Cornwall

Following last years major excursion I agreed with the rest of the family to have a short break in this country. After very limited research Penstowe Holiday Park near Kilkhampton in north Cornwall became the chosen destination for the, by now, traditional Easter break. Kilkhampton is on the A39 between Bideford and Bude. It’s about 5 miles from Bude and 20 – 25 miles from Bideford.

Location Map of Penstowe Holiday Park

Saturday 7 April

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Compared to the distances travelled on holiday recently (Germany in 2004 and the south of France in 2006) north Cornwall wasn’t very far to travel. In fact from my neck of the woods it wouldn’t be much more than a 2½ hour trip even allowing for a comfort break for the dog, which wasn’t something I’ve had to take into account in previous years.

As this was Easter Saturday I expected a few hold ups on the motorways due to the inevitable bank holiday traffic. To try to keep this to an absolute minimum I didn’t bother leaving home until the middle of the afternoon. Traffic levels were very low on the journey and we were unpacked in the chalet by 18:00hrs.

Apart from an evening walk around the grounds and a bite to eat that was it for today. Oh, except that we had a leaky toilet which we reported to reception that evening. The staff present on the Saturday were very polite and professional and I was confident that the promised maintenance visit would take place the following day (more fool me as it turned out).

Sunday 8 April (Easter Sunday)

Given that we were expecting a maintenance visit to fix the leaky toilet we decided that someone ought to be in to make sure that everything happened as planned. Accordingly Tom and I went out in the morning to buy a few provisions whilst Trudi and Ken stayed behind and amused themselves. Unfortunately the response from the maintenance crew was not as good as we had been led to expect and by the time Tom and I returned there had been no response.

Some fairly brief but succinct words with the Sunday reception staff elicited a better response with the manager himself turning up to make the repair. It has to be said that the Sunday staff were neither as professional nor as helpful as the regular staff. When faced with the problem their immediate response was “I’m sorry there are no maintenance staff on site today”. When asked whose problem that was they said “Well it’s not mine”. Needless to say this view was very soon corrected. It was the only problem we faced on the entire week and not really in the earth shattering category. Overall the park was a very enjoyable place to stay and very well equipped and run. A trip into Bude for a walk rounded out the evening.

Monday 9 April (Easter Monday)

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A visit to Tintagel Castle today. I like Tintagel, and usually head out there for a day whenever we are reasonably close to the area. The castle itself is now an English Heritage site, and has been for some considerable time. Of course the associations with the Arthurian legends are plentiful, but like many similar sites in Glastonbury, Caerleon and the Isles of Scilly there is limited real evidence. Never the less Tintagel remains a nice day out and there is a good pasty shop close to the castle.

Trudi doesn’t like crossing the footbridge leading to the castle proper and as we had the dog for the first time this year she elected to stay on the beach, as did Tom. Ken and I looked around the remains of the castle and used PMR446 radios to stay in touch with Trudi and Tom on the beach.

Whatever the history of the castle, either factual or legendary, there is no doubt about the strategic location of the castle and any walk around the headland quickly confirms how easy it would have been to defend the castle against aggressors.

Tuesday 10 April

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A variety of things today. Firstly it was necessary to re-provision, having basically subsisted from day to day in terms of food during the Easter weekend. Secondly I had a couple of things to take care of in respect of work. So first port of call was an Internet café in Bude, followed by a trip to the supermarket and back to base to off-load.

From there it was decided to visit Torrington for lunch and a walk around. There are a few potentially interesting places of interest in or near the town.

For the evening a trip to Sandymouth Bay, which as National Trust members we get free access to.

Wednesday 11 April

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Today was a trip to the moors. We headed off to Launceston for the morning, there was a couple of specialist shops within Launceston which Trudi wanted to re-visit. Sadly, one of these was no longer in business but it was several years since we last visited this area.

After the trip around Launceston we went out onto the moors proper and took a walk around part of Colliford Lake. Colliford Lake is actually a reservoir, part of the South West Water supply and distribution network. Construction of the embankment dam was completed in 1983, and I visited it during its construction phase whilst he was studying at Plymouth Polytechnic (now University). The dam impounds water from the River St Neot to form a reservoir with a net storage of 28,540 megalitres (6,278,800,000 gallons) and a surface area of 366 hectares (904.42 acres). Colliford supplies parts of North and South East Cornwall directly. It also makes releases to the River Fowey system which are abstracted and treated at Restormel and distributed throughout much of the rest of Cornwall.

The day was rounded off with a stop in Bodmin town before returning to base and availing ourselves of the swimming pool complex.

