UK : Cornwall : Trengwainton Garden #1

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In the hills behind the Cornish coastal town of Penzance, in the small village of Madron, is the National Trust Property of Trengwainton Garden.   Although the manor house at the top of the garden is still a private residence, the garden is open to the public.  We walked up the long gentle slope of this rather narrow garden by a winding path through dense plantings; we returned by the main driveway bedecked with Rhododendron on one side and a small stream planted with bog plants on the other.  The moorland misty rain had returned, but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of this lovely garden.

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This garden is known for its collections of magnolias, rhododendron and camellias.

Although some had finished flowering, there were plenty left for us to enjoy.

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I love azaleas; so simple and simply beautiful, especially when jewelled with rain drops.

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Because spring had come late to Cornwall, there were still some magnolia flowers to enjoy.

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Both sides of the winding pathway are densely planted with a wide variety of plants…

plants that have their origins in many places across the globe.

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The ‘gulf stream’ climate here is perfect for the Australian native, Dicksonia.

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Many new season fronds were just beginning to uncurl.

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The unusual Fuchsia excorticata is a native plant of New Zealand.  Sometimes known in Cornwall by the common name of ‘Sunburn Tree’, the trunk of this large fuchsia is characterised by its red peeling bark.  This flower has an unusual blue pollen. The flowers are followed by dark purple, almost black berries, which some people say are delicious either raw or cooked.

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Some of the branches of the older trees have grown into strange shapes as they have sought the sun.

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Delightful rhododendron bells draw attention to themselves against swathes of dark green foliage .

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We think this plant belongs to the Malvacaea family of plants.

Does anyone know the name of this beauty?

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I’ve added two more photos of this flower in the hope that someone will identify it.

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In any case, it is a joy to behold!

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One densely planted part of the garden is backed by a large Pieris japonica.

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A closer look at the tree shows the beautiful softness of the combination of pinks and light greens.

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And a much closer look, shows the tiny bell like pink flowers of Pieris japonica.

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There are over 70 species of Hosta that can be used as dense and attractive ‘fillers’ along garden edges.

But, beware!  They are much loved as food by snails and slugs!

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On the other hand, they also act as beautiful receptacles for rain drops.

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As the spring flowers were beginning to fade in the garden,

so the summer flowering groups, like the hydrangeas, began to bloom.

It’s is certainly a garden for all seasons.

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The path crosses a small bridge where a pond is the highlight of the view.

It’s a good place to take a quiet rest

as the water bubbles out under the bridge over a small waterfall.

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The light, misty rain persisted, but only enough to give rhododendron flowers a refreshing glow.

The name comes from Ancient Greek:  rhódon meaning “rose” and déndron meaning ” tree”.

This photo gives a real hint of the reason for the ‘rose’ tag.

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Some rhododendron trees in their native habitats can grow very large indeed.

Even here, some were large enough to shelter beneath their branches.

That gave time to enjoy shapes of trunks and patterns on bark.

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Above us, hung more of those delightful Rhododendron bells.

There are over 1000 species of this plant, so gardeners are spoilt for choice.

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Finally the house came into view.  We had reached the top of the path.

This property, not open to the public, was once the residence of the powerful and very wealthy Cornish Arundell Family,  From small beginnings in the early 1200’s, when their only possession was the manor of Treloy in the parish of St Columb Major, the Arundells reached the height of their wealth and influence in the late sixteenth century when this house was built.  By then the family owned twenty-eight manors in Cornwall as well as manors and other properties in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire.

The house was altered and extented in the 18th and 19th centuries and is now a Grade II listed building.  In 1814, this estate was bought by a Jamaican sugar plantation owner, Rose Price.  However, by 1833, his fortunes were diminished when his slaves in Jamaica were freed by the Emancipation Act.  In 1867, the house was bought by the Bolitho family.  Members of that family still live here.

The gardens were given to the National Trust in 1961 and are very well cared for by that organisation.  We’ll explore a very different part of this garden in our next Cornwall episode.

Jennie  and David

Photography copyright © JT and DY  of jtdytravels

UK: Cornwall: A Moorland Museum

At every turn along the winding, narrow roads across the moors of Southern Cornwall in June, there were wildflowers in abundance.  Sometimes, they grew so prolifically that they swept along each side of the car as we passed by.

