National Geographic : 1924 Dec
A CHAR-A-BANCS IN CORNWALL BY HERBERT COREY AUTHOR Of "ALONG THE OLD SPANISH ROAD IN MEXICO," "ADVENTURING DOWN 'rt WEST COAST OP MEXICO," "ANDORRA, A UNIQUE REPUBLIC," ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE HERE may be a more beautiful county in England than Cornwall, but I doubt it. Even as I write, uncertainty assails me. It is manifest that not every one agrees. On the desk lies a quotation from some forgotten writer, who calls the 70 miles from Launceston to Mounts Bay the dreariest stretch ever traversed by an English highroad. One recalls the vast moors, dull, dun, and bare, on which the only interruption to the eye's range is an occasional ruined pithouse, through the gaps in which one glimpses the blue sky; or a tumbled heap of earth where once Phcenician tin miners, perhaps, sought the metal which a Cornish historian once declared "near as fyne as sylver." At long intervals a cottage is encoun tered of dour gray granite, roofed with granite, breastplated against the driving rains with slate, in a granite-walled in closure, with never a shrub or tree to vary the cold monotony with a touch of green. Yet I shall stand by that first judg ment. Cornwall's charm is one of en chantment. Its moors are broken by hidden valleys, the existence of which one does not suspect until their lips are reached, filled with the greenest grass, from which great trees tower. The hedges that rim in the roads, worn down by centuries of traffic, glow with the pur ple of foxglove and the yellow of the furze. In an hour's drive one passes from cliffs of a savage, sheer hostility, at whose feet break the most dangerous seas in England, to smiling estuaries amid rolling hills on which the green of English oak alternates with glowing fields. CORNWALL'S PLACE IN ENGLISH HISTORY History and tradition play their part in creating Cornwall's charm. It was on Cornish shores that galleys landed in search of tin long before the Roman rule in England. Local tradition holds that Jewish traders gave its name to the little village of Marazion-Bitter Zion-which is at least as often called Market Jew by the country people as by its own name. It is a pity that archeologists laugh at this fanciful etymology. Offshore the Land of Lyonesse lies sunken with its 140 parish churches, whose bells, the fishermen say, may still be heard on days of onshore storms. Cornwall was one of the first counties of England to be Christianized, and al most the last to be subdued by the Saxon invaders. The ruins of King Arthur's castle may still be traced on the headland of Tintagel, and the story of Merlin the Enchanter is preserved, if not believed. Cornwall played its part in almost every English war, and the letter of King Charles I to his faithful people still holds a place on the walls of Cornish churches. Edward, Prince of Wales, is Duke of Cornwall because 600 years ago that honor was granted the eldest son of the reigning king. It is not many years since wrecking was an established industry there, and the parson's lame mare, with a ship's lantern tied under her neck, was set to hobble of an evening along the sands, to toll be wildered shipmen on the rocks. Cot tagers drop pins in the holy wells and read their fortunes in the bubbling of the disturbed waters. NAMES AN EVER-CHANGING DELIGHT The county names are an ever-chang ing delight. Can there be a more charm ing title for a church than St. Just in Roseland? One crosses by Slaughter Bridge straight into a remote and furious past. Almost every little seacoast town has its smugglers' cave with a well-authenti cated history. From the Lizard the Spanish Armada was sighted and alarm fires were lighted. During Cornwall's all-too-intermittent spells of prosperity, miners emerge from workings beneath the sea and climb ladders pinned to gi gantic cliffs, singing as they mount. Oranges and lemons and exotic palms grow in the balmy air.