To break my journey down to the southwest I decided to call at Hanbury Hall in Worcestershire for a few hours. I began my visit with lunch in the Servants’ Hall and spent the rest of my time in the splendid gardens.
Last year I was very happy to attend The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall as one of Lynne’s team in the Dovegreyreader tent. At the time I decided that I’d be back again this year as a visitor and see more of what was on offer. I mentioned this to three friends and we all decided to book a cottage in Cornwall for the week and spend at least one day at the Festival. Not long after, the National Trust Cottage ‘Harbour View’ at Boscastle was booked for the week 31st July to 7th August and day tickets bought for the Festival for Saturday 1st August.
Harbour View at Boscastle
The Wednesday dawned grey and misty but not deterred we met at the hotel car park and swanned off in her car to Launceston in nearby Cornwall. “We be in Cornwall now” declared Lynne in authentic Cornish accent as we crossed the Tamar bridge that separates it from Devon. During the short journey Lynne pointed out landmarks such as the church at Milton Abbot and other Endsleigh cottages lived in by Horace Adams.
Launceston : ‘a real Cornish town’ says the tourist leaflet picked up at the TIC our first stop in the town. Interestingly, and isn’t always the same when you live somewhere? Lynne had thought she had never been to the Castle; at least not in the last few decades, maybe when the children were very small.
Welcome to Launceston Castle
“The town is notable for its impressive castle built by Brian de Bretagne, the first Norman Earl of Cornwall. It has never been besieged or captured.” Well, I’m not surprised it’s a short, steep climb up the mound to the keep and the the walls are several feet thick. In fact the steps up to the battlements are built within the thickness of the walls.
The castle is now in the care of English Heritage who have created a small exhibition with displays and information boards that set the scene.
The Approach to Launceston Castle – on a dull day
As with all climbs, it was worth the effort for the views from the top. On a good day they would have been exceptional but on this day we could really only study the town in the foreground.
The View NW from the Battlements – in the foreground on the right is Castle Street. Sir John Betjeman called it “the most perfect collection of 18th century townhouses in Cornwall” the tourist leaflet declares. In the middle in the distance is the location of the Cowslip Workshops which we visited later.
Looking west from the castle to a very misty Cornwall: the Earl’s hunting park stretched towards Bodmin Moor
East of the castle is the Church of St Mary Magdalene
In fact the Church was our next port-of-call.
A striking brass with inscription commemorating an unidentified 16th century lady
A rather disturbing memorial
The Altar Triptych : The Nativity of Our Lord; The Adoration of the Magi; The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (sorry photo doesn’t do it justice)
The poet Charles Causley was born in Launceston in 1917 and spent most of his life there. I discovered the Causley Society website which includes his biography and a Causley trail around the town. He wrote a poem about St Mary Magdalene which is available on a little leaflet from the church.
Mary Magdalene Poem :
Mary, Mary Magdalene
Lying on the wall
I throw a pebble on your back
Will it lie or fall?
A relief of Mary Magdalene is to be found on the east wall of St Mary Magdalene church. It is said that a stone lodged on her back will bring good luck.
The Mary Magdalene Stained Glass Window
By this time we were ready for something to eat and Lynne drove us out of town to the Cowslip Workshops.
View of Launceston from the Cowslip Workshops
Anyone, even the least artistic person, would find something to interest here. The Workshops are based at a very working farm, there’s a café, where we had soup for lunch, sewing classes, a fabric shop which also sells pottery by Nicholas Mossse, a gallery, and a farmhouse/kitchen garden. On a good day there will also be distant views!
The Farmhouse Garden
Inside the Fabric Shop
Much as we were tempted by the cakes and pastries in the cafe we knew that very soon we would be back at Pond Cottage and tucking in to Bettys Yorkshire treats as Lynne came back with me for tea and to meet my friends. Thanks again, for showing me your local area, Lynne. What a lovely part of the country you live in!
NB This post was prepared in July during the Port Eliot Festival
St Germanus Church (the teepee is part of the festival!)
Last Sunday, the final day of the Port Eliot Festival 2014, my train was not due to arrive at St Germans until 11.29. Lynne was scheduled to speak with our first author of the day Peter Benson (“The Farm” and “The Valley”) at 11am. So when I arrived I made straight for the church. Sunday was the only day on which it was open and I joined the last 20 minutes of the local parish Service. I had read great things about this church. It achieves three stars in my Simon Jenkins “Bible” – England’s 1000 Best Churches; its description runs to 5 pages in Pevsner’s Cornwall and I read an article about just one of its monuments in Country Life earlier this year.
Peter Beacham signs his ‘other’ book “Down the Deep Lanes” in the DGR Tent
Peter Beacham, who updated the Pevsner Guide to Cornwall (published in May this year), was one of the guests in the Dovegreyreader Tent last Sunday.
But back to St Germanus itself. My heading is taken from the Country Life article which I have been unable to find a link to so will copy out here.
My picture doesn’t do justice to the monument
“Set in the base of the north-west tower of the former priory church in St Germans, Cornwall, is the large monument to the MP and landowner who died at the age of 38, in 1722. It was commissioned by his widow and is enclosed by a fine iron railing. The monument is one of the earliest English works of the brilliant Antwerp-born sculptor John Michael Rysbrack, who settled in London in 1720.
With its obelisk and animated figures, it is ultimately inspired by Roman Baroque example. It could have been designed by the architect James Gibbs, an early associate of Rysbrack in England, who trained in Rome.
The subtle lighting of the space in which the monument stands sets off its carefully arranged constituent marble – white, veined-grey and dark-grey – to superb effect. Eliot, in Roman armour, stares upwards, with a mourning figure at his feet. On the obelisk is a roundel portrait – presumably his deceased first wife – supported by cherubs.
