Poldark Revisited - Part 3
With our memories massaged, thanks to re-seen scenery and
well-remembered tastes of great fish and chips and good Cornish ale, it was
good to spend time mixing the old with the new on a memorable family trip to
the South West.
Topping the list of new experiences after staying away from the glorious county for far too long was the quite amazing National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.
The town itself is still as big a joy as ever, with
colourful streets and alleyways to explore and with views of the bustling port
and Fal Estuary always a pleasure, especially from one of the tucked-away
waterside watering holes, with many offering new craft brews as well as more
Part of the new face of Falmouth is on show on the way to
the museum, with trendy cafes, bars and restaurants and open-air seating on
aptly-named Discovery Quay, reflecting our more cosmopolitan tastes these days,
along with the upwardly-mobile image of one of our more treasured institutions,
the fish and chip shop - no better illustrated than by having a rather fine
chippy with Rick Stein’s name emblazoned on it.
After a wake-up coffee in what’s known locally as Events
Square, we went into the unassuming entrance of the spectacular, timber-clad
museum, stepping into what was revealed as an awesome, maritime Tardis; a
tremendous space packed with interest, and displaying or covering just about
everything that floats (and sinks) in its 15 galleries, spread over five
floors. There’s so much to see that it’s worth having a quick explore to see
what’s on offer before you get down to cherry pick what you want to spend time
seeing - it’s so easy to let the clock run away with you and lose all track.
The Main Hall is a fine taster for what is to come; as soon
as you walk in, you look up to find a hanging flotilla of small boats over your
head, before you reach the heart of the display, a huge, elegant Thames steam
launch called the Waterlily, which makes you yearn to dress up for a decadent
trip on the river to take afternoon tea in the sunshine. Savour that, then
visit the Survival Zone to see the other side of the coin when it comes to
‘pleasure’ sailing, with the tiny, 9ft
dinghy Ednamair, in which five members of the Robertson family and a friend
survived in the Pacific for 38 days after their yacht was sunk by a pod of
killer whales in the 1970s.
Beyond that is the Boatbuilding Workshop, where visitors can
watch shipwrights as they repair and
build vessels, like a gig for the 2016 World Pilot Gig Championships. And then
there is The Hold, the largest single display space where major exhibitions are
showcased. The two-year Viking Voyagers extravaganza, with lots of hands-on
features as well as sights, sounds and even smells aboard a full-size longship
replica, was a tremendous success and has given way to what could be an even
This year’s specials are: Tattoo - British Tattoo Art
Revealed, showing that it’s not just for sailors! and Captain Bligh - Myth, Man
and Mutiny, chiming in nicely with the new Channel 4 reality series, ‘Mutiny.’
The TV show features nine modern-day adventurers on the same
gruelling, 4,000-mile voyage as Bligh from Tonga to Timor, on board a 23ft open
wooden boat, with the same rations and food as Bligh and his men after they
were cast adrift by mutineers.
If the experience leaves you feeling cast adrift, then head
for the museum cafe, where sustenance is
on hand, with lots of local and fair trade goodies to fuel you for the rest of
your voyage round the museum, for there’s lot more to see.
Head upwards to take in an eye-level view of the flotilla
from the National Small Boat collection and then move on to more fascinating
corners, including the Falmouth Gallery, celebrating the town’s colourful
maritime history, Cornwall and the Sea and Cornish Quayside, and keep on
heading skywards, past the Nav Station and the Quarterdeck, to reach the
Lookout Tower for superb views over the harbour, docks and estuary. There are
binoculars and telescopes for visitors to use, as well as maps to help you put
everything in context.
When you go back down, keep on going until you hit the Tidal
Zone, where you can go underwater to look into the harbour through two large
windows, maybe to see the tide rise and fall if you hang on long enough. Coming
up for air, you find time has hurtled by, but you won’t begrudge a second of
it, except if you get dragged into the lavish museum shop by kids/grandkids to
pick up a souvenir cargo to take home.
There are handy car parks nearby, especially if you do a bit
of homework and pinpoint them before you set out, but if you don’t fancy taking
the car into the heart of Falmouth, there is a Park and Ride scheme from May to
September, which will take you to within a 10-minute walk of the museum (Park
and Ride postcode is TR10 8AD) or if you can’t manage the walk there is the
circular Falmouth Shuttle Bus every 20 minutes.
You could also try the nautical route, with a ferry from
Truro or St Mawes, or the even handier Park and Float scheme, which again runs
just in summer, from Monday to Saturday, from the car park at Ponsharden, just
outside Falmouth, to Custom House Quay in the centre of the town, just 10
minutes round the corner from the museum. You even get a 10% entry discount for
using the service! (Park and Float postcode TR10 8AD)
Whether you’ve arrived by ferry from Truro or not, the
county town is another place well worth a visit, with a lot going on both in and
around what is billed by the locals as ‘our great little city’.
Park and Ride if you want, but there are some quite handy
car parks near the centre, with one in particular just behind the lovely
cathedral - and you could always try your luck, for a limited time, at the
bottom of Lemon Street, just by the big open public space of Lemon Quay, where
there’s always something going on.
Lots of places to eat and drink, whether a full-scale meal
or just nibbles, and some nice spots for people-watching, too, be it a pub with
a garden, a trendy coffee place, or even the Old Grammar School near the
cathedral, where you can get tapas and a cocktail.
Not too many pints or pasties, though, if you want to take
the popular local short-cut called Squeeze Guts Alley - it’s not called that
David Graham spent a week or so visiting old family haunts
in Cornwall, using the Penventon Park
Hotel in Redruth as a base to travel to and from all corners of the
wonderful county. David aims to do more of the same very soon!