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With little traffic, we were able to stop often and enjoy their rain drenched beauty.

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The effect of raindrops on foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, is just stunning.

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Spring had come late to Cornwall, so bluebells were still in flower.  These native bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are often seen in Spring in the UK in woodlands, hedges and other shady places.  These are not the same as the blue bells grown in gardens, Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica, although those can be found in the countryside when careless people dump them.

The easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells, I’m reliably informed by the Natural History Museum in London,  is to look at the colour of the pollen.  “If it is creamy white then the bluebell is a native.  If it is any other colour, such as pale green or blue, then it is definitely not native.”

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Buttercups were everywhere bringing a touch of sunshine even on dull days.

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The most common of all roadside flowers are the fluffy white heads of cow-parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.  This member of the umbelifferous carrot family is also known as Wild Chervil, Wild Beaked Parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace.

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Our wanderings brought us back out to the coast road at the tiny village of Zennor, on the coast not far north of Levant mine.   Here we found an excellent place for lunch; a back packer’s hostel with freshly made food.  Next door is the Wayside Museum; a very good, small, family run museum that has over 5,000 artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the 1950s.  Items are well displayed with good descriptions to help the visitor understand something of life over the centuries along this southern Cornish Coast.

The museum contains Trewey Mill, restored and working again after 150 years of neglect.  On certain days of the year this Corn Mill still grinds wheat and oats  – not, unfortunately, on the day we were there.  In UK wheat is known as corn and that can be somewhat confusing to those of us from Australia.  If you remember poetry and prose from your school days about waving corn… think wheat!  And those corn dollies were made of wheat or oats.  Before the advent of the corn mill, meal was ground from grain using these querns (above).  Hard work for small results but then not too many people could afford great quantities of grain.

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The museum is housed in the buildings of a 16th Century Miller’s cottage.  People were much shorter in stature in those days judging by this door.  It was indeed low!

The single storey house with a thatched roof, was built in 1513, in the reign of King Henry VIII.  It housed the family who worked the mill which at that time was a ‘fulling mill’ for making cloth.  When the mill changed to grinding flour is not known but two of the old grinding stones have been used in the floor of the kitchen (just inside this door).  These stones went past their use by date as mill stones but found a new use as flooring.  They have been part of this floor for over 200 years and show barely a sign of wear.  Modern flooring doesn’t last quite so long.

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Grinding the flour was only the first part of the task of making the daily bread or pasties.   Most of the miners and poorer people’s houses would have had a ‘cloan’ or ‘cloam’ oven for baking.  (Spelling was not a high priority.)  Made of earthenware, these were portable ovens.  They were used from the early 1600s and were still being made in Cornwall in1937.  (David wants one!)

Dried furze or gorse, of which there’s an abundant supply on the moors, was put into the oven and lit.  When white hot, the furze would be pulled out – carefully one would hope.  Maybe the stone floor was an advantage!  The food to be baked was placed in the oven, a door placed in front and the cooking process occurred using latent heat.  I grew up learning to cook on a wood fuel stove so I knew something of the vagaries of this method of cooking.

Now, when cooking in a cloam oven, it was quite likely that the bread would burn on the bottom.  A file or rasp was used to grate off the blackened bits.  When serving bread, it was always polite to give the top piece to those socially ‘above you’ and from that we get the English expression, “Upper Crust”.  The bottom piece, with the blackened bits filed off, would be given to your own family.  And, I suspect from my reading that, within the family, the upper crust usually went to the husband with the bottom bits to the children and wife.  There were, and always are, hierarchies in any society.

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One of the items in this museum that fascinated and horrified me was this man trap.  These were used by land owners in the 18th and 19th centuries to discourage poachers.  The penalty for being caught in one of these was not just a very sore leg.  The culprit would be deported to the colonies, usually for life, or sentenced to death by hanging, and that was usually an event for witnessed by large local crowds.  It was quite an event.

