England 40 Years Ago — May 3, 1981

Sunday (April 26 in Cornwall) The wind blew and whistled around the house till we were tempted to look out and see if the Big Bad Wolf were there. Before we got out of bed we heard peltings on the windows. Yep, rain, sleet, and snow. The weather wasn’t going to deter us – we set out for Exeter and drove through the most fantastic snow storm. It’s the deepest snow we’ve seen in England – 2 or 3 inches! What a winter wonderland! We can’t believe it happened a week after Easter in the southern part of England. We trudged through the sludge to Exeter Cathedral, a lovely, airy stone building.

After a lunch of hamburgers, we drove to Torquay and rode behind a steam engine along the coast, over some hills, and into a valley with a lovely harbour. This is a resort area noted for its warm weather. We saw palm trees defiantly standing up to the cold wind.

It’s the usual thing in this area to have wrought iron gates at driveways and front gardens. We were asked to keep the ones at this house shut because cows sometimes wander by. Even in the cities, most places have these gates. Nearly all are painted pastel colours – very few black.

We had trouble with the hot water when we got back to the cottage and asked a neighbour for a ladder. He, poor fellow, had just returned from his holiday, but came over to try to help. A plumber is due early in the morning. Just our luck to have to oversee repairs on vacation! The neighbour said we came to a lovely area of the country, but picked lousy weather.

Monday April 27 You might think waiting for a plumber to finish a three hour job would ruin the day. Didn’t! We enjoyed hearing the Cornish accent. Poor man had to dismantle all the pipes to the heater to find the trouble in the bottom of the tank – a wad of fiber glass insulation.

After he left, we had a quick lunch and set off. Went to Buckland Abbey which had been given by Henry VIII to a family who later sold it to Sir Frances Drake. We saw a model of the Golden Hind and some of the banners that Drake had had – among the finest in Europe they say. We had tea in the kitchen there, our first time to have tea in a restaurant. Very nice.

Buckland Abbey

We drove around Plymouth and saw the waterfront where the Pilgrims set sail. In this area, Drake played a famous game of bowls while waiting for the Spanish Armada to come in close to shore.

So many restaurants are empty in this country, it’s no wonder the prices are so high because we pay for those empty seats. We tried a steak place in Plymouth and were pleasantly surprised by the food and service. They obviously don’t cater to children, having no special prices and no booster seats. $ sat on his car seat and had a grand time. As we were leaving, the waiter whisked $’s plastic bib away and cleaned it! That’s probably a first and last event!

Tuesday, April 28. Saw Dozmary Pool on the moor where legend says King Arthur’s sword was thrown and a ghostly arm rose up to catch it. It is a bleak, brooding place. Not far away is Jamaica Inn, the setting for the novel of that name by Daphne du Maurier.

Tintagel is the site on the coast where the remains of a castle overlook the rugged coast. It is reputedly King Arthur’s stronghold, but the buildings don’t date back quite far enough. It was surely impregnable, but what a wild place to live! (At right is Merlin’s Cave at Tintagel.)

Saw Cotehele House, built between 1485 and 1539. It was absolutely beautiful. The feature I particularly liked was the block installed about 1485. It has the earliest clock in England still working and in its original position! There is a big stone for a weight, but no pendulum – a funny balanced gadget swings back and forth. It doesn’t even have a face, just rings the hour.

We lunched on Cornish Pasties, a delicious hearty meal. This is the area where they originated, so had to try it. We understand most bakeries and many butcher shops sell them.

Wednesday, April 19 St. Michaels Mount was marvelous. At low tide there is a walkway to the island, but we arrived too late to walk over. Going over sand, up steps built into rocks, and down the other side brought us to a boat for the trip over. The climb up the steep, steep hill was an effort, but worth it to see the castle. Several hundred years ago there was a monastery; later the refectory became the dining room of the family who bought it. Now the present Lord St. Levan lives in the Victorian part not shown. The tide had come in more while we were on the island so that we rode back in the boat over the walkway and to a different landing since our departure point was now under water.

