Another sunny day was promised, lucky us. I left Rich to sleep a little bit longer and played frisbee with a happy pooch in the garden in the morning.
First stop of the day after breakfast was The Hidden Valley, or Tregargus Valley just 4 minutes in the car down the road. No signs to this great place, just a layby and a gate. The sun was shining through the leaves as we walked through the rich green woods listening to birdsong and the rustling of a little stream. Merlin was bouncing around, dashing in and out of the underbrush. Everyone happy.
Now there is obviously a reason why it’s called Hidden Valley. It’s not just another nice woodland walk mainly used by dog owners. No. It hides the remnants of a china stone quarry and mill.
China stone is decomposed granite which has a texture finer than talcum powder when milled and deposits of it are uniquely found in Cornwall and nowhere else in the UK. It was first discovered in 1745 near Helston when searching for a way to recreate the recipe for the actual china from the far east. Not long after another large deposit was also found in the St Austell area and quarrying and milling started in 1870 in Tregargus all the way until 1965.
Since then nature slowly started to reclaim the area as buildings and machinery were left to decay. Whilst mining and quarrying are hugely invasive nature-destroying undertakings, I find such abandoned places fascinating. On the one hand I’m glad, that nature is able to recover seemingly quickly, on the other hand I’m trying to imagine what it was like when works were in full swing and how hard the labour must have been in all weathers.
As we walked on the nice gravel path we soon came upon the first buildings. Huge round stone basins inside, a chimney and an old wheel. This must have been where they ground the granite into the powder.
We passed some more buildings before heading downhill to an easy access to the river where Merlin could have some fun splashing around. We looped back to the path and walked the same way back to the car. An hour well spent and definitely worth coming back exploring more.
Next stop Fowey, this time in the daylight just after mid day. Parked up at the top and stopped by the harbour for a little lunchtime snack at Captain Hanks Crab Shack. Coffees were had and the most amazing crab bon bons with some haloumi fries and homemade sauces. Yum!
Wandered further into town seeing it slightly busy this time and all the little shops open. Very nice, could easily spent some more time here, but Merlin was getting a bit cranky and we couldn’t find a peaceful beer garden so we just walked back and had some ice cream just opposite the car park at Game of Cones. Brilliantly sticking to the theme the 33 flavours where sorted by houses each with its own identifying slogan. We had two scoops each and the ice cream pretty darn good too!
Mid afternoon now we left Fowey to head back to our cottage for a snooze doing a little food shop on the way in St Austell.
Back out on the road at 6pm to head down into Charlestown, another quaint little village literally down the road from St Austell. Food and drinks was the plan, but the fish and chips shack we were aiming for was all shut and rum bar looked very quiet… i.e. open, but no one there. It was almost too quiet, but what a lovely little place. I can see how it’s teeming with people in high season.
Ended up at the Rashleigh Arms in the end and had a pretty good meal there. I had lemon sole with new potatoes and a salad, Rich went for surf and turf. Both very good but once more Merlin got bored and cranky so we didn’t hang around too long and drove back. Really liked Charlestown and would like to come back maybe a bit earlier in the day later this week to try one of the other places.
Another chilled and varied day seeing more of the area. Tregargus was certainly the highlight today, but it was also good to go back to Fowey and experience it during the day and in Charlestown we ticked off another Cornish coastal village/town. More exploring coming up tomorrow!