The Keeper of the Kiddlywink!

Tuesday, 19th May 2015


I’ve been reading my Medieval Flower Book by Celia Fisher which discusses how flower illustration was used in medieval herbals and manuscripts, and gives masses of interesting information about the uses – and abuses of flowers – in those days. It’s an informative history of flowers as they are portrayed in medieval art  and beautifully illustrated too!


I ventured out reluctantly today, it’s very windy and I had earache to add to my ricketiness.  I’m glad I went though, I wore my winter woolly hat and though the wind was easterly and fierce, the sun managed to break through at times and views from the cliff tops were charming.

Enjoy reading

Rickety rickety rambler!

Perranuthnoe circular via Prussia Cove (5.5 miles)

As you know by now, the walk from Perranuthnoe towards St Micheal’s Mount is one of our favourites.  You can read about it here and here.  Today we decided to walk along to Boat Cove and then circle back to the village and cross the road to head towards Prussia Cove.  It’s many years since we walked in this direction and we’ve never made it along the cliff tops to Prussia Cove from here before.  We followed the directions printed from which are very comprehensive, but actually the walk is easy to follow along the coast path and then back across farmland.

Starting off though, out of Perranuthnoe via the top path alongside the church with St Micheal’s Mount in the distance, we soon pass a field of hens and emus – yes emus!  Two emus!  One was reluctant to be photographed and kept his head buried under his wing, and the other wasn’t all that keen and kept looking determinedly in the wrong direction:DSCF1107

Leaving them to their chicken friends we walk on down the hill to the sound of chaffinches and blackbirds with the glorious spectacle of Mounts Bay ahead of us.DSCF1113

It’s strange trying to find your way to the right path when you’re doing a walk backwards – nothing looks the same and we have a discussion about which of several paths we usually take from Boat Cove.  We eventually find the right one though and complete the circle back to the village with the sun in front of us, making photographs of the views ahead difficult, but they are stunning.


We’re now on the South West Coast Path following the waymark signs past several little coves.  After a while, to our left we can see the castellated towers of Acton Castle which looks out over Stackhouse Cove.  This cove is named after John Stackhouse who lived here in the 18th century studying marine algae and working on his ‘Nereis Britannica’, an illustrated work which he published in 1797.

The cliffs here are full of colour, with sea pinks, spring squill and bluebells.

Sea pinks
Sea pinks
Mr RR and the bluebells
Mr RR and the bluebells

The Latin name for bluebells is Hyacinthoides non-scripta.  A member of the hyacinth family they were said to be inscribed with the letters AIAI (meaning ‘Alas’) which was the dying lament of Hyacinth, a Greek youth, when he was accidentally killed by Apollo. My Medieval Flower book tells me that since the bluebell actually bears no such inscription, it became named ‘non-scripta’.  Appropriate though as bluebells were unrecorded until the 14th century when Friar Henry Daniel described them as ‘lilies of the wood… daffodils but blue’ !

Friar Henry Daniel was the most notable garden chronicler of medieval England and shared a passion for plants with Queen Philippa – wife of Edward III.  Apparently Friar Daniel was wont to go into great detail over the taking and transport of cuttings – he obviously didn’t extend this passion for detail to his description of the humble bluebell!

Bluebells were in fact, quite an important flower of the medieval age – glue was extracted from their bulbs and used for applying feathers to arrows, bookbinding and starching.

The recent rain has led to a spurt in growth for many of the plants along the track, particularly the stinging nettles which are evident all along the way.

Nettle - Urtica dioica
Nettle – Urtica dioica
From The Medieval Flower Book

Walking on we reach the beautiful National Trust headland known as Cudden Point from where there are panoramic views across to St Micheal’s Mount.

Cudden Point
Cudden Point

The diverted path (due to cliff erosion) leads us up a steep hill and then down the other side to Prussia Cove – in fact a collective name for four coves: Piskies Cove, Bessy’s Cove, King’s Cove and Coule’s Cove.  Prussia Cove is named after a famous smuggler from the 18th century, John Carter, also known as the King of Prussia after the role he played in childhood war games.

We walk on until we reach some old buildings at Bessie’s Cove – said to be the main landing location for smuggled goods hereabouts.DSCF1174

Bessie’s Cove is said to be named after Bessie Burrow, who was the ‘keeper of the Kiddlywink’ on the cliff top.  After the 1830 Beer Act, kiddlywinks became popular beer houses, allowed to sell beer or cider (no spirits) under license from the Custom and Excise.  In Cornwall, however, many of these houses also sold smuggled spirits.  The slang phrase ‘tiddly’ for drunkeness probably originates from these beer houses which were known as ‘tiddlywinks’ in other parts of the country.

No kiddlywink being in evidence nowadays, we turn inland along a lane lined with the bright yellow of charlock – pretty, but a dogged, choking weed and a pest of arable land.  The seed output of this plant is prodigious and extremely long lived.  Seeds have been shown to grow after 11 dormant years and there are records of 50 year old pasture being ploughed and turning into a sea of charlock – the assumption being that the seeds were buried half a century earlier.  Although its now treated as a weed, it was once used for food and sold on the streets for use as a boiled vegetable, particularly in the Hebrides.  A nuisance it may be – but the bees like it:


Further up the lane we are pleasantly surprised to come across a little bakery in a converted garage and we stop for a cup of tea and a delicious chocolate chipped cookie


(oops – nearly all gone before I get the camera out!!)DSCF1183

It’s a short jaunt now back across the fields, over a few stiles and down the lane back into Perranuthnoe – a lovely walk, we may go again!

Walked this year: 356.5 miles

Blackbirds in the Hawthorn
Blackbirds in the Hawthorn

Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR:

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