Thursday 20 July 2023
Friday 14 July 2023
Tim Hannigan is a travel writer known for covering far flung destinations such as Indonesia. This time though he's looking at somewhere much closer to home - to his native Cornwall.
Starting at the Tamar, the traditional boundary separating Cornwall from the rest of England, his journey zig zags from coast to coast heading towards the furthest point of Land's End. It's a journey that could be made in under two hours by car (according to Google Maps, and making allowances for holiday traffic) but this is a slower winding way, mainly on foot, taking the reader up and over empty, boggy moorland and the spoil tips of China clay works, down to tourist-packed hotspots and quiet seaside villages, from places which sound quintessentially English to those with a definite flavour of Brittany in their names.
Along the way, the author discusses the geology of the area, its history, tries to pin down what exactly makes Cornwall different to the rest of the country, and what it means to be Cornish, while putting paid to a lot of the myths about King Arthur, wreckers, and smugglers.
Hannigan's own personal history weaves around that of the inhabitants of, and visitors to, this remote-seeming peninsula - of the Neolithic builders of burial cairns, Phoenician tin traders, the early 'tourists' venturing into a barren, desolate area, or, more recently, artists in search of its beauty, and holiday-makers searching for sun and surf.
For many of us Cornwall is the place of summer holidays, with Betjeman's 'Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea', or the setting for the novels of Daphne du Maurier and Winston Graham with rain-lashed moorlands and brooding heroes.The scenery is either balmy and idyllic, or dramatic and wild. It's not the post-industrial landscape of China clay workings and ruined engine houses left from tin mining. It's not the centre of sea trade with European neighbours, or the countryside that thousands left as work there dried up. But this is an insider's view, a behind-the-scenes-look at a place we think we know. Part travelogue, part history, I found this a fascinating read. Apart from a small area around Polzeath, I haven't visited Cornwall as an adult, and now I realise how little I know about the rest of the county. Time, I think, for me to plan a visit. Meanwhile, if you're heading down west this summer, have a read - it may open your eyes.
Wednesday 5 July 2023
When I, and perhaps many of us, think of historic or prehistoric remains what immediately jumps to mind is a castle perched on hill top, or perhaps the stone outline of a Roman fort, maybe an old earthwork where people and animals sheltered from raiders, or perhaps the strange standing stones of Stonehenge or Kilmartin Glen. But these are all static remains.