Sunday, April 27, 2014


This morning I cam across Eddie Procter's excellent essay The Last Fields in England when he reminiscences on the field across the River Wye that can be seen from Chepstow Castle, and  I was again transported back to the historical legends  that fill every footstep of this country both in time and space. Cornwall has gripped me in the same way for the time being, following the life of either the eccentric Reverend Hacker or Daniel Gumb, and the past unfolds its story.
The rumbustious nature of 'Jamaica Inn' the killing grounds of the Cornish beaches as the sailors lured in by false lights were then drowned by the smugglers, are echoed in the records of Hacker, as he accompanied the dead bodies of the sailors, carried by the village men, up the steep cliffs to Morenstowe church, fact not fiction and when I get round to reading the records online, I might even cover this more thoroughly.....

So as I consign these two books to the untidy region of my bookshelves with a certain sadness that they are finished, I pull out one of the books Procter mentioned,  'The Plot' By Madeleine Bunting, a small piece of land that her father bought deep inside the Yorkshire countryside, it had a part ruined building upon it, which her father turned into a studio for his work as a sculptor, and also the family gatherings and picnics that happened in this wild piece of nature.

So what am I about to read (when it finally arrives from Waterstones), well another tale or tales from Cornwall, this time Derek Tangye, The Minack Chronicles read many years ago from books through the library, I shall now add a paperback or two to my over full shelves..  They have been out of print for sometime, but according to the radio last week on the Tangyes' the books are now to be reissued.  A lost world is also caught up in these books, donkeys, daffodils and cats, if I remember rightly.  There was apparently somewhat of a scandal round Derek, he seems to have been accused of being a spy at one stage, whether that was because of his near neighbour John Le Carre I am not sure.

These two book shelves are my 'good' books, the shelves behind me in this room are even more untidy....

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I am still haunted by the ghost of Cornwall, when I wake up it fills my mind.  To be quite honest I do not think of the landscape as beautiful there, Bodmin Moor is bleak, but the colours are so beautiful, soft greys, beiges of the rushes and grasses, the background broken by the darker colours of the gorse, and then there is the movement of the ponies as they appear far off, and of course the sky lark's song rising to fill the sky as she defends her nest.

LS got cross with these two girls for using the two Piper Post standing stones to jump their ponies through, and glared at them in silence as they called out a a cheerful 'good morning' to which I replied, though deep in action trying to video the circle in a very wobbly manner...It does say on the English Heritage board to respect the site and not damage it but I suppose it was just too much of an experience for them.....

So what did I think of 'Jamaica Inn' on BBC1, well apart from the same problem that everyone seemed to experience, not understanding what was said half the time, a bit disappointed. The third episode retrieved the spirit of the book, which coincidentally I was reading at the time, but Emma Frost who adapted it took too much liberty with framing the story for the screen, so that it became bitty and did not flow as Du.Maurier's words flowed, the wicked vicar of Altarnun did not have a sister for one and his 'albino' appearance was somewhat muted...
I bought some plants for the 'summer' show of this garden, bright geraniums to add a splash of colour and a diascia  for its 'pinkness'.  Two tomato plants, a handful of sweet peas, to add to the cosmos I am growing at the moment, and all have been planted in their pots.  The garden is alive with sparrows, blackbirds and starlings filling the mouths of their young and the compost I dug out is filled with worms, so the hedgehog is also feeding very well. Loads of slugs lurking at the bottom of the pots, which have been despatched(alive) into the brown garden waste bin.  Snails are taken on a long walk to the front garden but I'm sure they come back, in the old garden I would put them on the bank at the farthest end, and then later on in summer hear the thrush banging their shells against a stone...

Cornwall - A Separate Place by Philip Marsden in the Saturday Guardian

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


This morning taking the bright faces of the pansies and then collaging them, my camera is still a new toy....

