A busy day today. We headed south and west towards Lands End. Our first intended stop was going to be St Ives but we could not find a car parking space so we headed further along the coast through moorlands to the small village of Zennor. In 1916 D.H. Lawrence came to live in the village with some friends with the intention of developing a writer’s community. His friends did not stay but Lawrence stayed and wrote “Women in Love”.
From the village we took a short walk to the sea and Zennor Head before we got back on the road along the coast.
Our next stop was the Levant Mine. In driving around Cornwall you are regularly reminded of the Cornish tin and copper mining with the presence of old stacks standing silently in the countryside. The Levant Mine was for 110 years “the queen of Cornwell submarine mines” with undersea levels stretching more than a mile out under the sea. Today the seams are closed off, many of the former buildings are now shells of their former selves but the beam winding (whim) engine still runs. The engine in the Michell’s engine house was built in 1840. Its purpose was to raise ore to “grass” (surface) from the deep submarine workings. The engine ran continuously for 90 years until the mine closed in 1930. The engine has now been restored by the National Trust and is back in operation on “steaming days” which we were lucky to catch, along with touring the various buildings of the old mine. It was quite thought provoking to see and learn about an industry now long gone and to reflect on the poor working and living conditions of the workers compared to the grand houses of the owners of the mines.
Late in the afternoon we visited Land’s End after most of the crowds and the “tat” had closed. Land’s End is the most westerly point in England and therefore attracts a lot of visitors. We just went there to say we had done it and to fill in time before we went to the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno.
We had managed to get tickets to see Gilbert and Sullivan’s Ruddigore performed by the Cambridge University G&S Society. We wanted to see the theatre and this was just perfect. The theatre is an open–air theatre constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea.
The theatre was the brainchild of Rowena Cade who moved to Cornwall after the First World War and built a house at Minack Point. She got involved with the local theatre group. In 1932 they decided to perform “The Tempest” and Miss Cade offered her house as a suitable location. This was the start of the theatre. Miss Cade and her gardener made a terrace and rough seating, hauling materials down from the house or up via the winding path from the beach below. “The Tempest” was performed with the sea as a dramatic backdrop, to great success. Miss Cade resolved to improve the theatre, toiling hard over the course of the winter months each year throughout her life. Although Rowena Cade died in 1983 the theatre continues and now has 750 seats with a spectacular backdrop of Porthcurno Bay.
Before the performance we had time to admire the theatre in the light and also enjoy our picnic. The performance of Ruddigore was excellent with some lovely additions particularly the introduction to Act 2 with an organ duet of a competing medley of G&S famous tunes.
It had been a long but excellent day.