We are pleased to present the fascinating illustrated Recollections of Muriel Jerram who moved as a young girl with her family to the Vicarage at Talland in1891.Her parents lived there until 1920 and then had to move as an incoming vicar wished to occupy the vicarage himself, so they then moved to a house at the Warren, Polperro, on the coastal path. The reminiscences include an annex written by a Polperro man about the funeral procession of Muriel's mother in the 1930s - she was accorded the great honour of being carried by Polperro men along the coastal path to the church at Talland for the funeral service and burial. Many thanks to Ms. Frances Impey for her permission to publish her great aunt's recollections - we hope you will find them as interesting as we did and well worth the effort of downloading - they are presented as a .pdf file as they are quite long (25 pages) and are illustrated and the .pdf format is ideal for presenting them in the format and layout which was intended.
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Before our time -Talland used to be a proper village, as well as a manor and a parish. Where the bay is now, there was a village green, and another two and a half fields between the village green and the sea. Our great aunt Thirza told my mother that her mother used to dance on the village green, after weddings held in the church. There was a boatbuilding yard too, and the Mill at Rotterdam.
The Talland we knewWhen we were small, in the thirties, we would bring our tea down to the beach, and make a fire, and boil a kettle, and make tea in the large brown teapot we brought with us. Later, we had a thermos, but the tea lost its smoky taste. The far side of Talland, on the left, was a separate little beach, with a spit of land coming down to where there is only a bare rock now. Then it had grass on the top, and was a continuation from the field above. We sometimes had our tea up there.
The path which went round the cliff then has gone a long time, and been replaced twice, further inland each time. The road which now goes up was quite a way from the sea - say 100 yards? and was made when the old one was about to fall into the sea. The remains of the old road now go on down the hill to the cliff edge.
In our day, cars could still drive all the way down Sandhill, though it was quite terrifying. Ou uncle Ken did it in his baby Austin. Before the war you could drive across to the beach hut and up Porthallow Hill. A friend's uncle, now 90, remembers driving across a plank bridge in a donkey cart. Now there is a road again, but no car can go up Sandhill now, only along Bridles Lane.
At the bottom of Sandhill were the remains of the old limekilns. The wooden beach hut was known as "Dick Smith's hut". Dick Smith lived half way up Sandhill on the left. He sold tin buckets and wooden spades and little wooden life boats carved in one piece, painted blue and white - and rubber beach balls, and plimsolls, and small prawning nets, also sweets - Mars bars and Frys peppermint cream bars at 2d. and tea. You took a tea tray down to the beach - and then brought it back. But we usually had our own, and splits and cream which my mother would cut and spread for us.
The House that was -On the other side of Talland, on the right, there was a house on the cliff and a half-acre garden, with two lawns and hedges, a kitchen garden, and an aviary, all now fallen into the sea (the house was demolished before this happened). It was called Tallandsands, and had been built by a Frenchman, De Boubel, who, we were told, had built at least one of two sea walls to try to hold the sea back. When the sea had encroached and most of the sea wall had collapsed, the then owner Mrs Anderson had the corner of the house completely demolished, and underpinned with tramlines.
The remains of the two sea walls are still there, the first now hardly visible, the second is the big grey slab which is useful for sitting and drying towels on.
Mrs Anderson was a friend of our grandmother's, and so of us. So we often went to tea with her, and she gave me her old aviarywhen she had a new one, in 1938. She swam every day up to Christmas, until she was well over 80. Before the war she spent her winters in the south of France, where she could go on swimming.
The beach to the right of Talland we called Mrs Anderson's beach, because there was a path down the cliff (gone now) that she used to go down to it. It was also called Shell Beach.
When Mrs Anderson knew she would have to leave Tallandsands, because despite the underpinning the cliff was still crumbling into the sea - she built a new house to retreat to. This is the one with two little extensions, one on each side - the house with the ears her grandson calls it. One extension was for guests, so that they could be independent - the other was not built then.
Mrs Anderson did live in it for a little while, but then went back to Tallandsands. Later she sold the new house to the author Francis Brett Young, and moved in to stay with friends in Polperro.
