Locations and activities for this blog:
Coastal Walk to St Agnes Beach
St. Michael's Mont
Today was our last day in Wales but what an amazing time we've had here. We spent a total of 7 days in Wales; I wish we could have added 3-4 more. Incredibly friendly and hospitable people combined with amazing sites and outdoor experiences, then again maybe 4 days still wouldn't have been enough. But the time had come to begin our 4-hour journey to Cornwall.
Walking up the stairs to 'the studio@heatherbank', we were greeted with this 'door' message. Inside the place was amazing.
We knew the apartment was close to the beach but we weren't expecting this view from the kitchen table.
We quickly unloaded the SUV and headed down the path behind the apartment. Within 5 minutes, this was our view of the sea cliffs on the north coast of Cornwall.
We later found out the apartment was located just off Newdown's Head. At this point we didn't have a map but we decided to continue following the path (South West Coast Path in red).
The cliff top was covered in heather and yellow-flowering bushes called gorse. This area is referred to as 'heathland'; this shrub habitat is fast disappearing and considered a rare habitat in Europe.
Two natural arches in the area are referred to as Polberro Cove. Although it was sunny, you could feel sea mist from time to time.
The path led down to Trevaunance cove and beach. What a totally unexpected gem!
The sun was out and it was still warm so we sat on some rocks and enjoyed the beach.
People playing on the beach and in the water. Although most of the people enjoying the water were wearing wet suits.
We managed to get a reservation at the restaurant that overlooks the beach at Trevaunance cove. Enjoying our tapas dinner and first mojitos since Glasgow nearly one month ago.
As we were walking back to the apartment we caught glimpses of the sunset.
With only 10 days remaining of our Great Britain trip, we were definitely cutting back on the daily itinerary, slowing down the pace and relaxing more. Today's weather was periodic rain showers so we were in no rush to leave the apartment. Around mid-morning when the rain lightened up we decided to drive to the Eden Project.
Think of the Eden Project as a gigantic indoor garden. The design parameter provided to the architects was 'we want to build the largest indoor rain forest in the world'. However, the real purpose of the Project is to demonstrate the importance of plants to people and to promote sustainable use of plant resources.
Located in a former china clay quarry, the complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species and each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The biomes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) inflated cells supported by geodesic tubular steel domes. The largest of the two biomes simulates a rainforest environment, which is indeed is the largest indoor rain forest in the world. The second encloses a Mediterranean environment.
Before entering the biomes, you wander through an outdoor botanical garden home to plants native to Cornwall and the UK in general. Even though it was late summer the blooms were incredible.
Once you enter the biome you tend to forget that you are inside a structure until you look up. The ETFE ceiling transparency makes you feel like you are walking outside. The Mediterranean Biome (hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters) is home to over 1,300 different plant species from landscapes such as California, South Africa and Western Australia. It covers 1.6 acres.
The Rainforest Biome covers an area of 3.9 acres and contains over 1,200 different species of plant from West Africa, SE Asia, South America and various tropical islands. The temperature in the biome is maintained between 60F and 95F.
The Rainforest Canopy Walkway offers breathtaking views across the Biome, and helps explain the importance of rainforests.
There were some incredible flowers in the biome.
The Eden Project has a display which states 'If we could shrink the Earth to a rainbow village of 100 people, these would be some basic stats'. It certainly make you think about the world in terms of climate control, wealth distribution, social inequities and human suffering.
9 South American
5 North American
9 no access to running water
31 no access to a toilet
46 no access to the internet
15 would have a disability
1 would own half the wealth
After Eden we drove back to St. Agnes and had dinner at a local pub called the Taphouse.
During dinner we discussed trying to book the apartment for an extra night. This was the first time we had considered changing the itinerary and extending our stay at a location. However, we decided to stick to our original plan and head to Brighton tomorrow. It was a tough decision.
St. Michael's Mont
Today was our last day on the Cornwall coast. We started the morning early, had breakfast, packed the SUV and headed to St. Michael's Mount in Marazion on the south coast of Cornwall. Before planning our trip to the Mount we needed to check the tidal charts for the day.
St. Michael's Mount
St. Michael’s Mount, a former medieval monastery and sprawling castle that is set atop an offshore island, is only accessible on foot during low tide. We arrived at the man-made causeway of granite cobbled stones around 7:30 AM when the path was completely dry.
The 1,300 ft causeway is exposed for around 2 hours either side of low tide. During high tides small boats ferry tourists to and from the island. According to locals, it’s not uncommon to see people wading through the water, sometimes up to waist deep. There is no discernible current across the causeway as it floods, so it’s not particularly hazardous. This pictures was taken later in the morning shortly before the causeway officially closed. High tide was still a number of hours away.
