Some time ago, in this post, I promised a few more shots of Redruth Brewery. This is still my favourite place to photograph although I’m open to suggestions for better ones (hint).
I wasn’t notably enthusiastic when spouse suggested I accompany him to Macsalvors this morning.
Macsalvors is a shop that is famous in Cornwall for selling… well… all the sorts of things that practical people like. It started as a marine salvage outlet, and has evolved into a place where spouse wants to spend a million quid every time he passes through its automatic portal.
I have nothing against the place at all. In fact I quite like it, but it’s not enough on its own to make me leave the house on a seriously rainy day. Spouse, however, pointed out the error of my slatternly ways as I lolled on the sofa frustratedly reading other people being wrong on the Internet, and thereby persuaded me it would be healthier to look at rope with him. So Macsalvors it was.
I’m glad I went. I hadn’t noticed all the slightly morose shop dummies before.
Anyone who has heard of Redruth knows that it, and its neighbouring town Camborne, are considered among the roughest and dodgiest parts of Cornwall. Once, when I told a man at a car boot sale that I taught in the area, he quipped, “do you have to wear a flak jacket?” I forgave him though, because he had a nice beard.
Jokes about the general seediness of the population abound:
Q. How can you tell if a Redruth girl is having an orgasm?
A. She drops her chips.
Seems that Redruth’s status has been pretty poor for a long time. Daniel Defoe dismissed it in an offhand way in the 1700s in A tour thro’ the whole island of Great Britain, divided into circuits or journies, suggesting that there was nothing worth mentioning between St.Ives and Padstow:
From this town and port of St. Ives, we have no town of any note on the coast; no, not a market town, except Redruth, which is of no consideration, ’till we come to Padstow-Haven, which is near thirty miles…
Shortly after Defoe’s cheeky comment Redruth was to experience a massive turn-around in its fortunes thanks to the Industrial Revolution, the age of steam and tin mining, but now, like many post-industrial areas of Britain, it has slumped back into poverty which is why there are so many jokes about it.
Not that the stories about Redruth’s ills are all lies. I live right in the heart of the town and within a few weeks of moving here my son had to encourage an intruder out of our house with a hockey stick, and we regularly enjoy the lilting sounds of drunk people yelling abuse at each other within inches of our front door.
Having said that, though, the town itself is quite visually pleasing if you mostly look upwards and ignore the boarded up shops, the drunks and the pale, spotty teenagers with their arses displayed over the tops of their sagging tracksuit bottoms. And despite the downsides, the first thing we all noticed was the chattiness of the people in the town. We experienced more street banter and friendly faces in our first few months here than we ever did in the more middle class town we moved from. Plus there are sofas in the cinema.
Here are some of the visual reasons why I love this town despite everything:
I went to Perranporth Beach yesterday to scour the cliffs for something inspiring to photograph in response to this challenge. I was a bit confounded by the word, ‘lost’ – there’s plenty of detail everywhere, but I couldn’t pin down anything that could be called ‘lost’ in it. Probably overthinking, as usual. I found some graffiti scratched into the cliff in 1965, and a tiny tunnel with bars over the entrance, but neither were exactly lost:
So I decided that this week’s challenge had stumped me. I went home, dropped the dog off and wandered into Reduth where it was St.Piran’s Day. A friend had suggested I take some photos of the event so they could potentially be used for promotional purposes, so I went off with the intention of taking images of the Cornish bunting, stalls, dignitaries and the miner statue bedecked in its lamb and flag costume.
When I got there, though, I was distracted by a team of drummers (I do hope the real collective noun for drummers is more exciting than that. A throb maybe?) in the centre of town making the most spectacular, hypnotic, entrancing noise. I sat on one of the plinths in the square and watched the drummers and the audience. As ever, my photography finger responds to people more than to anything else and I ended up taking a set of images pretty much entirely focused on the humans of Redruth rather than St. Piran’s Day in general. After I edited them I realised that what I’d done was to get lost in the detail. Duh.
The thing is… well… dogs and me… we have different elements, see.
In winter my element involves lolling on the sofa with a fleecy blanket, a mug of Yorkshire Tea at the optimum temperature, some excellent reading material and/or something splendid to watch and/or some of my favourite humans entertaining me.
Dogs, on the other hand – well, their element tends to include a lot more weather. And when a person spontaneously becomes responsible for a spaniel (here), it becomes that person’s job to ensure it gets a regular dose of its element.
So, never one to shirk my responsibilities (cough), today I willingly(ish) accompanied spouse and hound out into the weather that lies beyond my sofa. Today’s elements had a treat in store for us with lowering skies and winds that were genuinely howling, but spaniel was practically delirious with joy at the whole thing. When he’s delirious his ears and tongue have minds of their own.
