Sunday, September 30, 2018

Meeting Ross Poldark

We set off early and wandered around the sunny side streets of Penzance, stopping off at a friend of H’s exhibition, before having a coffee opposite the gallery at the stylish Artist Residence, a boutique hotel with a restaurant and cafe. We were the only ones in the cafe until a loud, posh guy sat nearby with a lady friend, who he ‘insisted’ on buying coffee for. We didn’t hear her voice at all, for he spoke non-stop about his busy, possibly famous life: “someone knocked on my door at 10pm last night. I thought it would just be a friend but it was my ghost writer! My ghost writer is stalking me.” We didn’t recognise him (although we would see him again much later in the day), finished our coffees and left.

H was keen to leave the concrete for some countryside, so we journeyed on to Lanyon Quoit (between Madron and Morvah), not an ancient bus shelter as I first suspected, but a single-chamber megalithic tomb, known as a dolmen.

We drove a little further and parked opposite the home of Ian Cooke, author of Mermaid to Merrymaid: Journey to the Stones. We crossed a stile and walked along a grassy path through moorland, to Nine Maidens, a circle of granite megaliths (supposedly nine girls turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath).

The day was sunny and warm, so I forgave myself for not recognising that we’d been here before, almost six years ago, on one of our first dates. That day had been gloomy, rainy and windy, the paths muddy and wet; I remembered my boots being caked in mud.

We weren’t sure of the path to Ding Dong mine (yes, actual name), visible all around due to its dramatic lofty perch on the otherwise flat moorlands, so we asked a man walking his dog. He showed us the way, and we arrived there soon after.

More difficult to find was the Bronze Age Men-an-Tol, a formation of three small standing stones, hidden in the moorland. The main one is circular with a hole in the middle, like a bagel or ringed doughnut, said to be a cure for illnesses and instant pregnancy for a woman who passes through the hole backwards seven times during full moon.

We saw the man and his dog again. The man was a local, and very chatty. The dog was his neighbours, but they never took it for walks, so he’d been doing so every day for nine years. He used to have a dog, and a wife, both now dead, but “missed the dog more than the wife”. He lived alone now. People who live on their own tend to talk a lot. We played with his dog; throwing a ball for it until I lost it in some brambles. After we told him where we lived – near Redruth, he said, “Tell me your address, I’ll send you a sympathy card and a bill for the lost ball”.

We made a brief visit to the Yew Tree gallery before heading into St Just. I’d told H about the great pizzas (for £6) at The Square cafe but we’d arrived too early for the pizza oven, so rather than wait an hour for it to open (at 3pm) we decided to settle for coffee and cake (mine was caramel flavour, amazing), and return for the pizza at 3. That was the idea, anyway.

H took me to see Carn Gloose, a Bronze Age burial mound, just outside of St Just. From there we thought we may as well walk to Cape Cornwall, the only Cape – where two bodies of water meet – in England. It’s a stunning headland with great views.

From the headland I could just see the bottom of Kenidjack valley, which I’d visited before to see the arsenic mine further up, but hadn’t been all the way down to the coast. I said to H we may as well walk there. She sighed, but agreed. It was a pretty steep, windey and precarious coastal walk to the arsenic mine. All I could think about was pizza. And beer.

The path winded its way above the valley and down to the arsenic mine, now a wonderfully peaceful area, the mine overgrown with ivy and a beautiful stream – actually Tregaseal river – running alongside it to the Atlantic. The water is clear with lush and verdant plants either side of it and the only sound to be heard is the trickling of the water.

We crossed a small bridge and walked to the coast from the other side, following the river down and seeing other parts of the arsenic mine I’d not seen before. Another steep climb up the other side of the valley and we were near another mine.

From a distance H noticed there were a lot of people. Then she exclaimed, “They’re filming Poldark!” And indeed they were. I hadn’t watched any of it before I’d moved to Cornwall, but in the last month or so we’d watched all four seasons, and we’d heard they were filming the final season at the moment.

H sprinted along the coastal path until we were stopped by security guards and BBC folk with walkie talkies. We could just make out Ross filming in the distance, with his hat and long black coat. The shot finished and we were allowed to walk past the mine, catching glimpses of the miners in costume but no Ross. H was disappointed. Let’s walk back, I said. We walked back half way, stopping to look up at the mine. Ross looked our way. Normally quite restrained in public, H let all reserve go. She jumped up and down, waved her arms, made heart palpitations, then shouted, “Ross, we love you!” Then she blew him kisses. Ross blew kisses back. I stood there. H turned red. I’d never seen her so excited. A passer-by stopped to inform us they’d have trouble with their green screen as it had two shades of green. He got technical, we didn't care, and we moved on, looking at the wonderful Botallick mines, perched on the cliff edge looking out towards the ocean.

We walked back to St Just. We passed the BBC production trucks and trailers where hoards of fans were waiting for a glimpse of Ross. We didn’t wait. There were also some ladies – of a certain age – waiting on the roadside, armed with paperbacks of Poldark. Ross’s Land Rover came along, stopping briefly for them. There was Ross, now Aiden Turner, wearing a beanie hat, signing a few autographs. It broke the spell for H, seeing him out of his black hat and coat.

About half a mile from St Just, another Land Rover passed by; we just caught a glimpse inside of the posh guy from the cafe in Penzance. It was 6pm. The pizza was good. It was been a great walk, finishing with Ross and pizza. On the way back, as a treat, we stopped at Sainsbury’s just outside of Penzance. There must be like two Sainsbury's in the whole of Cornwall. Tesco have a monopoly in the county. I’d always preferred Sainbury’s. I’d missed their instant mashed potatoes (Tesco’s are tasteless; Smash is just as bad).

When we go on our walking adventures, we hardly see any people for miles. Then we’ll get to a car park, shop or cafe, and there they all are. They are surprisingly absent from the beautiful, natural areas – the Kenidjack valley, the rugged coastal areas, but they’ll always be swarming around car parks, cafes and shops. They don’t like to stray far.

In the evening, whilst munching on cheese puffs, we watched a couple of episodes of Amazon’s Outlander TV series. It seemed appropriate: a woman walks in a stone circle and is magically transported back to the 18th century where she encounters a dashing, handsome warrior.


Caspar said...

You did more in a day than I do in a year.
Those mine buildings on the rocks look fantastic.

Barnaby said...

Yes well we don't do that much every day, but once we start on a walking adventure it tends not to end. I love the mines on the rocks, very dramatic all along that coastline... sea, cliffs, mines.

Anonymous said...

Why are those rocks so suggestive? A large erect one, and another with a gaping hole. I’m pretty sure it’s not just my filthy mind. Ray

Barnaby said...

Fair point, but it probably is just your filthy mind...