Friday, 18 June 2010

Cornwall 2010

As I briefly mentioned when I reported on our visit to Pecorama we visited Cornwall for a week last week - we went with Suzi's parents and stayed in a cottage at the top of Golant. We decided not to refer to it as a holiday as it really was just a change of scene for us and also we wanted Thomas' first 'holiday' to be just the three of us but recent events meant this wasn't possible but we did want to make the most of being away.

On the way down we stop by the Scalefour Society's AGM, though not the meeting itself but there was a small selection of exhibits. Appropriately enough was Wheal Elizabeth, a layout with a Cornish theme!

So with a nice taster of Cornish railways we set off for Cornwall.

Cornwall is an interesting area - it reminded me of parts of North Wales where the slate industry remains are alongside tourist attractions providing a huge contrast between the middle class holiday makers with money to spend and towns struggling since their industries have declined. Similarly remains of mining and clay production stand silently and overgrown as car loads of families thunder by as they go between B&B's, holiday cottages and the beaches and attractions. Sometimes I felt that some things were rather cliched - cream teas available on every street corner in some places. Only when we ventured off the beaten track, and seeing the railways, did I feel I saw the real Cornwall. For example we visited the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek and although there were plenty of visitors seeing the wonderful work they do, it was much more peaceful.

Away from the postcard scenes it was still nice, probably nicer, and altogether much more appealing for me.

The first station we visited was St Austell. It was just to have a look really but it was timed perfectly as two minutes later an HST appeared. The station staff were friendly too; as I was walking off the station one member of staff came up to me and asked 'Did you get your shot?' Not what I was expecting and he also told me about the specials running on Mazey Day! Sadly that's the 26th June and we were back long before then!

Now I don't want you to think it was all railways! It wasn't but as Suzi is one of the most tolerant people in the world, most days involved making a visit to a station while we were out and about!

I had also decided to use film for any railway photography while I was away. The reason behind this was I often feel film has a warmer feel - many books I have have a lovely feel due to the films choices the photographers have made. Many digital images, although wonderful for records, which appear in magazines are so clear and crisp they almost seem clinical in their execution - only in skilled hands does digital seem to be able to have quite the same feeling.

We visited Polperro a couple of times and this is just a stone's throw from Looe so I asked nicely and we went to Looe too. It's a charming little station but unless you trespass in the Police Station car park you won't get a good view - and I wouldn't recommend that!

However the train lengths are rather short, being just one Class 153 unit which made the task slightly easier. If you glance away from the train and the station across the river you see just how delightful the setting is.

Par station was another 'regular' stopping point and very easy for us to get from the top of Golant! It's also the junction for Newquay where a lot of china clay services join the main line. However a problem with the branch would mean this little bit of my plan would be foiled...

The station itself is well kept and is very pleasant as stations go - likewise First Great Western's trains seemed to be equally clean and well presented.

However clean the units were, it still didn't make up for not seeing clay workings at Par! Though it was nice to make use of the bridge which has appeared in many photos I've seen over the years!

I did a little better at Lostwithiel; the first time we went down to the station we were met the barriers down and saw an HST hammer past! However Suzi suggested I had a look at the station anyway.

A couple of minutes later and 66 093 comes into view with a load of CDA wagons bound for Fowey!

I know many may not consider this to be the classic traction for china clay workings but this is still a fascinating operation and a pleasure to see whatever the motive power.

And as one who loves to weather models, the wagons would provide a lovely project! The contrasts between the bright clay and oil and grease could provide stunning results!

I never got the classic shot at Golant sadly - the aforementioned derailment, I was told, caused a number of operational problems and despite waiting at points on each day I never managed it. However, next time!

So we finished the week railways wise (aside from Pecorama) at the Bodmin and Wenford Railway. We went to Bodmin General station and, having paid for our platform tickets, made the most of the facilities and enjoyed a drink and something to eat outside the buffet while the train crew ran round.

Maybe we've taken Thomas to see too many preserved railways now; despite the loud noises and whistles coming from 5552 he wasn't scared in the slightest - other older children were however!

I rather liked Cornwall - parts of the coastline are superb. The railways fascinated me and subject to scoring sufficient brownie points I'd love to see more of them - especially in North Cornwall too. The areas we visited had some real hidden gems and if you want to step away from the usual tourist trails it's a lovely part of the world, not Yorkshire mind but not bad!


  1. I wish that I'd known that you were coming to the S4 AGM - it would have been wonderful to say hello in person!

    We don't know yet where the next one is going to be, but if you're passing...


  2. Excellent post James, and a record of a memorable trip. Glad that you all enjoyed it, and perseverance was rewarded with a clay working at long last.
    Other than a brief visit in 2002 for the last 47 workings I've not visited Cornwall since 1981 - yet Par and St Austell look almost the same now as they did then.