Wednesday 31 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 8 … History of Road and Train Travel …

 Perhaps I should add in here … that in the early 1800s … it would take 40 hours from London to reach … St Ives, Penzance or Carbis Bay …


 … so the arrival of the railways most definitely shortened the journey time … as my ninety year old ‘Ward Lock + Co’ guide book states – it can be done comfortably by train in six and a half hours.



Cover image from
Daniel Defoe's travels

In those early days of the 1800s … we’d have travelled by coach, possibly unsprung, with lots of stops at coaching inns for vittling, changing of horses.  Henry VIII (early 1500s) had established a network of Posting Inns for his mail to be delivered wherever he happened to be.



Sign at Whiddon
Down, Devon
There is a ‘line of posts’ in the west country – where the King’s courier could get fresh horses … Henry never made it to Penzance – but his daughter Elizabeth I would have known about the town at the time of the Spanish Armada – 1588.



The roads, or tracks more like, would have been really terrible – as we were still using those constructed by the Romans fifteen hundred years earlier.  The Romans never conquered Cornwall … but spread their wings, or more pertinently milestones, into the county.



John Metcalf

Just an interesting historical snippet in here – John Metcalf (1717 – 1810), who became Britain’s first professional road builder – emerged during the Industrial Revolution.


Believe it or not he was blind from the age of 6 … but had an eventful life, living to the ripe old age of 92 …



Statue of Metcalf in
Knaresborough, with
a Viameter
(Surveyor's Wheel)

… at age 77 he walked from Knaresborough to York, over 17 miles, where he related his life’s work, in a detailed account, to his publisher.



We in the 20th century almost always drove  … but occasionally I’d get the night sleeper from Paddington, London to Penzance.


Exeter St David's railway station
Early on my grandparents would drive up from Carbis Bay to Exeter and meet us halfway … we’d either drive down and us kids would be shoved out to continue our journey whichever way!



Or on one occasion my brother and I were shipped (trained) off from Woking to Exeter … I was guardian! – and had a ten shilling note or two sewn into the hem of my skirt – for emergencies. 


Ten Shilling note - I'd forgotten
about these ... 
We had our tickets and fodder … the only snag being that the train was packed jammed full of sailors – so I upped (walked) us both to the first class carriage – much to the bemusement of the ticket collector.  I’m not sure if I had to pay extra – anyway … it was more peaceful and in those days you were left alone.


Another time I’d been over in France with some of my mother’s first husband’s family at their huge rambling holiday house in the Pyrenees – I must have been 14 … my father came to Heathrow airport to pick me up … and as our own home was being revamped, we’d decamped for our long summer holidays to the south coast of Cornwall – rented a place … took the cats … and had a lovely time.


This is the most western
Ordnance Survey map of
Great Britain

 The problem was I ended up coming back on the August bank holiday Monday … nightmare traffic – my father, always the prescient one, had every ordinance survey map possible from Heathrow to Cornwall … and immediately said – right let’s not go on any main roads. 


Well, being the good Girl Guide I was back then … we trundled our way down every nook and cranny that the maps would allow us.  It took 10 hours! 


We used all the backroads, including ones with grass growing in their middle – it was fun for me … my poor Dad – must have suffered bum ache!


Kinsol Trestle - Vancouver Island

One last bit of nonsense … I can be so dumb at times … it had never occurred to me that our original rail viaducts would have been made from wood … similar to the ones I saw in Canada – but which weren’t in operation.  The particular one near where I was staying on Vancouver Island was the Kinsol Trestle …


Carbis Bay viaduct
… here they were rapidly rebuilt using stone: this one at Carbis Bay station – could be used by travellers or ‘important people’ at the time of the G7 Summit in June.:(11th – 13th June 2021).


The Eden Project - part of the 'showing off' bit
of the G7 Summit

Travelling blog time over … Easter is a-coming … actually I’m rather enjoying the gentler times without rushing here there and everywhere – but I will enjoy being free again.


