A Look at Cornwall (2): Land’s End

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Land’s End – or Penn an Wlas in Cornish – was the second site we visited in the far south-west of Cornwall on the first full day of our holiday. It’s located 8 miles west of Penzance at the end of the A30, a road notorious for its traffic jams throughout the summer due to the thousands of tourists, and is in the village and parish of Sennen.

location-of-lands-end-in-the-penwith-peninsulaPeal Point/Land’s End is the most westerly point in Britain, and the area boasts some of the country’s most beautiful natural coastline. Stunning 200 feet high cliffs are still carved out by huge Atlantic waves and views are magnificent in both directions along the coast as well as out to sea. Seabirds circle above and the area has become legendary as a place for bird watching. Gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and even Cornish choughs (pronounced ‘chuffs’) once extinct in Cornwall, are making a welcome come-back.

These are a couple of worse-for-wear information boards about the bird and sea life of the area.

Land’s End and John o’ Groats in the far north-east of Scotland, have become renowned as the two extremities of Britain, as this map from Wikipedia shows:

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These are the signposts at Land’s End and John o’Groats. Both images are from Wikipedia. We couldn’t get near the one at Land’s End to get a decent photo because of the queues of people waiting for the professional photographer to snap them all, smiling nicely beside the famous signpost (at £10 a time).

The route of 874 miles has often been travelled by walkers and/or cyclists, either as individuals or in small groups and for a variety of reasons. For some it has been a matter of personal achievement, whereas others, often well known personalities, have undertaken the route as a means of raising money for charity – as cricketer, Ian Botham, did in 1985, and the terminally ill cancer sufferer, Jane Tomlinson did in 2003. The first recorded walk of the route was in 1871 by the brothers John and Robert Naylor.

I must admit, on arrival at the Centre we were quite surprised. Having never been to Land’s End before we expected to see just views of the renowned landmark. What we found was a collection of buildings including several ‘eateries’, shops and a list of interactive entertainments that take place throughout the spring and summer months – including a fireworks display, Pirates Day and so on. Naturally, these are aimed at families with children which, I suppose, sounds sensible. Most children would soon get bored just walking around with parents simply taking photographs. But a few reviews on the online sites I checked include criticisms of the place having become ‘more like a theme park’ than a beauty spot. It’s free to enter the Visitor Centre, but there are extra costs for the ‘extras’.

These photos are of the outside, apart from the cafe. We didn’t bother looking round the souvenir shops:

The Visitor Centre itself doesn’t sit on the site of the actual point of Land’s End. That’s a little further along, northwards, and is also known as Peal Point. It can be seen in the first photo below:

Just over a mile offshore and visible from the headland is a group of islets called the Longships. How dangerous these were to shipping in the past is evident in the need for a lighthouse. Together with the Seven Stones Reef and the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles to the south-east, these islets form part of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse in the Arthurian legends.

Since Norman times (1066 0nwards) a number of custodians have looked after Land’s End, and it is currently owned by a private company called Heritage Attractions/Heritagegb. This legendary Cornish destination has inspired people since Greek times, when (according to an information leaflet from the site) it was known as Belerion – the shining land.  The whole area is steeped in history and people have travelled to, and been living here, for at least 10 thousand years. The granitic lands away from the coast are home to a Neolithic (Stone Age) cemetery. Bronze Age burial mounds and an Iron Age hill fort can be found within 200 yards of Land’s End.

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In the early 19th century, it was to The First and Last Inn, just a mile away from Land’s End that travellers in their coaches would stop for food and rest before continuing on to the famous landmark on foot or horseback. We passed it, just before reaching the Centre, but didn’t think to take any photos. It could well be the distant white building on the photo above, though I can’t be sure. But the inn is somewhere over in that direction – and is still open today. The Inn is one of the most famous in Cornwall and not only because of its location. It has had a notorious reputation since the 1600s of being the headquarters of smugglers and wreckers.

Nowadays visitors to Land’s End are more likely to walk to the building shown on my featured image and the photo below for refreshment. If they continue along the coastal path, past the actual point of Land’s End, they will come to a building called ‘The First And Last House‘.

most-westerly-point-in-englandThis was originally opened by Gracie Thomas who served travellers to Land’s End with food and drink, as well as a piece of local granite as a souvenir. Today, gifts, toys and refreshments are still offered here, as well as Cornish ice cream.

By the time we left Land’s End, having previously spent a long time at Carn Euny, it was well past lunchtime. So we headed northward towards St Just to have something to eat before we all starved to death. Then we continued on to seaside town of St Ives – which I’ll post about next.

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Blog Award Time – 2

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In this post I want to finish off with three more blog awards. The first two are different versions of the same award, with similar rules, so I’ll do these two together.

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I was nominated for the first award (the orange one) by Antonia. Her blog, Zoale.com. is another food and cookery blog that I love, and Antonia posts recipes which are – in her own words – Greek and American Inspired Fare. Antonia likes to balance healthy eating with occasional more decadent and festive dishes suitable for various celebrations throughout the year. I recommend you to take a look. I’ve simply linked to Antonia’s About page here, as the Award post was last April.

