The Bodmin & Wenford Railway and Bodmin Jail
Today I decided to take a day out in Bodmin (Cornwall UK).
I left the Redruth area at 9.15am allowing myself an hour for the drive. With the tourist season significantly on the wane traffic was light and I arrived at Bodmin General Railway Station at 10.10am.
The Bodmin & Wenford steam Railway
For the steam enthusiasts this full size train is pulled by one of the old style steam engines common during the 1950’s. I embarked on the 10.30am which heads to Bodmin Parkway Station via Colesloggett Halt and then returns to Bodmin General Station before heading off in the opposite direction to Boscarne Junction. Then again it returns to Bodmin General, all on the same track so the views are repeated and therefore a timely change of seats to the opposite side of the trains at Bodmin Parkway and Boscarne Junction may be worthwhile. That said, in general terms the scenery is pleasant rather than spectacular.
There are easy access doors on the train for wheelchair users and there is a buffet car on the train which serves soft drinks, tea, coffee and light snacks.
The ‘round robin’ trip will take just under 2 hours and whilst costs vary dependant on the season, I paid £10.50 for a ‘rover’ ticket which allows leaving and then rejoining a later train at no additional charge. Doing so at Colesloggett Halt gives access to Picnic areas in Cardinham woods, with an additional 1.5 miles of nature trails through the woods. There are styles along these paths so they are not wheelchair friendly.
Leaving the train at Bodmin Parkway gives access to main line trains for venturing further afield. A walk on the old carriage drive or a taxi ride of a few miles will get you to Lanhydrock House. This is an old stately home run by the National Trust and, time permitting, a visit is highly recommended but you need to allow several hours for this.
Disembarking at Boscarne Junction will lead directly onto the Camel Trail for walkers and cyclists. The Camel trail is a day out in its own right and it can be ‘Googled’ for more information. The trail is now a recreational footpath, following the track of the old Bodmin to Wadebridge railway line, one of the first railways in the world which opened in 1834. There is a pub, tea rooms and a vineyard all within a pleasant short walk of about 25 minutes or so for refreshments if required.
At each of the stops (Excluding Colesloggett Halt) there is the opportunity to disembark and watch the engine change to the opposite end on the train. A good photo opportunity.
This is by no means the only thing this attraction offers. Depending on season there are really too many to mention here, but includes a train driving opportunity, Group & Senior discounts, Corporate hospitality, wedding receptions, an evening dining experience and free parking for those using the train. See the website for further details. http://bodminrailway.co.uk/
Just a mile away from Bodmin General is the (in)famous Bodmin Jail. It has been featured on the television series Most Haunted, because it is reputed to be so.
The first thing to say is that this place is not wheelchair friendly. The outside seating area is, and with staff assistance possibly the bar and restaurant could be. There is free car parking and free access to these areas. Entering the old ruin of the Naval wing is also free and may be accessed with care by wheelchair users.
Entry into the main exhibition of the jail cost me £5.50 but again costs vary slightly dependant on age.
Even on a warm day the inside of the jail is quite cool so a warm jumper or fleece is recommended, as is a torch. Inside is generally quite dark and there are 5 floors accessed by steep stone spiral staircases. On the walls there is plenty of history of previous inmates and their final fate, most it seems were hanged, whipped or transported to Australia for their sins ranging from crimes such as murder ‘most foul’ to children playing games on Sundays. Many of the information posters reside in dark and dingy passageways, hence the need for the use of a torch.
In the main the tour around the jail gives the opportunity to view many of the old cells, most of which are occupied by manikin type effigies of the inmates depicting their crime.
The whole atmosphere during the walk round gives a clear indication of the harsh penal system in place in the latter 1800’s. It would have been a very lonely life (No talking) knowing that each day would bring more of the same cold, hunger and hard labour. There was a huge on the treadmill to walk as a civil prisoner, (A small section replica is on view) or a “cannon ball” catch for naval prisoners, designed to keep you fit for battle on your release.
Depending on how much you want to read about the history and previous inmates allow about 40 minutes for minimal reading and 2.5 hours for lots.
Much has been said about the ghosts who are reputed to haunt the jail having met an untimely end one way or another, and there are many people who have reported feeling a sense of dread when visiting certain cells, and photographs have been taken indicating suspicious spectral images not initially seen. Personally I experienced none of this.
The jail also offers an all night visit for £75 per head where the already dim lighting is switched off and a paranormalist expert will lead the group into the realms of the creepy and spooky nocturnal goings on in and around the cells on all the floors. The all nighter runs from 10.30 until a hearty breakfast at 7.00am. Booking is necessary.
The jail is well worth a visit for an insight into this aspect of society in the 1800’s and I understand that, as there is much still left to do in improving the attraction, the majority of funds raised as entrance fees and profit from the bar & restaurant is being re-invested by the owners. The Impressive Naval wing of the building is presently just a 4 wall ruin but, refurbished, would more than double the interest value.
