Posts Tagged ‘Cornwall’

Having a joke!

October 22, 2014

That’s not me having a joke. Actually, it isn’t anybody in human form. It’s that scavenger par excellence, the herring gull. His location, though, is a joke – Porth Joke or Polly Joke, near Newquay in Cornwall.

A group of humans had left their possessions on the beach and wandered off. We all do these things, particularly at places like Porth Joke which is a bit off the main tourist trail because it doesn’t have a car park, a café, an ice cream van, a shop selling buckets and spades or (perhaps more seriously) a loo.

In those circumstances we tend to feel we can trust our fellow men and women to leave our stuff alone. But when this group, who had left their goods unattended, came back, they’d have found they had been rifled by the opportunist thief.


Aha – a crisp packet.


It might contain food!

Toss it in the air and see if it bursts!


That’s not much good. Better try elsewhere.


I do hope that when the owners returned they realised it was not humans who had been through their luggage.

That was back in July, but more recently (September) we found another herring gull trying his (or her) luck at Rye Harbour.


This one is only a youngster. It needs to learn that a brochure isn’t much good as a source of food. But these birds certainly aren’t bird brained. It’ll learn.



Bad news and good from bad

October 1, 2014

Paul Piper

My wife’s grandfather died before she and I were ‘an item’. I never knew him. When he died, granny felt unable to live alone and she spent time with each of her three children. Much of her stuff, including family photos vanished. They had been put in a shed and got damp and mouldy. A whole raft of potential heritage was lost.

Much later, a nephew of grandfather died and then his widow developed dementia and had to be homed. To make it simple, I’ll just say their only daughter was not able to be interested in past family. A stock of photos came to us as family historians. We felt very lucky that, for us, out of bad news good came for us.

There were problems. The photos were inadequately captioned and we had difficulty identifying all people, but a surviving uncle was able to help.

Another problem was that some of the photos had been mistreated by having sellotape used to mount them.

Let’s look at this one.


This beautiful studio portrait, by a St Austell (Cornwall) photographer has had sellotape put over its corners. Now fortunately, none of the sellotape went over the actual image and it was a fairly simple job to digitally remove the diagonals in the corners.


This beautiful little lad is the nephew of grandfather, who owned the photos. His name was Paul Piper and he was, indeed, born and raised in St Austell. Paul was born in 1920 so we guess this photo was taken in 1921.

Paul qualified as a pharmacist and when I knew him, in the 1960s, he was manager of a branch of Boots the Chemist on The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. He died in 1995.

I knew him as a lovely, friendly and cheerful man – quiet and caring. I always enjoyed going to see him.

And my message here is don’t despair if photos get lost. There just may be another source. If you are a blog or web site writer you can always publish what you know and hope for more. My advice is to give first and seek afterwards. This blog, and an earlier web site I wrote, have produced some marvellous results and I hope others have benefited from information I have put out there.

And I don’t really expect anything about Paul Piper (his full name was actually Richard Paul Piper).  He really had very few close relatives. We (my wife) will be amongst the closest.

Laid up ships

August 14, 2014

The Fal estuary and the Carrick Roads (same place really) have long been a dump for unwanted shipping.

An experience of mine, from nearly forty years ago, was of hiring a teeny motor boat and taking it up the Fal, past huge oil tankers which had been anchored up in this pretty safe haven. That was the time of the oil crisis, when the oil producing countries woke up to the fact that they could get much higher prices for their black gold. And as a result we used much less and some supertankers had less work to do.

On a recent trip to Cornwall we got a sneak view of a couple of current marine victims of a slump in trade. We were visiting National Trust Trelissick and these two characters could be spotted just up the Fal.


I described this estuary as a pretty safe haven and we can also see it is a pretty and a safe haven. The still waters of the Fal might be subject to the ebb and flow of the tides, but they are wonderfully away from the wild, open sea.

I don’t claim much expertise at boats (now there’s a description that would have annoyed my uncle). He’d have insisted that these are ships. He’d have said that boats are small emergency vessels carried by ships. So, without much expertise I needed a name and of course, zooming in let me read the name on the nearer ship.


It’s the Summer Bay. Now we can turn to the web and find out more.

First of all, the sister ship is Summer Flower and they are refrigerated container ships.

They are big. Summer Bay is 169 metres long by 24 metres wide. It was built in Japan in 1985 so I suppose she’s getting on a bit in ship terms. Specifically, a problem with the banana harvest in the Ivory Coast may have reduced the work available for this type of ship.

But maybe they’ll be back in service next year.