The second Blogger Recognition Award is one I was nominated for a couple of weeks ago by Timi Townsend. Timi’s blog, Let Us Live Like We Mean It, is full of exciting historical posts and write-ups of reenactments that she has taken part in at a variety of venues. Timi is a particular lover of the Viking era and I’m very much looking forward to reading about her coming holiday in Iceland in May.

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These are the rules for Zoale’s nomination: 

  1. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award. Attach the award to the post.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started
  4. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers
  5. Select up to 10 other blogs you want to give the award to.

And these are the rules for Timi’s nomination:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them & provide the link to the post you created.

These are my (combined) answers to the two sets of rules:

3. My blog started in August 2014 while I was still writing my second book, and several people suggested to me that all writers should have a blog. Well, despite not knowing anything about blogs and blogging, I set one up (with much help from daughter Louise (thestorytellersabode) who decided to set one up for herself at the same time).

My blog got off to a very slow start, and I didn’t write many posts until January 2015 when I became involved with several flash fiction challenges. I’ve been enjoying myself with all kinds of posts ever since.

4. My advice to new bloggers is to be active on your blog from Day One. Look for bloggers who post about topics that interest you and follow them. Read, like and comment on posts and you’ll soon become part of the blogging community. Entering some of the many challenges (which relate to many different topics, including photography, story writing and poetry) also helps you to connect with others, although they can be time consuming. Most of all enjoy your blog and just post about things that interest you.

One piece of advice I’ve read a time or two is to be sure to include images/photos/pictures in your posts to make it more appealing. A page full of text alone can look quite daunting and people can be out off from reading.  There are several places where you can get free images (e.g. Pixabay) or you could use your own photos. If you intend to use a lot of images, as I do on my Travel and History posts, make sure to edit them to keep the file size small. I didn’t realise it mattered until my media file was suddenly almost full. It took me ages to go through all past posts and reduce file size of my pics.

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My seventh and last award is one I was only nominated for the other day. This is the logo:

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I was nominated for this award by Jo Hawk on her blog, johawkthewriter , so it’s a big thank you to Jo. Jo is a writer, in the process of completing the first draft of her first novel – a journey she shares on posts about daily writing and what works best for her regarding inspiration and writing habits. Jo also shares short stories and sometimes takes part in challenges. Her creative writing is excellent and witty and I recommend you to take a look at her blog and have a read!

This award was created by okoto enigma, so a thank you to Okoto, for that. I’m guessing that the name of this award (Mystery Blogger Award) relates to the name of its creator.

Here are the rules for this award:

This is a much longer award post than all the others I’ve done in these two posts, and I’m afraid I’ll be answering the questions very briefly. As this is my 7th award over two posts, I won’t be nominating too many bloggers either. shutterstock_152788070

  1. Display the award logo on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers three things about yourself
  6. Answer five questions from the nominator
  7. Nominate 10-20 bloggers. Notify each by leaving a comment on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including one weird or funny one.
  9. Share the link to your best post.

5  Three things about me:

Oh dear – more facts wanted. Let me see…

  1. I have blue eyes and fair hair. Sorry, that’s not exciting at all, but I’m struggling to find things to say that I haven’t said before on previous award posts.
  2. I’m a titch. At 5 foot two (which I’ve probably said a million times before) I need to stand on a chair to reach anything in my kitchen or on top shelves in cupboards anywhere in the house. But the height goes nicely with a great old song, so that’s alright. Here’s a video of the song from YouTube, uploaded by secretgate. This clip is from the 1952 film, Has Anybody Seen My Gal?

3. I don’t have a middle name and nor do many in our family, other than my dad. He was a Thomas Peter. My mum was just Millicent (Millie) and her side of the family didn’t bother with middle names…  And I always wanted one, for some reason!

Q. 6 The five questions from Jo for me to answer

1. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

My answer: Because I’m an ‘oldie’, I suppose it would have to be a number of actors for different periods of my life – a child actor for the childhood scenes, for example. Post childhood, the actor chosen would have to be a youngish person (in their twenties or early thirties) who could be ‘made up’ to look older as I aged, or younger to play my late-teenage years (in the ‘Swinging Sixties’!). It would also, perhaps, need to be someone who resembles me, at least a bit – not a six-footer, for a start.  So, my answer in a nutshell is: I’ve no idea because I’m not a movie-goer nowadays. Lol

2. What is your inspiration for writing?

My answer: I generally write historical fiction, so obviously actual historical people, sites and events inspire me a great deal. I’ve loved history all my life and am intrigued by all the events that have happened to make the human race and this planet we call Earth what they are today. But I also respond to all kinds of prompts on flash fiction challenges, although wherever possible, I’ll try to do something historical for those as well!

3. Where would you live, if money didn’t matter?

My answer: I would never live anywhere else (permanently, that is) than England. I might complain about the weather, but ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ is what I know and love – and all my family is here. Besides, we have a wealth of historical sites, so what else could I ask for? As to where in England I’d prefer to live, the answer is Southport in Lancashire, where I was born and raised. But we’ve been in ‘Robin Hood land’ (i.e. Nottinghamshire) since the late 1970s now, and I’ve no real complaints. And it rains less on this side of the Pennines (hills known as ‘the backbone of England) than on the wet west where Southport is!

