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Cornwall’s extraordinary landscape has inspired generations of artists and writers, including Dylan Thomas, Sir John Betjemen, Daphne du Maurier, Barbara Hepworth and Stanhope Forbes, all of whom have been stimulated by the region’s coastline and countryside.
And it is easy to see why – Cornwall’s rugged shoreline, gorgeous sandy beaches, turquoise waters, meandering rivers, attractive woodland and wide open countryside all combine to form one of the UK’s finest and beautiful regions.
Many of the cliffs that form a barrier along much of the Cornish coast are between 250 and 500 million years old. Within these rocks can be found the tin and copper that have shaped much of Cornwall’s economy for thousands of years.
For the last 12,000 human beings have exploited Cornwall’s rich resources. Around 10,000BC Mesolithic hunter-gatherers settled along the coastline around Lizard and the higher ground of Bodmin. 4000 years later saw a marked increase in population and consequently many fortified settlements and monuments were built, along with important developments in agricultural techniques.
Agriculture, fishing and mining became the dominant industries and over time Cornwall was known as Cornovia, Cornubia, Cernyw and Kernow with the language eventually evolving into Cornish.
However, perhaps the key moment in Cornwall’s history came in 1201 when King John granted the tin miners of Cornwall a charter, which allowed them special privileges (such as not paying the normal rate of tax), known as a Stannery Parliament.
At its peak mining employed about 30% of Cornwall’s male workforce and in the early 19th century the region was the greatest producer of copper in the world. However when tin and copper prices plunged during the early 20th century many miners had to emigrate to find work. In 2006 Cornwall’s mining areas gained World Heritage Site status.
A number of the beautiful towns and villages strewn across Cornwall (including St Ives, Mousehole, Gorran Haven, Port Issac and Mullion Cove) were built around their harbours, underpinning the value of Cornwall’s other key industry – fishing.
The 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were boom time, with millions of fish caught (especially pilchards) and ports flourishing at the likes of Falmouth, Fowey, Looe, Padstow, Penzance and St Ives.
Such were the amounts of fish caught that it couldn’t last and trawlers had to land mackerel, cod and hake when the pilchard industry crashed during the 20th century. There are still many working harbours along the coast today but on much a smaller scale.
Today tourism has become Cornwall’s contemporary industry and vital to its economy. St Ives, Truro, Falmouth and Newquay remain the most popular destinations for the many millions of annual visitors drawn to the outstanding natural beauty, mild climate, distinct culture and history.
And you can add an astonishing array of flora and fauna; gannet, fulmar, cormorant, shag, kittiwake, razorbill, guillemot, puffin, Bottlenose and Common dolphin, porpoise, Manx shearwaters, chough, teal, greenshank, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit, curlew, oystercatcher, wigeon, heath spotted orchid, birdfoot trefoil, yellow primroses, pink sea thrift and purple heather are a fraction of an almost endless list of what can be seen at different times of the year.