A Secret Place

Exploring England #13

Many attractions in Cornwall, like the Eden Project and Land’s End, are well-known and easy to locate. Carn Euny Ancient Village is different. We only learned of its existence from a map of English Heritage sites. It’s free to visit; the only cost is the effort required to find this hidden gem. With no local knowledge, we relied on our GPS to show us the way.

After negotiating narrow Cornish lanes lined by tall hedgerows, the road ended abruptly at a small car park. A dilapidated sign was the only indication we were heading in the right direction. It was as if we were searching for a secret place, known by just a few.

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We set off on foot on a wide track lined by green fields, where the local inhabitants watched in silence as we walked past. On the opposite side, the hedges were laden with fruit and tiny flowers.

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Even though we saw a couple of homes tucked away behind high hedges, barking dogs were the only signs of life. The mystery deepened when the track ended, replaced by a narrow path leading down into a shaded wood.

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We passed the remains of a old chapel and a sacred well dedicated to St Euny, almost hidden by a jumble of fallen stones.

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We knew we must be close and, as suddenly as we had entered the wood, we were out in the open again. Before us was the ancient village of Carn Euny. The area was occupied from as early as 800 BC until around 400 AD, and the stone foundations visible today date from the 2nd century AD. An information board showed us how the settlement may have looked around 300 AD.

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The structures were stone courtyard houses, built in a style unique to Cornwall. As we explored the site, we found the entrance to an underground passage.

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The passage, known as a fogou, is one of just a few found only in this part of Cornwall. The purpose of the fogou and the large underground chamber to which it leads is unknown, although archaeologists think they may have been used for storage or religious ceremonies.

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Standing inside the fogou, the sense of mystery enveloped us and we wondered about the people who once lived here. Even with our GPS and mobile phones we felt alone in this place. Would they have felt as isolated 1700 years ago as we did in the 21st century?

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The Gardens of Eden

Exploring England #12

Everything about the Eden Project in north west Cornwall is large, including the statistics.

Every year 850,000 people visit the 13 hectare sustainable gardens. More than two million plants grow in the outdoor gardens and bubble-like biomes, which now fill what was once a disused clay china pit.

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It’s typically warm and humid in the 16,000m²  Rainforest Biome. Lush, tropical plants overflow into every space. Slender palm trees almost touch the roof, 50 metres above the floor, and beautiful flowers bloom in profusion. Delicately formed or bright and brash, they all compete for attention.

A walkway leads from the forest floor high into the canopy and then to a lookout suspended from the roof. When the temperature and humidity rise, the lookout is closed for safety reasons.

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Covering an area of 6,540m² and rising to 30 metres, the Mediterranean Biome is smaller but the garden is just as spectacular. It seems appropriate that red, orange and yellow are the dominant colours, from the potted pelargoniums at the entrance to the large variety of exotic tomato plants in the edible garden.

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More than 3,000 plants from the temperate zones of the world fill the 8 hectares of outdoor gardens surrounding the biomes. Many are native to the region and encourage local fauna to make their home in the open sunlit spaces.

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Twenty large artworks reflecting the Eden Project’s philosophy of community and sustainability are placed across the site. Driftwood horses greet visitors at the entrance to the gardens. A biodiversity chandelier decorates the roof of the Rainforest Biome. In the Outdoor Garden, a giant bee is a reminder of the importance of pollinators.

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If you’re one of the 850,000 visitors to the Eden Project, be prepared. Whether you spend a couple of hours or stay the whole day, you’ll see and learn plenty. Just don’t try counting anything!

Someone I Know

Exploring England #11

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband is passionate about beer. He brews his own at home and enjoys sampling local beers when we travel. It’s easy to imagine how excited he was when he discovered there are 1,424 breweries in England. In a country of 130,395 km² that’s one brewery for every 91 km². He was a happy traveller!

He enjoyed visiting quaint local pubs, tasting new beers and posting his photos and reviews on Facebook.

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Often, he chose a beer purely for its name.

We wondered if the brewers had a particular person in mind when they came up with these humorous labels.

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Names

In case you’re wondering, here are my husband’s thoughts on these three beers.

Coniston Brewing Co. Old Man Ale – 4.8% Ruby red ale with a mild hop taste. Smooth drinking. Just the drink for the old men out there prior to their afternoon nap

York Brewery Guzzler – very nice, tasty and light. A refreshing easy-to-drink brew

Skinner’s Ginger Tosser – Just couldn’t go past the label. It reminds me of someone I know. You can taste the ginger mid-palate and honey on the back of the tongue. Ginger aftertaste. 3.8% lowest brew yet.

In Search of the Past

Exploring England #10

Like many Australians who can trace their ancestry back to the towns and villages of England, a friend  of mine has researched her family history. On her mother’s side, her knowledge of the Thomas family goes back to 1572 and centres around the Cornish village of Breage and the Parish Church of St Breaca. On our way to Land’s End, we passed through Breage and, knowing my friend may never visit there herself, we stopped at the church to look for evidence of her ancestors.

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In the dull light of a foggy morning there was an air of mystery in the churchyard. Old headstones, some tilting haphazardly, were half hidden by the long, thick grass.

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The stone bell tower, complete with four carved pinnacles, loomed over us. We knew from my friend that the pinnacle on the back right, destroyed by a lightning strike in the late 1700s, was repaired by Richard Thomas 100 years later.