4. When did (or will) you consider yourself successful?

I suppose success means different things to different people. Many of us can have successful lives without becoming rich and/or famous. I consider myself successful in many things, such as gaining my geology degree and teaching certificates, in raising six children and having a great time teaching teenagers geography and history for many years. I’ve also been successful in keeping relatively healthy for so long and in being able to visit many countries of the world – although I still have a long list of places yet to be ticked off.

As far as my writing goes, I’ve loved writing my books and feel successful in having eventually got round to writing novels after so many years of not having the time (too many children and too long in teaching! Lol). I also feel successful in having had so many great reviews of them, but I’m still hundreds of miles away from what people would call a successful writer – usually meaning one who makes a lot of money from their books and has become famous. I don’t want to be famous… a quiet life suits me fine.

5. Why did you start blogging?

I’ve just answered this question for the award post above (Q.3) and on yesterday’s award post (Black Cat Award, Q.1) so I won’t repeat it all again! Perhaps I’ll just repeat that, after a slow and hesitant start, I do love my blog.

Q. 8 As this is the 7th award post, and this particular award is a very long one, I’m going to chicken out from asking my nominees 5 of my own questions here. Instead, I’ll cheat and pass on Jo’s questions (the ones I’ve just answered above). They were interesting ones to do.

My nominees for these three awards.

As I did on the last post, I’m leaving it to nominees to decide which of the three they accept – if they choose to accept any. Apologies in advance if I’ve nominated anyone whose blog is ‘Award Free’.

Prabhat

Cheryl Foston

LaRonda Moore

Inkyfire

London Wlogger

Carina

 

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Blog Award Time – 1

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I haven’t done an awards post for well over a year, although I’ve been nominated for several. But I was recently nominated for another two which have shamed me into doing them all, although I intend to fit all seven into two posts. I won’t be writing as much as I usually do for each, or nominating as many people as the rules ask for.

In this first post, I’m responding to four award nominations – most, but not all, in the order in which I received them. Some with similar rules, I’ve tried to put together.

This is the first award and the one I’ve been sitting on the longest:

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I was nominated for One Lovely Blog Award by Joy Pixley a whole year ago now (i.e. February 2016) so it’s a big (belated) thank you to her. Joy’s blog Tales from Eneana, is full of amazing stories – many of them in response to various writing challenges. I recommend you check her out! Joy is a very creative writer and her stories really draw readers in. Joy is currently writing her first book, set in the fictional world of Eneana, and it promises to be excellent!

These are the RULES for this award:shutterstock_152788070

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Add 7 facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10-15 bloggers (or as many as you can /want) for the award, and comment on one of their posts to let them know.

So I’ve already done Q’s 1 & 2.

Q. 3 I’ve written several Award posts that ask for facts about yourself, and it’s hard to think of anything else original enough to say. But here are a few, not too exciting revelations:

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  • I’ll be seventy in April. What an admission! I cringe at the thought and cling to the fact that people tell me I don’t look it (even though I feel more like eighty at times). This is how I feel, especially when confronted with any modern appliance.

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  • I’m a summer person and tend to shrivel up in the winter. It’s not that I don’t love the stark beauty of the winter landscape, because I do. A crisp, frosty morning can be beautiful and exhilarating. I just hate the really short days and the long hours of darkness. I loathe writing by electric light and long for the time when we can enjoy our lovely long hours of English twilight.
  • Travelling  is a passion with me I’d spend most of every year doing it if I had the money and time to do so. As it is, we have lots of short breaks around the UK, and go abroad a couple of times most years.
  • One of the ways I unwind is by spending hours in my kitchen baking. I’ve baked since I was a child and by the time I was twelve my mum retired from that particular household activity as I muscled in. Having six children of my own, my baking skills were later put to very good use.
  • I adore swimming and think I should have been born a mermaid.
  • I also love riding  – which probably sounds a bit strange coming from a would-be mermaid.

Q. 4  A few nominees are listed at the bottom of this post. 

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I’ve decided to do he next two awards together, as the rules are exactly the same – so I can cheat a little here.

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I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Aquileana in March 2016 and can say it’s an honour to be nominated by such an awesome blogger. Aquileana’s posts on her blog La Audacia de Aquiles must be some of the most popular on WordPress, and rightly so. If you love to read about Ancient Greece, I suggest you have a look through some of the posts she’s written. Sometimes Aquileana writes about various aspects of literature, occasionally teaming up with other bloggers – poets, artists etc. to do literary criticisms. All are equally interesting! (I’ve linked to one of Aquileana’s Greek posts above).

I was nominated for the Best Blog Awards by Inese, whose wonderful blog, Making Memories, is another hugely popular one. And rightly so. The name of Inese’s blog stems from the many beautiful photos she shows, mostly of Ireland, but some are of places in the USA taken when she visits family who live there. All Inese’s posts are accompanied by a superbly entertaining  and interesting commentary which includes historical background and a look at the lives of people past and present. Needless to say, I also recommend this blog to everyone.

These are the Rules for both of these awards:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Add the logo to your post
  3. Nominate 5 – 10 bloggers of your choice and tell them about the award.

There are no facts to find or questions to answer for either of these awards .

Nominees are listed at the bottom of the post.

