Cabin in the woods.
In late August to early September 2012, my partner Pam and I stayed at St Ives Holiday Village in Lelant Downs, which is a mile or so off the North Coast of Cornwall. We stopped there for seven pretty good days and had little idea of what to expect before we reached this holiday park that is actually set in a forest rather than the usual setting of an open field full of caravans and prefab bungalows. Whoever came up with the idea of building a load of chalets in the middle of a woodland wasteland, I am not really sure, but the name John Fowler may have something to do with it. But whoever that person may be, he or she had come up with a quite ingenious idea. Indeed the park may once have had a military background, and could have been used as barracks for families of the armed forces, which is indeed a possibility, as some of the chalets seem to predate what we would expect of today’s technology, despite their obvious and refined refurbishments.
There are no caravans in these woods, just the chalets that even have baths as well as showers, two reasonable sized bedrooms, and quite a large combined living, dining and kitchen area. It has ample expanse to cater for an average family of four or five. The chalets themselves are not the up to date 5 star Swiss Alps type that you envisage before you have actually seen them, but they are more than adequate and clean enough, with all the household appliances one needs for a week or so away from your natural home. Besides, you are here for a holiday, not to mope around a bungalow each day, as it is simply a place to lay your head until it’s time to get out amongst the rest of the out-of-town visitors and yokels.
After checking the forest history on Google, I found that we were staying in Treva Croft Wood, which is about a mile from Lelant Saltings Railway Station. The woods were used as rural settlements for tin miners during the early 1700’s and into the late 1800’s. Indeed there are still a few landmarks left inside the woods themselves which would indicate that this was once home to a minute population who worked the local mines here.
The ruination of a small cottage remains deep in the couloirs next to the rapid flowing Trink Hill Stream. The roofless building now has various tree sources growing through what were once windows, forcing the trees to grow with strange and eerie directional movement. I tried to visualise what it was like for whoever lived there over 300 years ago. I could see a matriarch mother in a tattered frock tending to her children, washing clothes in the nearby stream and preparing meals for when father returned after a hard day of drudgery at the mines. Those were the days when physical hard labour for both men and women were part and parcel of everyday life, not like a lot of the idle misfits of today’s society of social scrounging.
The narrow stream that flows through the forest comes from a source from above the steep Trink Hill. The water becomes purified via whatever minerals that it travels through, thus giving permanent fresh drinking water for the settlement inhabitants. Indeed whilst I was wondering the woodland one evening, I actually tasted the water and was satisfied that it was safe for human consumption.
Since the village has been established, it has been discovered that Treva Croft Wood had been quite vulnerable to lightning strikes at regular intervals. This may put one off from visiting the village, but the truth is, is that all woodland areas all over the world become a hotspot for natural acts of God. But because there are over 200 people at a time residing here for their holidays, it becomes more of a news item. In fact you are just as likely to be struck by lightning anywhere you go, and since the development of the village, nobody has been struck down with an electric shock; except for those who try to take the bread out of the toaster before it pops up naturally.
It’s not just the thunder and lightning that have caused devastation here in Lelant. In 1750, an earthquake disrupted the grounds here and was felt all over Cornwall.