Local History & Heritage

Cadsonbury

Footpath to Cadsonbury Hill FortOnly a short walk away from Cadson Manor, and visible from the grounds, is Cadsonbury Hill fort, an impressive Iron Age fortification which makes an interesting walk.

Cadsonbury is probably one of Cornwall’s earlier hill forts, since it has a single bank that hugs the contours of the hill.

The views from the top are spectacular and well worth the climb, although one cannot help but imagine how difficult it would have been for the ancient Celts, battling up the hill against opposition.

In spring, the bluebell woods stretching from the fort down to Cadson Manor and the river Lynher are a wonderful sight.

Bluebells on the slopes of Cadsonbury

 Roman Calstock

A curiosity for the historically inclined – it was always believe that there was really not much Roman presence in Cornwall.  But in 2008, an excavation looking for traces of medieval silver mining found instead an enormous first-century Roman fortress near the Church at Calstock.  There’s nothing much Roman to see there now, but the church is a pretty spot and you may like to drop by to see if you can spot any legionary ghosts, marching up the hill from the quiet mists of the river Tamar.

Roman Fort, CalstockAlmost two thousand years ago, this quiet field was only part of a huge military powerhouse, set up to control trade along the river Tamar.

Arthuriana

If you are fascinated by Arthurian legend, you’ll want to visit the river Tamar – one of many sites that has been suggested for Arthur’s final battle with his evil nephew Mordred.

The River Tamar at sunset

And don’t forget to drop in to Dozmary Pool, up on Bodmin Moor.  This deep dark brooding moorland lake is reputed to be the last resting place of the great king’s sword, Excalibur, where it was flung by Sir Bedivere after his last battle.

Hingston Down and the Vikings

Long ago, Hingston Down, just a little way East of Kit Hill, was the site of the last great battle of the independent Cornish, way back in 838AD.  Allied with a force of Vikings, the Cornish marched to Hingston Down, high above the Tamar, where they fought a battle against the English – which they lost – and ever since, Cornwall has been officially part of England.

Hingston Down

More recently, Hingston Down was a mine in the nineteenth century, and you can still see the ruins of some of the old mine buildings (which have interesting interpretation boards to show how the mine used to work)

Nowadays, Hingston Down offers some lovely views, both North and East to Dartmoor, and South to Plymouth and the mouth of the Tamar.

Francis Drake & the Tudor Tamar Valley

The  area near Cadson Manor was home to Francis Drake, and if you are interested in the Tudor period, there is lots to see and do here.

Cotehele is a Tudor Manor, once the property of the Edgecumbe family, and surprisingly little changed from Tudor times: it is a National Trust property, and mostly kitted out in true Tudor style.

Mount Edgecumbe, down at the mouth of the River Tamar and facing across the river to Plymouth, is another Tudor house, although one that is much more changed. During the   Second World War, the house was destroyed by German bombers during the 1941 Blitz on Plymouth. The house was left as a derelict shell until 1958, when Adrian Gilbert Scott was commissioned by the 6th Earl to rebuild the house.    It still has a wonderful Tudor exterior though,  and the neo-Georgian interior is unusual and interesting. The gardens and grounds are well worth a visit.

Tudor enthusiasts will want to visit  Buckland Abbey, another wonderful  house, originally built as a Cistercian monastery, and once home to Sir Frances Drake.   This is a National Trust house, and filled with treasures such as the legendary Drake’s Drum, which is said to be heard to beat in times of national peril.

To continue the Drake theme, you might enjoy the walk along Drake’s Leat on Dartmoor – commissioned by the great man himself to bring fresh water down from the moors to Plymouth.

Don’t miss Port Eliot, a privately owned house near St Germans which is open to the public and has grounds that are well worth exploring.  Parts of the house date back to the twelfth century, and others are Tudor and seventeenth century.

The Civil War

During the English Civil War in 1644, the whole area around Cadson Manor saw savage fighting between the Cornish Royalists and English Parliamentarians.  They were fighting for control of the lucrative Cornish tin trade, and the Tamar was for a while a fiercely contested border between the two opposing sides.

At this time, Cornish commander Sir Richard Grenville created an ambitious plan – an semi-independent Cornwall with the Prince of Wales at its head.  Even though the Cornish had been part of England since 838,  they had not forgotten their ancient independence –  even today, you might hear people say they are ‘going to England’ when they cross the Tamar.  If you make a visit to Horsebridge,  look out for Charles I’s seal, proudly set into the floor of the Royal Inn.

Mining Heritage

Copper mining made the name of the Tamar Valley famous in the 19th and early 20th century.  The Valley rang with the sound of heavy industry, as great mine chimneys sprang up, railways and quays were created, and the banks of the Tamar were black with soot and busy with miners moving copper, arsenic, tin – and all the supplies needed to keep them clothed and fed. Now, all is calm again. The valley is green and full of trees and flowers.  Mine chimneys have become part of the local scenery.  Hidden quays, overgrown tracks and trails, half-forgotten mine adits, and barren sandy spoil-tips dot the landscape –  all waiting to be discovered.

Tamar Valley mine chimney