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And this is the fourth and final award for this post – and the logo’s a real cutie:

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I was nominated for this award by Lynne Hoareau, so thank you Lynne and apologies for the long delay in my response. Needless to say, Lynne’s blog, Lynne’s Recipe Trails is about Food and Cookery, and it’s a great one too. I follow a few cookery blogs and always enjoy finding new recipes – or variations of an already existing recipe – and Lynne’s posts provide both variations and individuality, many with a keen eye on healthy eating. Lynne’s is now an award free blog.

These are the Rules for this one:shutterstock_140966836

  • Anybody nominated, can nominate seven (lucky number) other bloggers.
  • Anybody nominated, answers three questions.
  • The questions you ask while nominating, can be any three questions.

So, here are my answers to the three questions – with a note to be passed on:

If any of the questions asked are offending or simply do not want to be answered, the nominee does not have to answer them to earn the award. This award is for bloggers who strive to write for everybody, and no matter how many viewers they get, make an impact on a reader. This award is an expression of gratitude to the nominee. It should be awarded to anybody that you choose deserves it and it doesn’t mean that they must have hundreds of followers and likes.

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The following are the three questions are the ones Lynne answered on her own awards post and passed on to her nominees. I’m going to do the same again (time restraints!) but asking three different questions is what the rules suggest. I’ll leave it up to my nominees to decide what they do.

1. Who was the first blog / blogger you heard of / read and did they inspire you to start? 

I’ve answered similar questions to this on a few award posts now, but here’s a version of it again…

I had no idea what a blog was until a number of people suggested that, as a writer, I should have one. To be honest, social media of any kind wasn’t my ‘thing’ – although my daughter, Louise (thestorytellersabode) had already set up a Facebook page for me – which to this day remains hardly used other than having my blog posts linked to it. All the bloggers who inspire me are those I’ve met since I started my blog and are too many to name.

2. Do you see Blogging as a future career or just a side hobby?

Blogging would never be a career for me. I love writing my various types of posts, and although a few are linked to my books and writing in general, most are about what interests me. Other than writing and flash fiction, that includes history, customs and traditions and travel. I also used to enjoy doing my Word of the Week (WOW) posts, which I stopped over a year ago due to lack of time. I hope to be able to start doing them again soon.

3. What is your all-time favorite Album and Why?

In a nutshell, I haven’t got one. I adored Leonard Cohen’s voice and had LP’s of his as long ago as the ’70s. Later on it was tapes, and still later I had some CD’s. But I like a wide variety of music, including folk music, some classical and even some country and western pieces. I just go with what I like at the time.

Nominees:

I’m going to break the rules completely here and nominate a few bloggers who can choose which one of the above four awards they like. No one is under any obligation to accept any, of course. (Apologies, too, if I’ve missed a notice on anyone’s blog that says you’re Award Free.)

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Inese

Joy Pixley

Johawk the writer

Ellie Blue

Susan Langer

Timi Townsend

Forestwoodfolkart

Singledust

Arv

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In my second awards post – which will, hopefully be tomorrow – I’ll respond to the other three nominations.

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A Look at Cornwall (1): Carn Euny Village

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In June last year (2016) Nick and I, accompanied by our blogging daughter Louise (afairymind) at thestorytellersabode, headed down to Cornwall for a week.

Cornwall is very beautiful, with stunning scenery both along the coast and inland (as fellow blogger draliman, who lives there will affirm. I’ve linked to a post here in which Ali shares a few photos of his beloved Cornwall. We had the great pleasure of meeting up with him during the week). Culturally, Cornwall is closer to our Celtic neighbours in Wales than to other English counties, as the many place-names suggest. I wrote a brief, introductory post about Cornwall while we were still down there last June but, as often happens with me, I didn’t get round to doing the rest once we got home. We visited many great sites and I intend to write up several over the next few weeks.

We rented a cottage for the week in the little fishing village of Newlyn on the south coast of the Penwith peninsula in the far south-west of Cornwall. Newlyn is only a few minutes drive from the bigger fishing town of Penzance (yes, Cornwall is renowned for its fishing industry and Penzance for that wonderful opera!). The photo below is of Newlyn harbour.

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The first site we visited the day after our arrival wasn’t a long drive from Newlyn, as it was also located in the Penwith peninsula. The site was Carn Euny (approximate location marked with the red x on the map of Cornwall below).

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Carn Euny is an Iron-Age-Romano-British village, established in 400 BC and occupied until the 4th century AD. Formerly known as Chapel Euny, this ancient village is located in the Penwith peninsula, in granite uplands rich in antiquities.

To reach the village from the car park we followed Route 1, one of the two possible lanes. It was dry and sunny the week we were there so we had a lovely walk, but it can be very muddy underfoot after rain. Here’s a plan from the site – a terrible photo, which I hadn’t intended to use, but it shows the two paths (just!):

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These are a mixture of views along Route 1 on our walk to the village and back. The abandoned van was an interesting and intriguing surprise:

Arriving at Carn Euny village, we had a look at a couple of information boards and site plans. This one mentions another ancient site which we also visited during that week (Chysauster).

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The following is a plan of the different houses at Carn Euny, as well as the fogou and ruins of a cottage dated approximately 1750.

