With Poppy on the Fal River

By | Category: Travel destinations
inside the Royal Cornwall Museum

inside the Royal Cornwall Museum

Centrally situated at the mouth of the Fal River, Truro – the capital of the region – is a good place to base oneself.

The Fal River Festival, on for 10 days from May 22 to 31, 2015 has a diverse mixture of events which take place at dozens of locations around the water. The programme includes outdoor theatre, circus performances, stargazing, foraging, underwater photography workshops and film screenings on the King Harry Ferry.

We stayed at the dog friendly Alverton Hotel which was originally a manor house with a chapel designed by John Loughborough Pearson who was also the architect for the city’s cathedral. A central feature of the town, the cathedral was built in Victorian Gothic Revival style with over 70 windows, which allegedly is the finest collection of Victorian stained glass in Europe.

The Royal Cornwall Museum has displays on the origins of the county including, in conjunction with the British Museum, a display that includes the tomb of an Egyptian mummified body c675 BC.

Poppy on the ferry

Poppy on the ferry

Weather permitting a boat trip along the river is a must, and a good way to orient oneself with the area. Ferries go to various destinations along the Fal, which can make access to places easier although in a more leisurely fashion than having to drive miles. In the1540’s King Henry VIII built two artillery forts, both English Heritage properties, St Mawes and Pendennis Castles on either side of the Fal estuary to defend the English coastline against the French and Spanish and in both, Poppy and I could wander even inside the castles not just the grounds. Because of its position, Pendennis, the larger fort, was continually updated against new enemies, and used during the first and second world wars. Canons are still in position. At Pendennis, there are unexpected sound effects with smoke coming out of barrels in one of its displays. Guided tours run at various times with a real canon blast at midday. There is also an exhibition of how the forts were used during World War 1.

Along the river, Trelissick – a National Trust property – is a 300-acre estate with 30 acres of elevated gardens as well as woodlands and countryside. My visit on a Monday didn’t allow me to go into the House as it is only open  Wednesday to Sunday from March to November 1st. Dogs are allowed on the estate but sadly Poppy was not permitted into the gardens even on a lead but just into the grounds and the woods.

Trelissick

Trelissick

In Falmouth the Greenbank Hotel, a former coaching inn is the town’s oldest hotel and is where rat and mole first came to life in a series of letters written by author Kenneth Grahame to his son in 1907, inspiring the book “Wind in the Willows.” The views from the bar and restaurant look out on to Falmouth Harbour where boats bob on the water. With the sun shining, you could easily believe yourself in the South of France. A bonus too is the beach in front of the hotel. Apparently this is the only dog-friendly one in Falmouth as dogs are not allowed on any other between Easter and the end of September. We did, however, discover sandy Gyllyngvase beach across the estuary from the hotel where Gylly café has a dog-friendly veranda. Overlooking the beach, the cafe was obviously popular with the locals, and for me a plus point, the veranda has heaters for when the wind blows.

With fifteen galleries over five floors, the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth is situated in an enormous purpose-built hanger overlooking the quay. Visitors can explore England’s maritime heritage through the exhibits helped by interactive screens providing detailed information. On display is a variety of old and newer boats, some of which are hanging from the ceiling, including Ben Ainslie’s from the 2012 Olympic Games. Until February 22nd, 2017 visitors can experience Viking life and climb aboard a full scale replica Viking ship. The museum is geared to children with hands-on activities, talks, and workshops. Within the complex are several eateries, among them a Rick Stein restaurant although his main one is in Padstow.

Lamorran Gardens

Lamorran Gardens

With boats very much a way of life in the area, near to the museum the Falmouth School of Sailing has courses to suit all levels from the beginner to the very advanced. They also run powerboat courses.

If vintage fashion or trolling charity shops is an interest, the main street has several quirky shops and will definitely be of interest.

From Falmouth a ferry took us on the short trip to St Mawes that takes its name from the fort and from where we had to go to visit it. Not to be missed while there are the privately owned gardens of Lamorran. The house with four acres of Mediterranean garden overlooks St Mawes Bay. Only open on a Wednesday and Friday, visitors follow a numbered trail that twists and turns as it descends a very steep hill. Robert Dudley-Cooke and his wife Maria designed the garden that, because of the area’s micro- climate, is frost free. They have cultivated over 200 palm trees as well as an abundance of flowers in a comparatively small area. It is really idyllic with lots of water features, statues, and places to sit and enjoy the wonderful environment. Entry is £8.50 and those under 16 are free. Well-behaved dogs are allowed on a lead. Open April to the end of September.

Depending on what you plan to do, visitors to the area around the Fal River can buy a Fal Mussel Card and/or a Fal River Attraction Pass, which is intended to save money on transport and attractions. However, as I already had an English Heritage card which gave me free entry to the two forts, and one to Trelissick which is National Trust, I am not sure there was any saving.

the Fal river

the Fal river

By the way, whilst you are in the area try a local speciality, Hog’s Pudding. It is served as part of a full English breakfast and consists of white pudding made from pork flavoured with herbs, and spices. Being on the water, the fish is generally very fresh, and local and very much the food to eat. In St Mawes, check out the fresh crab sandwiches.

If the sun is shining, and it was during my visit, taking a holiday in this part of the world would be hard to beat.

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