Saturday, June 27, 2009


Golowan, The Feast of St. John, is Cornwall's greatest annual community arts festival, blending Celtic traditions of Penglaz and the Serpent Dance with a ten day programme of diverse festivities, entertainment and music. It is essentially a mid-summer solstice celebration which has taken place in some form since pre-christian times. It was allowed to die out at one time when celebrations became too boisterous and too much damage was being done!

In 1990 Golowan was revived by a small enthusiastic team of volunteers and it has grown every year since. It all takes place in Penzance so we spent today watching the festivities. Colourful flags and banners adorn the streets and seafront. There is an election for a mock mayor which this year was won by a good friend of mine - Eddie the Snake! Here he is wearing his 'Crab of Office.'

There are street acts, storytelling, films, walks, fireworks, market stalls, lectures and flag making workshops, all culminating in the colourful parades of Mazey Day (which was today), which in local dialect means 'a bit dazed and confused!' Traffic is banished for the day and the main thoroughfare is bedecked with fresh greenery collected early in the morning

At the heart of the festival is the community, with thousands of school children taking part, alongside local artists, writers, performers and volunteers.

Each year has a theme interpreted throughout the festival with giant processional imagery, flags, banners, music, masks, costumes and performances. This year there was a good selection of boats, as you would expect in a seaside community

and some rather dubious looking characters too, especially the 'ladies!'

There was a slightly milder looking character, possibly representing a local tin miner

There was a great array of mysterious creatures, some quite benign looking

And some not quite so friendly!

As you can see, it was a gloriously bright sunny day and there were a lot of people around so my pictures are a bit hit and miss as I was moving along with the crowd and didn't always get to choose the direction of the sun for the photos!

It was a great day and the town looked so colourful and vibrant all decked out.

Tomorrow we head back to Chicago but I will try and do another couple of Cornish posts to finish off our trip when I get over the jet lag :)

Photo Credits - CJT

Sunday, June 21, 2009


There is a path which goes round the entire coastline of Cornwall, it stretches over six hundred miles and covers some breathtaking scenery. Over the last few days we have been hiking various pieces of it.

It is not easy hiking as the path follows the numerous valleys and coves so when you are not scrabbling down one side, you are slogging up the other!

But the endless carpet of wildflowers and the wonderful views are well worth the effort.

This was one of our rest spots, talk about a table with a view!

As I have mentioned previously the seas around Cornwall are known for being particularly dangerous to shipping, for many years a lot of the local people made a good living from wrecking!

There are many lighthouses along the coast.

Some stand lonely sentinel on a rock out at sea and others teeter on the cliffs edge, all working hard to keep passing ships safe.

This one at Pendeen is particularly appealing to me, in part because of its 'Dr Zeuss' foghorns

There is a sign nearby warning of hearing damage if you stand too close to them when they go off! Ouch!!

Another constant feature is the endless chain of old tin mine, engine houses

These two are known as the Crown Engine Houses, can you imagine building them in that location?

I stood on the cliff top and tried to imagine what the scene must have been like when all the mines were working, with all the noise and clatter, not to mention the black smoke - tough times.

At the end of the day we sat down in Priest Cove and watched the waves washing in over the rocks.

Parts of Cornwall really do feel as if they are in a time warp, it is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Photo Credits - Dominick V & CJT

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Yesterday evening we decided to take a walk, it doesn't get dark here until ten o'clock so we had plenty of time. The town that my parents live in is called Newlyn, it is a small, working, fishing town, very close to Penzance. Newlyn has a lot of hills and unfortunately for my weary legs, my parents live at the top of the town! So our walk begins by going down towards the harbour.

On his first visit to Cornwall my husband was quite amazed by the size of the tide drop, when the tide is fully out the boats are left high and dry on the mud in the harbour, the tide was only just turning when we took this picture.

As you can see most of the bigger, commercial fishing boats are out right now, the weather is good so they will be far out to sea.

We walked along by the sea and spotted this beautiful pair of Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus foraging amongst the rocks at the waters edge.