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Others went to the colony of Australia more willingly, lured by the prospect of free passage and work when they got there.  We came across many such posters in small museums in Cornwall.  Transportation to Australia of so many young men to the colonies had left several ‘holes’ in the demographics of those developing communities. They were short of marriageable single women, skilled young workers and families who would add a sense of community to the growing colonies.  A great many Australians have forbears who answered this call to emigrate, not just from Cornwall but from other parts of England, Scotland and Ireland; many of David’s family among them.  Poor living conditions in the UK at that time were the ‘push factor’ for emigration and posters like these provided a very strong ‘pull factor’.  No one readily leaves their home, their family and their country forever without both of these factors being strong.

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And when people did emigrate, it was usually for life.  Their only contact with families was by post and those letters often took months to be delivered.  When it was time to leave the museum, we drove on across the moors along narrow roads that were once just tracks walked by the postmen and women of the moors who brought just such letters and parcels in all weathers and all seasons to the isolated hamlets and farms of the moors.

From notes at the museum we learned that some of these people were easy going, like Postman Bryant, who would stop for a cup of tea and a chat in various houses and even visit the pub on the way.  He would, no doubt, relay the gossip and the news that had come from across the other side of the world.  Others, like Postman Renowden, was a crotchety old thing nicknamed Mr Grumps.  He waited for no-one.  He was often helped by Willy Spry, a very small chap with a peaked cap and turned out feet.  Willy was always tied to a lead and led along by Mr Grumps so that he would not lag behind!

But it wasn’t just men who carried the post.  There are many stories of post women like Old Mrs Kitty White, Mrs Whelan and Annie Christopher, the latter a ‘grand old soul’ and a great story teller who wore long black skirts and hob nailed boots to walk many miles a day with the post.

It’s the stories of individuals like these who make the history of any place come to life.  We were very thankful that some of the stories of the Cornish coast have been recorded before they are lost forever.

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Today, not many people walk these roads, still fewer ride horses or drive pony traps.  It’s cars, vans and sometimes trucks that drive across these moorland roads now and they were never really meant for vehicles.  Driving here becomes even more challenging when the hedges become higher.  Wondering what might be coming around the corners can be fun.  We even met the local garbage truck on one of these roads.  Lots of backing up!  But everyone is patient and considerate and it’s never a real problem.  And eventually you do come out onto a wider road that leads to a town.  From here, we turned east to visit coastal towns on the other side of the southern Cornish peninsular; Penzance, Newlyn and the improbably named Mousehole – places where some of David’s forbears had also lived.

More of that anon

Jennie and David

Photography copyright ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels

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UK: Cornwall: St Just : Medieaval Secco Art

The mediaeval church of St Just-in-Penwith held a special surprise for us;  two very interesting examples of mediaeval secco art.  And that was by no means all that was of interest in this church.  No matter what your religious persuasion, or otherwise,  the story of this church is fascinating.   The old market town of St Just may not have much else to offer the visitor to this isolated southern part of Cornwall, but it does have this treasure.  How we found it, is part of this story.

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St Just was the only market town for this busy mining area along the coast.  It is old, grey, stone, drab, and quite uninviting, especially on a cold, rainy, windy day.  We would have driven straight through except for three things.  This town has the only public toilet for miles around.  I needed to find a chemist.  And the Ellis branch of David’s family had lived here in times past.  After satisfying the first two needs, we went to find the graveyard and pay our respects to some of David’s ancestors.

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Wandering along one very narrow street, we happened upon the only vestige of a garden that we were to find in the whole town.  Purple Clematis adorned the wall and Campanula spilled over the wall.  The sight of this tiny garden cheered me up.

Then,  just around the next corner, we met a very friendly man who just happened to be keen on family history.  Another nice surprise.  He told us that, even though we believed that the Ellis family were Quakers, by law they would have had to be buried in consecrated ground.  And that meant burial either in the grave yard of the established church, until about the late 1880s, or in the Methodist Chapel graveyard after that.  Since many miners in Cornwall had joined the Wesleyan Movement in the late 1700s, we went to the Methodist graveyard first.

