Tag Archives: Cornwall

The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

On Saturday morning we walked down to the seafront and waited for the first bus to Porthcurno.

Sea and railings

Railings

The bus took us along narrow windy lanes, passing farmlands into Porthcurno.  A large building housing the Telegraph Museum dominates the area where the bus stops.  After a steep walk to the top of the hill we entered The Minack Theatre.

Firstly, I’m going to give you a little of the history of The Minack Theatre and then just let the photographs do the talking,

In 1929, local drama enthusiasts put on an out-door performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a grassy meadow about a mile inland from the Minack. It was a great success and a couple of years later the players were looking for a venue to perform The Tempest.

Rowena Cade, who lived in Minack House, decided that the cliffs below her garden would be the perfect setting, and over the winter of 1931 and into 1932 she and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, moved endless granite boulders and earth, creating the lower terraces of the theatre, much as they are today.

The Tempest was big success, even gaining a positive review in The Times, and over the next few years Rowena and her gardeners made many improvements, building a throne for Antony and Cleopatra and creating the beginnings of the stage structures you see today.

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Row A, Seat 1 The Tempest 1932 – the very first performance.

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Although the Minack is built into huge granite cliffs, almost all of the theatre is made from concrete, mixed with local beach sand. Rowena carried many tons of sand from Porthcurno to the theatre where the concrete was used for seats, pillars, steps and walkways. Many of the seats in the theatre bear the name of a play or performance, each carefully carved into the wet concrete, and Rowena carved many intricate designs into new structures as they were made.

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I don’t think I have seen a place more beautiful.

We only stayed for an hour because we had to get back to Penzance to catch the train home but we’ll definitely return, hopefully to actually see a play or concert.

Rowena Cade must have been an incredible woman and I would love to have met her.  Not only did she have the amazing vision to design and build the amphitheatre but continued working on it until well in her 80′s.

Rowena Cade 1893 – 1983

Mini trip to Penzance

Given the opportunity to go on a long train ride taking in the south coast, you’d jump at it, right?  I did.

Earlier this summer my husband and two workmates cycled from the most Westerly point of England, Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’Groat’s, the most Northerly point of Scotland and raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support at the same time.  The train ride that got them to Cornwall was the start of their scenic journey.

When some discounted train tickets came up to go to Penzance last week we booked window seats and spent the next 5 1/2 hours enjoying the views.   We arrived at lunchtime and jumped straight on a bus to Marazion to visit St. Michael’s Mount.

St Michael's Mount

The plan was to get the boat across but Storm Barney had left a bit of a sandbank in it’s wake so they were no longer running and we had no other option but to grab a Cornish pasty and wait for the tide to go out.

Stones

rock

path

A pasty, cake and several cups of tea later, we were able to cross over to the island.  The walk over was very blowy and cold and the causeway was still being covered by the odd wave but the light was fading so we didn’t hang about!

causewaycastle trees

Chapel

boat

HarbourCommunity art

The island has subtropical gardens with many of my personal favourites; Cordyline, succulents, Agave, Aloe and Agapanthus.  The Gulf stream tempers the climate so that frosts are a rarity and many unusual plants thrive here.  On this day the Castle and gardens were closed so it looks like we are going to have to return another time.

plants

Apparently, St Michael’s Mount is one of forty-three (unbridged) tidal islands that one can walk to from mainland Britain.  Looks like we’ve got 42 more trips to plan!

The next day we made another early start to visit Porthcurno – Part 2 of this mini trip is on my next post …….  and I hope you will join me because this particular day out will stay with me forever.