Work and Play in Falmouth

September 15th, 2019
Penny Hampson

Last week I enjoyed a short break in one of my favourite places — Falmouth, Cornwall.

Why do I love Falmouth? Lots of reasons, not least the wonderful feeling I get of being somewhere on the edge of an adventure. Falmouth was after all the jumping off point for many people travelling to different parts of the world, courtesy of the Royal Mail Packet ships.

Dunstanville Terrace — this features in my next book

Even though the packet ship service ended there in 1851, enough remains of the public buildings, houses, and quays, to bring to mind the excitement and buzz of a busy seafaring town.

This building used to be the head office of George C. Fox and Sons, the leading Falmouth Merchants and Shipping Agents
A view down to the harbour

I also love the sea, and never tire of watching the everchanging seascape. This time I was lucky enough to be staying in a place with views directly onto the water — not quite the open sea, but a part of the inner harbour. It was amazing to wake up each morning and view the ships bobbing about on the water, gulls sweeping in, and even the odd heron picking its careful way in the shallows searching for breakfast.

View from my window

The quality of the light also seems different, more vivid and vibrant, something I think is true of Cornwall as a whole, not just Falmouth.

Even on a dull day, there is something about the light

The purpose of my trip was not only to soak up the atmosphere and remind myself of the layout of the town (my next two books are based in Falmouth), but also to undertake some ‘proper’ research. To do this I visited the Bartlett Maritime Research Centre and Library, based in the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth. Staffed mainly by volunteers, this place is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in maritime matters. I was able to add to my knowledge of Falmouth’s history while my husband was happily wandering round the main museum.

On the ferry

The trip wasn’t all work. One day we took a boat upriver to visit the National Trust Trelissick House and Gardens.

Trelissick House

Built in 1755, but with additions throughout the years, Trelissick House commands fine views over the River Fal.

Wish my desk was in a nice location like this!

Only the ground floor rooms are currently open to the public, offering the same magnificent views that the original owners must have enjoyed.

View from the Drawing Room

In the Drawing Room we listened to a very talented gentleman playing a selection from Phantom of the Opera on the piano. It really added to the feeling of being a guest in a rather magnificent country house.

The Drawing Room

After visiting the house, we wandered round the beautiful gardens before catching the ferryboat back to Falmouth.

The stables at Trelissick

Another morning, we took a boat trip upriver to Malpas — being a tidal river, we were unable to sail all the way to Truro.

View of Falmouth from the ferry

On the way I spotted a seal as he briefly bobbed his head above the surface at the side of our boat. Unfortunately, he was too quick for me, so I didn’t manage to catch him on camera. We also spotted a pair of ospreys. According to the ferry captain, who gave a good commentary throughout the trip, these ospreys have been visiting the area for a couple of weeks per year for the last three years.

All I managed to catch with my camera was a group of comorants who considerately posed for me as we sailed past.

A bus conveyed us from Malpas into Truro, a town like Falmouth with lots of Georgian buildings and quaint cobbled streets. I discovered a secondhand bookshop where I was able to add to my collection of maritime history books (I always seem to come back from trips like this loaded down with books).

I spotted this old pump and thought it worth a picture.

A couple of hours browsing the antique shops, a coffee, and a pasty later, and it was time to catch the bus back to Malpas for the return journey by boat to Falmouth. No seals or ospreys this time, but an orderly line of swans with their seven cygnets gliding past as we rounded Trefusis Point, leaving the Carrick Roads behind us and entering the calmer waters of the harbour.

One of our most interesting mornings was spent doing a self-guided walk that took us through Falmouth’s quirky terraces and passageways, hidden from most tourists. This set of steps leading up to one of the terraced roads is called Jacob’s Ladder.

From one of the terraces overlooking the town I got this shot of the Parish Church.

Swanpool Bay from the coastal path

From there we headed out into woodland which took us eventually to Swanpool Beach, a beautiful sheltered cove. Walking along the coastal path we headed on to Gyllyngvase Beach, where we stopped for a quick coffee, then it was on again along the promenade towards Pendennis Point, with its panoramic view of the Carrick Roads. A short while later we were passing the Falmouth dockyards — from the road you get a birdseye view of the docks. As we passed, there was a large passenger ferry in dry dock for repairs.

Fortunately, after the dockyards, it was all downhill back into Falmouth and our hotel. After several hours of walking I was glad of a hot shower to relieve my aching muscles.

My four days in Falmouth went by so quickly, before I knew it, it was time to pack for home.