I’ll be posting on Elizabeth Strout soon, but first wanted to share some more sights and thoughts from some October walks with Mrs TD.
Last week we went to visit her sister and BIL, who’s recovering from a knee replacement operation. He’s unable to join us on our country rambles, so when we left them the two of us did the circuit of Argal reservoir. This is one of several in the mid-Cornwall area, run by SW Water and SW Lakes Trust.
It’s a popular spot for walkers and those who like fishing. A notice board informed us that the fish that live there include ‘carp, pike, bream, roach and rudd’.
What great names: all monosyllables and harsh, guttural vowels and consonants – redolent of the fish themselves, perhaps. I hope they throw the fish back in once they’ve been caught – I don’t think you can even eat pike, can you?
There’s a functional curved dam at one end, with a walkway across the top, from where there are lovely views of the reservoir. Overhead a couple of buzzards wheeled and mewed their curiously effete cries.
Also last week another walk from Portscatho. This time we went further than usual, using our walks in Cornwall app – always good at sending us down remote paths and into secret places we’d never otherwise have found.
At one point where the coastal path crossed a field there were dozens of huge mushrooms. We weren’t sure if they were edible – but even if they were, it would have been a shame to remove them.
Yesterday to a creek and riverside walk just a few miles from home. Another remote spot we’d never been to before, so thanks again to the app for suggesting it.
The tide was out, so the creeks were less picturesque than when they’re full of clear water.
Swans dabbled in the mud, including this handsome adult who was snoozing right in our path. When he woke at our approach he looked first disgruntled, then cross. Mrs TD was not impressed.
Halfway round is the tiny Victorian church of Old Kea, with its ruined 15C tower standing much taller beside it. This little church was rebuilt when the original (dating back to 13C) fell into ruin (I’m not sure why the tower was left to crumble and become ivy-shrouded). Inside it’s more like a wayside chapel than a church – perhaps because it was originally a poor-house before being rebuilt as a church. There are some handsome modern stained glass windows.
The path took us high up over the confluence of the rivers Fal and Truro. Even at low tide these still look gleaming and splendid. Traditional red-sailed boats (formerly crabbers and other types of fishing boat) still glide past among the modern, sleeker but less attractive modern craft. Shellfish are still gathered in these parts, but I doubt if the traditional Falmouth oyster festival will happen this autumn, given the current situation.
The final stretch of our circular walk was mostly along ancient sunken tracks, also known by their medieval name: hollow ways. They’re much lower than the surrounding terrain. Our app explains that this is sometimes because of erosion caused by horses, carts and rainwater over the centuries. Some of these roads were ditches formed between banks as a boundary between estates, and were then adopted as a convenient location for travel or droving animals.
Much of this route falls within the enormous Tregothnan Estate, owned by the Boscawen family, viscounts Falmouth. Their mansion sits on a high spot with sweeping views towards the rivers and Carrick Roads.
One of the most famous members of this family was the Admiral who signed the death warrant of the unfortunate Admiral Byng, sentenced to execution by firing squad for allegedly failing to do his utmost to engage or destroy the French enemy fleet during an ill-fated battle off the island of Menorca in 1756.
This infamous act of judicial murder was satirised in Voltaire’s Candide, when his hero witnessed such a firing squad execution, leading to his famous quip that in this country it’s considered good to kill an admiral from time to time ‘pour encourager les autres’.
Admiral Boscawen was MP for Truro from 1742 until his death in 1761. He can’t have been a great constituency member (though few were in those days), since he spent most of that time at sea. His estate is enormous – at just under 26,000 acres it’s even bigger than Prince Charles’s Duchy estate.
What was so uplifting about this walk was that the only sounds to be heard were the plaintive calls of curlews and other water birds, and the occasional rumbling farm vehicle. It’s a delightfully peaceful area – tidal waters, trees and fields roamed by lugubrious cows – yet just a short hop from the busy city centre.