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The site includes the foundations of stone houses from the 2nd-4th centuries AD, with evidence of timber and turf houses from much earlier settlement, as well as a fogou (which I’ll describe a little further on). The following photos give an ‘overview’ of the stone houses of the site, the foundations of which have walls up to a metre high in places:

In the middle of these stone houses is a fascinating Iron-Age structure known as a fogou – a feature found only in the far west of Cornwall. The name comes from a late Cornish word meaning cave – an underground, or partly underground, structure. The fogou at Carn Euny is, according to the guide book, “unique  in having a round chamber as well as the long passage characteristic of most fogous”.

These are a few of the photos we took of the fogou:

Fogous basically consist of a main passage, often aligned east-west or north-east to south-west. The passage is built of dry stone walls, which can be seen in the photos, and roofed with giant capstones – in evidence at the entrances and sketched into the diagram above. Subsidiary chambers and small narrow side passages are also features. Theories for the purpose of fogous range from hideouts in time of trouble to cellars for storing goods and livestock. At Carn Euny, there is evidence that the fogou could have been for religious purposes – “the parish church of ancient times” (according to the guide book again). There is also evidence that the round chamber here could have been a cult centre before the long passage was built. As for dating, most fogous seem to have been built in the later Iron Age (i.e. 400 BC – AD 43).

Nothing seems to have been known about the fogou or settlement at Carn Euny before the first half of the 19th century when it was discovered by miners excavating for tin. Cornish antiquary, William Copeland Borlase excavated the fogou between 1863 and 68, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that any of the houses were examined.

The Carn Euny Fogou from an 1869 drawing by J.T.Blight and W.C Borlase. Public Domain

The Carn Euny Fogou from an 1869 drawing by J.T.Blight and W.C Borlase. Public Domain

As with many ancient sites, including Hadrian’s Wall and the monasteries and abbeys ordered to be pulled down in the dissolution of the monasteries of 1536-39, Carn Euny suffered extensive damage over the years from stone robbing for local buildings, field walls, stock shelters, gate posts and so on. The cultivation of fields for potatoes and daffodils – for which Cornwall is famous – caused further damage to the site, as did miners prospecting for tin. All in all the original form of the houses isn’t at all clear. Nevertheless, ten houses from the Romano-British period have been excavated (house numbers on the plan relate to the order of excavation).

Houses seem to be interlocking, courtyard-style structures, arranged haphazardly across the site (unlike at Chysauster, a later village, where houses are along a central street). Courtyard-style houses are usually oval, enclosed by a thick outer wall with a paved entrance facing away from the prevailing SW winds. The entrance leads into the courtyard, around which several rooms are built into the thickness of the outer wall. A large oval or circular room opposite the entrance is thought to have been the main living room, with the other rooms serving as stables and storage areas. Thatch roofing is thought to have covered the rooms, leaving the courtyard open to the elements. Stone capped drains for bringing water in and out of the houses are also a feature.

This is  an impression of what the village may have looked like in the 4th century AD from a notice board at the site. Unfortunately it’s very faint, so not very clear.

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Lastly, here are a few photos of the remains of the cottage (the presence of which which with its accompanying cultivation of fields etc. would have also contributed to damage at the site.)

Carn Euny is a wonderful site to visit, especially on a sunny day. There are no facilities or information centre there, so it was a quiet experiences for us on a school day in June. There are plenty of information boards for visitors to understand the layout of the village and make their own way round. We bought a guide book later in the week when we went to Chysauster, where there’s a small information centre. I suppose the best idea would be to go to Chysauster first… But we didn’t know that at the time.

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Those Awful Stone Steps

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Picking up her long skirts, Matilda climbed the stone steps, alternately cursing her aching knees and muttering unseemly criticisms of her husband. Why he couldn’t be like other men and have his workplace on the ground floor instead of eight storeys up, she couldn’t imagine. And just because he was a wizard didn’t mean she should wait on him hand and foot. Forty-five years she’d had of this, and enough was enough. Had the man no consideration for her age? She’d give him a piece of her mind once she got up there.

‘What can I do for you, my dear?’ Mordo said, frowning as she entered his domain.

Matilda glared at him. ‘You sent for me, remember?’

Mordo still looked perplexed. ‘Then, since you’re here, a small favour, if you will.’

‘Make it quick, I’ve an errand to run. And while I’m at it, we need to get a servant to run up and down those st–’

‘This is my latest potion, my dear,’ Mordo said, cutting her off as he held up a small vial of purple liquid. ‘Anyone who imbibes will look and feel at least fifteen years younger. I tried it on the oldest of my cats and there she is now…’

Matilda gasped at the sight of the small black kitten playing with a ball of red wool. ‘That’s surely not old Nightshade…?’ she said, bending to pick up the tiny creature. ‘She’s nineteen years old, and could hardly walk when I saw her this morning.’

‘The very reason I used her in my experiment, dear wife. Her legs had given up and she was at Death’s door, if truth be told. Now look at her.’

Matilda was duly impressed. ‘I don’t suppose your potion would work on humans, would it…?’

‘I don’t see why not. In fact, that’s exactly why I created it. I’m about to try it on myself and wanted you to observe the transformation – just in case anyone who sees me after today should think me an impostor and not Mordo at all.’

‘You mean you’re about to make yourself look younger and leave me in this rickety state. Not blinkin’ likely!’  Matilda’s drooping bosoms heaved as her indignation soared. ‘If you drink it, then so do I!’