The wooden footbridgeIn earlier days there was a wooden footbridge across the stream, wide enough for pedestrians, and the only means of any vehicle getting from Porthallow across to Tallandsands was over the ford.
Mrs Anderson's grandson has a story about his step-grandfather, an Edwardian actor in London, "Very flamboyant, with curly-brimmed trilby etc." driving over the ford in a pny and trap.
"He came down to see Gran from London and arrived at Talland when the beach was particularly highly piled up with seaweed, and when he arrived he pulled out a large silk handkerchief and clapped it to his face saying, "My God, Margaret, the stench!" and after a short stay, returned to London and never came back!"
Accident on Sandhill"On another occasion three people tried to drive down Sandhill to Talland on a wet day. The road was red shale and very slippery when wet, and their brakes wouldn't hold on the very steep hill, and they crashed through the railings at the bottom, and landed on the beach. None was killed, but I believe they had fairly serious injuries."
"At night, in those days, otters used to come down the stream from Bridles Lane, and play on the beach. There was then a row of poles right across the middle of Talland beach, although by then a few were missing, - presumably an early form of sea-defence to stop erosion."
"The wooden bridge ran right across the beach from the bottom of Sandhill to the lane running round to Rotterdam beach."
The other beachesThe next beach along towards Polperro was Donkey Beach, and this had a very good path down to it, from the cliff path, through a green iron kissing gate. Before the rabbits disappeared with myxomatosis and the bracken took over, there was a small triangular field of short grass on the seaward side of the path. Donkeys were tehered there, to graze, and the story went that one fell over the cliff to the beach - which was why it was called Donkey beach. Donkeys were used before any roads were made in Polperro because they could manage the steep hills.
LeakrockThe beach beyond that, the nearest one to Downend Cross, is called Leakrock - (pronounced Lakerock - the ea sound as in Great). We were told this was because there was a leak in the rock, which let in the sea. Leakrock was a perfect high tide morning beach, and was all sand, but we also had moonlight picnics on it. The top down to it was a wide slope of short grass - no bracken or gorse or scrub. I think it is one of the places where a huer would stand to shout, to signal that he could see a shoal of pilchards. And one summer the whitebait came in so thick that we were swimming in whitebait. The mackerel came in after the whitebait, and that was the time when the baulks were put up in Polperro harbour, to keep the mackerel in until they were all scooped up in vast quantities.
RotterdamThe beach to the left of Talland - the small one - is Rotterdam. There was a mill there once, where the cottage is. And we were told that the Dutch landed on Rotterdam and even fired cannonballs at the church (Mr Timberlake, the vicar in the war, showed us a cannonball). There was a gate on to the grassy bit where the cars park.
The name Stinkers - which is the large beach beyond Rotterdam was said to be from the Dutch also, and meant stony. (These were all things we were told as children, by our elders and betters, so we took them to be so). I have asked a Dutch friend, and the Dutch for stone is steen, pronounced stain, and stony or stonelike is steenachtig.
StinkersThere used to be three ways of getting on to Stinkers. One is the way people go now, when the tide is low enough, from Rotterdam, through that pool between the rocks. The second way was over the Drang, or Gully, on the far side of the beach. You walked up the cliff path and down to the grassy cliff above the Drang, where a path went down - at first just grass, later through gorse, and later it became too narrow, and the gorse too strong to let you down that way - and around to a narrow rocky ledge of a path down one side of the Drang, and so eventually to Stinkers.
The third way, which was only there a short time - friends of ours made it - zig-zagged down the back of the cliff from the top on the far side - and was hazardous in parts, but meant you could get on and off the beach at all tides. There had been a path there before, because there were the remains of some little terraced potato patch gardens - like the ones below the path on the way into Polperro.
The DrangThe same friends once made a wonderful pulley slide with a rope across the Drang - you hung on to the rope at the top, launched yourself into space, and dropped into the deep water of the Drang - at high tide, of course. One end was fixed to the high rock above the Drang with an abseiling screw, and the other end to a hole in the rock jetty below - it has steps cut in it, and the hole was for smugglers to tie up their boats.