The causeway ends at the base of the village. To the right of the wall was a protected harbor and pier whose location dates back to the 15th century.
Little is known about the village before the beginning of the 1700s. The island’s population ebbed and flowed, but by the early 1800s the Mount was a thriving commercial village with 53 buildings, 4 streets and home to over 300 islanders. Today it remains a working village but with only 30+ full-time residents. Aside from buildings that support the castle and the National Trust, all that remains of the 'old' village is a row of 8 buildings.
It is believed that between the 8th and the 11th century the Mount was the site of a monastery. However during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042-1066), he gifted the site to the French Benedictine order of Mont Saint-Michel in the 11th century. The order established a small religious community on the island and a church was built by Abbot Bernard in 1135-44. The community was briefly disrupted in 1193 when Henry de La Pomeray took control of the island as part of the attempted coup of Prince John (later King John) against his brother, Richard I. That rebellion was defeated but it was around this time the castle on the island was built.
In the picture below, the exterior of the church is nestled with the castle around it. The church dates back to the 13th century but in the 14th century it was remodeled and rebuilt following damage by an earthquake. Further renovations were completed in the 15th and 19th century.
Inside the church of St. Michael.
On the main alter are 15th century alabasters panels depicting the Mass of St Gregory, John the Baptist, and Pontius Pilate.
What was originally built (12th century) as the monastic refectory, where monk had communal meals, became the Tudor Great Hall for gathering and celebrations. It contains a 17th-century plaster frieze of hunting scenes that runs around the entire room. The arched-beam roof was restored in the 19th century, at which point the room became known as the Chevy Chase Room - derived from the plaster friezes. An oak table with monastic chairs makes for an imposing effect.
In 1414, Henry V appropriated St. Michael's from the Benedictines. Ten years late, Henry Vl granted St. Michael's to the English Syon Abbey. Things remained quiet at the Mount until Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1540). After dissolution, St. Michael’s Mount became property pf the Crown and controlled/occupied by military governors. After 400 years, St Michael's Mount Mount was no longer considered a religious house of worship.
In 1599 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Mount was given to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury. The property exchanged hands several more times until 1659 when it was purchased by Colonel John St Aubyn. He quickly began modifying the buildings to make it his private home. Additional upgrade to the castle were made during the 18th and 19th centuries. Over 350 years later, the castle still remain the residence of the St Aubyn family.
The library built around 1780 was originally part of the 12th century monastic buildings.
In 1940 the 3rd Lord St. Levan, fortified against possible German invasion. It was widely known the Nazi Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, had chosen the Mount as his residence after the German victory over Great Britain.
In 1954 Lord St. Levan gave most of St Michael's Mount to the National Trust together with a substantial endowment fund. Part of the gardens was reserved from this gift, and a 999- year lease to inhabit the Castle was granted to the family.
As the castle evolved to become a private home, the Lady Chapel, which dates to the 12th century, was converted in 1750 to the Blue Drawing Room. The room was named for its baby-blue wall paint, displays portraits and landscape paintings by the famous English painter John Opie. It is the official 'greeting room' for guests to the castle.
The formal gardens, first planted in the 1780s, cling to a near-vertical granite rock face. However, the warm Gulf Stream along with the heat-retentive granite walls and bedrock, enable a wide variety of tender and exotic plants to be grown in the South-facing gardens. Unfortunately, the gardens weren't open when we visited.
The best pictures of the castle are taken from the gardens, but since we couldn't tour the gardens, I've posted this picture of the castle courtesy of the National Trust.
A look back at the causeway from the castle as we ended our visit to St. Michael's Mount. Good news, it was still low tide.
Back in the SUV, we prepared for our drive to Brighton. It was the longest drive (6.5 hours) of of the entire trip.
On the drive to Brighton, we made an unscheduled stop in Torquay, the birthplace of Agatha Christie. Dave had read a few of her novels and acted in some of her plays. So he wanted to stop by a museum that held some of her memorabilia. He was expecting a small village similar to St. Agnes but instead we were welcomed to the ‘English Riviera’. The English Riveria stretches approximately 22-miles across Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. The Victorians first called it the English Riviera because of its resemblance to France’s chic and bustling southern Mediterranean coastline. Not what we had expected.
We stopped at the Torquay Museum but limited ourselves to viewing the Christie exhibit.
The exhibit contained some of Agatha Christie’s personal effects including handwritten notes, clothing, and dozens of first editions of her novels.
Hercule Poirot’s study and lounge, reconstructed in the museum, included furniture, books, pictures and even fireplaces from his beautiful London Art Deco apartment. The furniture and props, featured in ITV’s adaptations of Agatha
Christie’s Poirot, were donated to the museum after the filming of the final episode, by ITV Studios.