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The Methodist Chapel is a large, grey, unadorned building and quite forbidding in appearance.   After a search across wet, grassy, uneven  ground, we did find one Ellis headstone dated 1935.   So some members of the Ellis family had lived on here long after William left to go to Australia in 1850.   We knew that the probability of finding any older Ellis headstones was quite remote.  To begin with, they were poor miners and could not have afforded headstones.  Even if they had, time would have eroded the inscriptions away and lichen and moss would have taken up residence instead.  But here, at least, was the resting places of some of the family.

With rain coming down and the cold seeping into my bones despite my wet weather gear, I decided to sit in the warmth and dry of the car while David went in search of the established Church.  He soon came back to get me.  I had to go with him to see this church.  It was, he said, special.  I had almost missed out on one of the real treasures of Cornwall.  Let me share it with you now.

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From outside, this very old church showed that it had been built in three different phases.  There are three separate aisles with three different window shapes.  And indeed, the story of this church encompasses much of the history of the area.

There’s been a place of prayer and worship on this site for over 1500 years.  The first ‘cell’ or oratory belonged to St Justin, thought to have been a Celtic missionary, a native of Cornwall, who became a ‘holy man’ in the 5th Century.  Four, possibly five, other celtic cells or oratories followed on this site long before there was ever a settlement here.  The area became enclosed as a ‘lan’ with a small prayer and oratory chapel and several stone beehive huts.  When the Normans came to Cornwall after 1066, they swept away these small buildings, using the stone to build their own form of church.

By the 14th century, that Norman church had suffered badly at the hands of the wild Cornish weather.  A new church was needed.  And so, in 1334, the central part of this church was built in the form of a cross.   A small settlement grew up around the church.  It was known as “Lefrowda”:  laf or lan, a Cornish word meaning a religious enclosure;  rood, rode or rod, a Saxon word meaning cross or crucifix; and dha, a Cornish word meaning good.

This name alone shows the infiltration of words that came into the Cornish language due to the influence of ‘outsiders’.  Nowadays, the Cornish language is all but lost.  Although the Normans began that change, the final impetus for that loss came as a direct result of the reformation with the introduction of  the English language Book of Common Prayer and the forced change of the church litany from Latin to English.  With that change there was much disquiet in Cornwall.  Riots occurred, lead by Cornish churchmen, resulting in quite a few deaths.  The English law came down heavily against Cornish people struggling to maintain there language and their litany.  A new order was forced upon them and the Cornish language was fairly quickly lost.  Is it any wonder that, to this day, Cornish people refuse to think of themselves as being English.

In the 14th and 15th Centuries, the cruciform shape of the main church was lost when the two side aisles of the church were added .  The town that grew up around the church took on a new name, St Just;  and another piece of history was told through the story of this church.

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When you first enter the church, it is dim.  As your eyes adjust to the gentle light, you can see how the light coming through the main window reflects off the amazing collection of grey granite stones that make up the very thick walls.  Behind the altar is a very unusual and beautifully carved Reredos set into two dimly lit alcoves.  Made of Derbyshire Alabaster, the carvings represent fourteen Cornish Saints.  This Reredos was presented to the church in 1896.  It’s the first of the interesting works of art to be enjoyed in this church.

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The walls inside the church show clearly the random, rubble type of granite construction often used in Cornwall.  In most other churches, this is not visible since it was the custom to cover the rubble with plaster and whitewash.  But here, the plaster was stripped away in about 1865 when the church underwent restoration.  The light grey granite is now accentuated by black pitch pointing.

Stripping off the plaster during the restoration of the church, also revealed very different qualities of workmanship between the north and the south aisles.  And that tells another part of the story of this town.

Work on both of the new side aisles of the church started in the 14th century.  However, the North Aisle was finished fifty years earlier than the South Aisle and is much more carefully constructed.  Why should that be?  The answer; before the South Aisle could be finished, Cornwall was hit by the plague; the Black Death.  The population was decimated and all work on the church ceased.  Much later, in the early part of the 15th Century, the South Aisle was finally completed, but somewhat more roughly than the North Aisle.

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But the pillars (the capitals) were completed by some very skilled craftsmen.

Each pillar was richly carved with its own distinctive 15th century design.

These designs include an assortment of shields, vine leaves, roses and quatrefoils.

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The font, also, was beautifully carved.