Have a peaceful Easter weekend … and good luck to all the A-Zers …


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 28 March 2021

We are the World Blogfest # 47 Scientists and their importance in this Covid and future world …


Scientists have really hit the headlines in this past year … we are extraordinarily lucky to have these dedicated women and men searching for new ways to help us …

Polymateria company image


I’m highlighting three and their teams …


a start-up, Polymateria, at Imperial College have developed a form of polyethylene plastic that is biodegradable and recyclable:

-       it breaks down in 226 days, leaving behind a harmless sludge …

-       recycled it can be turned into flower pots or pellets …

-       it is a new material that is “attractive” to microbes and fungi: which naturally breaks down.

Here’s the website: 

Professor Veena Sahajwalla


Secondly … there’s this inspirational Indian-born metallurgist, Professor Veena Sahajwalla,now based at the University of New South Wales … who has opened the world’s first e-waste microfactory – where alloys are extracted from electronic devices;

-       she is also working on converting waste materials, such as plastic and glass, into ceramics.

-       As the Professor states:  “Waste is not a problem to be managed”, … it is an opportunity to be explored.


She is getting closer to developing a way of making steel without the need for coal “green steel”.


MRSA: Injection by 
Lastly, a nod to all vaccinologists and their teams, who have been and are developing vaccines to protect us all in these constantly changing pandemic times …


While an extra … is Bill Gates’ March 2021 TED talk … with the 7 ‘short’ videos on Howto Avoid a Climate Disaster … informative to see – while Gates’ TED talk is outstanding … he highlights ‘the green premium’, which Professor Veena Sahajwalla is working on


We are the World Blogfest

In Darkness, Be Light

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 25 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 7 … To the Lighthouse …


When the weather was tempestuous, with the winds from the east, we would be bundled into the car and taken off to that famous lighthouse – as written about by Virginia Woolf …  

First Edition 1927

… Woolf’s parents, shortly after her birth in 1882, started regularly renting a house in St Ives … so even though her story “To the Lighthouse” is set on Skye – one can see how Godrevy would have influenced her thoughts.



… the drive from Carbis Bay via Lelant village, round the Saltings onto that causeway built in 1825, obviously somewhat updated!, but into Hayle, past the old harbours, through Foundry Square and along the sad road of ribbon development …


Godrevy Lighthouse

Then we’d be free of the town and most settlement … the small road along the coast took us up past Gwithian to a cliff clamber (50 metres/ 160 foot) down to the more sheltered beach and rocks below – opposite Godrevy lighthouse …  and over the bay to St Ives.


The cliff we'd clamber down
To me … I was quite wary – I remember being anxious about slipping down … but in childhood you get on with things – an adult would carry my youngest brother, the other no doubt hand-held our middle one – along with all the clobber necessary for a day at the beach – mainly lunch and drinks, probably a bucket and spade, towels etc … but little else …


The Towans, as the sand dunes to the east of Hayle are known, form a 3 mile protected site – where the habitat of sand dune and grassland is suited to a variety of wildlife and plants, including pyramidal orchids, glow worms, adders, silver-studded blue butterflies and skylarks …



Silver-studded Blue
… then it was very uncultivated coastal dune-land … now with access points sanitised to fit the late 20th and early 21st century people and National Trust!



Believe it or not a Bronze Age farm (1700BC to 500BC) is now buried by the Gwithian Towans … it was only found in the early 1800s after the shifting sands released the oratory, built in 490 AD, and said to be one of the oldest Christian buildings in England, along with another in Cornwall.


Gwithian sands
The Domesday book holds the records of this part of Cornwall … in 1086 AD there was land for 40 ploughs, 30 villagers, 20 small-holders and 30 serfs are recorded; there was a mill, 300 sheep, 40 wild mares and 21 other animals.