This *is* Bolventor nowadays. The hamlet is tiny.
The village once straddled the A30 Penzance road, so it is hardly surprising that an inn has been on the site since at least the 1500s (and probably lng before that). The present building dates from 1750, with later additions and modifications.
The inn is, of course, hugely haunted, with several different ghosts and numerous unexplained sounds (horses' hooves, carriage wheels, conversations in Cornish etc etc)..
It's still a busy stop for visitors and coach parties, in a perfect position for a cup of coffee and 'comfort break' on the long journey down to the rest of Cornwall.
There's accommodation too, and a large dining room/restaurant which serves Sunday lunches and evening meals throughout the week. I haven't stayed there but intend to do so at some point in the future, for it makes a very good base for exploring Bodmin Moor.
The old part of the inn is as you would expect...thick stone walls, tiny windows (imagine how wild the weather can be in this exposed place!), open fireplaces and blackened beams. But it makes its living from the visitor trade, so you will find a souvenir shop too, and a Smuggling museum, and a room dedicated to Daphne Du Maurier whose novel 'Jamaica Inn' (made into a Hicthcock film) made the inn famous.
I didn't go into the museum because it was closed, and was not terribly impressed with my coffee. But it was mid-morning on a cold and windy New-Year bank holiday, there were few people around and I think the staff (courteous enough) can be forgiven for not being quite up to the mark with the coffee. :-)
The Town Museum is a late Victorian building displaying a collection of ores, minerals and fossils, a Cornish kitchen, photographs, artefacts, uniforms and posters and tells the story of the town from the earliest times until the end of World War II.
Easter to September
Monday to Friday: 10:30 am to 4:30 pm
Saturday: 10:30 am to 2:30 pm
October to Easter
Monday to Saturday: 10:30 am to 2:30 pm
The Shire Hall was built in 1837-38 at the start of Queen Victoria’s reign, to house the Assize Courts. It hosted many famous trials in its time including that of Matthew Weeks who in 1844, was convicted of the murder of Charlotte Dymond on Bodmin Moor.
In 1988, the Courts moved to Truro and the Shire Hall remained unused until 1999, when it was refurbished and restored, it was formally opened by the Queen in June 2000 as part of Bodmin Town’s Millennium Celebrations.
The Courtroom Experience
This gives the visitor the chance to act as a member of the jury in the trial of Matthew Weeks who was accused in 1844 of the murder of Charlotte Dymond on the slopes of Rough Tor, Bodmin Moor. Also included is a visit to the holding cells where Matthew Weeks was held.
Court Sessions hourly
Monday to Saturday: 11.00 am to 4.00 pm
Monday to Friday: 11.00 am to 4.00 pm
Saint Petroc’s is the largest parish church in Cornwall with the existing building dating back to 1469-72, until the building of Truro Cathedral it was the largest church in Cornwall. The tower remains from the original Norman church and the church went through two Victorian restorations and another in 1930. The church is now listed Grade I.
Petroc was a Welsh Prince, who trained as a monk in Ireland; he had landed at Trebetherick: the ‘Place of Petroc’ opposite Padstow. Petroc made Bodmin ‘the Abode of the Monks’ and the religious centre of the West. He founded a Benedictine Monastery, from where he travelled to spread the Faith and where he was initially laid to rest after his death in 564 AD.
We visited Bodmin jail. The original jail was built for King George III in 1779. The Jail you see today was built by the prisoners who brought the 20,000 tons of granite from Bodmin`s “Cuckoo Quarry”. Look at the cold dank cells and let your imagionation work...
The only reason we went to Bodmin was the Lanhydrock house. Now I've read more tips of this city, I'm ashamed i didn't visit more... mayby next time!
Lanhydrock was beautiful, specially the kitchen. And the gardens, the graveyard
I found the ladies at the Tourist Info place very helpful.
They have a large gift shop as well.
The office itself in located on the ground floor of the Shire Hall in the centre of town.
Opening times are 10.00 am - 5.00 pm.
Monday to Saturday
Bodmin is not far from this lovely little harbour town made famous by chef Rick Stein. You can easily drive there or catch a public bus. The buses run regularly each day to and from Padstow in the summer months.
I went to Padstow on a Saturday and I left early in the morning and I remember the last bus left Padstow for the return journey at about nine thirty that night, though it is best to check the times for yourself.
I actually recommend staying in Bodmin if Padstow and Port Isaac are on your list. Accomodation will be cheaper and both villages are easy to get to for a day trip.
We arrived at Jamaica Inn (now a commercialised travesty of the haunting, bleak place of Daphne DuMaurier's novel) via the quaint little village of Altarnun.
