Forty-year old blog

No not really – I know blogs have only been around since 1999.

Maggie and I spent our honeymoon, 40 years ago, in a special location – Doyden Castle. Sometimes called a folly, this miniature castle was built in the 1830s as a drinking and gambling den for Samuel Symons of Wadebridge. It nestles on the cliffs above Port Quin in Cornwall and is a National Trust cottage that is rented to visitors. It used to sleep three but now is designed to sleep just two.

Doyden Castle, Port Quin, Cornwall

In 1970 we enjoyed two weeks in this isolated spot; this time we just spent a week. As soon as we had arrived on our second visit, this July, we realised that the visitor’s books from 1968 were still kept in the property. Originally there was an official National Trust visitor’s book in the property. This had the usual information – date, name and address, a small section for comments. This in itself is an interesting document covering a period from 1968 to date. Our 1970 entry was there, near the beginning of the book with our address in Loughborough.

The Visitors Book, Doyden Castle

However, the really fascinating part was not the visitor’s book proper but the accompanying documents. In 1970 an earlier visitor had started a journal for the cottage in an exercise book. It gave useful details of where to buy vegetables, where to get milk, how to get post and importantly where to dine out and what beaches to visit. By the time of our 1970 entry it had moved on slightly from purely factual information to recording what visitors had done and some opinions on some local facilities. But by 2010 the one small exercise book had become ten books of a continuous log that covered everything that a modern blog does.

First of Ten Volumes, Doyden Castle Journal

The journals were stuffed with full factual information, some of which related the price of goods 40 years ago (pre-decimalisation) but they also contained opinions on everything from the government of the time, the weather, the wildlife spotted to, of course, the castle ghost – the ‘grey man’. Some visitors were enthused enough by the castle and its superb location to write poetry (of mixed quality). Some visitors came regularly from the USA and one family from London came every year for over 25 years.

Doyden Castle from Port Quin Harbour

There were some amusing entries about the behaviour of wildlife. The two woodlice that lived in the castle were called Wilfred and Wilhemina and the name stuck. There is a very amusing tale in the journals of how Wilhemina was rescued from drowning in the washing up bowl; how did they tell the sex of a woodlouse? There are also interesting entries related to the 1975 BBC TV series Poldark which featured the castle; it was Dr Dwight Enys' house in Series 1. Some entries described the filming of the series around Port Quin. One entry included a description of how the entry of a boat into Port Quin was simulated by moving a painted glass image of a boat in front of the camera whilst filming the harbour. No wonder a more modern entry described Poldark as having shaky camera work, shaky acting and even shakier scripts – obviously not a fan. The castle was also a location the 1989 treasure hunt style series – Interceptor which stared Sean O’Kane and Annabel Croft.

Evening View from Doyden Castle

One of the ten volumes even record tragedy. In June 1995 a resident in the castle noted a tall ship making its way along the coast towards The Rumps; a rocky outcrop near Pentire Point and close to the entrance to the Camel estuary and Padstow harbour. He wondered why it was running so close to the shore. The ship was the 137-year-old barque Maria Assumpta, then the oldest square-rigger afloat. She continued on a steady course across Lundy Bay and ran onto the rocks and was destroyed. Three people died and the Captain was jailed for 18 months for manslaughter. It appeared that she had just been refitted at Gloucester and he had been told not to hug the coast, and that the fuel for the auxiliary engines was contaminated. When they got into difficulties and tried vainly to use the engines they failed. Entries in the journals following the disaster recorded the search for bodies using helicopters and wreckage being washed ashore for weeks.

The Maria Asumpta

Doyden Castle with The Rumps across the bay

Maggie & I brought books to read on our holiday but we didn’t touch them – the visitor books were just too fascinating. Long may they survive and flourish. Maybe one day they will feature as an historic item in some local Cornish National Trust property, or just maybe they will be scanned and be placed on the web?