Mousehole is the next village along the coast from Newlyn and it's name is actually pronounced 'Mowzul', if you pronounce it Mousehole, you immediately give yourself away as a 'foreigner'!!! The reason the town got it's name is because the tiny space between the two piers that lead into the harbour is small like a mousehole.

This is the view from inside the harbour, looking out to sea. Across the bay you can just make out St Michaels Mount with the castle on the top.

And this is what I meant about the boats being left high and dry at low tide!

Mousehole has a rather haunted feel to it which is due in large part to a tragedy that befell it in December of 1981. The Cornish seas are notoriously dangerous and almost every town has it's own lifeboat. These boats are manned by heroic volunteers who venture out in the most treacherous of seas to rescue boats that are foundering. On a wild December night in 1981 the Penlee lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, manned by eight men from Mousehole was called out to rescue the crew of a ship that had been blown onto rocks. They managed to winch four of the crew members from the ship onto the lifeboat and then suddenly all radio contact was lost. All of the crew of the lifeboat were drowned and the little village of Mousehole has never been quite the same since.

When word came to the village of what had happened, the first place it became known was the Star Inn. The landlord of the pub was the Coxswain of the lifeboat. The most amazing part of this sad story is that two days after the Solomon Browne went down with all hands, a full crew of new volunteers had stepped up to man a new boat. Having seen many storms around the Cornish coast, I have huge respect for the amazing work that these brave people do.
An unfortunate after effect of this event was that huge sums of money were donated from all over the country and the fighting that ensued over how the money should be divided, rent the village and it's occupants apart.

Moving onto a (slightly) less morbid topic - this is the oldest house in Mousehole. It dates back to the fourteenth century and its owner was killed defending it against the Spanish in 1595. The Spanish succeeded in burning every other house in the town but not this one! The red Jaguar is slightly younger than the house but not much :)

Photo Credits - Dominick V & CJT

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


For those of you that didn't realise, yes, Penzance is the name of a real place, not just a figment of Messers Gilbert and Sullivan's imagination.
Although I was born in Warwickshire and my family is from there, when I was still a child my parents moved us down to Cornwall so when I visit 'home' now, this means heading down west.
Penzance is an eclectic mix of history, artists and a seaside town so I thought I would try and give you a taste of this unique spot. The most important buildings in any town of course are the pubs! And here is my favorite in Penzance.

This is the Admiral Benbow, check out the man on the roof! He is keeping watch for the Spanish - most people don't realise that the Spanish did actually land on English shores, or strictly speaking, Cornish shores. Hence the man on the roof as look-out.

Further up the same street is the Union Hotel which has this sign outside (you'll have to enlarge it to read) It tells of the hotel being set on fire when the Spanish landed on July 24th 1595.
Before we move on from the local watering holes I thought you might like to see a sample of the local brew.

How many drinks name themselves after the dire effects of what over indulging will do to you!!!? So, moving swiftly is another of my favorite buildings

The local bank! Isn't it grand? Built in 1838 it is the landmark of the town and at night the dome is illuminated.

Down on the seafront the town is dressed up for summer with rows of colourful silk flags

I liked the octopus best :)
And so to some of the local inhabitants..............

Well you didn't think they would be human did you? :)
This is an immature Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. He is one of the local fishermen, on the quay waiting for a fishing boat that was just coming in, he has worked out the easy way to get his supper. Why go out and fish for yourself when you just have to wait for the boats to come in filled with fish!

Here is another local admiring the scenery. The ever present Herring Gull Larus argentatus.

This local is taking a dip, its a Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus, the giant among the regions gulls and far less common than the Herring Gull.

Having got used to seeing the sleek, expensive, soulless boats moored in the harbour in Chicago, it is nice to come here and see some 'real' boats in the harbour.

And just in case you thought I paid a little too much attention to the pubs in the town, to redress the balance a little, here is the church, or at least part of it. As you can see palm trees are also very much a common part of the scenery here too.

Photo Credits - CJT