‘Very well. Would you like to be first, or shall I? Or shall we drink together and witness each other regaining at least a smattering of youthfulness?’

Matilda considered the question. If he went first there was the possibility of him not leaving any for her. ‘Divide it into two and we’ll drink together.’

Mordo did as bidden and handed her a glass. ‘Here’s to renewed youth and vigour and the start of an exciting life!’ he yelled, raising his glass and tipping back his head.’

Matilda swallowed her potion down in one and swept her sleeve across her wet lips. ‘Ooh, I don’t like the taste of that! Could do with more sugar, if you ask me and…’

‘You were saying, dearest…?’  Mordo said, as his wife’s glass smashed on the stone floor and he placed his own untouched potion on the table. He congratulated himself as his wife began to shrink, and thought he’d die from laughing as she sprouted black feathers and an orange beak.’

‘There, there, now, my ugly little bird’, he cooed, as he grabbed the squawking crow. ‘My tower is no place for a creature like you. I’ll soon have a prettier songbird installed in your stead…

‘And you, dear Matilda,’ he said as he approached the high tower’s open window, ‘can nest in a place where your voice will be appreciated. I believe there’s a murder of crows nesting in the old oak at the edge of the meadow. And just think, my dear,’ he added as he thrust her out, ‘you’ll never have to climb those awful stone steps again.’

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I starting writing this story for a prompt on FFfAW a few months ago. The prompt was provided by Joy Pixley and showed a wooden staircase. Before I’d written more than a few sentences, I realised I needed more than 175 words to make this particular tale work. So I abandoned it and wrote something else, which can be viewed here. Recently, I decided to finish this one off, and as I haven’t had time to write a flash fiction for this week, I’m posting this instead. It weighs in at 646 words.

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A Fun Day at Warwick Castle – Part 3

This is my third and last post about Warwick Castle in Warwickshire UK, which we visited in August 2015. This time I’d like to show some photos of the event we actually went to Warwick to see: the joust.

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The joust is one of the seasonal attractions at Warwick Castle, the others being demonstrations of the trebuchet (pronounced treb-you-shay) in action, birds of prey shows and many others. Events do change from year to year, and not all are held in the summer holidays. During other school holidays, like half-term and Easter, several events are put on, especially ones for children (or ‘little warriors’). This year (2017) in both May and September, there will be ‘The Wars of the Roses Live’, which I’d like to try to get to! There’s also a Kingmakers Medieval Banquet in February. Here’s a link to the officials Castle Events Guide for this year.

All  spectators were seated on the grass at the opposite side of the river, which is a fair way back from the action, and as none of us apart from Louise had a decent zoom on our cameras, I’m afraid the photos aren’t too wonderful. Nor did it help that people kept bobbing up in front of us, but as most of them were children, they’re forgiven. It was a fun event, made even better by the lovely sunny weather (which has to have an obligatory mention for any outdoor event in Britain!) – not to mention the handsome and chivalrous knights, who kindly made themselves available for interacting with spectators afterwards.

Here are a few more photos:

Around the castle site a number of medieval siege weapons can be seen, the main ones being the trebuchet and the mangonel. The Warwick trebuchet is the biggest in the world Both of these siege engines were used for hurling a variety of projectiles/objects over castle walls as part of the attack – including rocks, burning missiles (fireballs), disease-infected carcasses of slaughtered animals,  and even the heads of slain enemies. Here are a couple of photos of each:

These weapons deserve more time than I can give them here to describe and talk about. But on some days, the main event at Warwick is a demonstration of how the trebuchet works, so to finish with, here’s a 2 minute video from YouTube of one demonstration. It was uploaded by Bob Astill in 2011:

That’s all about Warwick Castle for now.

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A Fun Day at Warwick Castle – Part 2

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View of the courtyard from the motte-and-bailey

In Part 1 of this post, I wrote about the construction and design of the various buildings that have become the Warwick Castle we see today. In this post I’d like to show some of the fun activities laid on at the time of our visit in August 2015 and a few of the displays and waxworks inside parts of the castle.

First, here’s the plan of the castle again for easy reference if need be:

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The first thing we noticed on the gloriously sunny day we drove out to Warwick was the number of stalls and activities set up both in the outer ward (outside the curtain wall) and around the courtyard:

Warwick Castle was bought by The Madame Tussauds Group in 1978 and opened as a major tourist attraction. Throughout the summer holidays, fun events and activities are staged at the Castle, all aimed at attracting and entertaining families and hopefully, helping children to develop an interest in history. Entry isn’t free, nor is the castle owned/managed by either the National Trust or English Heritage, and families with several children would find it an expensive day out. In addition, there’s an extra fee for anyone wanting to enter the dungeon in Caesar’s Tower. A little about the dungeon later…

Most of the permanent displays are set out in the Great Hall, State Rooms and family apartments inside the collection of buildings along the eastern side of the castle, flanked by the River Avon. The waxwork figures are impressive, to say the least. These two photos show the inner/courtyard side of the buildings  along the east side of the castle and a close-up of the entrance, which takes us into the State Rooms and many displays:


The first place we come to is the Great Hall. This was originally built in the 13th century, then rebuilt in the 17th century for visiting guests of the Earl of Warwick. It was further restored in 1871 following a great fire which left it in ruin. The displays in here are all connected with weapons and armour:

Next we headed to the rooms in the undercroft devoted to ‘The Kingmaker’, Richard Neville (1428-71). Neville was  the 16th Earl of Warwick, who took command of the castle in 1449. He was a good administrator who did much to modernise and improve the castle, and in the second half of the 15th century he became the most powerful man in Britain. The exhibits describe his life and subsequent death at the Battle of Barnet. They also show his life at the castle, as well as the lives of others who lived there. Here’s a selection of the many photos we took – some of which were ruined by glary lights.

