Polperro and Charlestown – X Marks the Spot

Feeling refreshed after our two days playing and relaxing on Crantock Beach, we spent the next day exploring a couple of Cornish villages, heading first to Polperro, a 13th century fishing village on the south east Cornish coast.

Due to its narrow streets, Polperro is pedestrianised, so we left the car in the large car park at the top of the village, paying £4 for 3 hours.  It is possible to take a road train into the centre of the village, but we opted to walk, which gave to the opportunity to take a picture of Rowan by the water wheel.  My mum tells me there are lots of pictures of our family’s children by this water wheel.  The River Pol runs through Polperro so many have the houses have bridges to access them – like they have their own moat.

 

As we strolled through the town, we passed a number of little shops, pubs and cafes, within some very lovely and interesting buildings.  After about a half a mile, we reached a very pretty harbour, where Rick was delighted to find the grumpy old men were welcome.

 

Polperro has a history of smuggling but it reached its height in the late 18th and early 19th Century when taxes on imported goods such as tea and brandy were so high, the benefits were worth the risks to the local fishermen.  Smuggling had become so successful that much of the trade was controlled by local man named Zephaniah Job who became known as the smugglers banker.  Indeed, walking through the town invoked thoughts of Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, a favourite book of mine since I was young, so I think I will look into the history of smuggling in Polperro in the future.

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We found somewhere to sit to have a bite to eat, and after Rowan had finished eating the biggest sausage roll he had ever seen, we made our way down to the small beach to explore.

 

On the beach, we found Willy Wilcox cave, named after a smuggler who went missing IMG_2562after being cut off by the tide whilst hiding in the cave from the customs authorities.  Rowan, armed with his torch, bravely went to explore.  We made our way to the back where we found a narrow passage that seemed to continue further.  Looking up, there were more passages and it was easy to imagine goods being stashed in amongst the rocks.  I think part of the joy of getting outside and exploring is not just the fresh air, nature and exercise, but also the stories, real and imagined, that a place can conjure up.

 

Unbeknownst to us, while we were looking around, my mum was hatching a brilliant plan.  She’d hidden some pirate booty (a shiny new pound coin) in the sand at the entrance if the cave, with an X marking the spot.  Coming out of the cave, Rowan was ushered towards it – his face an absolute picture when he found the X replaced with sheer delight when he dug in the sand and found his prize.

Coming out of the cave, there were more Xs to be found.  Discovering the steps cut into the rocks all around the beach simply added to the sense of intrigue I was building around this pretty little fishing village.  I have not been able to find out why these steps were made.  I guess the explanation is very simple – access to the sea, but they certainly add fuel to the imagination.

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There is also a natural swimming pool in the rocks at Polperro, but due to the advancing tide, we were unable to go and look for it.  We just had time to climb some of the rock steps before we had to quickly run back up harbour stair, my shoes getting a bit wet in the process.

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Passing back through the harbour, we found an ice cream parlour then, feeling suitably satisfied, we set off to Charlestown.

 

Charlestown is a small fishing village just outside St Austell.  The port, often used as a location for films or drama (such as Poldark) is owned by a company called Square Sail who also have a fleet of tall ships (also used in films) that docked here.

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Before walking down to the harbour, Rowan and Rick, doing their best Yoda and Luke Skywalker impression, had a good look around a ship we had spotted on the grass as we pulled into the car park.  This served to ignite Rowan’s excitement again and he was beside himself when we looked over the fence to see the ships.  The men working on them were real live pirates to Rowan and he gave us his best pirate impression to celebrate.

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It wasn’t possible to get onto the ships, but we got a closer view from the harbour before heading down to the shingle beach.  The sound of the sea on the stones was so relaxing and I may have ended up getting wet feet for the second time whilst trying to get a picture of the surf.

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After collecting stones on the beach, we took a stroll along the harbour wall, taking in views of the village behind us.

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IMG_2684Heading back to the car, we found some anchors – Rowan confirming they were far too big and heavy to lift.  Feeling like we’d had a lovely adventure, we returned to our base at St Agnes for a lovely pub tea at Driftwood Spas.

You can find more information about the places we visited on the Visit Cornwall website, here.

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