Travel Letter Index

Letter to Doreen from Cornwall

Thursday 7th September

We did our usual session in the gym starting just after 7.00 and after clearing up to make sure that burglars didn’t think we were untidy should they visit we were ready to leave at 11.00. We had decided to use the Fosse Way as a route to the Cotswolds because we like the idea of travelling on Roman roads. Beryl found us a perfect spot for a picnic lunch at All Oaks Woods beside the Oxford Canal near Brinklow. We ate our sandwiches watching the boats pass by and the ducks doing a relentless patrol up and down looking for people who would share their food. We didn’t.

At two in the afternoon we arrived at Chastleton House, a National Trust property we had looked forward to visiting. They restrict the number of people allowed to visit in any one day and we had tried to book by telephone but had failed. However, we only had to wait forty five minutes. The time passed very quickly in a walk around the grounds and a cup of tea in the graveyard of the church. There isn’t a shop or café at this property because the village is so small the National Trust actually do not want to encourage lots of people to visit. However, the redoubtable ladies of the church were not going to miss an opportunity to make contributions to the upkeep of the church. The house is remarkable in that it has been inhabited by the same family between when it was built in the early 1600s and when it was passed on to the National Trust. It was reminiscent of Calke Abbey and Chillingham Castle in that there were items apparently left as they were last used.

From there we went on for a walk around Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the Water. I enjoyed walking around but they are not places I would choose to stay. Lots of people and not that much to focus upon – a bit fish and chips and ice cream. After that it was on to Northleach which we think of as very different to the tourist villages and we checked into the hotel at 5.45. We were ravenously hungry and so ate as soon as possible and then went for a walk around the town.

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Friday 8th September
After breakfast and another walk around the town we set off for the West Country and made good time. We bought lunch in Tiverton and then travelled on to a place on the coast called Bucks Mills to sit and eat it. After lunch we had our first taste this holiday of the Coast Path which is what we had come to see. It was stunningly beautiful. After a walk along the cliff top we went down almost to the shore line and listened to an elderly lady saying how sad it was that hardly anybody lived there any more. She said that the houses were nearly all holiday homes that were hardly ever used. She missed the everyday noise of families.

We changed our plans for the afternoon because we had a problem with the car window again. This time we sorted it out by ourselves but it did make us cross. We missed a walk but brought forward a walk we had hoped to do the next day. We went to Boscastle, the village that suffered the flood recently and appeared on the television programme about a vicar. The place is still being rebuilt and was quite busy. It was warm and sunny whilst we were there; we parked in the village and walked to Penally Hill to look out to sea and back at the harbour. From there we decided to walk the coastal path in a northerly direction. Within five minutes we were completely on our own. This is what my view was like as we walked back:

We left Boscastle and arrived at The Cornish Arms at 5.50. A hot bath and a drink or two and off to the restaurant for a wholesome evening meal. At 8.45 I was so tired I thought I would sleep soundly from that point on. At 9.00 pm however, a guitarist started to play in the bar below our room and I thought oh goodness I will not get any sleep until the early hours of the morning. After about ten minutes I realised that he was actually a very accomplished guitarist and I sat up to listen intently. I even thought of going down to the bar to sit and listen because he was so good. At six in the morning I realised I must have fallen asleep before 9.30. Still, the point of the holiday was to walk the cliffs not to sit in stuffy, smoky bars listening to guitarists!

Saturday 9th September
By ten in the morning we had set off for Port Issac which we drove right through including the impossibly narrow streets at the bottom of the hill and parked in the car park on the beach. There were notices saying that all cars must be off the beach by 4.30 pm, an hour before the tide was due in. We didn’t even think of looking in the village but set off along the coast path in the direction of Polzeath. The weather was brilliant and the scenery looked fantastic. It was quite a hilly walk with lots of steps. At one point I was fascinated to see sand martins flying in a really distracted way trying to put off a kestrel hunting them. Thrilling stuff. We met quite a few people on this walk and one couple suggested that we turn around at this point when they heard what we were setting out to do. They thought they had covered the difficult bit but we had come from the opposite direction and knew differently. This is a photograph of the point at which we turned around and this was not the steepest part of the walk by any means.

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The next bit of the day is best left un-described. We went in search of shops to buy presents and several towns and villages later settled upon a village Spar shop for the best it could offer. After that we went to Perranporth and walked almost to St Agnes along the coast path. Again, we had the cliff tops to ourselves. This walk was no where near as hilly as the one in the morning but it was still a good stretch and a breath of air. One thing that happened on the way along the narrow path was that we met just one person with a dog. As we approached the man said to the little terrier type dog, “stand still” and that is exactly what it did until we had finished our conversation and the man told him to “walk on”. If only all dog owners had such control. This is the rather mysterious view we had just before we turned around to walk back to Perranporth.

 

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We arrived at Alan and Rita’s place at 5.30 pm where we indulged in many hours of nattering, eating and drinking. We slept very soundly in their guest room with its orthopaedic mattress.

Sunday 10th September

We had a really enjoyable morning looking around Lanhydrock, a National Trust place I had not even heard of. It was then back to Alan and Rita’s for lunch and then Alan, Beryl and I walked the cliffs from Holywell Bay towards Crantock and back. We went specifically to a point where Alan knows the seals bathe. We saw one for a few seconds when we arrived but no more after that. After returning from our walk we changed and set off for a restaurant in Truro where Alan and Rita had booked a table.

