where we had a table booked for 6 o'clock. By the time we got there it was about four and was pelting down with rain. I left the camera in the car once again and this time my photo is from 1996. We parked and dashed into the gift shop and then I dashed back again to deposit our bought goodies in the boot and picked up my sketch pad.

This is the main bar and is from a letter card that was bought on a previous visit. We bought drinks and settled onto the bench to the right of the fireplace and I sketched the room, trying to convey it as it might have appeared in the smuggling days of yore. I'm not totally sure when the Days of Yore were, come to think of it. Further back I think than Back in The Day (a phrase I hate) but perhaps not as far back as In Days of Old...

Anyway this is the result. I went wrong straight away with the angle of the beam and it was hard to work back from that. I should have whizzed it and started again really...

This is a bit better - I did this one yesterday especially for this blog and again ignored some of the outbuildings in an attempt to show an earlier version of the Jamaica Inn. It was indeed the haunt of smugglers and wreckers - those who shone false lights far inland but visible from the sea so that sailors thought themselves well away from the rocks of the shore. Daphne Du Maurier lived here for a while and wrote her famous book Jamaica Inn around the smuggling activities, but her inn does not take guests as it did in real life, but was merely a tavern with a storage facility. The inn, which dates from 1750, was also owned for a while by author Alistair MacLean.

But my favourite memory of the inn has to be of the parrot that used to reside in the bar in a large cage. In 1989 we were down in Cornwall as part of a large family party - my parents, the three of us, my brother and his son and my uncle. My uncle in particular was sitting next to the cage and had tried all evening to get the parrot to talk. It was having none of it. It would look at him and occasionally would screech but in the way of actual words it was totally the opposite of Shakespeare...

At the end of our visit, we got up and walked out one by one. Miss Franny and I brought up the rear and my uncle was in front of us. As he passed the cage he said "Come on... are you not going to speak to me?" In a perfectly understandable and loud voice it said quite distinctly "**** off!" His expression was priceless...

Cornwall Holiday Index