August 12, 2014

Fording the stream

Folks who read this blog regularly will know I like bridges. But when you come across a ford, unexpectedly, they can be lovely too. And that happened recently in Cornwall.

We had set off from the Blue Hills and decided to go through a community called Blowinghouse because it was a lovely name which must have something to do with local industry.

And as we rounded a corner, on a downhill stretch we found we were driving through a ford. We could see that the water was not deep so we encountered no problems.


The ford was unexpected but so was a substantial lorry on this tiny lane.


My wife posed on the footbridge alongside the roadway.


Then, to keep the nerd happy, we moved on a couple of hundred yards and passed under a bridge which had carried the railway line from St Agnes to Perranporth.


What a good duo of items!


Black and Red moths

August 8, 2014

Butterflies are often rated as much prettier than moths. In part this will be a question of habit for most butterflies are creatures of the daylight and sunshine whereas moths tend to be creatures of the night. But a couple of species of moth, both black and red in colour, seem happy with the daylight.

And here’s a pair on Cubert Common which is quite near Newquay in Cornwall.


This pair have chosen a lovely scabious bloom for their nuptial bed. I think these are six spot burnet moths.

The pair are very different colours. I imagine the darker one is male and the more orange coloured one is female.

Now at the time I thought these were cinnabar moths – which are also red and black in the flying form. Nearby there was quite a lot of ragwort which is the vital food stuff for cinnabar moth caterpillars. The caterpillars are not black and red. Instead they have tiger stripes.


The ragwort has been hit for six by the caterpillars.

What delightful looking creatures and they, too, turn into lovely red and black day flying moths.

Places where family have lived.

August 5, 2014

I was fascinated by a comment from Current Descendant on a recent post about Great Granny’s house. Seemingly the terraced house, with just a narrow pavement (or sidewalk) between the house and the road, looks quite alien to the lady with Kalamazoo, Michigan connections. I guess land, and maybe cash, were more plentiful in the States.

But if one such street surprises, I thought we could see more of the ancestors homes from times past – whilst saying I have never lived in a house without a bit of front garden.


My wife’s grandmother was born in the cottage with the ‘for sale’ sign up. That was back in 1888. This is Bassett Street in Redruth and looks up to the chimney at Pednandrea which was, originally, much taller. This family got wealthier and were able to move to a bigger and classier house on Clinton Road.

Grandfather (who married the grandmother of Bassett Street) lived in a slightly classier house with a little bit of front garden in Claremont Road in Redruth.


Both these houses gave a view to a hill called Carn Brea. That was the name the couple chose for their own house which was in Cheshire.

By contrast, another part of the Cheshire family had this very nice farm house called Cowbrook Farm in Gawsworth.


This was in the family for several generations but great great granny Maria Mottershead lived there in 1861 with parents and siblings.

Now this was the home of my great great grandfather in Tonbridge in Kent


In 1881 John Ware lived there with his wife and seven children. It must have been cramped. This one is on Rose Street in Tonbridge, Kent.

Well, it’s a bit of a mixture, which probably makes us much like anybody else.

A happy nerd in Cornwall

July 31, 2014

St Agnes Railway Station

On our stay in Cornwall, earlier this month I failed to take a correct turn at one point and a bit later on we stopped in a layby to look at our map (no satnav for us. Satnav is great for getting to destinations but doesn’t point out the chance finds on the way there.) The map lost my interest for I was clearly face to face with a railway station of yore. Do you know, I hadn’t really taken in that an old railway line passed quite near own campsite in the Blue Hills although I had already noted the odd parapet of a railway bridge. The station we found appeared to be nowhere in particular but by pure chance we had found the station called St Agnes. Research proved that this was a late arrival on the railway map, opening as a line from roughly Truro to Newquay in 1905. The line passed within a mile or so of St Agnes – but too far away to be useful really and also had a station on the edge of Perranporth. The line closed in 1963. I don’t suppose it had ever been busy or made money, but then it was built to make sure a rival railway company had no excuse to build a line to Newquay – a town still served by a branch line from Par.

We returned to St Agnes Station to allow a nerd to be very happy.


The old GWR station building is in red brick under the roof with the hip end. I imagine the frontage – in station style is a recent addition. Apparently there was an abortive attempt to make some of this line a heritage railway. But whoever owns it now seems to be an enthusiast so maybe the Virol ads came quite recently. The platform and running lines were on the right side, between the building and the tree-topped bank.


More Virol ads on a lovely little building. I can close my eyes and imagine the 08.15 from Perranporth (summer Saturdays only) coming to rest at the platform and then continuing its journey to Truro, Par and London Paddington where it arrived at five to four in the afternoon. Somewhere en route it would have passed the 08.25 from Paddington making the return journey.

