Friday, 22 April 2016

my Cornish childhood

 is another little autobiographical episode of life in Cornwall as I knew it.

I have mentioned that the village where I grew up was divided by a main road so that effectively we had a Top End and a Bottom End. The village was on a hill leading down to a river valley and had a long and slightly shady history involving smugglers and so forth (according to my dad). Until I was 9 or 10 I lived in the Top End of the village. This was a mysterious and wooded place, awash with bluebells and primroses in the Spring. There were quite a lot of 'big' houses at the Top End of the village (I didn't live in one) and the posh folk rubbed shoulders with us ordinary people...although it was the tail end of the doffing-of-the-cap era and I think my dad keenly felt the divide, whereas my brother and I certainly didn't least not in the same way. Near to where I lived. there was one house with extensive grounds (I believe this house is now part of a college) where we Top End children would spend many an hour, exploring the lush and exotic gardens. Locally we called it Happy Valley which has nothing to do with a TV programme of the same name!! I remember one plant in particular which was a giant rhubarb with leaves that were literally bigger than our dining table.  Also along this road was a cool, shady mysterious place called Come-To-Good where there was a Quaker meeting house.This place had such an atmosphere of calm and quiet that we were automatically silent as we passed by. It felt really other worldly here. The whole of the Top End had a woody, green feel to it which was quite different from the Bottom End.
People generally didn't move from one end to the other. It was as if we were moving to the far distant reaches of the earth. There were many more houses at the time in the Bottom End with lots of 'incomers'. The village had started to be a satellite village for the nearby towns, I think. Geographically, the Bottom End had more open spaces, fields and farms and was considerably less wooded. The village was draped down a hill which led to a river valley at the bottom where there had been mining of some sort since the 1700s. I believe many minerals had been mined here..certainly tin, copper, lead, some silver and zinc had all been literally unearthed over the centuries from this spot.  It was this river valley where I learned to gallop (on horseback. I knew how to gallop without a horse) and it was also here that I experienced a rather spectacular saddle slide.  Cantering along with a group of others from our local riding stables, I felt my saddle begin to move and then ,as if in slow motion, my saddle began to slide down  and around the horse and my world literally tilted on its axis!!! The horse I was riding (I think it was Timothy) slowed to a trot then eventually to a walk and finally stopped altogether. My fellow riders had continued on, oblivious to my sideways sliding  stunt but once they became aware that I was no longer with them they returned to find me in a crumpled and rather dazed heap at the feet/hooves of  Timothy, who was completely unmoved by my plight. Thankfully I wasn't injured, just embarrassed!
So we had the strange and unusual experience of living in both halves of the village. From the overwhelmingly cool and green Top to the open and wider Bottom , both beautiful in their own wild Cornish way.

 I haven't even begun to talk about the people in the village...or the history .... maybe I'll do that another time.

So, for now,
The End

PS  the viaduct at the beginning of this blogette crossed the river valley at the bottom and was always a source of great interest to us as children