Sunday 20 December 2015 – St Mawes, Falmouth, Cornwall.
I had a much better sleep last night than I did the night before. The hotel room is really comfy, though a little warm for my liking. I was awake early and got a bit of typing done on yesterday’s post before heading down for breakfast when the kitchen opened at 8:30. Another nice breakfast!
The weather was not anywhere near as poor as yesterday, the wind has died down significantly – to merely strong, and there was only showers forecast – heavy ones, but still only showers. I decided to try for the ferry over the harbour to the Roseland Peninsula and the village of St Mawes again, so headed out soon after breakfast. Grabbing a coffee on the way I was at the wharf just as the small ferry arrived, they were definitely running today, Yay.
The 20 minute journey started off smooth enough, but as we hit the middle of the harbour, the swell briefly picked up and we rocked and rolled for a while until we were safe in the lea of the far point.
My first stop for the day was St Mawes Castle, the little sister to Pendennis Castle that I visited yesterday. I could see it on the headland as we crossed the water.
The ferry arrived safe and sound in the small inner harbour at St Mawes and I spotted this great sign on the wall of the wharf.
St Mawes is on old fishing village that has mostly turned to tourism over the last twenty years. It is a pretty place, with lots of the sights common to this part of the country, cute thatched roof cottages and old stone buildings.
Like Pendennis, St Mawes Castle is run by English Heritage, and because I finally signed up yesterday for a year, it was free admission. Not that this is a particularly expensive place to visit. I was surprised to find other visitors here today.
The first view of the castle was a good one ! Like Pendennis it has been really well preserved and looks spectacular.
St Mawes was built at the same time as its big sister between 1540 and 1545 to ward off the threat from Spain and France to the Fal river – and access into Cornwall and England. With the harbour being over a mile wide at the entrance and the artillery of the day only having a range of half a mile, it required artillery forts on each side of the harbour for complete protection. The castle was used militarily up until 1905 when the guns were removed. it was a tourist attraction from 1920 until WW2 when it was re-armed to guard the Fal again, becoming a tourist attraction after the war.
The clover leaf design is really cool, multiple layers of defence and the round walls supposedly made it harder for enemy cannon balls to penetrate. It was quite an amazing design. I really liked, it is now one of my favourite castles. I think English Heritage have done a good job here !
I haven’t used my big old DSLR for ages, I took it away on this trip so I could spend some time with it, remind it that I love it dearly, but it is not user friendly if I am going out with El to do something that is not supposed to be photograph related. I was intending on some sunrise/sunset photography with the tripod, but there was no sunrise or sunset to be seen on any of the days I was away. I had some issues with it not handling really strong contrasts, and blowing out the highlights in one corner of the sensor, hopefully it is a me issue rather than a camera issue. Much as I would like to get a 5dMk2 or Mk3, even second hand they are a lot of money! I must admit I really enjoyed using it over the weekend and it will get some more work outs.
I took my usual walk around the outside of the fort first, I really liked the areas on the walls where Henry VIII’s crest was mounted.
The geometry of the fort is wonderful, I spent well over an hour in this small space, and could easily have taken a lot more photos than I did, and this is just a small part of what I took.
Down the back I discovered a stairwell down to the gun batteries, I was the only person I saw venture outside, so most people would have missed this area. The batteries and a store room were built in the 1850s – trouble with the French again. The main fort was converted into a barracks as new technology allowed for bigger, more powerful guns to be used from the battery. The walls protecting the ammunition store were really thick and hidden behind quite deep earthworks.
Continuing my walk around the grounds eventually led me to the entrance to the fort.
Like Pendennis, the inside had been partially set up like it would have been in the 1700s, and there was an audio guide to take with you explaining what life was like at the time, as well as describing the castle itself. It was all quite interesting.
The weather was sticking to forecast and the skies were actually quite clear when I left the castle. Before I left this morning I had decided that if it was fine I would walk to the tiny hamlet of St Just of Roseland, about 2 miles up the Fal from St Mawes.
The direction was sort of a guess, walk near the water…
The sign was so old, worn and mossy that it was totally unreadable, but there was an arrow heading that way, so I was sure it was OK to walk in that direction.
The walk was not particularly interesting, just along the bottom of farms, near the rivers edge, it was pretty muddy in places, specifically where National Trust had their gates.
At the end of the path at the bottom of the village there is a small shipyard, so I headed up the hill and found the entrance way to the church there. The view down through the gate, down a steep tree lined graveyard to the church was quite lovely, sadly my photo was not.
The graveyard is really big, and looks like it is still being used as there are a number of recent grave stones, unlike so many London grave yards that are close to full now. I loved this Cornish cross, and the mosses growing on the old headstones made for a really interesting view.
There has been a church on this lovely river side site since the 6th century, though the church is relatively modern, having been built in the 13th century. It is such a lovely building in a very special location.
The church grounds are a large garden filled with many exotic trees, palms and things that are very un-English like, the warmer temperatures in this sheltered valley allow some unusual things to grow. I do not know what these were but it looked like a field of large dead bats…
Before heading back the way I came I stopped for a drink of water and a snack bar, it was past mid-day now and I was starting to get peckish. I almost regretted this as when I was most of the way back and checked my watch I realised I was very close to the departure time of the hourly ferry. I picked up my pace and power walked back to the castle, breaking into a run down the road back to the wharf, I arrived just as the ferry was backing out, damn. All that effort, and I am so unfit it was an effort wasted. I resolved to go to the pub and wait, sacrifices had to be made.
When I turned around to head back up the wharf I spotted this massive storm cloud sweeping in across the harbour, I stopped to take a couple of pictures of the ferry moving into the storm – you cannot see it in under the rain in the second shot.
I had just got into the pub and was sitting myself down upstairs when the storm hit, it was ferocious with rain and hail and strong winds – all lasting about 5 mins. I could hear people screaming on the road outside as they were walking down the hill and received an unexpected soaking. I really enjoyed the pint I had in that pub !
By the time I left just under an hour later, the sky had cleared and it looked like my journey across would be fine. I took a couple of pictures of the small harbour before boarding the ferry.
The ride over was pretty good, there was one moment when the swells were quite high and I got quite wet trying to take photos of Pendennis point – luckily I swung my camera out the way before the spray hit me.
As we arrived into Falmouth another storm cloud arrived, I made it most of the way to the end of town before it hit. I got the first hit of hail and the sudden heavy rain before getting into another pub, where I also had a pint while I waited it out. This pub was not so nice so I did not linger, and left as the last remains of light rain fell.
The rest of the afternoon was not spent doing anything useful, I watched football on my laptop, then uploaded photos from the day before heading back into Falmouth for dinner. I was surprised at how many places were open for dinner on a winter Sunday night, pleasantly surprised as it meant I had a choice. I chose a place close to the hotel, which just happened to make a really nice pizza…
I really liked Falmouth, and I am a bit surprised by that, I know I did not stray far from the main tourist sections of town, but it is the last weekend before Christmas and town was busy with local – and not so local shoppers, and it had pretty good vibe to it. As I said back on my first post about Falmouth I had not done much research and was really surprised to find the ship yards, and drunk students on Friday night. This gave me an impression of the town that was not warranted, and it was pleasing to have my opinion change.
PS. Not very happy with the relationship between Windows Live Writer 12 on my Windows 10 PC and WordPress. Formatting did not come across as I set it up in Writer and my photos look a bit crap. I didn’t have this issue on my old laptop. Tomorrow’s job is to find a new blog writing tool. I was warming to Writer after I was forced to switch from Blogdesk.