In Daphne’s Corner of Cornwall

OS Map

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.

 

Daphne Du Maurier Centre

The Literary Centre in Fowey in 2008

unnamed

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!”.

Tywardreath

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

Bumblebee Farm, alias The House on the Strand …

Priory Lane

… 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.

Bumblebee

The House on the Strand from the Village Road

Then at the Festival I heard talk that Port Eliot House itself had been Daphne’s inspiration for Manderley the house featured in her most famous book : Rebecca.

Port Eliot front

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]

Port Eliot - rear view

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.

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Strolling Hand in Hand with Romance

Perhaps I should mention first of all that the romance is all Daphne Du Maurier’s.

Walk details

I snipped this walk out of The Observer (I think it was) decades ago and at last I have had the chance to actually step it out for myself! I stayed at a B&B for five nights in Cornwall in the village of Tywardreath (pronounced “towerdreth”). Almost all my daytime hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent at Port Eliot Festival but on Thursday I was not required until the afternoon so decided to do the walk that morning.

I took the bus to Fowey and arrived back at Par Station to take the train to St Germans, which is where Port Eliot House and the festival are located, at about 1pm. Unfortunately the day started with rain but I was glad I’d set out and the weather improved as the day progressed.  I’ve added my photos to some of Christopher Somerville’s text and instructions.

Bodinnick car ferry

Bodinnick Car Ferry leaving Bodinnick for Fowey

Prinsendam

MS Prinsendam Cruise Liner in the Fowey Estuary

From car park (I took the bus from Par Station) descend steps into town. Bear left along Fore Streetand on to Bodinnick ferry. Cross to Bodinnick;

Old Ferry Inn

The Old Ferry Inn Sign near the Ferry

go up the street past St John’s Chapel.

St John's Chapel

St John’s Church, Bodinnick

The little stone chapel stood back modestly from the village street, its dark interior cool as an icebox. The building had been a stable until  its conversion in 1948. In the chapel’s early days, its furnishings were primitive – worshippers were obliged to carry their own chairs down the lane to evensong.

Hall Walk

Go right above Old School House (sign “Hall Walk – Polruan 4 miles”); follow Hall Walk above Pont Pill [the muddy creek curls down between wooded hill slopes to join the River Fowey … Hall Walk follows the northern rim of the creek a couple of 100 feet above the water] for one mile.

Glimpse Fowey

A Glimpse of Fowey from Hall Walk

Boats bobbing

Boats Bobbing in the Fowey Estuary

With the rain coming down luckily most of Hall Walk was covered over by trees with occasional glimpses of the creek below and now and again a viewpoint opened up to reveal the boats bobbing in Fowey harbour and estuary.

Q memorial

Cornwall’s grand monument to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a tall granite monolith, faced another stunning view of Fowey, where the great Cornish-born man of letters lived for more than 50 years. Back in 1900, “Q” – as he was known – had edited his classic edition of the Oxford Book of English Verse. … “Courteous in manner,” the monument’s inscription eulogised, “charitable in judgment, chivalrous in action, he manifested in life as in literature the dignity of manhood, the sanctity of home and the sovereignty of God.”

Cornish stone stile

Cornish Stone Stile

When nearly opposite church tower, cross stile; follow wood edge for 150 yards; right across Cornish stone stile; down through woods following “Polruan” signs and over Pont Pill.

Pont Pill

Pont Pill with National Trust Holiday Cottages clustered around

Pass Pont Creek Farmhouse; up the path through trees to road. Left for 10 yards; right through gate (sign “Footpath to church”) to St Willow’s church.

Lanteglos church

St Willows Church Lanteglos

Here, after a boat ride up the creek, Daphne Du Maurier was married under the simple and beautiful wagon roof and the wide granite arches in 1932. St Willows also features as Lanoc Church in her first novel “The Loving Spirit”.

Barrel roof

The Wagon Roof, St Willows Church, Lanteglos-by-Fowey

Pew End

Close-up of Pew Ends

Left opposite Churchtown Farm to road. Right for 150 yards [now a field path that avoids walking on the road]; left (fingerpost “To the Coast Path” to cliffs. Right on coast path for one-and-a-half miles to road in Polruan. 

