Mevagissey

The BBC said no rain but overcast.

I’d decided that if I woke up early enough, I’d go for a walk this morning. I did, so I did. I left Castle and walked down to the viaduct at the bottom of Milltown. From here it is a lovely little track (muddy in parts) to Lostwithiel. It only took me 40 minutes to walk the entire way! The countryside was beautiful and empty…apart from a few sheep in the distance and three railway guys working on repairing a railway retaining wall.

The Rover Fowey at Lostwithiel, Cornwall

I had thought I’d pop into St Bartholomew’s in Lostwithiel but found that it is only open from 11am! I wasn’t hanging around that long so headed back. A lovely short walk.

Back at the apartment we eventually set off for Fowey to catch the ferry to Mevagissey. Of course we arrived ages early so we sat at the main quay and watched people while we had a coffee.

Lots of dogs, lots of people with sticks, frames and other walking aids, lots of kids who I’m assuming, have been taken out of school for their own holidays. A few odd people. The usual waterside characters – a loud woman with a purple streak in her hair drumming up business for a tour of the river by standing outside her little booth and yelling, the guy who will sketch your portrait in 15 minutes who has a board advertising his skill where ALL the faces look the same…the usual sort of thing.

At the quay it is possible to hire self drive motor boats. The guy that runs this business has a dog. When he hires out a boat, he takes out the customer (presumably to give them a quick lesson) and gets a lift to an empty boat for him to return to his seat by the booth of the purple haired woman. Nothing remarkable here you may think. But the dog goes with him. It’s quite something to watch a dog that doesn’t appear particularly agile, leaping courageously from one boat to another, eagerly barking commands to his master. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Maybe the dog owns the business and he really is ordering the guy around.

We wandered up the Esplanade and stood by a low wall and enjoyed the view across the mouth of the River Fowey towards Polruan. Sitting old and folly-like is the Blockhouse (in the picture below, right hand side), mirrored on the Fowey side. It was build sometime around 1380 and had a big chain that could be stretched across the water to the opposite shore. This was to stop the Spanish attacking the harbour. They swapped the chain for a submarine net during WWII.

Polruan and the blockade, Fowey, Cornwall

The time ticked round and we ended up boarding the small Fowey-Mevagissey ferry. The trip is about 35 minutes and feels like you’re on the open sea! Actually, you sort of are. There was a stiff old breeze hitting us to port and the deck hand (John) had to put down the plastic sheeting else we all get soaked. A jolly good bouncy trip it was.

Mevagissey is a fishing port with a lovely harbour. It is described as ‘captivating’ in the King’s England I have (printed in 1937). It was certainly pretty around the harbour with the colourful fishing boats and squawking of seagulls. The tourists milling around the benches outside the pub are nice too. But you only have to get one street away from the waterfront and anything captivating takes a swift holiday to Sweden.

There was a time when this place was a thriving pilchard-rich harbour. To the point where they had a power station, fuelled with pilchard oil, providing electricity to the town. And we mustn’t forget that the guy who founded Pears Soap was born there and the Wurzels wrote a song called Mevagissey.

Signs (and a fake seagull) in the council estate at Mevagissey

It may once have been mighty but now it is awash with dusty bygones and smog smeared walls. Very narrow streets, crammed with an endless queue of cars. An old woman directing cars to reverse and manoeuvre in order to avoid serious denting (“I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” She proudly proclaimed). A hideous council development that reminded us both of a Russian gulag, complete with signs declaring everything you couldn’t do in the open space and the inclusion of a very odd fake seagull. A ghastly place. You have to cross this horrid, dried up little set of houses in order to see the model train exhibition. We didn’t bother.

We didn’t manage to find the church or a school or a supermarket or…actually the place reeked of being very poor. It was interesting putting it up against Fowey which seems a lot wealthier. And prettier.

Mirinda tries to match her hat to a house...and succeeds

Anyway, we went to the pub and had delicious fish and chips and lots of lovely peas, thankfully not mushy. Actually, it’s remarkable how many opportunities to purchase fish and chips there are in Mevagissey. We ate, we wandered, we returned to the lighthouse and waited for the ferry to take us back to Fowey.

Lighthouse at Mevagissey harbour entrance, Cornwall

The return journey was a lot smoother and drier – no plastic sheeting this trip! The ferry was pretty full as this was the final trip to Fowey for the day. Opposite us was a woman with a look of permanent surprise on her face. Rather disconcerting, I have to say. She also bore a remarkable resemblance to Harpo Marx. Without the harp.

As we arrived at the Whitehouse Quay, John, the deck hand, told us that last week they held the annual little kids swim across the river day. Apparently before the Polruan primary school kids can catch the ferry each day to attend the high school in Fowey, they have to swim the width of the river. At this point it is about half a mile wide. And they not only have to swim to Fowey, they then have to turn around and swim back. It gives the parents the peace of mind to know that their 12 year olds could swim to shore from anywhere the ferry sinks.

After stepping ashore – no sissy planks or boards for this little ferry, John just holds the ferry with one hand and the dock with the other and we all clamber off – we wandered back through Fowey and eventually back to the apartment.

I had no folk concert tonight! Sorely missed.

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