I won’t include photos of the various State Rooms here (i.e. rooms such as the formal dining room) just a few photos taken in the adjacent family rooms, which displayed events and characters from A Royal Weekend Party. This was a party given/organised by Frances (fondly known as ‘Daisy’) Countess of Warwick in 1898. The principal guest was the then Prince of Wales, later Edward V111. It is believed that the Prince of Wales’ infatuation with Daisy was the inspiration for the song that starts:

Daisy, Daisy. give me your answer do

The song was written by English songwriter Harry Dacre (pen-name of Frank Dean) in 1892;

And this is a cute little YouTube video of the famous song, from kidsmusicshop1:

To finish this post, here’s a little bit about the gaol and dungeon inside Caesar’s Tower:

The rooms inside Caesar’s Tower are interesting to visit, although it was only permitted as part of a guided tour – and cost an extra £9.00 to get in. We were led round various rooms to watch a series of short dramatizations – some of which were a bit gory (all pretend!). One was in a torture chamber and another was a medical ‘operation’! Yet another was a medieval court scene whereby a judge pronounced ridiculously unjust punishments on prisoners who had supposedly committed some small crime – like stealing a cabbage. Needless to say, members of the audience were picked to play these unfortunate prisoners (my husband being one of them!). It was just a shame that photography wasn’t allowed.

Eventually we headed underground to the dungeon. This was similar to most dungeons I’ve seen elsewhere, with very little light and graffiti on the walls from prisoners of centuries ago. And awful torture chambers.

This image is from Wikipedia:

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A gibbet on display in the basement of Caesar’s Tower at Warwick Castle. Author: Chensiyuan. Creative Commons

Apologies for the glary patch on this information board!

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But the most interesting thing in this dungeon was this:

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This grille on the dungeon floor is the opening into what is called an oubliette – a very chilling thing indeed. Any unfortunate prisoner put into to this tiny space – not even big enough for him to stand up in – was effectively forgotten and left there to die.

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In the third post about Warwick Castle, I’ll eventually get round to writing about the event we actually went to Warwick to see: the joust.

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A Fun Day Out at Warwick Castle – Part 1

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East Front from the Outer Court, 1752. Painted by Canaletto (1697-1768). Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Originally uploaded by Gillian Tipson at English Wikipedia. Public Domain.

I last visited Warwick Castle on a family day out in August, 2015, and have been meaning to write a post about it since then. Well, here’s the first part (it would be far too long as a single post and is likely to end up being three!). Louise – aka @afairymind – shared some of her photos from the day on her blog, ages ago. I’m just late with mine, as usual.

Warwick (pronounced Warrick) is one of the most famous and well-visited castles in England. It is also one of the most complete medieval fortresses in Britain. I’ve visited the castle several times, some of those with classes of Year 7 students aiming to decide how they’d attack and defend this great structure – and the weapons they’d choose to do it. But, I digress… so back to describing the place.

Warwick Castle is situated on a sandstone cliff along a bend in the River Avon in the town of Warwick, in Warwickshire:location-of-warwick-castle

The history of the castle site goes back to the time of King Alfred’s daughter, Aethellflaed /Ethelfleda who established a fortified burh* here – one of ten aimed at defending Mercia from invading Danes. But the actual castle came into existence following the Norman Conquest of 1066. In 1068, William the Conqueror ordered a motte-and-bailey castle* to be built on the site in order to maintain control of the Midlands as he advanced northwards. It can be seen on the plan below, labelled as the Castle Mound, and I’ll add a photo of it later, with other views from the Courtyard.

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Here are a few photos of the castle from the outside, which you’ll probably be able to place on the map. (Photos of the mound are from the courtyard, and are show later).

A word about the Gatehouse and Barbican…

The entrance to a castle was usually the main target for attacking forces, so it stands to reason that this should be as heavily fortified as possible. At Warwick, the barbican* (definition below and shown on the above plan) was the ‘Killing Zone’. If attackers managed to get through the outer gateway – a drawbridge in earlier days, plus the portcullis, they would have to face an iron portcullis and a heavy door at the inner end as well. Once trapped in there, usually by the crush of their own men piling in from behind, defending soldiers would fire arrows and pour boiling liquids down on them through the ‘murder holes’ above. This is a photo taken inside the barbican, looking out through the outer portcullis. It’s from Louise’s collection (thestorytellersabode) from our day out. My photos were far too glary, so Lou kindly offered me hers.

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Following Norman times, the castle has a long history of ownership, rebuilding and extension. Although it’s interesting, I don’t intend to go into it all here! In this post (Part 1) I want to show some photos of the castle itself. The main displays to be seen in the State Rooms, and the events on that day, will be in Parts 2 and 3.

