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A visit to Padstow and a walk through the dunes to St Enodoc

Boats in Padstow harbour

On my recent weekend in Cornwall I visited Padstow, a typical Cornish fishing village. Let me clarify – I don’t mean typical in terms of a village that time forgot, but typical in terms of smart restaurants, art galleries and gift shops and the locals complaining about being priced out of the housing market.

Boats in Padstow harbour

Much of it’s down to the impact of Rick Stein, celebrity Cornish chef with a string of TV series under his belt and a number of culinary enterprises that dominate the foodie scene in Padstow. A few years ago I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at his flagship Seafood restaurant, admiring his art collection on the walls, but this time we had teenagers in tow, so it was the local chippie for us.

In August, Padstow is packed to bursting, and even on a February weekend it was buzzing, with fudge and ice cream shops for the children, some arty gift shops and boutiques to keep me happy and enough sunny benches for the menfolk to enjoy a pastie and a pint.

There’s a haunted Elizabethan manor house set above the town, or you can hire a bike from the car park and follow the Camel Trail along a disused railway line beside the beautiful Camel Estuary, as far as Wadebridge and beyond. On our visit however, we decided to take the ferry from the harbour that plies back and forth across the estuary to the holiday village of Rock.

Landing on the beach, we turned our back on Rock, so favoured by the smart, London crowd, setting our faces instead towards the estuary mouth. The broad beach would have been perfect for kite-flying but there was not enough wind. Instead we clambered through the sand dunes towards the St Enodoc golf course in search of the tiny church of St Enodoc that serves the parish of St Minver.

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The chapel dates back to the 12th century but until 1864 it was virtually buried by the dunes that surrounded it, and to hold a service the vicar and parishioners had to descend into the sanctuary through a hole in the roof. In the 19th century it was finally unearthed and the church restored.

Today you can find everything you might hope for in an old Cornish church but in miniature; the cut-down medieval rood screen, the mellow wooden pews and the memorials to those who died at sea.

The former poet Laureate John Betjeman had a holiday home at nearby Daymer and is buried here – he wrote this poem about the church.

If you’re looking for the Cornwall that time forgot, this is surely the place to find it – and not a bad place to be buried either.

Sunday Afternoon Service in St. Enodoc Church

Come on! Come on! This hillock hides the spire,
Now that one and now none. As winds about
The burnished path through lady’s-finger, thyme,
And bright varieties of saxifrage,
So grows the tinny tenor faint or loud
All all things draw toward St. Enodoc.
Come on! Come on! and it is five to three.
Still, Come on! come on!
The tinny tenor. Hover-flies remain
More than a moment on a ragwort bunch,
And people’s passing shadows don’t disturb
Red Admirals basking with their wings apart.
A mile of sunny, empty sand away,
A mile of shallow pools and lugworm casts.
Safe, faint and surfy, laps the lowest tide.

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This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com

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7 Comments

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