Looking back

Looking back to the church, Hall Walk woods and Fowey

To Coast Path

The coast path walk is part of the national trail – The Southwest Coast Path. The rain had stopped by this point but the skies were still overcast.

Beach and Lantic Bay

Lantic Bay from the Coast Path

From SW Coast path

View from Coast Path near Polruan

Left down School Lane; right at bottom to road; left to Fowey Ferry. Cross to Fowey; climb to the Esplanade; turn right into town. I then had a stiff walk uphill to the bus stop with only seconds to spare. Luckily for me the bus was a few minutes late arriving but I still managed the train with time to spare.

Polruan Passenger Ferry

The Polruan Foot Passenger Ferry Approaches

OS Map

Map Showing Places Mentioned

Lanhydrock House, Cornwall

Yesterday I took the train from Totnes, in Devon, to Bodmin, in Cornwall, from where, I had discovered recently, it is possible to walk along the carriage drive for a mile and three quarters to Lanhydrock House“The finest house in Cornwall”.  The weather stayed dry but the clocks were put back an hour on Saturday night so the days are now shorter.

When you alight from the train at Bodmin Station it is a bit like stepping back in time. There’s a hustle and bustle as people are met and packed into waiting cars and there’s a delightful station buffet … in the former signal box. Then the London train pulls out of the station on its way to Penzance, the cars roar away and all is still and quiet and you can hear the birds sing. But maybe it was just the whistle of a steam train whose line shares the station that took me back to earlier days.

At the end of the car park there’s a red gate. Go through it and you are already on the Lanhydrock House Carriage Drive.  At first you walk through woodland alongside the River Fowey. After about a mile there’s a lodge house and car park. Cross the road and head uphill to another lodge, go through another gate and at the brow of the hill you can see the seventeenth century Gatehouse and Lanhydrock looms into view.

A bit of investigation before setting out lead me to discover in my Blue Guide to Literary Britain by Ian Ousby that Thomas Hardy based his description of Endelstow House, the home of the Luxellians in A Pair of Blue Eyes, on Lanhydrock House, moving it to St Juliot near Boscastle for the story.

“For by this time they had reached the precincts of Endelstow House. Driving through an ancient gate-way of dun-coloured stone, spanned by the high-shouldered Tudor arch, they found themselves in a spacious court, closed by a facade on each of its three sides. …  The windows on all sides were long and many-mullioned; the roof lines broken up by dormer lights of the same pattern. The apex stones of these dormers, together with those of the gables, were surmounted by grotesque figures in rampant, passant, and couchant variety. Tall octagonal and twisted chimneys thrust themselves high up into the sky, surpassed in height, however, by some poplars and sycamores at the back, which showed their gently rocking summits over ridge and parapet. In the corners of the court polygonal bays, whose surfaces were entirely occupied by buttresses and windows, broke into the squareness of the enclosure; and a far-projecting oriel, springing from a fantastic series of mouldings, overhung the archway of the chief entrance to the house.” 

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy (Ch.5)

The house today is not the original seventeenth century edifice but a late Victorian reconstruction following a disastrous fire which destroyed most of the earlier building in 1881. It was taken over by the National Trust in 1953. After refreshments and a browse in the second-hand bookshop I toured the fifty rooms in the house open to the public. These rooms included many below stairs: kitchen, scullery, bakehouse, dry larder, fish larder, meat larder, dairy – all very Downton Abbey. Most interesting to me amongst the family’s rooms were a Family Museum, Captain Tommy’s dressing and bed rooms, the drawing room and the Long Gallery.

The obligatory visit to the shop revealed that the popular author E. V. Thompson based many of his novels on Lanhydrock.

By 3.30pm the mist was beginning to thicken so I made my way back to the Carriage Drive and enjoyed the reverse walk back to the station for my 4.25pm train back to Totnes. The cafe was closed, the steam engine was being shunted away and we stood in the gloomy, misty, light rain waiting for our Paddington-bound train.