The institutions recording these details were moved to Penzance in 1771 or thereabouts … following large successive inundations of blown sand.



SS Nile - wrecked in 1850
Gwithian is the patron saint of good fortune on the sea – sad then that Charles 1’s wardrobe and personal belongings were wrecked together with a crew of sixty.  The wreck occurred on the day of Charles’ death – 30 January, 1649 – not a propitious one for the crew or him.



We had lots of fun down on the beach … we could paddle, rush at the waves as they crashed through the rocks, jump from one to another … the beach had red shells just beautiful …

Red River's journey

… tinted by mineral deposits from the tin mine – near the upper reaches of the small, only 8 miles long, Red River …


View of the mining area
Camborne - Redruth (c 1890)
… it was a necessary source of water for the early mines in the major Camborne/Redruth mineral processing works …



Gwithian beach is now beloved by surfers, windsurfers, and other beach-sport enthusiasts – also patrolled by lifeguards from Easter to September.



Th Red River as it enters
Gwithian beach

Though after the War – the area was not encumbered by tourists … especially as the waters around Godrevy are very dangerous.



The Lighthouse was built in 1858/9 … the island rock marks the Stones reef, which has been a hazard to shipping for centuries.  In 1854 the SS Nile was lost in a storm after striking the reef … with the loss of all hands, the ship and its contents …


Surfing off Gwithian
… many requests had been made to build a light on Godrevy … it was only when a local clergyman from Hayle started a petition to Trinity House – the authority for lighthouses – that it was agreed to build the lighthouse.



Godrevy island marked
top right - at the north-
eastern shore of St Ives bay

“To the Lighthouse” will always resonate with me as Godrevy, where we so often went to play … lots of early memories and now a bit more historical education …


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 21 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 6 … Hayle and its history …

I used to get down to Cornwall as often as I could to see my mother, who had moved there … and once driving that was easier – while back in those days … I could wangle getting off work at 3.30 or so – then I’d escape the London rush-hour and be out of town and speeding away … yes, I did drive rather fast … always had, now I make sure I get there. 


West Penwith - Cornwall ... showing Hayle
and St Ives (north coast)

The lure of Cornwall often called, so when I was at Hayle I was almost there … the cry of the fish and chip shop could not be avoided!  Temptation and taste buds made sure I had my treat … it was at the westerly end of Hayle near the viaduct and Foundry Square.



Hayle was a grim, run-down town … a single road going through – so that was frustrating – eventually a bypass in the 1980s was built ...



Hayle - late 1800s
The town in the 1800s had been a famous engineering and shipping centre … with its entanglement of breweries, foundries, rope-walks, timber-yards and a thousand and one other activities … it had become rather down-trodden and grim.


Hayle Harbour c 1900
This was the Hayle I knew back in the 1950s/60s a town past its best … not very inspiring, nor prosperous, at all … though it had been flourishing in the late 1700s … but during the 1800s competing family interests soured trade …


The tin and copper mines with their associated industries were waning as the 20th century came along …


The shifting sands set the tone … prior to 1825 it was a perilous journey to go further west … across the Lelant Saltings area …


Hayle viaduct
… trade grew, the town expanded along the turnpike road, the early railway gave more impetus … but the construction of the new railway in 1852, with the impressive Angarrack viaduct, spanned the valley thus avoiding the town.



The ever changing coastline including estuary, tidal pools, sand banks discouraged the shipping industry that had been essential in getting coal from Wales to the rich tin and copper mines, before exporting the mined ore to customers – then that waned too – some new trades and industries sprang up during both war years – but these small works waned along with ancillary businesses.



Lots of new development being planned

Recently there’s been a lot of development and redevelopment, as building knowledge has increased … the need for more housing, the realisation that the area could offer tourists a base and thus local infrastructure was encouraged.