King Arthur's Hall 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sunday morning - Cornwall

I woke up this morning, completely convinced that I had been in Cornwall all night. Reading 'Jamaica Inn' before you go to sleep is perhaps not a good idea.  Mary our heroine in this book had just been for a long tramp over the moors following her uncle, lost herself as dusk gathered and was then taken to the home of our arch villian, the albino vicar (think he is a vicar).  Du Maurier book is reviewed in this article by Julie Myerson, and the first part will be shown tonight on the TV.
I first went to Cornwall as a child, we stayed in Polruan, with Fowey over on the other side of the harbour, my recollections were fishing in a small boat for mackerel which was then cooked that night, rowing over in this small boat (against tides if I remember rightly) to shop at Fowey.  In the evenings we went off in a somewhat larger boat with a fisherman up the tidal creek to stop at a pub and it was all very beautiful and very green, my first introduction to the beauty of nature. Childish memory is that of the car stuck on the steeply sloping bank waiting to be taken over on the car ferry, scared stiff that the brakes of the car would not hold and we would roll into the water.  The other memory is of coming over Dartmoor in that misty cold weather Du Maurier has set her novels in, and seeing the great terrible greyness of the prison at Princetown. It probably gave me nightmares as I imagined the terrible creatures that lived there.....Looking at a picture now I see that I probably exaggerated my fears somewhat!
I have just published a record of the Gumb marriages in the previous post, basically for research, as I delve deeper into the history, no record of Daniel's father at Linkinhorne, but Daniel's wife, Thomazin Roberts, who he married in 1935, must have died a few years into the marriage, (maybe from childbirth) because he later marries Florence Brockinshear in 1743. But the date of 1735 is the one carved on his cave house at the Cheesewring, perhaps the poor woman just could not stand the cold on the moor.  Note her name, Thomazin, a very Cornish name just like Demelza of the 'Poldark' series......

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter weekend

An illustration taken from the article

This morning I have been in the company of a long dead vicar of Morenstowe.  Completely eccentric but he wrote an article on Daniel Gumb.  Footprints of Former Men in Far Cornwall by R.S.Hawker; 1870

Daniel was usually seen alone with a book or a slate whereon he worked, at a very early age, the axioms of algebra or the diagrams of Euclid. He had mastered with marvellous rapidity all the books of the countryside, and he had even exhausted the instructions of the schoolmaster of the neighbouring town. Then it became his chosen delight to wander on the moors with some favourite volume in his hand, and a crust from his mother's loaf in his bag; with his inseparable tools, also, the chisel and the mallet, wherewithal to chip and gather the geological specimens of his own district. Often he would be absent whole nights, and when he was questioned as to his place of shelter, he would reply, " Where John the Baptist slept," or " At Roche, in the hermit's bed " for the ruined cell of a Christian anchorite stood, and yet stands,

R.S.Hawker, for that is his name, was an eccentric, dressing in funny colourful clothes, the only black he wore were his socks.  Dressing up as a mermaid once, and excommunicating his cat for mousing on Sunday (he had 9 cats).  His vicarage had four chimneys stacks, all made in the design of local church towers, but he wrote well, and though the introduction to his book states that he might have written in a romantic vein, given to telling tall tales and exaggerating his stories, I for one will take him at his word.
The fact of the matter is that many 19th century books have been put online, often though by such places as American, Canadian and Australian universities, and of course the Gutenberg organisation, which uploads in a funny way, and the spelling mistakes have to be corrected, but at least we can be transported back to a time when the Druids were the savages of the moors.

I found my Easter surprise of chocolates in the garden this morning that LS had thoughtfully put there, so we will share them this evening.  We will not be travelling, a photo of the M25 with cars jammed for miles, should make anyone stay at home.  This road which we have to take to Cornwall is a nightmare, we always have the choice of going North or South, there is not much difference either way to Chelmsford, but last time we (by accident) got on the old North Circular road, and went through the less salubrious outskirts of London.  We are such a crowded island down south, sometimes I think England will tip into the sea.

And to prove that the world can go at a slower pace this video of the Weaving of Fine Ramie in Korea, will soothe the soul.  This is a video by Unesco of the protection of  Intangible Cultural Heritage.

King Arthur's Hall with Tor in distance

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bits and bobs

I came across this mended bowl on F/B the other day, and so looked it up, the idea is rather good.....

As a philosophy kintsugi can been seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the the flawed or imperfect. Japanese Ă¦sthetics values marks of wear by the use of an object over time, this can be seen both as a rationale for keeping an object around even after it has broken, and as a justification of kintsugi itself, highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.  Wiki entry.

This photo is from the old house, a collection of flowers taken from the garden, with the big lamp I should have picked up but never did, a birthday present. I also collected those old brown Mason jars, storing flours in them, making elderflower 'champagne' in its season (soon to be with us), potpourri of course but the ingredients became too expensive.  Sweet williams are a favourite, they are such fussy little flowers, curled tight in their rosette of leaves, and I planted them in this garden to.  I miss the old roses their deep colours, the striped purple and white one, clear yellows and pinks, to wander round a garden when the roses bloom is to touch beauty.

These I picked the other day, Cape Daisy, the flower that opens and shuts with the day, bronze fennel, wallflowers of which there is always an abundance, and right at the back a wild form - cheiranthus a bright orange-yellow.

I have not spun for months, preferring to knit up the wool that accumulates into a blanket, but yesterday sorting through my baskets found this silk for spinning, this photo captures its lustre.  The blackbird's broken  blue egg nestles for a moment, just writing that and I notice the words nest/nestles echo each other.  The parents are both feeding busily in the garden, so if that sparrow hawk keeps away we should have more birds.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Post Cornwall

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.'

Yes I am reading Rebecca once more, having been on Daphne Du Maurier's cold bleak moors, I know exactly how the narrator feels as she comes down the staircase after the disastrous ball, and the next day is a miserable misty day and the revelation that Maxim has killed Rebecca.....
The above photo shows exactly how misty, cold and wet, not forgetting the wind that howled in your ears on the first two days of our holiday.  Actually I quite enjoyed such wild weather but was soaking wet after a short tramp over the moors but it cured a headache!
Funnily enough the ponies did not show up till the end of our stay, and then a group of them lay around the Heritage Centre car park...

Our cottage was a former small chapel, and not bad but I don't think we will be staying there again.  Getting the car out of the driveway was difficult, especially as I had to keep four small yapping dogs in as I manipulated the gates.  We had a lot of advice from locals as to where to live in Cornwall, not in Minions village - 9 months of winter, near the sea but not on the coast, and near to the A30, the only decent road out of Cornwall.  The county is enormous, think North, middle and South, so house hunting has to be constrained to an area.  This is what we did, focused on Liskeard, it has a small train station but houses surprisingly are difficult to find.  Now I can say that my favourite villages, are Herodsfoot and Linkinhorne, beautiful tranquil places but so off the beaten track down steep narrow lanes, that you can't possibly get out of in winter.  At Herodsfoot where we saw a two bedroom cottage (no good) there was a river meandering through the village, and a friendly bantam hen curious about the car and what was inside.  Another house was not even looked at because it was in Pensilva, which was a bungalow housing estate.  Now I know people live in bungalows but they are not for us, in a book I read apparently bungalows had been the rage in the 60s and 70s down here in Cornwall but the author had called it a 'bungaloid' stage and that is what it is, so plenty of bungalows for sale.

This is the Doniert's stones, one commemorates the last king of Cornwall, King Doniert and you can read the history here.  Pretty in its enclosed ground with the daffodils flopped around.

The sun shining through the window onto the two chairs captures the mood of the moment in Sue's cottage.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Things to add to Daniel Gumb

Linkinhorne church yard, here we watched a large brown owl hunt in daylight, it was after the young of the crows, which harassed it unmercifully.
 As I try to remember all the things we have seen, the one experience that comes strongly to mind is looking for Daniel Gumb, this man of the 18th century, living in a cave house under the Cheesewring with his large family. The village of Minions would not even have existed, the mining on the moors only came later in the 19th century.  He was born in a little village called Linkinhorne, or at least that was where his family came from.  When we visited cousin Sue, she remembered going to a big house where they had some papers of Gumb.  Apparently a local landowner had given him paper to write on, so when you look at the following slate gravestones, you will see a man well read in the 'Celtic' tradition.  
That he was famous there is no doubt, as his rock dwelling was almost destroyed by later quarrying, an uproar ensued from the government down, and all work was stopped in the quarry.  What we see today is only part, and is a reconstruction presumably in the 19th century, with the  stone at the side inscribed with the initials D.G. and the date 1735, which is supposed to be the date of his second marriage. The stone at the top with the mathematical equation is also badly worn.

The engraved initials

See how narrow it is with its capstone

The engraved 'Euclid' equation stone with the Cheesewring behind

The view out onto the moors
Earlier blog

St.Neot's Well

St.Neot is another little village buried in a valley next to a river, and you can see the strong attraction of these remote places to the wandering reclusive saints.  We had arrived to see the old stones in the churchyard on a beautiful sunny, warm day, and having inspected the stones, walked down to the river, along a track, and into the field where the well house nestled.  Nestled is a good word, for it lay at the foot of a rock escarpment, and on the ledge above the well house was a small rock cave, ideal for a saint!

The history of St. Neot and the village can be read here, his story or legend is that one day he found three fishes in the well but could only catch and eat one.  But once when he was ill, his servant caught two fishes for his meal, the monk then took the two fishes back to the well where they  were 'miraculously' restored. The story has a more pagan element to it, and the stones in the church yard point to an early Christian settlement at this spot by the river Loveny.

