Saturday, 7 April 2012


I am very aware that there have been no postings about Cornwall on this blog for several months.  The reason for this is that I have not been able to get out and take the photos that are the basis of the posts, due to two falls and some badly torn ligaments.  However, yesterday I managed to do my usual 'constitutional' walk for the first time since November.  I knew I would have to go much more slowly than usual and I realised that I have never posted about this route so I took my camera and here you are.  The walk is about two miles but I have never measured it.

We live at the bottom of a steep hill which leads up to the village of Madron.  Madron has an interesting history.  According to some sources, it is mentioned in Domesday Book.  Penzance was a very small fishing village in the middle ages and Madron, which belonged to the Manor of Alverton, was an important centre and had the mother church for Penzance.  There was only a chapel of ease where Penzance's parish church now stands. The church is dedicated to St Madron or Modron, the Cornish for which is Maddern.  It is a typical village church with quite an extensive churchyard.

At this time of the year the churchyard is full of flowers that are probably wild but possibly were once planted.

The village consists of small cottages, many built of granite, plus a large amount of social housing and some modern developments.  Although a few of the cottages are holiday lets, this is more somewhere where people who work in Penzance live.

Historically the village provided various things for Penzance.  There is a Holy Well about a mile beyond the housing, which until the eighteenth century was the principal source of water for Penzance.  Madron was also the site of Penzance workhouse.  This is now very derelict and rather a depressing site so I do not have any photos of it.  It was designed by George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffat and completed in 1838 with space for 400 paupers. That sounds like a lot for a town the size of Penzance but I imagine that there were many seafarers who ended up homeless in their old age.  One of its most famous inhabitants was the painter Alfred Wallis.  The workhouse closed in 1948 with the advent of the NHS.  It then became an abattoir but that too closed about ten years ago, since when the whole site has just fallen into disrepair.

The school is also famous because it is very old.  It was founded in 1710 by George Daniell whose family were Lords of the Manor of Alverton which covered the area of much of what is now western Penzance.

It was/is an endowed school and at some point was renamed St Maddern School.  I know from looking into my Penzance family roots, that education was important here especially in the nineteenth century when the Methodist church started schools in addition to any like this one that were linked to parish churches.  I haven't searched out the statistics but my great-great grandparents who were born around 1830, were both illiterate but their children were not and my great grandfather even attended Penzance grammar school (a kind of Dotheboys' Hall if you ask me).

Another thing that Madron celebrates is the arrival of the news of Nelson's death in England.  According to legend (because there is nothing in the official records) a Penzance fishing boat made contact with the ship carrying his body back to Falmouth.  The fishing boat brought the news to shore where it was declared from what is now the Union Hotel, a former coaching inn, in Chapel St in Penzance.  In 1945 Madron church decided to hold a Trafalgar Day service on the Sunday closest to the 21st October.  The service is still held today and attracts all the local dignitaries.

My walk is a circular one as it is possible to walk down to Trengwainton, our local National Trust garden, by another hill.  Until last year I used to do this on a footpath across the fields from the school  but now I cannot risk the uneven ground so I have to use the road.

This is the stile where the lower end of the path comes out on the road.  There are wonderful views across Mounts Bay from the field.

At the bottom of the hill, just before the gates to Trengwainton, is a water chute: the Cornish equivalent of a village pump.  This has become a bone of contention recently because people have started using it as a carwash, possibly because we have the highest water rates in the country.  At weekends there are often two or three cars in front of it and lots of horrible suds around the pool.

Having reached the bottom of the hill, I turn left and make my way towards home past Boscathnoe Reservoir

which is a main source of water for Penzance and an extremely popular fishing spot.

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