#Cornwall: An Inspirational Landscape

Piskies Cove
Piskies Cove

To see a selection of this month’s ‘Focus On’ images please click here

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.

The Rumps
The Rumps

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.

St Ives
St Ives

#Lismore – Gardener’s World

Lismore is an idyllic island that stands out on Loch Linnhe and a short distance across the Lynn of Lorn from Port Appin in Argyll.

A short passenger ferry journey (bikes are also allowed) transports you onto the island at Point and into a more peaceful, laid-back world. Achnachroish (where the Oban car ferry docks) and the idyllic Port Ramsey are the island’s main settlements and much of its history can be discovered in the superb Lismore Heritage Centre.

Lismore’s name derives from the Gaelic lios-mor, meaning ‘the great garden’ and its fertile landscape is due to its Dalradian limestone geology, which has helped nurture an abundance of wildflowers including primrose, bluebell, wood sorrel, dog violet, purple and common spotted orchid, silverweed, tormentil and meadowsweet. Hen harrier, buzzard, dunlin, oystercatcher, shags, guillemots and migrating common and arctic terns is a selection of birdlife.

There is also a very good chance of spotting golden eagle and white-tailed sea eagle when on Lismore as it lies under what is thought to be an eagle ‘highway’, one that travels from Mull in the west to the Tay Estuary in the east near Dundee. Successful introduction of both species has taken place in both locations in recent years.

Lismore’s industrial history lies firmly in its limestone quarrying. Much of it took place at Salean, on the island’s north coast, and the remains of this small, industrial centre can still be seen here. The stone was quarried and shipped out on locally owned smacks (a traditional fishing boat) for agriculture and building mortar between 1826 and the 1930’s.

Many of the buildings date from early days of the quarry, including a manager’s office, workers cottages, a shop and a cottage on the pier. It is a very atmospheric, evocative spot, hemmed in on its southern side by the quarry and with some lovely sea views.

Port Ramsey Bay, Lismore
Port Ramsey Bay, Lismore