Here are a few views of inside the castle taken from the Courtyard:

And here are some of Guy’s Tower – a twelve sided, 39m high, five-storey structure built into the curtain walls in 1395 (Caesar’s Tower, the first to be added to the walls, was built in 1350).The tower contains a sitting room and two side rooms – a garderobe (toilet) and probably a bedroom. During the Civil War, Warwick Castle was held by parliamentarians and the towers were used to house royalist prisoners. The exhibits in Guy’s Tower are mostly armaments connected to this period:

To finish off, here are few views taken up in the towers or along the battlements. Some are of the town of Warwick beyond, others are views of the inner courtyard and buildings around it.

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  • Burh An Old English fortified settlement
  • A motte-and-bailey castle consists of a mound – on which usually stands a keep or tower – and a bailey, which is an enclosed courtyard.
  • “A barbican is a fortified outpost or gateway, such as an outer defence to a city or castle, or any tower situated over a gate or bridge which was used for defensive purposes.” Definition from Wikipedia.
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Happier Times for Mum – FFFAW

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Happier Times for Mum

It had to be here, somewhere…! It was in his pocket a minute ago, then he’d taken it out to look at – and must have put it back in the wrong pocket. The one with the hole in it! He had to find it. Mum deserved something pretty on her birthday.

Jamie knew she’d been lonely since Dad had left, but didn’t know how to help. Dad had a new family now and forgotten all about him and Mum.

‘This what you’re looking for, son?’

Jamie spun round to see a nice-looking man holding out the shiny brooch. ‘Thanks mister! I thought I’d lost it, good and proper!’

The man grinned. ‘It was in a puddle back there, just waiting to be found. You Julie Henderson’s lad?’

‘You know my mum?’

‘Known each other for years – same school, same office… I’m on my way to invite you both out for a birthday dinner tonight.’

‘She’d love that … and so would  I,’ Jamie said, hoping this was the start of happier times for Mum.

Word Count: 174

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Jessica Haines. Thank you, Jessica!

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds

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On Sunday we headed up to Leeds in West Yorkshire for another visit to the Royal Armouries Museum. It’s a 70 mile journey from where we live near Newark and took us about an hour and twenty minutes. We’ve been to the museum a few times now, and it’s always an enjoyable visit – and despite (or perhaps because of) it being only January, the place was pretty busy.

The Royal Armouries is the UK’s national museum of arms and armour and one of the most important museums of its type in the world. The core collection has its origins in the country’s working arsenal in the Tower of London, as far back as the Middle Ages. The collection of approximately 75,000 items – excluding 2,7000 on loan – is housed and displayed at three sites: the collection’s historic home at the Tower of London, the purpose-built building in Leeds, and at Fort Nelson, near Portsmouth in Hampshire.

Situated close to the city centre, the museum is among many buildings built in the same era (mid 1990s) which saw a rejuvenation of the area now known as Leeds Dock. The actual Leeds Dock forms the junction of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and the Aire-Calder navigation. Good views of these waterways and the connecting lock, can seen from the different floors inside the museum:

The exhibits are spread over five floors. Once through the main entrance, the ground floor consists of main passage through to the Hall of Steel. To either side of the passage are a theatre and meeting rooms as well as the first of two cafes (the other is on the second floor) and the souvenir shop:

At the far end of the ground floor is the Hall of Steel, a steel and glass tower described in the guide book as ‘the architectural centrepiece of the Royal Armouries’. The stairs to the different floors circle around inside it (and through which the best views of the waterways can be had).

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The displays around the central stairwell are excellent and consist mainly of weapons and armour from the 17th century.

Floor 1 consisted of the Education Centre, Library and Wellington Suite – so we hurried on to Floor 2:

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Looking down at the ground floor from floor 2.

Floors 2 and 3 are all devoted to War, with displays of weapons and armour over time and how they changed. This is the entrance to the War Gallery on Floor 2:

There are far too many exhibits to show or talk about here, but I’ll show a few of them. The  exhibits in the following set are all connected to Henry V111. His suit of armour is always a talking point (re.the codpiece) as is the horned helmet that was given to him by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian 1 (1459-1519) after the defeat of the French at the Battle of Spurs.

The next set is a mixture of other items and displays of interest on Floors 2 and 3. The mounted men from the central display are all men of arms from different countries and times:

On Floor 4 is the fascinating Oriental Gallery. This is a mix of warriors, arms and weapons from several countries, including Turkey, India, China and Japan. Again, here are just a few of the photos we took. I’ve included an elephant used for hunting as well as a war elephant:

Floor 5 continues the theme of hunting started on Floor 4. There are displays of guns and other weapons used for hunting, as well as actual hunting models. I don’t like any form of hunting, nor do I take any interest in guns, which I also dislike. But here are a few photos:

I could only show a mere fraction of the enormous number of exhibits at the Armouries Museum, and many of the photos we took were useless because of the glare from the lights. Most displays were behind glass, which made it even worse, so please excuse the glary pictures. My favourite galleries were the Medieval ones. And Henry V111’s codpiece is a hoot.

And here’s some food for thought from a wall display in the museum:

einstein-quote

 

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