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THE VISITOR should not omit to take a walk on this promontory, which has many points of interest.
As we have seen it was originally a literal island, the sands which now join it to the mainland having been the gradual accumulation of centuries. Though only half a dozen acres in extent, the Island is full of interest, not only on account of its picturesque situation, but also as being a veritable epitome of the history of this district. The ancient Cornish Britons fortified it, and the remains of their stronghold are still distinctly traceable, especially in an angle formed by two massive dry-stone walls, popularly known as the “Two Edges”. Around the shore of the whole peninsula, and across the middle run other low walls of earth and stones. On the summit of the rocky carn, in the centre of the Island is a little old building which, though for some years converted into a dwelling house, is substantially the original chapel of Saint Nicholas, already mentioned; close to which is a look-out where, some years ago, the coastguards kept an eye on suspicious looking vessels – for the ancient and popular Cornish pastime of smuggling was ardently followed at Saint Ives. Near the northern extremity of the peninsula, called Pendinnas (“the headland of the fortress”) is a battery of modern construction, in charge of a sergeant of the Coast Brigade Royal Artillery. Close by here existed for centuries a beacon, and later a lamp, to guide fishing boats to the adjacent cove of Porthgwidden (“White Beach”).
The extreme point of the headland is Carn Crowz (“the heap of rocks with a cross”) though the cross has disappeared. In the sea, at a short distance, is the Merryn Rock, the subject of a superstition on the part of the fishermen, who believe that, if they sail inside the Merryn on putting to sea, they will catch no fish that day.
On the side of the Island nearest the town is an old barn-like building known as the “Briton’s House”, from which name we must not infer that our blue stained and bead wearing ancestors had any hand in its construction; it was raised a couple of centuries ago, for the use of the Breton sailors who then frequented the town.
Between the Island and the Quay was formerly a stone embattlement and platform for a few heavy guns. The place is still known as “the Castle” though nought now remains of it except part of a bastion, opposite the old chapel near the quay. The rest was demolished in the construction the new (now rather old* unfinished pier. In its time the castle did good service against foreign privateers, and at one time a trained band furnished a constant guard on its guns, with a sergeant and a drummer. So much for the antiquities of the Island. At the present day it is chiefly used as a drying ground for nets, with which it is often so completely covered as to look black at a distance. The visitor need not fear to walk over the nets, as his boots are not likely to tear them. The cows which graze here, seem to keep off them by instinct, or early associations. When a westerly gale sweeps across the vast Atlantic, it is a rare sight to watch the huge waves thundering and dashing against the rocks of the Island sending the spray high into the air, and to observe the great rollers advancing in steady lines to break upon the even sands of Porthmeor. It will be noticed that the back of the houses are built right down to the very sands of this beach, but very few windows are on this side. Away to the westward is the odd looking “Teapot Rock”; the particular boulder which represented the teapot, however, was thrown down a few years ago. Still further west, barely visible, is the wild headland of Clodgy, the scene of frequent picnics during the summer months. From the western side of the Island, one also has a view of the new cemetery, romantically situated on the edge of the cliff.
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PORTHMINSTER IS at present the neighbourhood of the big sands to the south-east of the town. Literally, it is only the name of the beach itself, and signifies “the beach of the church”. Before the reign of Henry VI there was a village of Porthminster, situated in the hollow, close to the shore. This was destroyed by four French ships, which then landed and burnt the village to the ground. After high tides, when the sand has been washed down by big waves, the foundations of the church are uncovered for a time. The ivy covered Cairn on the hill, below the coastguard station, is vary beautiful.
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THIS IS a name of a conspicuous granite obelisk, and from that of the hill on which it stands. John Knill was mayor of St. Ives in 1766, and though a man of excellent character, slightly eccentric. He built this obelisk with a view to be buried in the vault which it contains, but his body was interred elsewhere. However, certain droll ceremonies which he directed to be performed here every five years, take place regularly. To get to Knill’s Steeple, the visitor should go up the lane called the Belliers, at the back of Tregenna; keeping always to the left he will, after crossing a patch of waste land, reach the fir grove which partly surrounds the monument. The “steeple” bears on one side the coat or arms of Knill, with the motto “Nil Desperandum”; also the words of “Johannes Knill”, “Resurgam”, and “I know that my Redeemer liveth”. At his death Knill gave his body to the anatomists for dissection, in London; he also left certain property to the vicar, mayor, and collector of St. Ives, and directed that every five years £10 should be expended on a dinner, and that ten virgins dressed in white should walk in procession with music, from the market house to the monument, around which the whole party was to dance singing the hundredth psalm; £1 was given to the town fiddler, and there were also legacies for the oldest widower and widow in the parish. This quintennial commemoration is made the occasion for a good deal of jollity, in which the entire population joins, indeed the whole proceeding is quite mirth-provoking; nor is the least laughable part of it the air of martyrdom visible on the faces of the unfortunate vicar and mayor, as they sedately waltz around on the upper step of the monument, hand in hand with the ten very young virgins and the venerable representatives of widowhood.
From Knill’s Steeple the view of the Bay, with Godrevy, St. Agnes Beacon, and Carn Brea, is very fine. Visitors would do well having ascended by the route we suggested to return to Saint Ives by way of Treloyan, a pretty village on the Lelant road. Over the door of the “Cornish Arms” Inn here they will notice the heraldic shield of the county, namely fifteen silver balls on a black field. These are believed to represent the ancient Cornish sport of hurling, which now only survives at Saint Ives and Saint Columb. In our own borough hurling is to be seen only at the “feastentide” or festival of the parish church, but transferred from Sunday to Monday. For days previous, the boys make a house to house visitation”, and collect all the silver coin they can get, which they then take to a jeweller who beats it into a thin coating. This is spread over the surface of a wooden ball, which is thrown about on Porthminster sands until some player is able by strength or stratagem to bear it off. When the game is played according to ancient rule, the ball was inscribed with a Cornish motto, “Gware wheag yw gware teag”, ‘fair play is good play’. But in those times it was a very rough sport, in which lifelong injuries were often inflicted.