The rich fishing grounds of St Ives Bay have supported the fishermen of the two ports (Hayle and St Ives) for generations – but the fishing trade is not being protected by the government, and has lost out badly with Brexit – I hope it’ll be rectified …



… but the communities that rely on the fishing trade and the ancillary businesses have taken a real beating recently …



St Ives pier early days -
'Sailing by': Eric Ward (1928)

… they are being priced out of everything – apparently now Cornwall is the place to be and that does not bode well for Cornwall’s local families.



There is a major development at the harbour for homes, new leisure facilities etc – a very large building project in the South West – but in a very small corner of the world.  The fishermen’s working area is under threat …



Fish and Chips in newspaper
Yes the area needs redevelopment and change – but at what expense …



My memories of my journeys down, the delight in getting to Hayle – nearly there … with the fish and chip interlude and then home … I’m not sure what I’d think now. 


Saxon England:
Cornish peninsula, with Wales
to the north over the Severn estuary


I haven’t been back for ten years – connections all gone … but even in the 1990s – the locals hardly ventured forth in the summer – roads packed, beautiful coves and beaches over-run …



It’s a changing world …


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Treasure those Memories … part 5 … Lelant Sand Dunes …


We are now moving south-east along the coast, following the scenic St Ives to St Erth coastal branch railway line past the dunes at Lelant – with its stunning beaches – which would lead on to Lelant Saltings always with an array of wetland birds …


Showing Hayle inlet ... it is small - looks bigger 
than it is here; St Uny Church is marked; Lelant
Saltings railway station marked ... line following
coast and round sand-dune golf links.

… history abounds here too – the Iverni, an early Irish people … first mentioned in Ptolomey’s 2nd century Geographia … as living in the south west of the Ireland … were known to have travelled over, now seen as skeletons dug up from the Towans (sand dunes).



First map of Europe - based
on Ptolomey's Geographia
The 15th century church of St Uny was built on the easterly corner of the towans facing over the inlet towards Hayle.  The railway skirts the Church … but there’s a path down to the sands.



St Uny Church
There is a thought that an earlier settlement was overwhelmed by huge sandstorms, whipped up by the sea winds … the Church itself was in danger of being lost, but marram grass has been planted which has kept encroachment at bay.


 The sand dunes have been put to good use as it is the most westerly golf links in the country … play is always possible here – the rain sinks in – leaving the golfers wet … but always with magnificent views – be they dry, sunny and sparkling, or damp, gloomy and sea-thrashed …

Edge of golf course looking east towards
My grandparents were members of the golf-club – but probably used it more as a social … as kids we played occasionally … mostly whack and hack!  Seeing how many seagulls we could hit … we were kids!!



Marram Grass holding
the dunes
Usually we would walk across it to the dunes and sea, with its miles of golden sands … certainly one summer we hunkered down out of the wind in a deep dune, to play tag* of some sort … hard work in the sand but which kept us occupied. 


Towans, the sea at mid-tide

Then we’d scamper down to walk the walk far away to the sea … and wander back with it as the tide turned and came inexorably in …



We’d walk from the golf-club car park towards the Church and what is now the South West coastal path … over the railway line – keeping an ear out for the chuntering steam train as it hooted its way towards St Ives, or back towards St Erth – always waving if we were in sight.

The train on its way round the links -
St Ives is in the background
Round the corner up the Hayle River is Lelant Saltings, one of the station stops of our little train, where many birders will alight to spend time at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds reserve …


Hayle Estuary

… an estuary that does not freeze – in the genial, mild climate of west Cornwall … where palm trees grow …


Lelant Saltings

… the estuary, tidal pools, and marsh have long been havens for migrating birds … many a twitcher spends time twitching around this coastal retreat.



Each season offers a variety of wetland birds from … flocks of teals and wigeons in winter and maybe a vagrant ring-billed gull from North America. 

Ring-billed Gull

Migrant waders are starting to return (it’s Spring: almost) … oyster catchers, ringed plovers, sanderlings, dunlins and whimbrels.


