The blog’s been pretty quiet the last two months, huh. Well, don’t fret it isn’t that I haven’t been out there traveling at my usual rate (though my travels have been within the UK). But, up until last week I was in a part-time long-term subbing position for English & Study Skills, which involved both lesson planning and grading. So while I was only at school every other day; my other days involved reading ahead and lesson planning. I really enjoyed the experience of being back with students on a regular basis and experiencing lessons outside of Social Studies.
As my subbing position wrapped up, Hubs and I planned a camping trip to Cornwall. We had really great weather in September, and as October began we figured this could be our last opportunity to use our tent before next spring. Cornwall is the south-west peninsula of England sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean. And we stayed pretty far down the peninsula. It is a good eight hours from North Yorkshire where we live, more if you run into travel difficulties (traffic, weather, etc.). Historically, tin mining was an important part of Cornwall’s economy. There are spots where you can look along the coast and see it dotted with chimney stacks from old mines. Today tourism makes up a large part of Cornwall’s economy.
Sleeping & Eating:
Now, I grew up car camping with my family. It is a really affordable way to travel, but as it was suppose to be a vacation for my Mom as well, she insisted we stay at campsites with hot water, flush toilets, and ate in restaurants. My husband didn’t camp much as a kid; but as an adult he has done a little backpacking (carrying all your own supplies and plumbing). So needless to say our experiences of camping are very different. Fortunately for me, wild camping in England isn’t easy. Nowhere is really that remote, and local laws don’t just let you camp where you get tired. So you need to stay in campgrounds, with plumbing! Unfortunately, campgrounds in England are often just a big open field (often in someone back yard) without much privacy and filled with RVs; instead of the wooden campgrounds I’m used to in the States.
But with some online searching I came across Treen Farm Campsite, which catered more for tents and had hedges to offering some privacy. Reviews of the campsite online where generally very positive, but did point out that they didn’t take reservations. Normally not booking where I’m going to sleep ahead of time, would cause me to worry about getting a spot; but since it was October I wasn’t too worried (but I did call ahead to ask how busy they had been recently). The campsite is along a public footpath and only a few hundred yards from the coastal cliffs. It is feasible to walk from the campsite to the Telegraph Museum and Minack Theatre, and even on to Land’s End if you are feeling ambitious.
We cooked dinner on our portable grill, picking up groceries each evening on our way back to campsite. Most campsites have freezers, but only allow guests to refreeze cooler packs, not store food. Can’t blame them, I can only imagine how much food would be left behind by visitors that didn’t end up using it all. For lunch we generally stopped at a pub local to our activities for the day. One place that does bear mention is the Mount’s Bay Pasty Co in Penzance, which made excellent traditional pasties, we even took one to go and had it for breakfast the next morning.
What We Did:
Tingtagel Castle While we were still driving into Cornwall we stopped in the village of Tintagel to visit the castle ruins. The castle remains were built in the 13th century by Richard, the Earl of Cornwall. However, the site’s real fame began in the 12th century when the Historia Regum Britanniae wrote it as the birth place of King Arthur. And while that story is completely erroneous the site has been a tourist destination since the 19th century. The ruins are located on a split outcrop of cliffs into the ocean. To access to the site from the village involves about a half mile walk down from the village. You can pay for a Land Rover to drive you down to the visitors center (I think it was about £5), but I don’t think it is worth it, because once you walk down to the visitor center, you just have to walk up a fairly rocky cliff path. It isn’t a strenuous, or long, hike; but I would classify it as a hike. If you have a small child, I recommend putting him or her in a backpack. On our visit it was raining and I found many of the paths throughout the castle grounds slippery (I wished I had worn my hiking shoes). The rain meant that we didn’t stay long, but the castle’s position along the water is quite impressive and I can see in spending quite a bit of time at the castle in good weather.