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ANOTHER PLEASANT walk from St. Ives is along the Lelant road, through Treloyhan, to the beautiful Bay and Valley of Carbis. The latter is a romantic wooded gorge, from the road down to the shore. In this spot several good dwelling-houses have been built for visitors to the neighbourhood. The best view of the valley is had from the beach, looking upwards. The bay with its broad sands, is a nice spot for a quiet walk or read, and is more retired than the beach of Porthminster
The railroad crosses the valley by a stone viaduct, and near at hand is the little Carbis Bay station. The train always stops here, for the convenience of those who like to walk back to town, or from the town to Carbis Bay, returning by train.
Hawke’s Point is a headland a short distance beyond Carbis Valley. The beauty of its scenery has a great attraction for tourists. Here is a pretty shaded garden and a large room in which visitors may have tea. There is no fear of meeting crowds of local holiday-makers here, for these humble pleasure seekers are all inveigled by the swings and merry-go-rounds of the tea gardens at Carbis.
While those who superintend the commissariat are boiling the water and cutting the bread, it is customary to go on solemn pilgrimage to the holy well and the Grotto. Both are reached by keeping along the shady path on the slope above the shore. The holy well, most picturesquely placed in a leafy bower is a real specimen of the old Cornish wells which play so important a part in legends of fairies and spells. Numerous crooked pins shine at the bottom, and visitors, especially if ladies are of the party, contribute their share. Bend the pin and let it fall gently into the clear water, at the same time formulating a wish in your own mind; but be careful to keep the wish a profound secret or the charm will be broken. If bubbles arise, if the pin floats, or when sunk touches that dropped by the lady who is your companion, these are good omens.
From the wishing well the path continues along the side of the hill to the grotto on the summit of Hawke’s Point, and is so close in on both sides and above with thick foliage, that the visitor who looks through wonders however he should find his way in it. Those who prefer it can reach the grotto by walking along the railroad, keeping of course a good look-out for trains; it is merely a sort of summerhouse of stone, but the view from this spot in fine weather is glorious. To the right is the busy and populous district of Hayle, with its copper smelting works and neat villas. A little to the N.E. of Hayle is the pretty “church-town” of Phillack. Hayle Bar, or entrance to the river, is a terror to honest master-mariners. It can only be crossed at high tide, and the passage is extremely dangerous when the wind blows from a certain quarter. Many a wreck has occurred here. Fishermen during low tides, sometimes find their nets entangled in “Thomas wreck”, the remains of a ship which sank here about a hundred years ago.
Another excursion is to Carn Trecrobben, pronounced “Trencrom”, a wild black hill covered with huge boulders fantastically shaped. On the top is a ditch and a wall with a gate, the remains of a British fortress. There was formerly an ancient granite cross; but some person has removed it. We are now in the land of giants one of whome made a sort of “detached villa residence” of Carn Trencrom, subsisting on such unconsidered trifles as cows and horses. His only amusement was playing at “Cob-buttons” with the giant of Saint Michael’s Mount, the instruments of which diversion were the masses of granite which cover the two hills. His brother of the Mount was slain by that hero of our childhood, Jack the Giant-Killer. The view from the summit of Trencrom embraces a large expanse of country, including Mount’s Bay and the Lizard. At its foot is the little village of Trevarrack “the habitation by the rock”—which receives its name from the enormous granite boulder by the stream which there crosses the road. To the north-west of the village is the board school for the Lelant district, and, still farther on, the neat farm of Trevarrack, a portion of the Trevethoe estate, which is the property of the Mackworth-Praed family. Trevethoe itself, the family seat, is in the parish of Lelant; Trevarrack in that of Towednack. The traveller should take the two different routes from Saint Ives, in going to and returning from Trecrobben. He had better leave Saint Ives by the Lelant road, and arriving on Longstone Down (beyond Treloyan) where the local Parliamentarian forces were routed in 1644, turn to the right, through Trevethoe and Trevarrack. Just before reaching the foot of Trecrobben, the scenery is beautifully wooded, and Mr. Mackworth-Praed’s preserves are plentifully stocked with pheasants and rabbits. He should go back to Saint Ives, through Trevarrack, without turning to the right onto Longstone Downs. By keeping straight on, the populous mining district of Halsetown is presently reached. Here is an Anglican chapel-of-ease. Hence to Saint Ives, through the Stennack is a short distance.
Within a couple of miles of Halsetown is the “church town” of Towednack, consisting of an inn and a small farm house. The church is remarkable for its squat tower, which, unlike those of most Cornish churches, have no pinnacles. The old story is that though several times put up, they were repeatedly thrown down, at night, by the Devil. In the church is an interesting Norman font. The parish of Towednack does not appear to have been distinguished, in ancient times, for the philosophic acumen of its inhabitants, for an old local saw tells us that the Towednack men “built a hedge round the cuckoo, to keep the spring back”. To which Towednackians hurl back such biting retorts as “who whipped the hake !“ This sarcasm has reference to a legend that the fishermen of St. Ives once flogged a hake around the town, to deter its voracious brethren from making havoc among the pilchard shoals. To rouse the ire of a Zennor man, it is usual to speak of his native parish as “the place where the cow ate the bell rope”, a saying which probably alludes to the bareness of that district. Every parish in Cornwall is branded by some similar contemptuous tradition, handed down from a remote antiquity.
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