Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Mayflower

Independent Identity Cornwall’s Charm

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Counties Bordering Plymouth Sound is the port’s promenade called The Hoe that includes a bowling green like that used by Sir Francis Drake before sailing against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

 Story & Photo

 By Pat Neisser

 Mature Life Features

PENZANCE, Cornwall — England’s southwestern tip is the magical territory where Gilbert and Sullivan set their classic fun-poking operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, and the village of Mousehole is celebrated in the tale of Tom Bawcock and his cat, Mowzer. It’s a scene fostered by a citizenry battling and beating the elements that prides itself with its own identity and keeps a wary lookout for doubters. The fishermen are serious about their livelihood and don’t brook interference. But once they’ve finished their tough day, they’re ready to befriend the visitor. The Cornish peninsula is less crowded than better-known areas of the country and its towns hug the sea with an age-old love-hate relationship. I took the train from Southampton to Exeter in County Devon and drove to Penzance after an overnight stay. Cornwall’s and Devon’s history goes back more than 4,000 years but written records reach back to 30 B.C. when seafaring visitors came looking for tin. The Spanish invaded in 1595 but were driven back into the sea, marking the last landing on English soil by invaders. Cornish miners emigrated to California and Colorado to teach silver miners a thing or two and took with them the famous Cornish pasty meat pies. Penzance and its sister villages along the coast are loaded with things to do. Even if you aren’t fond of pilchards (large sardines) don’t miss a visit to the Pilchard Factory and Museum in next-door Newlyn where we were shown how the fish are salt-cured and packed for shipping all over the world. In Newlyn, one of the largest fishing harbors in England with eateries scattered along the beaches, we visited Trinity House National Lighthouse Centre to learn how the famed lighthouse saved so many sailors. A highlight of our visit was the Eden Project, which is housed in acres of environmental domes, each offering a different climate. Actors and scientists interact to explain the place of man and nature in the environmental universe. Next we visited the tiny coastal communities of Fowey, home to Daphne Du Maurier and her famous acting and writing family, and St. Ives, which romance novelist Rosamunde Pilcher calls home and where Barbara Hepworth created many of her magnificent sculptures. St. Ives is a fairy-tale seaport town with lanes that wind up and up. One of its most famous creations is the Tate Gallery St. Ives that  shows modern art from local as well as international artists. Tropical  plants, such as palm trees and cacti, cover this part of England thanks to the nearby Gulf Stream, bringing a California look to the terrain. Finally, it was back to neighboring County Devon and the south-coast seaport of Plymouth. This was Sir Francis Drake’s place of business and the site of the Mayflower’s departure. We stood on the famous steps where the pilgrims boarded their ship. The old town near the water is filled with 17th century memorabilia.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2004

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 28, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Sojourn in Southampton

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By Cecil Scaglione 996ce3c14235a270494190f6e455
Mature Life Features
   In a quiet stand of trees outside Old Town Southampton’s western wall is a testimonial to the heart and hardiness of those who sailed the Mayflower to North America. The monument overlooks the site where last-minute repairs were made to the creaking wine ship before its two-month voyage from England to New England in the fall of 1620.
     Since then, this waterfront community has been the port of departure for millions of emigres to Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other parts of the world.
     The Mayflower saga is memorialized by a limestone tower topped by a copper replica of the ship that sailed with 104 Pilgrims and 30 crewmen to plant a colony. Anybody who can trace their ancestry to those original dissidents can have their name added to the plaque on the tower.
     This bustling port of a quarter of a million people that has played a major role in much of British history doesn’t appear on many travelers’ radar despite being less than an hour from the much-visited Stonehenge and its 5,000-year-old monoliths perched on the Salisbury Plain.
     It’s a leisurely train ride from Gatwick Airport midway between London and Brighton. The tracks trundle through suburbanized southern England sprinkled with glimpses of cattle and castles, horses and hothouses, and sheep, small towns and school soccer practices.
     Students from the research-driven University of Southampton and other local campuses give the city an up-to-the-minute air as you wander through and around its historic sights. Occupying a prominent position in downtown’s East Park is a tribute to those Southampton men who helped build the Titanic, which set sail from here on its disastrous 1912 maiden voyage, and stayed with her to the bottom. Among the many memorials to this legendary liner is a large stone pedestal crowned by a bronze angel with wings outstretched as it stands on the prow of a ship, a scene similar to that depicted by actress Kate Winslet in the 1997 Hollywood epic centred on the celebrated ship.
     The new city has been built around Old Town, which stretches south from the main business and shopping district. Entry is through Bargate, Southampton’s most recognizable landmark and the city’s main entrance for much of its history. The town began to bustle shortly after the Norman victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The gate was begun in the 12th century and completed in the 15th. The entrance was built just wide enough for a horse-drawn coach to squeeze through, and was a symbol of political power as well as a means of defense.
     Flanked by two lead lions said to protect the city, the gate was once the site of town council meetings, the local court, and road-toll collections. Shields mounted over the entrance represent prominent families that governed Southampton. There’s a life-sized statue of George III, the “Mad George” who “lost” the American colonies, standing in a niche over the entry.  A stone memorial just inside the gate bears a plaque recalling the havoc hurled here by German aircraft during World War Two.
     Guide Jean Watts explained that Southampton was blitzed badly because it housed a Spitfire factory as well as being a major seaport that eventually was the debarkation point for more than 3 million Allied troops for the invasion of Hitler-controlled Europe. Another reminder of how military and maritime matters mingle is the skeletal remains of Holyrood Church, where Crusaders worshiped on their way to the Holy Land. It was almost destroyed by enemy bombers in 1940 and serves as a reminder of Southampton sailors who lost there lives at sea.
     There’s a Walk the Walls tour that’s free and takes you over the roofs of sturdy merchants’ homes that formed the defensive barricade after a 14th-century French raid. It not only pulls visitors through history, it also offers them alluring panoramic views of the waterfront and draws them to the weekly market erected around the Bargate.
     Before leaving Old Town, we stopped at the Duke of Wellington, an Elizabethan-looking pub just inside the Westgate on the old walls, to sample fish and chips. Several years earlier, a guide at the Buckingham Palace stables advised us to avoid this British staple in London and go for it in seaside towns because the fish is fresher. The dish served here proved her advice was sound.
     For more details, visit southampton, gov.uk on the internet.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm