From part 5 …
13 July 2008: Still in Tintagel, and Boscastle
First thing in the morning, we drove from Tintagel to Rocky Valley (by coincidence I live in Rock Valley at home) to see the two famous labyrinth petroglyphs. We followed a footpath alongside a picturesque rushing stream complete with gambolling grey squirrel, past an old mill now converted to private quarters, down to the old mill ruins, and there they are. The valley leads down to the wild Cornish coastline. Each petroglyph is about the size of my spread hand.
Speaking of wildlife, I was surprised by the lack of it. We saw live hares, three roadkill badgers, one live fox, a few LBJs (“little brown jobs”, small tweety hard-to-see birds) in the hedgerows and a few butterflies, numerous Atlantic gulls (acting like our seagulls), pigeons and sparrows, but that was about it. I later learned that the birds in the UK tend to hide out when they’re moulting, so for instance August (high summer) is very quiet for bird-life if the moult is in full swing.
Then on to Boscastle, yet another pleasant little Cornish fishing village with (again) lots of tourist shops. The village had suffered a major flood when water from a cloudburst funnelled down the stream in the middle of the village …
… filling the village with water over the tops of cars. No one was killed, but the clean-up operation continues.
Several of our group were keen to see the Museum of Witchcraft. Naturally I ignored Alistair Crowley’s chalice, Gerald Gardiner’s sword and the Inquisition’s instruments of torture, and went straight for the archaeology – photos and statues of neolithic-age figures and Cernunnos, a Celtic god.
Cornwall is famous for its dairy products, and the ice-creams here were exceptionally creamy and delicious. I also had the renowned Cornish clotted cream, scones and jam at our next destination, St Nectan’s Glen Hermitage and waterfall. Yum!
We followed a beautiful wooded stream up to the house of the property owners, who had a pretty shrine in their basement, then down to the bottom of the waterfall, whose waters were raging – a fantastic atmosphere and lots of clooties and offerings by visiting folk.
Back in Tintagel that evening, Christine and I went to a pub for dinner, and waited ages for the meals. When the waitress finally delivered them she apologised and said the reason was that the chef was drunk! Still, it gave us a chance to chat with the local customers, who were always friendly and almost always had relatives somewhere in Australia. I tasted honey mead in this pub, a very thick liqueur, two English pounds for a tiny glass (14 per cent alcohol, so you wouldn’t want much). Tasty, but not to be drunk too often. The next day we walked past the pub, and there was a sign on the door advertising the chef’s position – hmmm! We had to chuckle.
In the morning, I visited the Old Post Office, a 600-year-old traditional Cornish longhouse set out with furniture from the appropriate period. The UK National Trust does a good job of looking after such properties.
On the way with Christine to the Tintagel Parish Church I spotted an almost-hidden little chapel and we ducked in for a look. It is very charming, with its tiny windows, little statue of Mary and Jesus, votives burning and Bible already open. Someone takes care of this place. I lit a candle as that is the custom in such places. The parish church (St Materiana’s, built between 1080 and 1150,) was shrouded in one of those thick Cornish morning mists, which made it all the more atmospheric.
I’m not a religious person, but I do like religious architecture and statues, of any religion. They remind me of the diverse history and creativity of the human race.
You can poke around in such an old church for hours and discover historic treasures that seem to be taken for granted.
In the afternoon we drove to the very impressive Eden Project, which I’ve already written about here.
In the next (and last) post in this series, we search for pirates in Penzance.