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For reasons that will become clear later in the week, I made a run for the border yesterday and embarked on a daytrip to Plymouth. Not everyone’s first choice on a grey Tuesday morning in January but, having only really ever been to the station (under the dubious care of First Great Western) and the punishingly grey main shopping street, I was actually very taken.

The city centre is still soul-saddeningly bleak but the seafront and the harbour area, looking out on the Plymouth Sound, is really rather striking. Of course, I am not the first Read the rest of this entry »

The axing of the railway branch line to Helston in the 60s is not something I am old enough to remember first hand but I am aware of it via family and friends, and general local lore. Which, considering it happened almost 50 years ago, goes to show how strongly the reverberations were felt.

I have a very soft spot for Helston. It’s partly because I went to primary school there but it’s not just that – it is one of Cornwall’s most attractive country towns. But it is out on a limb (the limb being the Lizard) and is clearly struggling – and you can’t help wondering what it might have been like if its transport link had not been cut. And you also can’t help wondering now what on earth they were thinking but that’s another story…

This story is a little more cheery. The Helston Railway Preservation Company succeeded in reopening a half-mile section of track from a platform at the beautiful Trevarno estate to run a very sweet heritage steam train last week.

Stuart Walker, of the Helston Railway Preservation Company, said to the BBC: “We first started thinking about reopening part of the line in 2000. In those days, it was just a small group of us meeting in a pub. Now I have to pinch myself because we have a railway station.”

According to their website, “The objective of the company is to restore to running order, and re-open as a heritage railway, as much of the old Helston Branch Line as possible. The long-term aim is to re-open a three mile section of the branch line between Nancegollan and Helston Water-ma-Trout.”

Now, you’ve got to love a station called Water-ma-Trout

PS Yes, I realise that what with this and my post about the sleeper the other day, I am showing demonstrable symptoms of trainspottery – honestly, it’s under control.

via wiki

Two Cornwall-related stories that caught my eye this week.

More sleepers on the sleeper

I haven’t yet banged on about the joys of the sleeper train on this blog, but rest assured it is only a matter of time *friends nod knowingly*. The discovery of the Night Riviera service to London – with its gentle rocking motion, late night bar for a nightcap, and all-round usefulness and romance – was a key moment after I moved to Cornwall. Ok, we’re 300 miles from anywhere but at least I can sleep through it!

More of that later…  Like a massive train geek, I was pretty stoked to read this week that more carriages are being added to the sleeper train from Penzance to London on account of demand. Given that local people fought hard to save this service in 2005, it’s a happy ending to know it’s being used. Now all they need to do is make a ticket cheaper than a round-the-world trip…

“Sculptor seeks tin miner to pose nude”

As headlines go, this one’s hard to make up. But ’tis true. The story goes: “Sculptor Tim Shaw is hunting for a Cornish miner with a ‘rugged experienced look’ to pose naked so that he can refine a £90,000 bronze sculpture that will eventually stand outside the Hall for Cornwall.”

The sculptor says: “I thought that if I cast my net far and wide I would find someone different and interesting. The historical images that I have seen at the museum show men with hard expressions in their eyes.”

Miners with their tackle out – could be an interesting new, cliché-free angle on Cornish mining heritage? Full story here.

Have a good weekend!

st ives harbour cornwall

The first St Ives Food & Drink Festival seemed to be going with a swing yesterday when I swung by – though it’s hard to imagine what wouldn’t go with a swing when the skies are blue and St Ives looks, as it does on sunny days, like it’s been dropped in from the Bounty advert.

The Guild Hall food fair was a bit of who’s who of cool new Cornish food & drink companies (and there really are TONS). With everyone enthusiastically handing out tasters and being generally friendly and chatty, it was a convivial scene.

Polgoon was there with its new River Cottage-endorsed elderflower fizz in champagne bottles (tasty stuff but £17 – ouch!), then there was the Rev Berriman’s fiery chilli cola (which I enthused about the other day), Cornish Stingers nettle beer, Cornish Blue cheese, amazing Helford River cheeses, real ale, St Ives beef….

Down on the harbour wall, a small crowd had gathered for the chef demos. I listened for a while to the chef from the Greenbank in Falmouth demonstrating how to cook fish to perfection (in brief: score the fish, high heat, skin first, shake the pan, then don’t be tempted to keep moving it away from the hob…).

Oh, and I took the park & (train) ride from Lelant for the first time – it’s the only way to go. (10% off tickets the Cornish rail card btw – yay).

More pics of the festival care of the Clotted Cream Diaries blog here.

Cornwall railway Poster

image via

I’ve always been a huge fan of those old railway posters advertising trips to Cornwall – they are beautifully designed and just bursting with the pride and aspiration that once surrounded rail travel. Many of the Cornish ones are famous to the point of cliché but thanks to Jaunted today I discovered a new one, dating back to 1907 and boldly comparing the Cornish riviera to Italy.

‘There is,’ it claims, ‘a great similarity between Cornwall and Italy in… climate.’ Even on a scorching summer’s day such as today with the sea shining on Mount’s Bay and the sky a deep blue, you can’t help but laugh at this barefaced advertising lie.

I’d love to own one of these vintage rail posters but every time I come close to buying one I think: isn’t that a bit like wearing an ‘I heart NYC’ t-shirt when you live there? Totally uncool. Similarly my Alfred Wallis harbour print came straight out of the frame as soon as I moved to Cornwall – I still love it, but it made me feel like a tourist.

Here’s another goodun:

rail poster cornwall

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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