The cows are coming back!

The rain finally arrived, though only in drips and irregular ones at that. Still, it was enough to put an end to my morning constitutional of breakfast and coffee on the lawn, watching the birds wake.

We left the cottage around 11:30 for Calstock. The next ferry was to leave at 12. And what a cute little ferry it was, complete with old salty ferryman.

Ferry to Cotehele

We were his only passengers – the ferry only holds 12 anyway – and the trip down the river to Cotehele Quay was very beautiful. The Tamar meanders and flows between steep cliffs and soft green fields and it all seems too perfect to be true. It actually felt like we’d fallen into a Constable.

The quay has been there a long time. In ‘ancient times’ (whenever they were) it served as a terminus for a ferry boat. The quay was also much admired by visitors and boasts having played host to both George III in 1789 and Queen Victoria in 1846. Following in these illustrious (if somewhat small) footsteps, we visited the small museum which tells the story (again) of the heyday of water transportation, ruined by the arrival of the trains. The Quay is thought to have been originally there for Cotehele House up until the 19th century with the local boom in mining. There is a massive lime kiln behind the museum which is gradually becoming a large stone greenhouse, inhabited by ferns and vines.

The ferryman had told us that Cotehele House was not open on Fridays – it’s just a shame that today is the first run of the ferry and it only GOES to Cotehele. Excellent timing, I have to say. Still, it wasn’t raining too hard so we decided to wander round the National Trust grounds. First off this meant walking to the mill.

Secluded in a forest glade, you suddenly come across a little group of buildings. The mill itself is a restored, and now working, watermill which grinds flour – you can buy it when it’s open – and the out buildings now house agricultural tools. Corn was ground there originally. Although a mill has existed at Cotehele since the 16th century, this one dates back to the 18th.

The rain started again as we made our way back to the Quay so, after a glimpse of the restored barge the Shamrock, we took shelter in the Edgcumbe Arms for morning tea at lunch. We would have had something more substantial than tea and cake but they don’t serve food on Fridays. A great pity as they do trenchers! This was originally a lime burner’s cottage but became a pub in 1840. It is now run as a restaurant (except on Fridays) by the National Trust. Being an old house means it has lots of cute little rooms – it’s all very cosy.

After a while the rain let up so we set off up the very steep road to Cotehele House. The road was also very long. I can still hear the complaints. Mirinda thought we were climbing for nothing until she discovered that the house isn’t open but the fantastic garden is!

Mirinda in Cotehele garden sniffing flowers

The house itself was built between 1485 and 1539 and it and the land was connected with the Edgcumbe family from 1353 until 1947 when it went to the National Trust in the usual avoidance of death duties. The garden is planted up a valley which leads down to the Tamar River. There are fantastic views to the Calstock viaduct. There’s a dovecot that is supposed to be of Norman style but which resembled a giant beehive rather than the columbiers we saw last month.

It was a lovely flower-filled, bee-buzzing walk down through the valley to the Calstock path. I left Mirinda at the lookout and popped back along the path to see the little chapel on the cliff edge. The legend goes that Sir Richard Edgcumbe was running from the Duke of Richmond (Sir Henry Trenowth of Bodrugan – which I only mention because it sounds so good) when he found himself trapped at the end of the cliff. Quick as a flash, he took off his cap and, with a stone inside, threw it to the water below. He then hid. Seeing the cap, the Duke assumed Sir Richard, realising he was trapped, had committed suicide rather than be taken prisoner, and called off the search. Edgcumbe escaped and 7 years later built the little Chapel in the Wood to thank God for saving his life. The chapel is dedicated to St George and Thomas a’Becket. This all happened from 1483-90.

The chapel is a lovely little place of peace, the inside painted simply white, with one tiny leaded window looking out over the river. Above the door a plaque declares the place dedicated to St George & Thomas a’Becket. I’m so glad I went back to look at it.

Chapel in the woods

I caught back up to Mirinda and we continued our walk back to Calstock via the forest path. The first bit was amazingly steep and almost put us off but it soon dropped down and flattened out to a more comfortable level. As you pass beneath the viaduct a large chapel (now a church hall) has a massive plate glass window overlooking the river and opposite bank. It’s actually the entire wall!

We had a beer/cider at the Tamar Inn then drove back to Tavistock for groceries for our last meal.

There was an odd cow display across the valley. First there was an empty field then suddenly it was full of cows but only half of it, as if an invisible fence existed, cutting it in half. Then four lots of four cows walked up along the hedge, all happy and contented, to join the others. A little later I realised the field was completely empty; not a cow in sight. And then, about half an hour later Mirinda yells from the kitchen “The cows are coming back!” And sure enough, a long line of them was moving slowly along the hedge row, in single file, up to the top field. They appeared to be coming from a milking shed. All a bit odd. The first groups of 4 cows could be easily explained as a gradual milking of the herd but the second lot? And how does the farmer keep them in only one side of the field? Maybe he has an electrical fence like we have for the puppies. All a bit peculiar – or maybe we were just going mad with all the peace and tranquillity.

It was the final Friends episode tonight so no guesses what we watched on the tv.

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