St. Keyne's Well.

St.Keynes Well;  We only saw two wells.  How many 'saint' wells does Cornwall have? too many to number, and most of these saints have perambulated down from Wales, I expect by sea in little boats. St.Keyne is also to be found in Keynsham in Somerset, here she banishes serpents, having arrived in this town from Wales.  She was a 'pious' virgin, and the daughter of King Brychan, a king who had many children. To find this well which   is not far from the stone circle of Duloe, we travelled down a little lane out of the village of St.Keyne, into one of those beautiful wooded valleys. The well is situated by the side of the road, the water trickling down the bank across the lane into the hollow created.  The entrance stones are green mossed and there were painted eggs hidden in the undergrowth for the celebration of Easter. St.Keyne in Cornwall has another legend to her name, and a wise girl should takes a bottle of the well water to drink at the church before her marriage! 
The plaque next to the well describes the spell which Saint Keyne cast upon the water of the well. The plaque reads: "The legend of Saint Keyne Well. Saint Keyne was a princess who lived about 600 AD. She laid on the waters of this well a spell thus described by Carew in 1602 AD—'The quality that man or wife whom chance or choice attains first of this sacred spring to drink thereby the mastery gains.'"
Robert Southey's poem "The Well of St Keyne" recounts this legend.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Golitha falls

Jamaica Inn
Green with moss, the old trees, mostly oak I think, trips you up over old roots as you follow the track to the falls.  You can follow the River Fowey along the road to Bolventor village which is very near Jamaica Inn, not a place I like, too over commercialised.  It is one of the roads that take you to the A30, the road in and out of Cornwall, a good place to live within 10 miles off, should the need arise to get out of Cornwall quick!

Golitha Falls video first video taken by my own fair hand, which accounts for the stop in the middle.  One thing we notice, is that Cornwall is really just starting to green up, especially the trees. But the most beautiful sight of all was the tapestry of primroses that threaded the steep 'stone' hedges in all the lanes, violets added a haze of blue in places, never have I seen so many primroses tumbling down the banks - a glorious sight.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Cornwall - land of eerie disused industrial buildings

Tomorrow the journey begins to misty Cornwall, packed and ready.  Plants in pots watered, bird table still to be filled with seed.  The blackbirds are busily feeding their young, as are the starlings, blue tits and sparrows - life is a buzz.  That is not forgetting the bumble bees that explore the wood stack and soil looking for nesting places, and buzz constantly round our ears in the cherry blossom.  Sadly blossom is over all too quick, it lies like scattered confetti on the lawn, but we have had our sake ceremony underneath it, which just means drinking and toasting the blossom.....

Hopefully it won't be like this...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Beginning of April

Audobon's Mourning Doves
@ Creative Commons

Sometimes news can be good or bad;  John Audobon killed thousands of birds to portray his exquisite book of birds, but what a legacy he left in his paintings. The 'mourning doves' reminded me of our own collared doves who also seem to mourn after the loss of their mates.....
So to the good news, from Greenpeace Huge win for whales! The International Court of Justice has just ruled no more permits for Japan's "scientific whaling. The court voted overwhelmingly that the size and scope of Japan's whaling program was not driven by scientific considerations. Therefore all permits must be cancelled and no new ones issued.
Watching the videos of the, (I think,) Australian 'Sea Shepherd' harry the Japanese whaling ships was a statement of how people feel when seeing the slaughter of these huge creatures.  Anger and contempt are always unruly emotions, but scientific investigations? who were the Japanese whalers kidding?
What else, well this morning they announced on the radio that 1.2 million elvers had been caught in Somerset to be transported up river so that they may have a chance of survival before they return to their breeding ground in the Sargasso sea. Such plenitude is not often found in the animal or fish kingdom, so there was a certain note of triumph around.  Looking this up and I cam across the news of the dredging of the River Parrett is at last underway, whether it will stop flooding next winter after heavy rains, is still to be seen.

Ivory billed wood peckers
@ Creative Commons
No April fools, though today see that it is the anniversary of my daughter's  and Darron's wedding , and he has written appropriately on Face book.  Talking to her over the weekend, and the house in Todmorden slowly goes forward, plastering has been done on two floors, the walls have been 'stitched' together (scary) but there is a house on either side holding there's up ;). A reconditioned aga, (she gets one I don't!) is to be fitted in the kitchen.