Poldark Revisited – Part 2

Back to my old family holiday haunts in deepest Poldark country in Cornwall, so no need to set the sat-nav as we left the elegant comfort of the Penventon Park Hotel in the heart of Redruth.

From this age-old mining centre and the nearby looming landmark of Carn Brae and its monument, we set off on a whistle-stop tour of place names from the past to tick off where we would have more leisurely stays in the days ahead.

Kynance Cove Not a day for the beach day due to somewhat iffy weather, we collected youngest daughter and grandson from their new home on the coast and then went a slow-speed circuit taking in Penzance and Newlyn, with a nod towards Marazion, St Michael’s Mount and Praa Sands, before looping round to the Lizard and reaching for windproofs and walking poles to explore the raw, rugged beauty of Kynance Cove and watch the hardy surfers in their wetsuit armour.

Suitably wind-blown, we drew up an agenda to suit all three generations (we hoped!) and went on to tick-off old, well-loved places like Coverack and Cadgwith as well as new ones on a ‘staycation’ break which turned out to be just brilliant. First call was just down the road from our hotel HQ, showing that new life is being breathed into knocked-about Redruth. The Penventon has made itself into a destination in its own right, but a knock-on effect from this is making Redruth a place to linger in and look around, not just blast past on the A30 on the way to St Ives or Penzance.

New-ish kid on the block is Heartlands, now officially the ‘gateway’ to an area so steeped in mining history that is has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Heartlands is a free, family-friendly attraction covering 19 acres of one-time wasteland at Pool around a Cornish engine house at what was once Robinson’s Shaft. There are large open play areas, plus facilities and activities for all ages to enjoy among its Grade II listed buildings, along with a striking, copper-clad visitor centre and splendid Red River Cafe, but the crown jewel has to be a pumping engine from 1854. This was built in nearby Hayle and was moved four times from its original engine house at Wheal Arthur and was the last one to work in a Cornish mine, on site in Redruth from 1903 until it finally stopped at 1.15pm on 1 May 1955.

Sculpture in Redruth main street Now it’s a pivotal part of a splendid social enterprise and not-for-profit charity in a £35m project very much geared to celebrating the past, present and future of a great county.

The National Trust, as ever, also has a great way of celebrating a rich and productive past and puts the Poldark legacy in context with its showcase tribute to mining at East Pool Mine, based on two sites in the heart of the area.

But beware some road signs and your sat-nav instructions,  or you could end up next to the main East Pool Mine site and it’s towering Taylor’s engine House, but stranded on the wrong side of a high fence in the depths of a council estate. Instead, programme in the Morrisons supermarket (TR15 3NH), where the NT has a parking arrangement and there’s easy pedestrian access to the fascinating museum. The ladies there will even make you a brew before you head off a few hundred yards to Michell’s Engine House, on the smaller secondary site, where you can get up close and personal to a working beam engine and marvel at the technology and the story behind it.  

Our next call for full-on entertainment was to Flambards, on the outskirts of historic Helston, where a surprising number of people were unaware that what is now a top amusement  park was named after a Downton Abbey-style 1970s TV series, set in the early days of aviation and featuring some great flying sequences with amazing wood-and-wire machines.

Michell's engine Lots of things to do and rides to relish (or stay well away from!) and there are still links to its roots in what was originally the Cornwall Aero Park, right next to RNAS Culdrose, with a Concorde simulation and award-winning indoor attractions like the Victorian Village and Britain in the Blitz experience. The Village is a detailed, life-size reconstruction of cobbled streets and alleyways, with shops and houses full of  thousands of original artifacts which never fail to fascinate; while the Blitz experience, opened by Dame Vera Lynn, is a stunning recreation of a bombed London street during the Second World War, complete with a peep inside a pub and period home interiors, and with the wail of an air raid siren and shaking floor as bombs hit home and explode.

Packet with detail, they trigger a wonderful wallow in nostalgia, along with the Chemist Time Capsule, a pharmacist’s entire shop which remained boarded up and undiscovered for 80 years after his death in 1909, before being painstakingly moved and installed at Flambards.

No getting bored indoors, with lots more rain-or-shine  attractions on offer, but the real action is outdoors, also covered by the all-in admission price, thanks to thrill rides for all ages to leave you tingling or terrified. The kart track and log flume were fine for me, but it was a ‘no thanks’ to the sky-high thrills of the Hornet roller-coaster and other ‘experiences’ rejoicing in names like Skyraker and Thunderbolt, although they were just the ticket for a Year Six daredevil and his fearless mum.

NT map made of engineering bits Great value for a few hours, especially with so much on offer under cover as well as outdoors, and with a handy cafe, too, backing up the ever-tempting ice cream stands. Worth staying late on some dates during the summer and half-term breaks, with spectacular firework displays after rides close and the sun dips down behind the trees.

Nice end to a hectic day, and nice, also, to see a hands-on approach by boss Richard Smith as he embarks on a goodnight tour, making sure that all is clear and getting first-hand feedback on how customers have enjoyed themselves. 

Time for a bite to eat on the way back to base at the Penventon Park, with no shortage of choices,  but we opted for one of the ‘must visit’ places insisted upon by in-the-know locals, who know a thing or two about Cornish classics like pasties and fish and chips.

For us, it was time for a chippie treat, and in this part of the world it just has to be Morrish’s, on the edge of Redruth at the bottom of Bucketts Hill as you approach from Helston.

It’s not compulsory to have a portion of golden, battered fish as big as a whale’s backside, but you do have the option; along with chips that compare with any you could taste from a top chef, made all the more delicious if you eat them with your fingers outside in the open air.

For Morrish, read more-ish, and there will be more on the rediscovered delights of Cornwall, too, including perhaps the biggest treat of all, in Poldark Revisited – Part 3.

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David Graham

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