It doesn't bear much resemblance to the austere place I first saw in 1963, nor the place where my husband was snowbound one winter night in 1955. I really do not remember that gaudy, garish Disney-style Inn sign - which doesn't creak in the wind like the old one.
The Inn used to be on the main A30 road but is now by-passed by it, and in order to stay in business the owners had to do something to attract new generations of tourists to make the little detour to the door.
In fairness the style and building materials used in the new additions blend quite well with the ancient Inn and include hotel accommodation and a Smugglers restaurant.
Instead of parking on the cobbles in front of the entrance there is now an adjacent large carpark from which a view-point gives splendid views over the Moor towards the coast.
A road opposite the Inn leads to Dozmary Pool - once said to be the deepest pool in England and the place into which King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, was thrown and swallowed up by a ghost like hand. Subsequent investigations have not confirmed this story - no sword and the Pool dries up in a drought! So holiday makers using the camping facilities there need have no fear of ghostly swords.
All part of the legends and mythology of Cornwall.
A group of three Stone circles in the field,
Thoose are dating about 1500 BC.
And there are two standing stines called Pipers,
have legends of men turned to stone for plying on Sunday.
And there is strange stone formation called the Cheesewring,
It is the remains of a carin where large thick oval slabs balance precaroiusly.
The renovations of Lanhydrock House were short-lived due to a devastating fire only 20 years later, in 1881, when the South wing (left in this photo) was completely destroyed and the West wing severely damaged. This was a common hazard in those days with so many fireplaces required to maintain adequate heat for the 50-odd rooms in the mansion. Although effects of the fire claimed both Lady Robartes (a few days later from shock) and her husband (a year later from losing his wife), their son initiated a second restoration of the manor to its 1861 design and it remained a possession of the family until 1953, when it was donated to the National Trust.
The highlight of tours through the house today is the North wing (to the right here), which survived the fire with its ~1650 era Long Gallery, featuring a plaster ceiling decorated with scenes from the Old Testament of the Bible. The guided tours take in a number of rooms including the Dining Room, 'modern' Victorian Kitchen, Dairy Scullery (where butter was made), Lobby (featuring Tiger skins, Moose heads, etc.), Smoking Room, Nurseries, Bedrooms and various rooms dedicated to both the staff and Lords themselves! Combined house & garden tours cost about 9 GBP or US$18 (adult), 4 GBP (child) and 13 GBP (family).
Set on the side of a hill which gently slopes down to the Fowey River, the 450 acres of wooded parklands included in the 900-acre Lanhydrock estate provide for a fantastic set of walking trails. Many of the trees on these slopes date from the original forest cover when the estate was established in 1620. This view from beneath a Magnolia tree shows some of the mature dark-green Irish Yew trees almost dwarfing the steeple of the church built on the estate. Interestingly enough, this church is not part of the estate and is still used for regular services.
The second photo shows an old thatched roof cottage on the outskirts of the Wooded Gardens, probably used by gardening staff in days gone by but now completely empty inside. Finally, Sue poses by some very impressive Magnolia and Rhododendron blossoms planted along one of the many walking trails in this part of the estate. With the variety of plants in the gardens, the colours are amazing at almost any season of the year! Tours of the Garden and grounds cost about 5 GBP (US$10).
Rated as the best formal garden in Cornwall, shrubs surround beds of roses and stately Irish Yew trees abound in the area between the Gatehouse and the Manor itself. The gardens of the estate date from the Victorian era and were first planted in 1857. With its collection of rhododendrons, camellias and magnolias there will be blossoms to be seen through most of the months of the year!
Yew trees are quite interesting in that their seeds and bark are poisonous but, with their elegant shapes, glossy green leaves and ease of trimming, they are favourites of 'show' gardens. Yews are also among the oldest living trees, with some specimens dated at 3000 years!
The Lanhydrock estate owes its existence to the efforts of Sir Richard Robartes, a very wealthy Cornishman who was able to buy his peerage for 10,000 pounds sterling in 1624, as a result of the fortune he had accumulated through his tin mining (see my Local Customs tip for more details on this) and banking enterprises. Needing a residence to match his new stature, construction began on a grey granite Tudor mansion in 1630. The building itself was a four-sided affair with a central courtyard and access to the grounds was through a very large and impressive gate-house, still standing today as seen on the left of this photo. About 150 years after its construction, descendants of Baron Robartes had the East wing of the block demolished, changing the form of the mansion to its present-day U-shape layout.
The fortunes of the family were in decline for some years, resulting in the house being left vacant for long periods until 1861, when another of the relatives inherited the estate and decided to have it remodelled and moderized with a neo-Jacobean façade, but with a traditional Victorian arrangement of rooms internally. This work, along with the addition of gardens, was a great success in making the estate much more liveable than the original 230-year old mansion.