Thursday, 19 February 2009
A bus Ride in Cornwall
St Day and Truro Cathedral.
On a whim I decided to take a trip to the nearest big town today. That happens to be Truro, a tiny cathedral city nine miles away from the hamlet near Redruth where I currently reside.
Despite the nine mile proximty, the travelling time on the T7 bus, which departs once an hour from outside my door (luxury compared to Llanfair Caereinion, which has zero buses!), is one hour and five minutes.
The route was possibly the most rural available in south west Cornwall, where the scenery is pastoral yet densely inhabited, not that there was a choice, of course. Circuitous is the best way to describe the navigation, with double-backs, detours round hamlets and villages; and mostly on B roads that would have barely enough room for two bicycles to pass each other.
Unfortuately the cranky old bus broke down two miles out of Truro and we passengers were transferred wholesale onto a different service. It was actually a blessing in disguise, as the new bus took a direct route into town, whereas the previous one would have subjected us to a further fifteen minutes of doubing back before we got there.
The countryside I passed through made the journey worth while though, sitting high up on a bus is defintely the best way to get a good view over the hedges and cottages. Hamlets and villages tended to sprawl longways over the miles of twisty lanes merging and thinning again so that no area was truly empty, and no area particularly packed.
I passed through a couple of miniature towns, and those too tended to straggle along side the streets rather than clump together in the centre, the centre usually being a fairly open area with the streets radiating off.
The views, especially over the more open land, tended to be rather chocolate-box picturesque, not full of outstanding natural beauty but rather charming, with quaintly shaped stone cottages and fields with natural hedgerows and ditches.
When the sun poked through from time to time a drastic change came over the whole landscape. The cottages glowed and the hedges sparkled with the first wild flowers giving an early taste of the rich, colourful rusticity that folk travel here to take in during the summer months. During winter Cornwall is as bleak as anywhere else, I can assure you. I can see in my mind's eye that well thumbed image of the dusty travelers expression of satisfaction as the honeysuckled inn full of cool draught beers hoves into view in the village square on a warm afternoon in early September.
There was one small town, not far out of Redruth that made me feel dreadfully homesick. A little place called St Day. It reminded me very strongly of Machynlleth in mid west Wales, and I was taken over momentarily by the biggest wave of hiraeth since I left my beloved homeland. Oddly, I have found a lot of racial rejudice against me in the hamlet where I live. Apparently to be Welsh is the worst possible handicap one could suffer in life, and the local children don't wish to catch any Welshness from my daughter. Shame really, she might have had a good effect on their diction, and taught them English as a language rather than a collection of simple sayings strung together that serve all purposes.
The Cornish people are quite simple folk on the whole, they don't acively dislike outsiders as such, merely ignore them and hope they'll go away. Those involved in the tourist industry have good people skills and are polite and friendly, unlike their Welsh village counterparts who will discuss you while you stand there, in their native language. I haven't come across Cornish spoken as a seperate language yet, so intend to purchase a primer to teach myself.
The city of Truro is laid out in the same way as the other groups of buildings, scaling up in size from hamlet, through village and town, to city. The small but beautiful perpendicular cathedral lies in a small grounds at the centre,with the streets running outwards like the spokes of a wheel, joined acrossways with smaller roads creating a fine network of rambly, old, cobweb shaped build up.
It's really quite lovely. Everything old has been preserved as such and there's no shame in not presenting an ultra modern covenience style facade. Truro likes to be exactly what it is, a Cornish market town.
The shopping areas seem to have absorbed the fast food and technology places without altering their fundamental integrity, and defintely compare with Chester, if not quite Shrewsbury; there's still plenty of original architecture to be seen. However the little quayside could do with a bit of a facelift, I think, it's very full of traffic cones and shopping trolleys, and a massive old houseboat that's seen better days.
Moving about is no problem, the town centre is busy and bustling, but not so overcrowed as to make things uncomfortable. The train and bus stations are conveniently placed, but the car parking facilties are inadequate to say the least. There's very little of it, and it's mostly out of town, making the walk from the outskirts rather long and tedious. I think perhaps when these lovely old market towns were growing people brought their produce, livestock etc in on foot, leaving their horses and carts and such at inns and ostelries around the outskirts of town. Many had central market areas with trestles or booths ready set up, or ready to be set up, often after paying for the privelage of using them, and times and places for particular goods and services. The church was very often the source of rules and fees, owning the land on which the cental plaza stands.
After a good browse around, taking in some lovely pseudo-archaic shops such as Pasttimes and Whittards, I ate fast food and purchased technology! My daughter had take out hot chocolate from Costa, and I treated her to her own copy of Viva Pinata from HMV to stop her taking mine off me all the time! Absolutely the best of both worlds, pleasantly blended, on a small enough scale to take in in an afternoon make Truro a very nice place to have a small shopping trip. If you're ever in Cornwall, do have a look.
The bus ride home passed easily, I drowsed on and off, and think I possibly snored for a while, making it much shorter. The bus itself actually made it back to Redruth without breaking down again, although that is apparently a common thing. I was sceptical at first when I found the local buses to have a tendency to be late, if they turn up at all, but now I see why. The drivers actually put up a valiant ongoing struggle against unsuitable roads, passengers who steadfastly refuse to be picked up anywhere but their own doorsteps, physically getting round other road users, and the vagueries of weather. The vehicles take quite a hammering.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip on the whole, and would heartily recommend seeing Cornwall by bus rather than train or car as you get much further "under the skin" of the real countryside and its views and goings-on.
I was quite tired by the time I got home, and more than ready for my evening trifle. It's not something I'd do every day, but next time I feel like sitting back and watching the country go by, I'll take another bus ride.