The friend who made it tested it at low tide, and knocked himself out, but he was always doing that. Another year they made a diving board which they bolted to the side of the Drang - and this was very good until the plank split. It was hard work. They made cement for a ridge for the board to balance on, and the water for this had to be brought round from the stream at Rotterdam. The crow bar they used for making holes for the bolts fell into the deep bed of luxuriant seaweed in the Drang and had to be dived for. The plank had to be swum round from Stinkers.
The best prawns used to be found in the Drang - also in the rocks between Talland and Stinkers where a ship was wrecked - the Marguerite, in 1921 - and the old boiler was wedged - for ever, I imagine, as it is still there, and still good for prawning at low tide.
Swimming across the BayIn the twenties, in our mother's youth, people often swam across Talland Bay, but always with a boat in attendance, because there are dangerous currents. My sister and I planned to, having swum from Donkey to Talland, and Leakrock to Donkey, and Talland to Stinkers, but then the war came, and no boats were allowed outside the harbour, so we never did.
The WarI once saw a submarine in the bay - a black, long affair - I don't know if it was ours or theirs. And once I was prawning on Talland when a plane with black crosses on its wings came in low from the sea, over my head and up the valley. I jumped down between the rocks and lay as low as I could, expecting machine gun fire at any moment - but it flew up the valley. This was unusual for Cornwall - we were more or less untouched by the war, though we could look out of our windows at night and see the glow in the sky when Plymouth was burning.
There were rolls of barbed wire at the top of Talland and Rotterdam, and concrete tank traps at Talland as well - but we could get round them. After the war they were gradually taken away, but the beaches had a lot of tar on them for several years, due to oil spillage at sea, so you were very careful where you sat.
The Three Granite SeatsA little way up the hill to Porthallow, on the corner, there is a granite seat - to The Three Cousins, put up by Mrs Eldred who lived in a First World War army hut up Porthallow hill. The seat was in memory of her son who had died in India in 1930, and two cousins who died in the Great War. Their names are on the back of the seat - Harold Eldred, Ronald Picken and Woodley Easom. A fourth name was added, Keith Loughman, killed in the Second War.
The second seat - to Mrs Eldred herself - is on the cliff at the far side of Stinkers, looking out to sea. The third is to her daughter, Freda Power, and this is just beside Downend Cross, and looks across the bay, making a triangle with the other two.
WestcliffThe house between Donkey and Leakrock - Westcliff - now holiday flats - was built by Bunt in 1912. When we knew it it was a guest house, and belonged to Miss Goater, an eccentric lady who kept chickens and goats and other animals inside the house as well as outside. The story goes that the visitors had to wait for their supper because Miss Goater had a laying hen on her lap, which could not be disturbed.
Daphne Hope, © 1999
Finding Heaven at SevenI happened upon your website and noticed that you asked for childhood memories of Talland Bay. So here's mine.
I was about seven, I think. It was 1943 and we lived in war-torn Plymouth. My grandparents went to stay on a farm near Talland Bay and my mother took me down for the weekend to stay with them.
The evening meal was over by the time we arrived. I was tired, and went to bed. But the farmer's wife came in and brought me a meal. It was one of the simplest meals I have ever had - and one of the most memorable. A crust of home made bread, spread thickly with fresh butter, and a glass of whole milk that was still warm from the cow. In those lean and rationed days, I had never tasted anything so wonderful.
The next morning, my grandfather took me for a walk. I loved the countryside, so I was eager to join him. To my amazement, this walk through beautiful countryside led us to the ocean. I decided there and then that I had found Heaven.
Half a century later, after many years spent living overseas, I came back to the Westcountry and while walking the coast path from Looe to Polperro, I came to Talland Bay once more and the memories came flooding back.
It is as beautiful as ever.
Nowadays I live in Hartland. I often walk through beautiful, unspoiled countryside, to the ocean. My idea of Heaven, as you can see, has changed little. It is still at that spot where you can walk through the woods and along the lanes and then discover the sea.
Marian McCain, © 2000
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