Anthony-birthday-count: 5 (Happy Birthday, Anthony!)
What a great day! Feels like a lot happened today, all good; I don't know where to start. So I'll start at the end, then go the beginning, then talk about the middle.
We ended the day walking around the downtown of the village of Fowey. This place feels really old and just a little spooky. The streets are narrow, even by English standards, with buildings rising up on both sides pushing in. The land rises up fast from the sea, so many streets are steep, and nothing runs far in a straight line. People on the street seem a bit more dour than in Penzance or Porthleven. Even though Wikipedia tells me that 50% of the economy here flows from tourism it still felt like a place where outsiders best be careful. We walked through the churchyard, and it felt especially old and spooky. It was first built in 1150, but only a few bricks are left - it was destroyed by pirates and rebuilt in the early 1300s. But that one is gone too, ransacked by the French in 1456 (the French said that Fowey sailors attacked them first). The current church was built from 1460 to 1500. The picture doesn't do justice to just how much church is crammed into a small space.
Along the back wall of the church is a high wall. Over it, now and then, we could see little bits of some kind of old building. From all over town, you can catch little glimpses, but you can never really see it. Like a ghost building.
I knew what it was. It's called Place House, and is the private home of the Treffry family. It's older than the church; after the French wrecked the church in 1456, they moved on to Place House. Elizabeth Treffry directed her staff to pour molten lead down onto the attackers - and so her home was spared. 555 years later, the family still lives there. I wonder if that contributes to the weird vibe here in Fowey: these super rich people in this walled giant mansion just barely visible wherever you go.
This ties in to the beginning of our day. John de Cressy Treffry was born in 1859, the last of over ten children. He knew he was never going to inherit, but at the time the tin mining industry was going great guns, and the Treffrys were in the middle of it, so he was pretty well fixed. In the late 1800s he built himself a house, modest compared to Place House, but still not bad: a 9500 square foot Victorian gentleman's home on 60 acres of grounds. Today, it's Penarwyn House, and that's where we stayed last night.
After Treffry's second wife died, she sold the place, and it went through a succession of owners. They chopped up and sold off the grounds, and the servant's quarters, and the carriage house, eventually cutting it down to just an old big house and an acre and a half of land. Our hosts, Mike and Jan, bought it in 2003, and have done an amazing restoration job, all themselves (except that Mike hired a plumber, and will admit to using a gardener once per month). Here is Mike working this morning, side by side with Dickins, his 82 year old father in law.
Like Dawn wrote yesterday, all the places we've stayed have been great, but the work Mike and Jan have done is nothing short of amazing. It's real Victorian luxury, but with twenty first century amenities. And they are terrific, interesting people.
See how the last door on the left in this upstairs hall is shorter? That's the housekeeper suite. Those Victorians!
That was the end and beginning of our day. The middle started with Mike giving us a lift to check out the Eden project. We didn't know much about it, but my cousin Steph did some architecture work for them, and Steph is cool, so we figured it must be cool as well. It is! Here's what greets you as you come toward the site:
It's the vision of a crazy Dutchman, Tim Smit, who worked in ecology and horticulture in England. It highlights the place of humans in the world, our relationship with nature, the responsibilities we have as a result, and how we can change the world. It's education in the grandest sense. It's just too much to describe in a few sentences: Steph, maybe you could describe it in a comment! I wish we had a full day there instead of just a couple of hours.
The physical structures are centered on these huge biomes built into a 170 year old abandoned china clay mine. They're huge. The Truro cathedral could fit inside one.
And they've got a crazy sculpture made out of wasted electronics. I think the lesson is that you should buy more electronic junk, so that you can make a crazy sculpture too!
And they have a giant bumblebee that my wife hoped to hitch a ride on.
It was super cool. Inside the biomes it was nice and quiet, being a weekday morning in February. Just a few scattered people, and a bunch of French kids on a school trip (all French sounds like this to me: "eh. les habitants. poutine. comme ci, comme ca." and so on).
Everything went right today. The weather was unreal. Our first sunny day, and maybe 50 or so degrees and just a slight breeze. Could not have been a better day to walk. From Eden to Fowey was a spectucular coastal walk. I've gone on long enough, but I must tell you this: if you ever go to Polkerris, park the car at Par, and walk the mile along the path. You will not believe your eyes when you the village emerges from the cliffs. And eat at Sam's.
Tomorrow the BBC is calling for another beautiful sunny day. It's another coastal walk, from here to Looe (pronounced "loo", which must be great fun for 5 year English kids going there on holiday). It will be our last day along the coast till we get to John O'Groats at the end of May!
Location:East of Eden