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During the building of the church, after a wall was completed, it was covered in plaster and white washed.  And into that plaster the secco art murals were painted.  A note in the church describes this art:  “The paintings are executed in a standard palette of red and yellow ochres and carbon black in a lime medium.  They were painted onto a layer of wet lime wash over a single layer of thick lime and sand render. This technique is known as ‘secco’ (dry) as opposed to ‘fresco’ in which the paint is applied directly onto wet plaster.”

One of the paintings (above) depicts Saint George, patron saint of England, representing all that is good.  He fights the dragon which represents all that is evil, wrong and impure in the world.  It is one of  six secco murals that were originally painted in this church, each a visual depiction of some lesson to be taught to the mostly illiterate congregation.

After the Reformation, all such works were to be destroyed.  Here at St Just, the paintings were simply covered in whitewash. Over the centuries, many more coats of whitewash covered the paintings.  They were forgotten.  It was not until restoration of the church commenced in 1865 that their existence was rediscovered.  However, much of the art work was destroyed by the workmen who were employed to strip the whitewash off the walls with axes.  Only two have survived somewhat intact.  St George is one of them, but this painting was mostly overpainted during the restoration of the church.  Not much of the original mediaeval paint survives.

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In the second secco painting, much more of the original art work survives.  Also painted on the wall of the North Aisle,  this work is known as “Christ of the Trades”.  It represents Christ blessing the work tools of the various occupations of the people of the town at that time.  It gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who were part of this congregation.  Some of the tools depicted include a fisherman’s reel, an axe, a shoemaker’s knife, a carpenter’s chisel, a wall candlestick, a turf cutter,  a mason’s trowel, a cooper’s adze, a wool carder’s comb, a bit for a horse’s mouth, a sickle, shears for cutting cloth, a thatcher’s comb, an anvil and bellows.

In a note regarding the future preservation and conservation of the paintings, mention is made the problems associated with the prevailing westerly winds and abundance of rain in West Cornwall.   We had personal experience of both of those.

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Other items of interest in the church also told something of the story of this area.  In these churches in the mining areas of Cornwall, there are often memorials to the wealthy owners of the local mines.  This church is no exception.  The Lady Chapel East Window is just one of three windows in this church dedicated to the Harvey James family who were formerly the owners of the local Botallock Mine.  It’s has delightful floral and palm tree styled traceries.

I wondered what miners and their families thought of these windows knowing that it was their hard work that really paid for them.

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In most churches, each person, or group of people, had their designated places to sit, or stand, within the church.  Personalizing the end of their special pew with a carving was just another way that the mine and land owners displayed their wealth within the church.  One example is this beautifully carved wooden pew end which bears the date 1625 and the initials JB.  The carving is of a coat of arms; merging the coats of arms of two local land owning families – Arundell and Bosavern.  Three shells down the centre are flanked by six swallows, three on each side.  After almost four hundred years, it was in remarkably good condition.

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The organist was practising a few pieces while we wandered around the church and that gave it a warm, ‘used’ feeling.  Some of the churches we visited on this trip felt very cold and unloved, signs of waining church attendance.

As we left the church, I noticed some tiny flowers growing in the outer stone work.  I also noticed that the weather had cleared somewhat and that meant we could go out onto the moors again to enjoy the wildflowers.  More of that anon.

Jennie and David

Photography  Copyright  ©  JT  and   DY  Travels

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UK: Cornwall: Trelissick # 2, Fal River and Woodland Walk

The woodland walk between the Trelissick Gardens and the River Fal is densely planted to help protect the gardens from the wild Cornish winter winds. On a calm day like the one we enjoyed in mid June, it was hard to imagine those harsh winds.

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It’s a very pleasant path with its glimpses of the river through the trees.

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The tiny flowers of Pink Campion, a member of the Silene family, are common along such pathways as well as along roadsides and in hedges all across Cornwall.

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The common name of this lovely flower, Bastard Balm, does not really fit with its beauty!  Its botanical name is Melittis melissophyllum but its common name comes from the fact that it imitates the members of the Balm family, the Germanders.  The flowers can have pink or purple centres. They are native to Southern England from New Forest to Cornwall and in South Wales. They grow in shady habitats like this woodland margin.  I’ve seen them before on my walks in the English and Welsh countryside in years gone by and I really enjoyed finding them again.  I felt sorry for the people who just marched along the path without stopping to enjoy the beauty of these tiny woodland flowers.  Maybe they’ve seen them before; but maybe not!

