More ramblings, a viaduct and holy well

During our recent walks Mrs TD and I have commented on the birdsong, which seems louder than we’ve ever heard it. Maybe it’s our imagination, or else it’s because there’s so little interference from other sounds like road traffic and aircraft. We’d been disappointed not to see more wildlife in our rural ramblings, until the other day. As we walked down a country lane, a deer leapt from the wooded hill beside it, dashed across the road right in front of us, and into the field on the other side. Seconds later another followed, its hoofs clattering on the tarmac.

This horse's two friends were camera shy

This horse’s two friends were camera shy

They looked like adult female red deer: no antlers, but quite large. They darted away so quickly I didn’t have time to take out my phone to take a picture. But what a delightful sight.

The horses in a field were less remarkable, but just as handsome.

Nearer to home is this viaduct. It Carvedras viaductcarries the railway lines across the valley just outside Truro station. It’s called Carvedras viaduct, after the old name for this part of the city, where once there was a Dominican friary (more on this in a minute).

The original viaduct before 1902. By Unknown author – A postcard in the Geof Sheppard Collection, Public Domain

The Plymouth-Truro line was opened in 1859 as a single broad-gauge track (2.14m) for goods vehicles. The 70-mile route traversed numerous deep valleys which required the construction of 42 viaducts. The engineer Brunel recommended the use of wooden fan supports braced on masonry piers to keep costs down. Replacement of these with all-masonry piers began in the 1870s, as it became apparent that this had been a false economy: the annual maintenance of the timber structures was very expensive.

In most cases the new piers were built alongside the old ones. As you can see in my pictures, the original Brunel stumps of piers are clearly visible beside the newer, late-Victorian ones that carry the lines today. The old single-track line began to be replaced from the late 1880s with two standard-gauge lines (for most of the route, but not all). These renovations and replacements weren’t completed for decades.

The original stumps of piers beside the new viaduct structure

The original stumps of piers beside the new viaduct structure

The original stumps of piers beside the new viaduct structure









Opened in 1902, the replacement Carvedras viaduct is 26m high, 295m long, and has 15 piers. Truro is a city established at the confluence of three rivers and valleys (which is perhaps where its original name in Cornish comes from), and the first viaduct the railway crosses as it approaches the city is even more spectacular, the longest of all 42.

These viaducts are impressive feats of engineering, and have a cathedral-like grace and beauty. Jackdaws and seagulls are very fond of them as places to congregate, perch and watch the world go by.

We can see Carvedras from our back door, with the cathedral beyond.

We can see Carvedras viaduct from our back door, with the cathedral beyond.








St Dominic's Well Carvedras houseSt Dominic’s Holy Well is cited in a number of sources, online and in print, as located in the front garden of Carvedras House, beneath the viaduct of the same name. I was able to get this (not very clear) picture by leaning over the front wall. According to Wikipedia it was built in the 17C, but was presumably restored from a much earlier site that had been located in the grounds of St Dominic’s Friary, said to have stood in the grounds of Carvedras Manor. The friary was established in the 13C:

It was an important missionary centre with a church and chapter house. It is known that at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 the Friary had a Prior and ten friars.

One of the annoying consequences of the current situation is that the local library is closed, and I’ve been unable to research this topic beyond the limited resources available online. Maybe once this crisis is over I’ll return to this subject and add some detail. For example, I don’t know what Carvedras signifies in Cornish; ‘car’ is fort, but I have no idea what ‘vedras’ means.

Mrs TD's sourdough loavesHere to finish today’s CV19 update is a gratuitous picture of some delicious sourdough bread Mrs TD baked. It should cost a fortune to buy at the baker’s: it took her a week just to produce the starter culture (if that’s what it’s called).

Other good things are coming out of this sad time. On my morning walk the other day I passed a house with a tray of lovely fresh cauliflowers outside, and a sign saying: Please take one – free. And a hand-drawn picture of a rainbow, with the people in Britain are displaying as a symbol of hope and solidarity.

