Cornwall’s forgotten corner | Daily News

Cornwall’s forgotten corner

Juliet Coombe discovers the magic of two time locked English villages as the snow melts and the stormy weather moves on

The shrill wind wrapped around my head, swirling like a whirling dervish grabbing everything it touched with its icy fingers, including the twin villages of Kingsand and Cawsand’s colourful fishing trawlers that could easily be mistaken for 18th century wreckers’ boats. Bobbing furiously around in the forbidding sea, merciless and menacing as it built up and crashed its way to the shoreline and waves hit the tips of the clock tower clock hands. I felt, as the snow fell across the time-locked forgotten villages that use to straddle the divide between Cornwall and Devon until the Tamar became the dividing line, as if, like the settling snow turning it into a frozen wasteland, time had really stopped. It was a bit like I had stepped out of Turner’s infamous Wreckers painting into a 19th century world, where people still matter and going out for dinner at one of the three local pubs - Cross Keys Inn, the Devonport Inn and the Halfway house Inn - would not leave you bankrupt for the rest of the year. Here, in this historic drinking hole, where pirates and smugglers plotted many a subterfuge, the conversations around the open fire are friendly and never dull. For those with a love of fish pie the Halfway House Inn makes a cracking dish and in the summer the beer garden really comes into his own.

The little known villages, situated on the Rame Peninsula in the parish of Maker-with-Rame, are known historically for their maze of smugglers’ tunnels and mysterious yearly traditions that no one can quite explain. Cawsand overlooks Plymouth Sound and Cawsand folk are proud of the fact that they saw off a serious Spanish attack in 1596 by the local militia. Defenses were built soon after to protect it from further sea invasions. Strangely, some places do feel more like forgotten bits of a Spanish walled city than a Cornish coastal town.

Remnants of fort battlements can be seen against crumbling historic sea walls and there’s even a World War 2 Pill Box for guarding against enemy attacks, which have become features of this quirky place that was used to make the feature film on Turner, the artist and many of the locals will tell you stories about which bit part they played in it. Today, while the sun is out, they act as a perfect spot to take out your own easel to paint the exciting and dramatic weather conditions of the seas that on the most stormy of days can make the village almost vanish under thirty-foot waves and yet, when the sun sets in summer, reminds you of the South of France as the sky turns every color of a painter’s palette. It is the extremes of this “forgotten corner” and the incredible raw natural beauty that captivate all who make the long and winding journey to discover it. It is exciting even when it is cut off by the ‘Beast of the East’ March snow storm that has ground England to a halt this year, and make it, even when cut off from the outside world, such an attractive place for the true adventurer. It is a place isolated due to its geography, as it is bounded by the English Channel, Plymouth Sound, the River Tamar and the River Lynher, which mean you have to double back on yourself if you want to see a place where even the sea surf turned to ice sculptures for a couple of days.

Steeped in history, the many military fortifications, fascinating archaeological finds, and houses with thick walls, each with a different heritage story to tell, are made from Cornish rocks once traded with the Roman Empire and stones from the area that are thickly plastered over, with only wood burners to keep them warm. Every house seems different with a vast range of quirks, crags, twists, steps, curves and narrow passages winding their way past many once windowless houses that in the past did not want to be discovered – unless, of course, you wanted to have your husband and son stolen by the Navy for active service against the Spanish or whoever else was favourite enemy of the month.

For children, this is paradise, as you can walk to the beach in a few minutes and explore the many rock pools or build sand castles from the pebble and sandy causeways. Then, buy a hot chocolate or an ice cream before exploring the narrow lanes leading to charming shops including a gallery exhibiting local artists and artisans, quirky cafés, eccentric souvenir shops and, after a hearty lunch, you can enjoy one of the great scenic walks along the stunning 800 acre Mount Edgecombe Country Park, with its restored mansion and Grade 1 listed gardens and the rugged Rame Head Peninsula and the Signal Point, which is no longer operational and has been turned into posh housing. These are amongst the most spectacular and peaceful walks in Britain and go on for as far as the eye can see.

Ever changing dramatic scenery makes even a bad weather day fun and for those who love this quaint 19th century lifestyle there is always a ferry service from Cawsand beach to Plymouth Hoe, where you can escape for the day to enjoy traditional British fish and chips and climb up Smeaton’s Tower, open to the public all year round and offering a wonderful vantage point from its old lantern room.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and only a time locked treasure to revive the child in all of us. Whether it’s finding your ancestors in the graveyard of the thousand year old Norman Church on the hill above the two villages or looking for a Turner spot to capture the magical light that covers the city with golden flecks of light at dawn as the sun comes up over the ocean in time for the tolling of the church bells and the sound of the crashing waves. This is a forgotten corner where life is simple, the community matters and nature still rules the waves and luckily smugglers are no longer allowed to wave the rules.


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