St Mawes & surrounds

The morning started with very little wind but a fair bit of rain. We stayed in the cottage until I was too bored. We decided we’d go for a drive because of the weather.

Halfway to Truro, the weather improved, the sun came out, everything was beautiful. We set off for Trelissick, a National Trust garden.

View of River Fal from Trelissick Gardens

The garden nestles above the river Fal, with great sweeping views across field and valley. The garden began around 1750 when John Lawrence laid out a small park. There was then a series of different families tending the garden: The Daniells (1805-44), the Gilberts (1844-99), the Cooksons & Cunliffes (1899-1937), the Copelands (1937-1955) and, finally, the National Trust. The gardens presently cover 30 acres and are tended by just four gardeners.

The garden is famous for its red rhododendrons which were featured on a series of Spode crockery. There are a LOT of rhododendrons! And azaleas. Apart from daffs and the occasional grape hyacinth, all the colour comes from them. At this time of the year, anyway.

There’s a fantastic cedar in the main lawn. It was brought over from Japan and planted in 1898 by Carew Gilbert. It is very big and sprawling. While we there it was home to a gaggle of children with balloon swords.

Massive Japanese cedar at Trelissick Garden

At one point, there is a ‘Celtic cross’ and local legend has it that a local priest would preach to the fisherman on the river below from this point because of the great acoustics. Unless there were about 50,000 fisherman, I somehow doubt this, as the river is quite a long way down from this point! Unless the priest was just lazy and yelled from here rather than trudge down the hill.

Having walked the entire garden we partook of cream tea in the refreshment barn. We were very fortunate in our timing. When we entered there were about two other groups at tables, as we left there was a queue. The rain could have pushed them inside.

There is a lovely display of local crafts in one of the buildings and Mirinda just had to buy a beautiful glass and enamel necklace for an undisclosed sum. Still, it does look very nice.

From Trelissick it was a short drive down to the King Harry Ferry. I have no idea if it’s from the time of King Harold (pre-1066) though why he needed a car ferry is anyone’s guess, but it was great fun. We were second in the queue which meant we were also second off at the far shore. Pity it was raining, it would have been fun to get out of the car. Still, it was fun anyway.

Next it was on to St Just in Roseland. Rose, in the name means ‘promontory rather than anything to do with roses. At the bottom of a long hill and just before the mudflats is a gorgeous little church and graveyard. It moved Mirinda to say it was one of the most beautiful places she’d ever been. It was certainly very peaceful.

St Just in Roseland

Not a lot is known about St Just. One legend has him going on a brief trip to Brittany shortly after founding the church. Upon his return he found his cell occupied by a hermit, Efflam. Rather than giving the scruffy guy the boot, St Just decided they should both sit in the window of the cell and the first one to receive the rays of the sun would stay. Not being too clever, St Just lost and had to go found another church somewhere else. Nothing else is said about Efflam but he was not sainted. I guess squatting has it’s downside.

Historians reckon there was some sort of religious edifice here before the Christian church was built firstly around 550AD. The church that is there today was consecrated in 1261 and changed over the years. The tower was built early in the 15th century.

There was an interesting family visiting while we were there. Now I’m about as far as you can get from a religious person but I do know how to behave in a church, especially if there’s anyone else there. After all, someone might be praying…or talking to some dead relative. But there was a family of mum, dad and son who seemed to think everything was funny. The son sat in a small chair, this was hilarious. They read something in the prayer book – it had them in stitches. Very odd. They just looked like normal people. Maybe they thought it was a Disney church.

Interior of St Just in Roseland

It rained while we were inside the church but then the sun came out and made everything shiny. We strolled around, admiring the graves, sniffing the wild garlic. Mirinda chose to ignore the sign on the gate and touched quite a few shrubs. I mean, how silly can you get.

As we were so close and the rain seemed to have vanished for a bit, we decided to visit Mawes Castle, the sister to yesterday’s Pendennis. It sits across the river entrance, a mile away and is supposed to be the cutest castle in the land. It’s certainly small. They tried to tell us it was painted an imposing colour originally. I’m sure they actually painted it a bright colour so they could find it.

We accepted the excellent audio guides at the desk and wandered all over the castle. We were accompanied by the master gunner who was having a particularly busy day. The report had come in about invading Spanish ships so he could only tell us so much as we wandered. Still, he was very helpful.

St Mawes Castle

As it turned out, the Spanish ship never turned up so we managed to see the whole place without being blown up.

From above, Mawes Castle looks like a clover leaf because it comprises three circular sections or bastions. The three sections, each with cannon a plenty, face seaward. As castles go, this one seems to have been a lot more comfortable than Pendennis. Maybe that’s just because it’s so cute. Also it may be because it’s set out nicely and the audio tour makes you feel like you’re really there.

Whatever it is, we wandered all over, up and down, admiring the views and the handiwork of the original builders. There are several inscriptions dotted around the castle, the work of Henry’s antiquary, John Leland. They all praise the king (obviously) in Latin. One of them says “Semper honos Henrice tuus laudesque manebunt” which translates as “Henry, thy honour and praises will remain forever.” The others are similar.

Inscription on outside of St Mawes Castle

The carvings in the walls are still very clear including Henry’s coat of arms on the outside of the central bastion. Actually the whole place looks like it was built last week rather than nearly 500 years ago.

St Mawes Castle was built by Sir Thomas Treffrey, a local landowner. Actually, he supervised the building, which isn’t quite the same thing. He’d supervised the building of a blockhouse so I guess he felt qualified.

Both castles were used up to and during WWII. However, from the mid 1880s, Falmouth Harbour had an electric minefield running across it, under the water. It was one of the first of its kind anywhere in the world. It was designed to upset torpedo boats operating at night. And it was very clever, however, I do not know if it was actually ever used.

Back to Sidney, then off down to St Mawes itself. A lovely seaside town with pastel painted houses, the waves lapping at the shingles, the over vicious signs warning against dogs. I mean, how excessive is a £1000 fine for a dog going onto the beach? We’re not talking fouling the beach, mind. No, just stepping onto it. I think any dog caught on the beach is not going to have an owner. If it was me I’d say “Not my dog, mate. Maybe you should fine the dog.”

Then there’s the set a good example sign. Apparently there’s a bye law in Cornwall that claims adults should set an example by not climbing on stone walls. Not sure how that works if the children sit on the walls completely on their own.

Sign on wall at St Mawes

Signs are all well and good (and we’ve seen a few today) but one that is badly need in the car park at St Mawes is “Remember, granny’s die in locked cars“. This can’t be stressed enough. We saw one. I was about to smash a window and let her out when she suddenly took a gasp of breath. Mirinda reckons the family left her asleep to go and explore the town, thinking she’d be safely comatose for a few hours. Maybe she’s right.

We decided lunch was in order. After all it was 4 o’clock. The pub claimed it served food all day and, surprise, surprise, it actually did! The staff were lovely, the food was lovely, the beer was lovely. A splendid time was had by all.

After lunch it was off round the town, visiting the little church up the incredibly steep hill. Well, I did, Mirinda kept to the beach side level. We spotted some lovely holiday cottages that may get our business one day. It’s certainly a lovely spot.

But all good things must come to an end so we collected the car and headed back to our lonely, cold, rocky cottage and sat through the horror that is Stealth, a film about a robot plane and how he went bad, then was fixed by the tough human, then saved everyone from certain doom. Stupid film. For some strange tax reason Richard Roxborough was in it.

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