St. Michaels Mount from land
From St. Michaels Mount – walkway under water

Lands End was windy, but since the sun was shining we didn’t mind. We drove through Penzance and Truro, stopped to see the Cornish steam engines that moved men and tin in the extremely deep shafts and ate at a lovely restaurant. John $ has been an angel – we didn’t get back until 9 p.m. and he hardly cried all day long. (At right is a Cornish steam engine.)

Family at Land’s End

Since we’ve been here, we have wondered why the roads seem to be sunken, yet the fields are on a level with the road. It’s like driving in a maze because you can see ahead only, the sides slope up higher than the car. Finally figured it out by seeing a new fence. Stones, slate, or shale are piled up, often with a herring bone design near the top, and sod put on top. A slightly older fence had sod on top and vegetation growing out. The older the fence, the more vegetation until years later there is only a grassy mound with flowers!

New fence
Medium-aged fence
Old fence

Thursday, April 30 We walked on the moor today to see an ancient ring of stones built about the time Stonehenge was. The wind blew continually, the rain spit, and we could identify with characters in old novels who seem often to battle adverse weather on the moor. Eerie!

Stone Hurlers, Bodwin Moor

The next ancient monument was right beside a cottage. There were some huge stones balanced together that is thought to be a burial chamber which was then covered with earth.

This area is famous for china clay and pottery, so we visited a local pottery. The showroom was rough, but we enjoyed seeing the various things they make.

Spent half the afternoon at a train park riding behind the little live steam engines. The layout was huge and had won some prizes in competition.

The latter part of the day we roamed about a huge mansion, Victorian in style, though parts are 17th century. I was amused at a saucer bath the last lord preferred until his death in 1930. Kate at first thought it was for a baby to play in. It was a low circular shallow tub with no running water or drain. In the huge bathroom was a stone hot water bottle! The man showing the room said he remembered his parents having one before rubber ones came along. The large tub was on feet and so high you’d have to use steps to get in. The rim was made of mahogany! That’s class!

Gate to Landydrock

Friday, May 1 John $ wrote his name for the first time! He did it by having his push chair spell the name in the sand on the beach.

Trerice Manor House

In the Tudor manor house we toured, a lady showed us all the secret drawers in a desk. Reminded me of Woodside in NC. The barn has been converted into a restaurant with lots of home made goodies.

Besides tin mining, this area has many china clay works. We found an outdoor museum that showed the old method of separating the china clay from sand and dirt. Did you know that this powder is used in making paper and medicines? Of course, china and pottery also use it. We were mesmerized by two working water wheels and a paddle wheel. One of the water wheels was 90- years old and still working beautifully.

We ate a marvelous dinner in a lovely little place over looking the harbour in Fowey (pronounced Foy). The streets are the most narrow I have ever seen — winding and steep. During the tourist laden summer, the town is closed to vehicular traffic. The streets are a few inches wider than our car; pedestrians flatten themselves to the sides of buildings at the sound of a car.

Saturday we all pitched in to pack and clean the house. Drove across Exmoor which has some very different vegetation from Bodwin Moor. We squeezed in one more touristy thing by going through Arlington Court, the ancestral home of the Chichesters. Then we settled back for the long drive home, accomplished easily. John $ has been so good – unbelievable to those who have traveled with him when he was otherwise. And so home where the dirt hasn’t moved in our absence. Do you know how to tell someone to go across the street? It’s “go over the way.”

Sunday — Found out our doctor friends, Penny and Andy had an 8 pound 13 ounce boy while we were away. They have two girls and lost a boy a year ago. Tuesday the girls return to school after a month’s holiday. It’s been great fun. Town names we liked best in Cornwall: Harrowbarrow and Catchall.

11 thoughts on “England 40 Years Ago — May 3, 1981

  1. It looked like a very busy holiday, full of interesting and different places. I liked the fences history, and all the various landscape architecture!


  2. We spent a week in Cornwall and Devon when our daughter was 8 years old. We loved it and saw many of the same sights as you did. We stayed in a cottage in Torquay and ate at a place called Faulty Towers. So funny. My daughter would only order french fries as she was afraid she would get something she didn’t like. Such great memories, as you do as well.


  3. You saw a lot of sights and had a lot of family photos in this post. The trains appealed to John I’ll bet – like the train club trains now. Too bad $ was too young to remember all the sights you saw while living and travelling over there.

    Liked by 1 person

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