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Stormy Day Walk:

The most spectacular walks in the area without doubt are along the coast path. Most memorable of these for me have been and are from Cleave to Crackington with tide in, sun setting. In contrast, on the rare occasions with snow on ground, Crackington to Boscastle, Hardy’s Blue Eye Country.

Have wanted for some time to discover the ancient path from Wainhouse to Week St Mary, which was once hundreds of years ago, before roads, possibly the main route to the coast at Crackington. The opportunity came recently when Edward at Wainhouse was repairing my old Citroen. With four legged friend we set off down through Jacobstow. Of all the hundreds of journeys made in the old Stag to Week St Mary, for Saturday Market, this was the first by Shanks pony!

Through Jacobstow bear right then right again over cattle grid or stile (at the time of writing purposely obstructed) past duck pond to first gate, way marker not visible. Here an inquiring resident looked out and when asked, did not know where the path led. This was intriguing.

After passing through a few fields the path became clearer though a little overgrown. Eventually the path emerged onto high ground, quality grazing, spectacular views, right down to Brown Willy and left across Dartmoor. Here I met a gent I knew from long ago tending the most perfect, splendid flock of over a hundred two tooths. With greetings exchanged the path was pointed out. The four pinnacles of Week St Mary church similar to those of Jacobstow and St Gennys came into view. The way down onto a cart track, wooded valley, this I guessed would be the main approach into Penhallam Manor circa 1200, a place I knew well from visits there thirty or more years ago, when I met by chance Beresford, the archaeologist responsible for the site. While doing this work he lodged at the Coomb Barton. Remember well his excitement on unearthing a deposit of ash. He was convinced that this was the remains of a corn dry essential in preserving barley/oats for milling through damp winters.
The cart track leads to what was once an impressive manor entrance of moat and draw bridge. The estate was the property of the Cardinhams though not their main residents.

Passing splendid pines the path emerges at the bottom of the hill to Week St Mary arriving there with thirst only to find Green Inn closed. My friend unconcerned, she had gorged herself, refreshment all the way by striping large bunches of black berries in one and drinking puddle water.

Hungry thirsty, recalled the tasty lunches of roast beef served in the Temperance Hotel, Saturdays after market. It was not always dry in there, come Christmas Fatstock Show bottles of hard stuff were quietly drained. Maybe because of this disreputable consumption or that the house was falling down, the venue was moved to the Green Inn.

Here the supply of the good stuff was guaranteed. After roast beef, spoofing for rounds was the norm.
The yarn and fun was occasionally not fit for polite society! The characters, a mixed bunch, most larger than life.

The best stories repeated at least annually, often about how small fortunes were made and lost or of shady deals that benefited all, fingers burnt, lessons learnt. Characters were colourful, stock farmers, buyers, auctioneers, meat packers, racehorse trainers, dandy buyer who always arrived in a gold Rolls Royce, a gentleman buyer from Exeter way with lady who apparently wasn’t his wife. Buyers from all over the west country, encouraged to attend by weekly press reports of top quality and numbers of stock always thick end of one or two thousand, brought more keener buyers, higher prices, greater numbers and it worked, it was fun, after a busy morning the beer and beef went down a treat.

Saturday is quiet in Week St Mary now, the market closed in the eighties. Did the market out grow the village? Or was it the intervention of Brussels and the bureaucrat?  Livestock containers sometimes queued from Green Inn to The Temperance from 8am. The site now is residential, despite a significant increase in village population Green Inn is also closed and may never open again.

The walk back to Wainhouse was just as pleasing, my ursa minor like friend in the last field went berserk in a mad race of large ever decreasing circles, full of the joys, where does she get her energy, ten miles in much less than four hours? Stormy day walk, sheltered by tall hedges, woodland and fond memories.

David George Richardson  (September 2011)

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