Porthcurno Telegraph Museum The first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable was laid out of Porthcurno, and the site was once the largest telegraph station in the world. Today Porthcurno is also where four high-speed fibre optic cables come into Great Britain. The museum at Porthcurno has a good display of tele-communications equipment, along with preserved tunnels from WWII, when the telegraph operations were moved underground for protection. Whatever you do DON’T call them bunkers, we were very seriously corrected that they are TUNNELS! However, I am ‘sometimes’ an insufferable know-it-all and I looked up the definition of bunker; and as and underground fortification for protection from bombs, I think the tunnels qualify.
Land’s End Land’s End is the most westerly point in England, with its famous signpost; more famously replicated in the TV series M.A.S.H. The actual site of Land’s End is a little kitschy. It is a little bit like an amusement park with out the rides (I know, sounds lame). There is an ‘Arthur’s Adventure,’ 4D movie, and a petting zoo. All of which you need to by tickets to as well as pay for parking. Even the signpost costs money! There is a gaurd rail around sign to keep you from getting too close without paying. And I could see how in busy times it would be hard to get a picture of you and the sign with out strangers in it. If you do pay for your picture, they will put the city and distance of your choosing up for the picture. But all I wanted to do was hike along the cliffs, so all we paid for was parking. The really frugal option would be park on the street in Sennen Cove and hike into Land’s End. We had absolutely gorgeous weather that day, and our hike along the cliffs was absolutely spectacular. It was my favorite part of the trip. Plus we met Land’s End cat! We assume that it was a cat from Greeb Farm, that liked to follow visitors around. It started to follow us, and would even respond to being called when it fell behind us.
Tin Mines We ended up visiting two tin mines on our trip. Originally, we only planned to visit Geevor Tin Mine, which allows you to see portions of an underground mine. But as we drove to Geevor, we saw a sign for the Levant Mine. And since it was part of the National Trust (and we’re members) we decided to stop there first.
The Levant Mine is a 19th century tin mine, with most of its buildings in ruins, but it does have a functional steam engine that was used to draw water out of mines, since they went below sea level. It is Cornwall’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. The Levant Mine is more notoriously known for it’s ‘man engine;’ a rudimentary type of elevator, used to lower men into the mines, by getting on and off platforms. In 1919 a rod in the engine snapped, killing 31 of the more than 100 miners on the engine at the time.
Geevor Tin Mine is a 20th century tin mine that closed permanent in 1990, when the undersea line shafts were flooded. Because we had visited Levant we received a 20% coupon on Geevor admission – and Geevor does the same for Levant entry. As a modern mine the surface buildings and still intact (though some of the equipment was sold off when the mine was closed) and have been converted to a museum about geology and the mining industry. Contrasted with Levant, I learned a much more about the details of mining at Geevor. For about £2 more you admission ticket will cover a tour of an old mine shaft, but one from the 17th century and not the ones mined by Geevor.
Cheddar Gorge On our drive back to North Yorkshire we stopped in the village of Cheddar, where the now famous cheese making process began. Our parking ticket in town also covered the spots within the gorge as you drive up, if you want to stop for pictures or walking. Within the gorge are caves of stalactites & stalagmites that you can pay to visit; we didn’t as we both had been to Luray Caverns in Virginia (me with fond memories, and Hubs with bored memories). Our original plan was to walk along the top of the gorge on a trail maintained by the National Trust and free to non-members as well. However, it was raining once we finished lunch, so we settled for a drive through and continued homeward. But not before stopping at The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, with the only ‘cheddar made in cheddar.’ I had hoped to pick up a ‘Cheddar is Gorges’ t-shirt but there were none to be had in the souvenir shops. I’m thinking of writing to the Chamber of Commerce about the money making opportunity they are missing out on.
Overall, our trip to Cornwall was a very relaxing one. But I do think camping was the right choice. The Cornwall landscape is absolutely spectacular and the activities there are ‘outdoorsy,’ and camping takes advantage of all of those.