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Foxgloves are a favourite of mine. They were in hedgerows and along roadsides wherever we went in UK. They are also used as garden plants to good effect and there are now some differently coloured hybrids.  I love to look deep inside the flower; no two are the same.

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These tiny, delicate white flowers with their fine green veins on the petals, are sometimes hard to see amongst the dense greenery.

I should know their name but have forgotten!  Any help welcome.

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Cow parsley was everywhere along the Cornish roadsides and was particularly lovely along this pathway.

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This spectacular tree on the banks of the river stopped us both in our tracks.

It’s magnificent.

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A break in the trees brought us this river view with the bright yellow of rapeseed on the hillside.

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Yachts were moored in the safety of the Trelissick Estate’s bay.

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A small beach borders one of the farm paddocks. Watch out for the cow pats!

Did these cows produce the wonderful clotted cream that’s served in the cafe?

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Looking back, a slope leads up to one edge of the gardens.

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P1150105  ©  JT of jtdytravels

We walked on until we came to a steep, grassy meadow where people’s feet had made a track back up towards the house.  It was rather a steep track, so we rested half way up for me to catch my breath and for us to enjoy the view.  The rest also gave us time to think about the origins of Trelissick House and Gardens, a place that is very well known in Cornwall.  Indeed, it’s considered to be one of the great gardens of the world.   But there are many such great estates in Cornwall.  So,where had the money come from to build these mansions and huge gardens?  The answer is fairly simple; copper, tin and clay mining.  In the case of Trelissick, two of the former owner’s fortunes had come from mines in Cornwall.  One was Ralph Daniell whose father had been known as “guinea-a-minute Daniell”, owner of copper and tin mines.  Another, Ronald Copeland’s family, were porcelain makers of Spode-Copeland fame and that business relied on the fine china clay mined from the pits in Cornwall.

One of the reasons that we were in Cornwall was to research David’s family, some of whom had worked in those mines.  Along with thousands of other miners, men, women and children, they worked for a pittance and for long hours, in difficult and very dangerous conditions whilst the owners grew ever richer on the produce of the miner’s labours.  It’s true, of course, that the owners invested their money in developing the mines and that they gave people work.  But it was the miner’s hard labour that paid for these estates.

So yes, while we do enjoy visiting the big estate gardens, we also know that they came about at the price of hardship in the lives of so many miners and their families, some of them David’s ancestors.  To us, the gardens are a kind of living memorial to those workers.

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P1060246  ©  DY of jtdytravels

The Grecian styled Trelissick House, together with the fairy castle water tower, were built by Ralph Daniell’s son in 1825.  After the Daniell’s became bankrupt, there were several other owners before 1928 when the house and gardens were bought by Leonard Cunliffe, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England.  He passed it on to his step daughter, Ida Copeland, who was married to Ronald Copeland (of the famous Spode Copeland Porcelain company).  It’s still the Copeland family home today.

However, the current generation of the Copeland family are now leaving Trelissick;  moving out to a smaller house.  In the process of their downsizing, they have auctioned off (on 23rd and 24th July 2013) most of the furniture, art works and collectables that represent generations of their family’s life.  Pieces for sale included an entire collection of Spode-Copeland ceramics which tell the complete story of the Copelands and their pottery manufacture over the last 200 years.  Reports of what has been called ‘one of the greatest house sales in living memory’ in UK show that many of the prices fetched at auction were well above the estimated value.  We know that the National Trust hoped to buy as many pieces as they could so that those pieces can be kept in the house when it’s opened to the public in the future.  We hope they were successful.

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P1150164  ©  JT of jtdytravels

And after that rest and contemplation, it was time to climb further up the hill and enjoy the view from the house.  It was not the sunny day as shown in the National Trust brochures, but it was impressive none-the-less.  A bite of lunch was next on the list and then time to explore some more of the garden…. and that’s for the next episode of the Trelissick story.

Jennie and David

All photography copyright © JT and DY of jtdytravels