Thursday 12 April

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Quite a few little things today. We stayed reasonably local visiting the Bradworthy Transport Museum, a small motor museum just south of the Lower Tamar Lake. This is essentially a couple of barns on a farm filled with various cars and trucks. They don’t allow dogs in so Trudi took Baloo over to the Lower Tamar Lake for a walk. Again we kept in touch using PMR446 radio allowing us to quickly find each other after we’d completed a look around the Transport Museum.

The Lower Tamar Lake is one of a number of lakes supported by the South West Lakes Trust, which attempts to promote and enhance sustainable recreation, access and nature conservation on and around inland waters in the South West of England for the benefit of the general public. The charity supports Stithians near Redruth, Argal near Penryn, Porth near Newquay, Crowdy near Camelford, Colliford near Liskeard, Siblyback also near Liskeard, Tamar Lakes near Bude, Roadford Lake between Launceston and Okehampton, Meldon near Okehampton, Lopwell Dam near Plymouth, Burrator Reservoir near Yelverton, Avon Dam near South Brent in Devon, Venford near Ashburton, Fernworthy near Chagford on Dartmoor, Trenchford & Tottiford near Bovey Tracey, Wistlandpound between South Molton and Lynton, and Wimbleball near Dulverton.

A brief visit to Heartland Point was rounded off with a visit to a small tank museum close to the holiday village. The Dinscott Tank and Military Collection is a privately owned collection of mainly post war British vehicles and weapons from the Cold War era. The aim of the owner is simply to restore and preserve vehicles and items from this era as an historical record of this period.

Friday 13 April

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Despite the date we decided to tempt fate and visit the Launceston Steam Railway. The Launceston Steam Railway links Launceston with the hamlet of Newmills. The line runs for 2½ miles through the Kensey Valley along the trackbed of the old North Cornwall Railway. Trains are hauled by narrow gauge (2’0″) locomotives built in the time of Queen Victoria.

Launceston Station includes the Railway Workshops and the Engineering Museum. The museum includes vintage motorbikes, and a collection of railway notices, signs and equipment. The station area was once the site of an Augustinian Priory.

Newmills station is the end of the line, and the train stops for about ten minutes while the locomotive runs round the train. Next to the station at Newmills is the riverside farm park with indoor and outdoor games for children. We didn’t avail ourselves of the farm park. Although it was nicely laid out and reasonably well equipped the entrance fees were per child and adult. Given that adults were not going using the equipment merely overseeing their children having to pay for adult entry struck us as something of a rip off.

In 1865 The Launceston and South Devon Railway opened from Launceston to Plymouth. This was built to Brunel’s broad gauge of 7’0¼”, and was a subsidiary of the Great Western Railway. 21 years later, the London and South Western Railway opened its standard gauge (4’8½”) railway from Halwill Junction. The GWR line was re-gauged to standard gauge in the 1870s. The two stations were side by side and the LSWR station became a through station when the line to Padstow opened in stages in the 1890’s. The GWR line closed in 1962, with the LSWR line closing in 1966.

In 1965, Nigel Bowman purchased the locomotive Lilian from the Penrhyn Slate Quarry in North Wales. Although on a teacher training course, he set up a workshop and foundry at his parents’ home where Lilian was rebuilt. In 1968, Lilian returned to steam and was occasionally used on a short length of track owned by a friend.

With a locomotive, Nigel Bowman started looking for somewhere to run Lilian on his own railway. He decided to abandon his career in teaching to build a railway to run Lilian on. However, with land prices in Surrey rocketing, and unsympathetic planners, it was decided to look elsewhere. By 1971, after looking at various sites, Nigel had identified Launceston as a possibility. With former school friend Jim Stone, an approach was made to Launceston Council, with proposals to lay a narrow gauge railway. This was supported from the outset by the council, and the task of purchasing the trackbed started. Much of the twelve years between the initial idea and opening was taken up by legal wrangles for odd parcels of land which had become the target of property speculators. For example, the site of the current Launceston Station was destined to become a housing development, however, the property boom quietened by the mid-1970s, allowing the purchase of the land.

The first ½ mile of track opened on Boxing Day 1983. Since then progressive extensions have been made, the latest to Newmills opening in 1995.

The car park at Launceston is the site of the LSWR station, while the station is the site of a rail served gas works. The café and booking office were built in 1919 for the first Ideal Home Exhibition, and were erected as a 3-bedroom bungalow in Surrey. The canopy is from Tavistock North, and was erected in 1986/1987. The workshop and museum buildings were originally used by the Launceston Gas Company.

Saturday 14 April

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As with the start of this holiday although we had to clear the park by 10:00, I knew that the journey home would only take a couple of hours. So I planned one last visit before leaving for home. We cut down to Morwellham Quay, where a recreation of the 1860’s copper mine and quay shows the lifestyle and technology of the era.