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Beyond Menabilly

Finally we have weather dry enough to venture out of Pridmouth Cottage. It’s not exactly a burning summer’s day but at least it’s dry enough to take the coastal path to the Gribben. The Gribben is a red and white watchtower operating as a sea and landmark. Beacons were hung to alert shipping and any feared French invasion was monitored from it. It stands on a headland between Fowey and Polkerris Beach. This is a popular walk for ramblers and in the thirties Daphne and her sister Angela made it trespassing into the Menabilly Estate. Once she saw a bird bother a tractor driver which avian attack inspired The Birds some of which was filmed by the Gribben. It affords fine views east and west.

Later we drove to a restaurant recommended by tour guide David Hogg Trewithen at Lostwithiel. Cornish signposting is not the best and we got lost in St Blazey. We did go through Tywardheath the setting for Daphne’s surreal The House on the Strand. I will leave Daffers to review the restaurant though I found it exceptionally good. We wanted to leave before sunset as the road to the cottage is little more than a dirt track. The light was failing and we all experienced an eerie, sinister feeling in the dark of the Menabilly Woods. You could see how this would have inspired Daphne’s darker writing. I thought of the final film scene of Rebecca when you see Maxim de Wit and his second wife – never named- returning like us from Par to see the silhouette of Manderlay burning having been torched by Mrs Danvers.

We were joined by a school friend of Bob en route to his home in Penzance. He is a respected journalist mainly in Southern Africa and a mine of information on Cornwall. He explained that though the tin mines are long gone, mining tin was tough and Cornish miners exported their skills to South Africa. Cornwall, treated differently to affluent Devon in EU eyes, has received massive subsidies from them but seems fairly Brexit with Union Jacks prominent. With only one neighbour Devon with whom it does not get along and a celtic tradition Cornwall tends to ally itself with Brittany, both share a stubborn streak. Once the producer of tin and copper in abundance with lucrative dues from catching smugglers as revealed in Jamaica Inn where the priest  ran the contraband network it’s only remaining source of real revenue is tourism but the contrarian Cornishman does not always present an accommodating attitude to those from outside the county. Daphne understood, empathised and wrote of the Cornish character which she resembled with her cussedness. She would not have flourished in the more pretentious world of literary London but rather need the dense, sinister quietude of the Menabilly woods.

About Melanie Gay

A former literary agent with three published novels of her own, Melanie retains her life-long love of the written word and recently mastered the Kindle. She is currently writing a historical novel set in 17th Century Britain and Holland. More Posts