I bought this tea towel in St Agnes in Cornwall in 1982. It is a place I have been back to a couple of times for short visits, passing through. It is that first visit I remember so vividly. John and I had our first ‘proper’ holiday together in St Agnes, staying for two weeks in a lovely hotel, up a narrow road, which had some glorious gardens. We spent many evenings sitting in the gardens, smelling the fragrance of the roses and jasmine.
We chose to go to Cornwall because John had never been there and the last time I was there was with my parents when I was 7 years old. We didn’t want to go anywhere which held memories from the past for either of us; certainly nowhere that might have any association with the group holidays for people with learning disabilities that John and I were involved in for many years. That would be too much like work. We needed a proper break. This was a new start for us.
Picking St Agnes as a base was more about luck than judgement – it was about the hotel – but was certainly not something we regretted; it was a good choice. St Agnes is on the coast of North Cornwall and associated with tin mining. Wheal Coates, as depicted on this tea towel, is one of the classic mine head buildings that Cornwall is famous for. I have stunning, photos of Wheal Coates; stunning, not because I am a great photographer, but because of the setting of Wheal Coates and its iconic style. Whether you are up close or looking at it from a long distance away, Wheal Coates is just beautiful. My pictures either overlook the sea or have an incredible landscape background.
This is a classic tourist tea towel with the illustration of Wheal Coates in brown, just one colour, on a white background. It is a good functional tea towel that has not lost it’s colour after more than 30 years of wiping up; the cotton material that it is made from has a good absorbency.
When I look at this tea towel I remember that holiday as being packed with activity and variety. I was much fitter then, walking along the coastal paths, spending a lot of time paddling in places like Chapel Porth, exploring Wheal Coates; Wheal Coates mine goes right down from the cliffs to the sea and at high tide the waves could be heard crashing through a grate in the floor of the ruin. I have no idea if health and safety still permits that level of exploration. Wheal Coates is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the miners who died there. We climbed St Agnes Beacon, 628 feet above sea level; it is said that from there you could see 23 miles of coastline and 32 church towers can be seen from here. I’m not sure I saw the 32 church towers but I’m sure I saw at least 20 miles of coastline!!
During my holiday at St Agnes we travelled around quite a lot and I rediscovered my love of geology and archeological findings. Cornwall has wonderous megalithic structures like Men-an-Tol, a four stoned structure with a central feature of a large stone with a hole in it, whose purpose remains a mystery. Men-an-Tol is surrounded by folklore and tradition, renowned for curing many ailments; the site has a reputation for curing back ailments which earned it the name of Crick Stone. Not far away is Madron Well, down a muddy path lined with blackthorn and hawthorn, revered for its healing powers. Even today strips of coloured cloth are seen hanging from the branches of nearby trees signifying prayers for healing.
Further away is Chysauster with eight stone buildings, Courtyard Houses, representing the earliest identifiable village street in England, probably built and occupied between 100BC and 400AD. Then there was Chun Quoit, a Neolithic period chambered barrow…………..
I loved Cornwall in 1980s and I love this tea towel for reminding me. As I write this, I think I really should go back and revisit all those places especially since I know that places like Chysauster had not fully been excavated. I liked to see the difference.
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