And here’s a glorious tree in blossom that we passed on this morning’s walk.

Tree in blossom

19 thoughts on “More ramblings, a viaduct and holy well

  1. Thanks for the pictures and the explanations.

    Enjoy the walks while you can, I hope your lockdown stipulations don’t become the same as ours. That kind of walk is out of the question.

    • Hi Emma: I’m so sorry your restrictions are so much more stringent. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a tighter set of rules soon here, too. Meanwhile I shall continue to make the best of the places I can walk in safely with my wife.

  2. Thanks for sharing such lovely positives, Simon – I think we’re all holding on to simple things at the moment. The bread looks amazing – I have spent the day baking, but nothing so impressive. Happy Easter to you and yours.

    • It’s important I think to try to keep positive when everything else is so gloomy. Mrs TD shared our roast chicken dinner with an elderly neighbour today – she’s a kind and generous soul, my wife. Not a bad baker, either! Once we were able to find a place that had some flour…Happy Easter to you and yours, too.

  3. *chuckle* You couldn’t do that with surplus cauliflower here, the possums would eat them! I am still cross about the previous season when we grew a stunning cauli, and were looking forward to eating it in a pasta recipe with pinenuts, and lo! just before we were ready to harvest it, the possums got to it. It looked as if someone had cut the entire thing in half and made off with it!
    We and our neighbours often share surplus produce by putting it in a box on the pavement, but only things the possums don’t like: limes, potatoes, zucchini and peppers.

  4. Lovely post. I agree, the birdsong does seem louder than usual at the moment, but I think it’s a function of the absence of other background noise (far fewer cars on the roads, less flights etc. – particularly noticeable here as we’re close to Denham and Heathrow). It’s wonderful to see nature flourishing so well, largely unperturbed by the current restrictions.

  5. This looked nive. I never knew that there were TWO seasons for cauliflower (at least in U.S. This is a nice looking recipe… if some items not available, you could work around it, such as dry herbs for fresh. (Coconut milk in cans seems like nice “staple”..

    12 to 16 ounces cauliflower core and leaves removed roughly chopped (about one small/medium head)
    1 can 14 ounces unsweetened coconut milk well-shaken
    2 tablespoons coarse or whole grain prepared mustard
    1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
    1 lemon half
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4-5 quart Dutch oven or stock pot over medium until shimmering. Add the onions and fennel and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

    cootch the vegetables to the side, and add the remaining oil to the cleared spot. Spoon the cilantro stems, curry powder, turmeric, and a pinch of salt over the oil, and stir in place to create a fragrant paste.

    Add the vegetable broth and cauliflower, and bring the soup to a gentle bubbling boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Test the cauliflower florets by slicing one with a knife: it should cut easily through. Stir the mustard into the soup.

    Puree the soup thoroughly: use an immersion blender directly in the pot to blend the soup smooth, or use a regular blender (you’ll need to do it in batches), and return the soup to the pot.

    Add the coconut milk, cilantro leaves, dill, and tarragon. Stir thoroughly.
    Let the soup heat gently over medium-low for 10 minutes – if the soup begins to bubble at any point, reduce the heat a bit.

    Squeeze the lemon half over the soup, and add a pinch of salt with a few grinds of black pepper. Stir, and taste, adding more salt as needed.

  6. The birdsong is amazing this year and so is the blossom. I wonder if it’s because our lives are less rich in other ways so we experience the smaller things more vividly.

    • I’m sure you’re right, Liz. I’m certainly finding I’m paying more attention than usual to the little things, especially when on our daily walks. Four geese flew overhead yesterday; I heard them honking before I saw them as they passed by. Still no swallows, martins or swifts. And as others have said, it’s the quietness (absence of engine noise especially) that accentuates the sounds of nature, or makes them more readily noticeable.

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