Once we were out of the town and into the gorse-lined scrub-land that surrounds it the wind was so strong it felt as though it was trying to rip my scalp off. It’s difficult to show wind photographically when there are no trees, so I tried to show it using the plastic covering on the hay bales.
It rained all day yesterday, so the ground gave me the perfect opportunity for feeling pleased that I own a pair of wellies.
After plenty of satisfactory squelching we found a sign to Gwennap Pit and decided to visit. Gwennap Pit is an amphitheatre that John Wesley preached in many times during the 1700s. Here are some photos.
On the way back we encountered a bunch of long-necked creatures batting their considerable eyelashes at a lady in a hat. The alpaca, said the hat lady, love to have their photos taken. When people pass by without a camera she sometimes asks them to hold up their hands and make clicking noises just to satiate the alpaca desire for celebrity. Fortunately, I had a camera.
The alpaca above are three of the characters that live in the boys’ field. Sadly, all but one of her original boys are gone since she had to have them put down due to TB.
Animal Health policy is to prevent animals from witnessing the death of their fellows – so pigs go in one by one to the slaughterhouse, for example. But hat lady knew that she couldn’t separate the alpacas from each other on the day the infected ones were to be put down; if the others didn’t know what had happened to their family they would restlessly look for them everywhere. She had to fight the Animal Health officer to have her own way, and she wept a little as she told us how it happened.
The whole herd were led into a field together and the infected ones kept slightly apart. A friend helped her hold up screens so that the alpaca couldn’t see the shooting happen, and when it was done, the herd were allowed to come and say their final goodbyes. They surrounded their dead friends and nudged them with their noses to try to make them get up again, all the while making humming noises to express their grief. Then, after they alpacas had finally accepted what had happened, they turned and walked slowly, in single file, out of the field.
Hat lady is devoted to her alpacas, and told us amazing stories about their characters and endearing habits. I did a bit of research when I got home and found that she’d missed one important story out. I found it here. She travels the country now, teaching people how to look after alpacas and how to prevent what happened to her happening to others. Her website is here.
On the way home, I saw two more things.
So, in the competition between nature and sofa, I suppose nature has its attractions. If I hadn’t got off my arse I wouldn’t have seen my spouse levitating in an amphitheatre or discovered a new fondness for Peruvian mountain creatures. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have had to bath a dog-shaped pile of wriggling mud, either.Like
A month ago it was announced that the chosen site for Cornwall’s new archive and record centre is going to be the now derelict Redruth Brewery premises in the fairly derelict former mining town of the same name. Cornwall Council’s announcement is here.
This could be great news for Redruth (so long as the archive isn’t just going to be a massive temperature controlled cupboard) because it could bring historians and academics and artists and tourists and students to the town. There may be opportunities for all sorts of activities and perhaps will give people a reason to open some new businesses in the potentially beautiful but currently shabby town centre.
Shortly before this positive announcement, I had made two visits to the brewery through a hole in a fence; once with spouse and son 2 and once with some excellent friends. I was completely overwhelmed by the place – it’s a fantastic site for photographs and I took many of them. Seeing as the place is going to be changed beyond recognition in the future, I decided to post my photos in here as a record of the state it’s currently in.
The first part of the building you encounter as you clamber through the barbed wire is this:
Presumably this once housed massive vats of Newquay Steam (the brewery’s most popular beer) which stuck up through the roof. The feeling of this space is extraordinary with the brambles and buddleia growing up the white walls towards the light. It feels like some sort of theatre or religious space, or maybe a gallery.
As you make your way out of the other side of the building you find a huge courtyard filled with rubble, more buddleia and lined with graffiti.
Following the perimeter fence around, we found a way to climb up inside another part of the building where we wound our way through some huge empty rooms until we found an area that was partially flooded, visually stunning and once again, decorated with graffiti. To give the perpetrators their due, there was some very interesting graffiti around the site.
More wandering (and wading) led us to what must, due to the preponderance of filing cabinets, have once been offices. More photo fodder.
On the main road side of the site there’s a house that has been burnt out. Some lads we met on our second visit claimed that some Cornish Nationalists had been making bombs in there and had an accident. I am certain this is rubbish, but it makes for good gossip, and there is plenty of Nationalist graffiti on the boards that surround the outside of the site. For example…
And judging by some of the graffiti, the perpetrators are stupid enough to make faulty bombs in a house and burn it down.
The house was an excellent source of atmospheric shots. Here are a few of them.
By FAR my favourite part of the site, however, was the next room I’m going to show you. Clearly someone had been in here before and used it for a film or some sort of art project because we found some fantastic things. Have a look.
Finally, on this first visit, we also found our way into what must once have been the old cinema and the more creative graffitiers had been at work in there too.
We found some more exciting photo opportunities on our second visit, but it’s late and I’m tired so I’ll show you those another day.