The relative simplicity of the architectural elements focuses the visitor’s attention on the interrelationship of the different figures that is suggested by their gestures and lines of sight. Busy drapery also adds to the illusion of movement and life that Baroque artists struggled so hard to capture.”
[Text by John Goodall. Country Life 22 January 2014, p.36]
Text of the description attached to the monument
Simon Jenkins comments on the first-rate Morris & Co. Burne-Jones windows.
The East Windows
“The east window is a Burne-Jones masterpiece, a ten-light composition in his most mature style. The background is soft green-yellow, leaving figures in red and blue to glow even more vividly in half-light. Burne-Jones also designed a window in the south wall of the aisle.” Representing Joy, Justice, Faith, Hope, Charity and Praise
Window on South Wall
As Peter Beacham expresses it at the beginning of the St German’s section of Pevsner’s Cornwall “The memorably picturesque ensemble of church, house and park is of the highest architectural and historic interest“. I wonder what the Anglo-Saxon Bishops responsible for the creation of St German’s Priory would have said if they had seen last weekend’s picturesque ensemble of tents and stalls scattered over the estate.
NB This report was prepared back in July during the Port Eliot Festival
And that includes me! I spent yesterday afternoon at Port Eliot. I went straight there on the train from Par Station. Alight St Germans for Port Eliot. From the station it’s a mere few steps to
Never Never Land the Festival. For many months now I have been wondering whether I am going to “fit in” at a festival and whether I will really be any help as I neither knit nor crochet nor sew nor flower arrange. After one afternoon I still felt as if I was an observer and not a participant. Even though I had a wristband that said “Port Eliot Festival Crew”.
I think I will be quite safe from full festival conversion in the Dovegreyreader Tent. I already knew a couple of people and have now met four new ones including the very welcoming and hospitable Dave, the Dovegreyreader’s husband, who makes the tea and hands out food and generally turns his hand to anything that is required of him.
The decorations were just finished when I turned up and it was time for a cuppa and sandwich – most welcome but I felt I had done nothing to deserve them.
There’s a big programme of events (in both meanings of the word); the festival bookshop is right next door to us; there is food everywhere; there are stalls selling vintage stuff and there will be events all over the place.
“Somewhere near the heart of Port Eliot House is the Big Kitchen – just as somewhere near the heart of the festival is a passion for food. Over the weekend, local chefs and foodie legends give talks and demonstrations, celebrating all aspects of food from planting and growing to prepping and eating.”
My first taste was a delicious Gumbo from Strawbridge & Son BBQ Smokehouse which I took back with me to the B&B.
Also there are many many campers. From in front of the house you see a sea of tents of all shapes and sizes and colours … but I’m glad that’s not me. I will take the train back to my B&B each evening. Being vintage myself I am past that sort of thing!
Port Eliot Festival
It is all great fun and I couldn’t wait to get back today and to get started …
As I made my way to the station I noticed you can even stay in a vintage railway carriage at St Germans station.
After Cornwall and Port Eliot Festival I returned home briefly on 28 July, made excursions to Manchester, Jervaulx and Scarborough and on 12 August set off on a Swiss adventure with a foray into Italy only returning last Thursday 21 August.
Here are links to a couple of my posts over at Lynne’s blog Dovegreyreader
Not my post but here is my entry for the Port Eliot Flower and Fodder Show Tea Cosy Competition:
On 11 August I re-opened My Swiss Diary briefly and a further Swiss Post will follow here shortly. Meanwhile I can show you a few photos of the places visited in Italy :
The View from the house at Luino (Lake Maggiore)
The Ecological Swimming Pool
Il campanile (1585-1774) Varese
Art Nouveau in Varese
Art Nouveau Varese
Arriving in Canobbio on Lake Maggiore for the Sunday Market
On my walk ‘Strolling hand in hand with romance‘ I visited the church in which Daphne Du Maurier married Major Tommy “Boy” Browning in July, 1932. I’d visited the Daphne Du Maurier Centre in Fowey and seen one of her former homes nearby in my only previous visit to Cornwall in 2008.
The Literary Centre in Fowey in 2008
Daphne Du Maurier’s former home (1942-1943) at Readymoney Bay
But I hadn’t realised that I would come across so many other Du Maurier connections in my small corner of Cornwall and during such a short visit.
For a start when I drove into the village where I was staying I noticed that it features The House on the Strand in its sign. And when I asked my hostess about this she declared “This IS the house on the strand!”.
I decided to find out more and came across this walk and the following :
“Tywardreath means “House on the Strand”, as the village was once surrounded by tidal waters on all sides bar the east, and the ground beneath the church was a creek.
A Benedictine Priory was founded here soon after the Norman Conquest, and the possessions included the church, St Sampson’s Chapel at Golant and huge nearby estates. The monks were a corrupt, drunken and dissolute bunch as described in du Maurier’s [time travel] novel; knowing it was true adds to the fascinating reading.”
Bumblebee Farm, alias The House on the Strand …
… is on Priory Lane, Tywardreath
In fact archaeologists were visiting the site that very Saturday to ascertain exactly where the Priory stood and what remains might be found on the farm’s land.
The House on the Strand from the Village Road
Port Eliot House in Festival Spirit
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. No smoke came from the chimney, and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me.” [Opening lines to Rebecca]
Rear of Port Eliot House
Daphne Du Maurier was a prolific writer. She produced novels and volumes of short stories, five biographies and her own autobiography. The place Cornwall held in her heart and the inspiration it provided was captured in many of her books. Her special connection above all was this small estuarine area where by chance I happened to stay.