Two Cornwall gems, Stonehenge, and a cool little castle
April 28, 2014 § 2 Comments
There is far too much to see and do in Cornwall to even scratch the surface in a week, but you have to start somewhere, right? And one thing was clear: we had promised the boys castles, and there would be trouble if we didn’t deliver. So we sort of stretched the truth and told them that Lanhydrock House, a beautiful estate that was built beginning in the early seventeenth century and continuing to Victorian times (when it was updated with all the “mod cons”), fit the bill. And it worked! To our amazement, they both loved touring the house, from the “below stairs” where the servants worked to the upstairs with its tiger-skin rugs, children’s rooms, and bedpans (!). (Lest we sound like complete frauds, we did visit a real castle too—see below.)
While some things were of course off-limits, the house had a fun, not-too-precious quality about it as well. The kids were free to sit down in the old classroom, and there were reproduction toys they could play with. In another room, there were costumes you could try on. The volunteers were also helpful and enthusiastic to share their knowledge of the house.
Our only rainy day in Cornwall we headed down the peninsula to St. Ives to visit the studio and museum of Leach Pottery, established in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Japanese potter Hamada Shoji. Leach was born in Hong Kong in 1887, and spent the early years of his life in Asia, moving to Kyoto, back to Hong Kong, and then to Singapore, before finally moving to England at the age of ten. Leach was always interested in the exchange of ideas between East and West, and he was also an advocate of the “ethical pot” movement, which favored plain, functional forms over the more ornate. (His wife, Janet Leach, originally from Texas, was also a highly influential potter.)
The museum was really just a walk through the rooms where Leach’s clay mixers, turning wheels, and tools have been left as he used them. There was a serene, muted quality to the natural light that filtered into these spaces. A grainy black-and-white film featured Leach throwing various pots and talking about his philosophy of pottery. It was lovely to really get a sense of his approach and even the space where he worked, and I really appreciate small museums were you find yourself wandering freely and alone among interesting things.
But back to that castle. Nunney Castle, a charming, crumbling number located in Nunney, in the county of Somerset, is billed as England’s smallest castle. Anyone is free to walk in “at any reasonable hour” and pretend to be a fourteenth-century knight. If you happen to have procured a couple of swords on your recent travels, all the better.