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Inside, the layout of the church hasn’t changed much in 500 years. The side walls are decorated with rare medieval paintings of local saints. Armed with my friend’s copy of the church’s booklet, we were able to find the pew where another ancestor, Mary Thomas, sat each Sunday.

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Back outside, we made an exciting discovery. Tucked away in a corner of the churchyard was the grave of William Thomas, who died in 1881. Could he have been my friend’s 3 x great uncle? She’ll need to do some more research!

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The End

Exploring England #9

On the southern coast of Cornwall there are two unique geographical markers. Land’s End, a barren rocky headland, is the most south-westerly point of mainland Great Britain while Lizard Point with its sheer, stony cliffs is the most southerly. The scenery at each location is wild and rugged; the surging ocean crashes onto rocks below the lookouts.

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Like so many travellers through the centuries, we wanted to visit these special locations. Both have a colourful history of shipwrecks and lighthouses and both have cafés in remarkable positions, but that’s where the similarities end.

Land’s End, once part of the land gifted to Robert, Count of Mortain by William the Conqueror in 1066, is now owned by Heritage Attractions.

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Along with beautiful views of the Cornish coast, there are several buildings dating from the 19th century to admire. The First and Last Cafe has been serving hungry travellers since 1854. Penwith House, established in 186o as a Temperance Hotel, sits alongside its counterpart, the Land’s End Hotel. The famous Land’s End sign, erected in 1957 and photographed countless times since, stands on the path to the headland.

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Modern additions to the site include a family theme park with several attractions: an interactive quest led by King Arthur’s Merlin, a 4D cinema experience featuring a mythical land of dinosaurs and Greeb Farm, complete with cute baby animals.

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For us, the highlight is the Shaun the Sheep Experience. We’re fans of Shaun and his fun loving flock, and it’s a thrill to visit Mossy Bottom Farm. In the Aardman exhibition, we learn about the skills and craftsmanship that go into the creation of the much loved show.

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Lizard Point, managed by the National Trust, couldn’t be more different. There is a choice of walking tracks, with or without steps, although both follow the edge of the cliff around to the point.

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Seals and sea gulls compete for attention in the waters below.

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A tiny shop sells quirky beach themed gifts and a National Trust office has maps and brochures about the local flora and fauna.

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A passionate staff member is ready and willing to chat with us and answers all our questions. Below the cliff on Polpeor Cove is the 1914 lifeboat station. It was abandoned in 1961 in favour of a new station in a more protected location further along the coast.

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Perched on the edge of the point overlooking the cove is Polpeor Café, where the menu includes traditional Cornish food served on an outdoor deck. With the sparkling Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, we order a Cornish Cream Tea – fluffy scones, homemade jam and rich clotted cream with a never ending supply of hot tea.

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We enjoyed visiting both Land’s End and Lizard Point, but Lizard was our favourite – it was the scones that made the difference!

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Blooming Truro

Exploring England #8

Garden Photography: Urban Spaces

In the warmth of a September evening, Truro is bright with natural colour. Beautiful hanging baskets greet visitors to Truro Cathedral.

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Window boxes overflowing with greenery and planters filled with late summer blooms decorate the streets.

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Begonias, all velvety yellows, oranges and reds, are complemented by delicate purple salvia.

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These vibrant flowers fill me with anticipation for my own Southern Hemisphere summer!

Enjoy more blooming urban spaces with Jude.

Falmouth – Near and Far

Exploring England #7

Even with our GPS, it wasn’t easy to find our Airbnb home in Falmouth. The narrow road, winding and lined on both sides with parked cars, climbed a seemingly endless hill. Eventually we found the correct address, and then we had to go even higher – our flat was on the fourth floor.

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We were beginning to wonder if it would be worth all the effort, until we walked into the living room. Perched high above Frobisher Terrace the flat, with its two large picture windows, overlooked the waters of Carrick Roads and the village of Flushing on the other side. We had the best view in town!

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Every day it was different. Early in the morning, the glow of the rising sun made a pathway between the tiny boats anchored offshore. One day, ocean mist shrouded everything in a veil of white. At night, the reflected lights of the port glistened on the water.

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Our location wasn’t just amazing because of the view. A ten minute walk down Beacon Street took us to the oldest part of town, where the street names and shop façades gave us clues to their history.

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At each bend in the road the street name changed. High Street became Market Street and then Church Street. On the corner here, the Church of King Charles the Martyr pays homage to Falmouth’s history as a Royalist town during the English Civil War.

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Narrow alleys between the shops, unchanged over the centuries, led down to the piers and the harbour.

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At the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, we explored a Viking boat-building yard, listened to the stories of passengers aboard the packet ships of the 19th century and raced in a purpose built dinghy in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

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Leaving the boats of the Maritime Museum, we continued along Bar Terrace past prettily coloured homes, all with that same wonderful view of the ocean.

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An uphill walk along Castle Drive and Castle Close led to King Henry VIII’s fortress, Pendennis Castle. Along with St Mawes Castle across the estuary, Pendennis was one of a line of coastal fortresses and remained in use from Tudor times to the end of the second World War.

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Like Henry’s soldiers who kept watch on the castle walls, we had 360° views. We saw Falmouth and its beautiful waterways from yet another perspective. We could even make out, far in the distance, our own private vantage point at the top of Frobisher Street.

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