Inside the station there’s evidence of railway enthusiasm. There are station style lamps.


I’ll apologise for the Betty Boop poster!

There are relics and photos too.


There’s an LNER truck plate (I bet nothing like it ever reached St Agnes) and a photo of the station.

I have looked to the Cornwall Railway Society website at  for other photos.


This was the station forecourt in 1963 – the year of closure.


And here passengers board at the platform.

The big surprise for us was the presence of a diesel shunting loco on a raised plinth in the yard.


I think this is a Devonport shunter – certainly never a main line loco.

I was delighted to find this old station and the evidence of railway enthusiasm there. I know it wouldn’t be every holiday maker’s idea of a place to visit but it helped me to understand the area I was in.



Cape Cornwall

July 27, 2014

Here’s another post from our visit to Cornwall. This time it is Cape Cornwall.

There are only two places called Cape in the UK. The other is Cape Wrath in North West Scotland.

Cape Cornwall is but a few miles from Lands End and we have to admit that Lands End is a few hundred yards further west. But Lands End has been turned into a bit of a theme park. I prefer the quiet, non-commercial Cape Cornwall although I have been to Lands End a couple of times.


There is Lands End, as seen from Cape Cornwall.


A pretty bay just north of the Cape.


A nineteenth century mine chimney stands atop the cape. When the mine closed it was decided the chimney was a useful navigation aid for shipping and it was maintained. The area is now held by the National Trust.


There are natural rock gardens on top of Cape Cornwall.

But I, lover of bricks that I am, thought the top of the chimney, with the wonderful blue sky, was just beautiful.


There is much to enjoy at Cape Cornwall and you won’t be too troubled by the madding crowd. And if you happen to be a member of the National Trust then you can park for free.





Great Granny’s early home

July 25, 2014

Great Granny Hall was born in St Just. Her father was a tin miner out in these far west parts of Cornwall and he chanced to be in St Just, with his wife, in 1848 when Great Granny was born. Her name then was Grace Williams.

We are always cautious when talking about the homes of miners. It would be easy to say they were still in St Just in 1851 but that would imply we knew they’d been there in the intervening three years since Grace was born. We’d better just say that they were in St Just at the time of the 1851 census.

The family lived on Chapel Street and it is the first house listed. So we reckon it was this one.


That’s the somewhat yellow looking dwelling between the white car and the white van.

There is clearly a chapel at the end of the street. What isn’t clear is that immediately to the left of what we think was where Grace lived there is another former chapel.

Let’s look up the street the other way.


The other chapel is the tall building just to the right of the red Landrover.

It’s hard, now, to imagine streets like this with the sound of miners’ boots walking along and no doubt with the chatter of children. But these cottages were the homes of miners and that was what most of the working men did back in 1851.

More Cornish Wildlife

July 23, 2014

Yes, we recently spent some time in Cornwall and we have already seen the fabulous silver studded blue butterflies on this site.

We camped between St Agnes and Perranporth. It was very close to the wild and rugged cliffs of the North Cornwall coast. This is an area of much variety. The underlying rock changes from place to place and with it the plants that grow and the animals that live there. But added to this there are the old spoil tips of the mining industry. Mostly these have reverted to nature but the change in minerals and soil adds even more variety to plant and animal life.

On an area actually at the perimeter of the little Perranporth air field we spotted this moth having already watched the sun go down over the sea.


This was quite a large and hairy moth and I had no idea what it was. Moths are singularly hard to identify because of the sheer number of them. Eventually I decided it might be a canary shouldered thorn but I was by no means 100% certain so I buzzed off an email, with photo, to the Cornwall Moth Group.

The reply was near instant.

Thank you for the picture and info.
I don’t think it’s a Canary-shouldered Thorn, as all the Thorns (including Canary-shouldered) have scalloped edges to the wings and they don’t have those furry legs.
I believe it’s a freshly-emerged female Drinker Moth (possibly still drying its wings which would explain the “butterfly” position).

So three cheers for the Cornwall Moth Group who have identified this moth for me. It’s a drinker moth – it’s female and has probably only just emerged.

I find it really worthwhile asking people on the web. The world is a wonderfully helpful place. This Cornish Moth Group asked for specific information which I supplied and I sent the picture as well.

Obviously by suggesting what it may be, albeit wrongly, I gave an indication that I had tried to identify it. I really do think you should try to identify a species first.

Hopefully, that’s one more moth I’ll identify myself if ever I see one again.