Summer is quieter … though ospreys are regular visitors – but rarely seen.   Autumn sees the main wader passage through the reserve.  Vagrants often turn up sheltering from the gales … while Winter is the best time for a spectacle of thousands of birds …

Eurasian Curlew
We didn’t go bird-watching … but were educated about them at home in Surrey … we were encouraged to learn … but other childhood times were on offer when in beautiful Cornwall.


An oil painting I own - showing the runnels and
ridges in the sand, at a moment in time 
We would wander back very tired from a day in the sun, wind and sand … up from the dunes, over the railway line, across the links, over the Iverni skeletons, past the church and home to Carbis Bay – the tiny village for 2021’s G7 Summit – and sleep!


*Strange but true ... I first heard about the 2018 film 'Tag' last night ... which I'm fairly certain was the game we were playing ... odd how life confirms things for us.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Treasure those Memories Carbis Bay … part 4: Women …


As it is International Women’s Day week I thought I’d combine a few other aspects re early life in Carbis Bay.


Penwith peninsula

My grandfather had died in the early 1920s in a road accident … my grandmother remarried … and it was at her/their house that we would go and stay/visit …



After the War, when they returned from Calcutta … my step-grandfather having been in the Air Force … had a wooden propeller in his study at the house …


Hayle Estuary off St Ives Bay


… his family had lived in Hayle … there was a retainer, called Mary … whom both families – ie just us and my grandmother, step-grandfather were determined to help as far as possible.



Mary was a formidable Cornish woman … somehow during the war she’d got a glass eye … eventually she learnt to drive a car, and loved going to the gliding club at Perranporth, north Cornish coast, with my step grandpa …



Mary had a friend Mabel (of very religious Methodist Chapel tones – of which Mary was not) … but they teamed up and bought a semi-detached granite-built house on the way down the main road to St Ives with plots of land at the back for vegetables, fruits and flowers - anemones ... a Cornish favourite.



Mary and Mabel, known to me as Muddy Label, turned this into a Bed and Breakfast … for a few years we’d rent it when we visited the family.  It had an attic which looked out over St Ives Bay to Godrevy Lighthouse … and stained glass frames around the windows … so much fun for us littlies … so pretty …



Godrevy from shore opposite St Ives
On the other side of the road was a bungalow in which my father’s grandmother lived … she was almost blind, lived to over 100 … but I remember seeing her, as a four year old, from the B+B’s windows … and visiting to see the robin being fed.


Great Granny - my father's g'mother

I’ve no idea why she was in Cornwall – they were from London … but her youngest child (a twin) was one of 8 or 9 and was a Royal Academician … sadly she had to look after her mother. 



Great Aunt Dolly

Perhaps during the War they decided to settle in Cornwall – but Great Aunt Dolly had a place in London, which she moved back to on GG’s death.




'The Forge' by Aunt Dolly

Great Granny’s bungalow was on a reasonable sized piece of land … which on her death was bequeathed to the local council to make a memorial garden … which I remember seeing as Garden of Remembrance full of rambling roses … a delightful haven off the Carbis Bay – St Ives road.



Wild Rose
This survived for four + decades … but eventually growth, consumerism and tourism took over – resulting in the land being sequestered for a roundabout to the local small supermarket at the back of Muddy Label’s B+B – Mary would have had a field day fighting that!!


Longstone Cemetery - before the County
Council took over the maintenance
They have built a larger memorial garden, now including a cemetery … which is not being looked after – the county took control over from the locals … now maintained by people, who are not gardeners … makes me mad: everywhere – no knowledge or interest in learning ‘how to garden’ … etc … and it’s the season of gardening!  Noise and incompetence will abound …


Longstone Cemetery now - disrespectful
to those in their last resting place
As far as I know none of our family are there … we used the cemetery high on the hill looking over St Ives … my mother and I went up a few times …

 Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories