Wednesday, November 02, 2005

England, Part the Fourth (Cornwall)

A continuation of the very gradual reportage of the English trip this summer... incorporating Mythcon XXXVI at the Tolkien Conference in Birmingham.

So August 1st we made ourselves yummy breakfast of eggs and English bacon and toast (with lime shred - yum!) and tomatoes - we basically planned to have one meal out per day, and if we ate a big breakfast at the time share (nicely equipped kitchen, btw - they aren't always) we were good until early dinner time; on the days when we ate smaller breakfast (say, scones & clotted cream! - no protein) we'd have a pub lunch and then make supper back home. And off we went to Castle Restormel, a ruin of a Norman motte and bailey castle in a beautiful setting;
check it out here or here for some cool pictures and more info, if you're interested. Spent hours there while Michael took photographs from nearly every conceivable angle but, to be fair, it was a glorious day and a gorgeous setting and I took plenty of photos m'self!

Stopped in Liskeard to check email at the local library (we were EACH able to sign on to a computer for 30 minutes free service - cool, eh?!) because Ellie, as administrator of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (etc. - there are actually 4 different annual awards) was looking for emailed acceptance speeches from the winners.

We eventually wandered up to Bodmin Moor to see The Hurlers, a series of 3 stone circles, estimated ca. 1500 BC. It's a long hike up to the top of the hill and the "Cheesewring" (a hike I didn't do, in its entirety, so I didn't see the Cheesewring up close...!) but I did take some fun photographs; I particularly like one of two sheep grazing by one of the standing stones. Cornwall is just full of ancient megaliths, like the Trethevy Quoit (more pics here) which we accidently blazed by in the course of driving up to the Hurlers - it's perhaps the one thing I regret: I saw it out of the corner of my eye and I could have parked in one of 2 or 3 little spaces right by it, but I asked Ellie and Michael if we should stop and they said, "no," and then we were gone, opportunity past, continuing the elaborate drive (thanks to the ordinance maps Michael bought the day before in the Daphne Du Maurier bookshop in Fowey--!), heading up roads too small to even be numbered, coping with a bizarre detour, and a rather large car, for the size of the lanes.

In fact, we'd just weathered the most horrific bit of driving I had to do during the whole trip (I didn't know it at the time, of course - until you turn in the car and DON'T have another more hair-raising experience, you don't know that was it! surprisingly stressful, and I'm a good driver. Ellie and Michael both begged off driving in such circumstances - cowards!!!) - we had to go down a country lane, hedgerow-lined as per usual, and THIS one even had a little sign before entering advising that vehicles longer than 35 feet (if I recall correctly - it wasn't terribly long, in other words) shouldn't drive the lane. Well, it was the MOST narrow of lanes! Technically it's a two-way lane (nearly all of them are) but our wing-mirrors are slapping the hedge on both sides of the car, simultaneously - NO IDEA how I would have managed if we met a car coming up. It's also quite a winding lane and we're going downhill. I am beseeching God to have mercy on us, especially me,
as the driver, and delay any oncoming traffic until we're in a more commodious spot (silently, because Ellie is not a fan of religion and I push that envelope with her enough as it is; no point in stiffening her resolve against all things Christian) - it was quite a long lane, too, well more than a mile - which you really feel in that kind of stressful driving environment, especially when you've already noticed that the locals drive through the lanes at a great rate of speed - they have lots of accidents and you see many cars with NO wing mirrors on them because they were sacrificed in some motoring mishap. In any case, we got to the bottom and just as it widened out for us to turn (a T-junction) a car came from the left, turning into the narrow lane - I did say all my, "Thank you, God!" acknowledgements outloud (!!!) and this was certainly one of many occasions when I saw His mercy (pity, even!) at work on our trip. So, to go BACK and see the Trevethy Quoit up close would require driving that lane again and nobody was up for it - so on we went, up to the Hurlers. I can tell you, however, that even from the little glimpse I got, it is one LARGE quoit!!!

My camera was running low on batteries and we were now not far from Bodmin itself (largest town of size in our proximity) so we stopped by the ASDA again and bought dinner foods and new batteries for my camera (and more WINE, of course!) before driving back down toward the coast, noticing once again that there is a tiny community between Lanhydrock (a very serious "stately home" Naitonal Trust property) and Tywardreath called "Maudlin" - once again we drove past, saying we really must stop and take a picture of that...

More yummy food and Michael attempting fruitlessly to phone his wife (cell phones which were promised to work in the UK weren't, there was confusion about the phone in our lodge, etc.) and we pondered maps and activities for the morrow.

Tuesday we drove out to Tintagel (check out the additional "click here"photos on this BBC site), the purported site of King Arthur's birth, and spent hours hiking that impressive coastal ruin. I visited Tintagel before, with my friend Wendy and her 18-month old daughter (now nearly seven years!) and Madelyn walked ALL the stairs ALL by herself (here's a glimpse of what I mean!). Having learned from Michael's shooting habits the day before, Ellie and I simply told him to meet us back at the car at 4 pm (it was now 10 a.m.). In fact, we all wandered the ruin in our own way and our own timing. Ellie re-connected with me in the early afternoon and we had an ice cream cone, visited the gift shop, and eventually walked the long uphill track back to the town of Tintagel where we shopped and meandered (saw some amazing hand-sawn wooden puzzles in a shop called "The Silver Tree") and eventually strolled back to Pengenna Pasties for a supper of Cornish pasties and salad (cider for me, beer for Ellie) - serious YUM! My friend Jason has made an intense study of *where* one can acquire the best pasties and he swears by Pengenna - I quite thoroughly agree (a pastie is the Cornish equivalent to a lunchbox - basically a meat and potatoe pie whose crust has been folded over and sealed, so it's a hand packet of a meal - a bad pastie is quite stodgy but a good one is a true delight). These guys do vegetarian AND vegan pasties as well - amazing!

We reconnected with Michael and then drove a little ways out of town to visit Rocky Valley to check out the labyrinth which, it turns out, is quite a hike down toward the coast and required navigating some narrow, damp, and slippery terrain which I decided it would be *wiser* to avoid. So they continued on and I went back, enjoyed a book I was reading, took a little stroll myself, and eventually they came out and reported in detail the stone labyrinth carvings and the beautiful view up the coast from that particular inlet - and then we drove back to our lodge for another good night's sleep.

                        -- Understated British signage at Castle Restormel --