The restaurant served Asian Fusion food and was called Chantek. Chantek means beautiful in Bahasa Malaysia, and pouring or serving in Thai. The restaurant is the outcome of a unique heritage: the owner grew up in Asia and her father, a Cornishman, worked in Asia all his life. Our table was right near the open hatch to the kitchen and we were provided with a pyrotechnic display all evening. The food was superb and the place was very busy. We took our time and really enjoyed the atmosphere even if Beryl, who was sitting nearest to the flames, was rather hot and the exclamations of Ooh and Ahh interrupted our conversation. It was a really enjoyable night out and a very good ‘restaurant experience’.

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Monday 11th September

As we left Holywell for Mevagissy we had a further problem with the window in the car. I am not going to say “Why can’t they just have handles like they used to?” Another bad language vocabulary test! Still, after several attempts to close it we were able to proceed. We stopped in St Austell for necessary reasons but can’t think why anyone would stop there for anything else. Towns in Cornwall are not really the sort of places we enjoy.

We sat in the large car park of the Lost Gardens of Heligan and ate our lunch. A swirling mist had settled on the place by the time we started our visit proper. This added a sense of mystery rather than detracting from the experience. I read Tim Smitt’s books about The Eden Project and the Lost Gardens last year and thoroughly enjoyed them and so I knew what to expect. The walled garden and the melon area were just as I expected. From there we went to the Lost Valley and on to the Jungle Garden.

After the visit to Heligan we returned to Perranporth where we wrote post cards and went for a walk before returning to Alan and Rita’s for dinner and our final night’s stay with them.

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The next morning we sat and discussed Edward Thomas’ poem ‘Adlestrop’ having downloaded it from the internet the evening before. This is it:


Yes, I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop-only the name.

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still or lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Why? Well, it had appeared on syllabuses many times and so we had discussed it often with students and the village of Adlestrop is next to Chastleton where we were booked in to look around the house again the following day. Re reading the poem made us decide we would definitely visit the village.

But our menu for the day consisted of walking along the coast path in the opposite way to the way we had travelled a couple of days ago hoping to join up the views so that we had covered a whole section. After saying our goodbyes we drove to Porteath and parked the car in a National trust car park. We walked in the direction of Polzeath and stopped for lunch on Rumps point. There were lots of people about and the weather was scorching hot. In the distance we could see a film crew with lots of equipment and big lights shining but we didn’t bother to ask other walkers what was going on.

At 3.00 pm we set off for Easton and arrived at a comfortable B&B just before 5.00. After a shower and a quick look at the TV news we drove to Chagford where we had a choice of four places to eat. We were well pleased with the meal we selected. Mine had nine different perfectly cooked vegetables with it. We spent the rest of the evening reading. In my case I was reading the guide book to Chastleton House.

Wednesday 13th September

We changed our plans for this day. We were going to walk on Dartmoor which is why I chose the B&B I did. But, having walked the coast path so much we decided that we would travel north to the Devon coast and walk a little more of the coast path. So, after a B&B breakfast we set of for Lynmouth where we parked the car in the harbour car park at 12.20 and set off in the direction of Lynton. We walked up the track beside the water powered lift and along the narrow cliff path to the valley of the Rocks. This is what the path looked like from my point of view.
 

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You will have spotted by now that for much of this holiday Beryl was walking in front. We had a chat with some chaps from Scotland about using maps which we normally do and I love reading OS maps, they are like historical travel novels to me. But, with the coast path so well marked one of the liberating things was to just walk it without thinking about turning off or looking for way markers. So, as Beryl was in gazelle mode she led the way.

We went from here up into the hills to sit and eat lunch in a quiet car park and then set off for Northleach to stay in the same hotel we stayed in on the way down. We arrived there at 5.50pm after picking up necessary supplies. One of the reasons we stay there is the food is so good and we had an excellent evening meal.

Thursday 14th September

In the morning we went to the famous butchers in Northleach and picked up lots of various sausages and some meat. It was absolutely throwing it down with rain although little did we know at the time that the weather was much worse in Derby. After our short tour around the town we drove to the Cotswold Water Park in the teeming rain where we sat and had an excellent coffee in the Gateway Centre. I enjoyed watching the birds in the rain. By the time the coffee was finished the rain had stopped and we popped next door to the Cotswold Outdoor shop to buy a few small items. From there we set off for Adlestrop where we had a quick look around the idyllic village and then on to Chastleton. Why would we want to visit twice in the space of seven days? Well, we like the place and felt that we would benefit from more time there and I didn’t take a camera the first time. This is what the front of the house looks like.

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It was another lunch in the car park day and then on to another National Trust property not far away called Snowshill. Again it was a case of a timed ticket but by the time we had walked to the door it was the time to enter. However, by the time we had looked at two rooms we gave each other the look that said, “Let’s get out of here.” We did not like it at all; crowded, fussy, cramped, dark, and full of stuff that mostly we were not interested in. We talked to a guide who went on about how wonderful the man who collected all the stuff was and we stood there thinking he had a problem of some sort. We left as soon as the queue would allow. We might go back to take a more considered view but having read the guide book by now I doubt it. That is the first time we have ever thought that we would not visit somewhere of obvious historical value. Oh well, life is full of choices.

We chose to return to Derby via the Fosse Way which was fine but it led us to Hinkley which is not fine by anybody’s imagination. Most of our journey time was spent in a traffic jam around this wretched little town. Its claim to fame is that it is in the middle of nowhere that leads to somewhere and so lots of haulage type operators start or go through there. Ghastly!

We arrived home a little before 8.00pm and did not see the storm damage in the area until the next morning. Derby had suffered a tornado that day and we did not notice until we went to the gym in the morning. On the subject of going to the gym, I think that is where I started this letter just over a week ago.

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