Poldark and Cornwall

A few years ago on Sunday nights the BBC drama series, ‘Poldark’, based on Winston Graham’s novels were aired. It followed the life of Captain Ross Poldark as he returned home from the American War of Independence after spending three years in the army. Life as he had left it was not what he returned to. Slowly he rebuilt his father’s business which was in ruins and settled back into civilian life. His loyal friends and employees joined him in his quest, standing by him as he tried to overcome the many hurdles. To conduct his business he had to make frequent trips on horseback along the cliffs and picturesque countryside of Cornwall. To lament his problems he sought solace in the isolated beach coves watching the sun set over the horizon, wondering if his problems would melt away like the bleeding sun into the sea. For millions of starstruck women across the land it was the highlight of the weekend. We’ve seen the screen version and now want to experience it in person, so here we are. 

St Ives, a seaside town with a fishing harbour is the most popular part of Cornwall and our first stop of the day. The temperature is only in the low twenties but the sun has decided to accompany us for this trip making it the perfect day to visit the seaside. The walk from the car park down to the harbour is a steep one which reminds us that activities like this need to be fulfilled while the joints are still supple and we can still complete the six minute walking test. It is a bank holiday weekend and the beach is packed. We didn’t stay long and moved on to the next part of our trip. 

The drive to ‘Lands End’ takes us past another port, Penzance, made famous by  Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera ‘The Pirates of Penzance’. Piracy was rife in the eighteenth century along the British coast. Men who worked in the Navy lost their jobs when the defence requirement decreased and they turned to piracy to eke out a living. Local men, women and children were captured, held for ransom and shipped to Africa to lead a life of slavery. This went on till finally it was stopped by the combined efforts of England and USA. 

Lands End, one of the noted landmarks of Britain, occupies its most south westerly corner. The peninsula was born 270 millions years ago when boiling granite rose to the surface displacing the softer rocks that lay over them producing the 200 feet cliffs we see today. From the car park you can either take a leisurely stroll around the cliff top or just sit, enjoy the breeze and take in the coastal views that span across the Atlantic Ocean as far as the isle of Scilly and even beyond up to North America on a clear day. Heather, bell heather and western gorse blanket the heathland in a multitude of shades, pink being the predominant colour. 

Our whistle stop tour ended in the ‘First Inn in England’ or the last one, depending on which way you look at it for a quick drink. Part of the old building was bombed during the Second World War and I see a plaque dedicated to one of its previous landlady’s, Ann Treve, from 1620 who with the help of the local parson helped convict smugglers for which she was staked on Sennen Beach and left to drown. These old pubs have secret passages to the beaches for smugglers. More of that later. It is time to head back. We have a restaurant reservation we need to keep.

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