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Poddington-on-Slossip:  Theme

Geographical Highlights of Poddington & Environs

Tewiff Rail Station

The Tewiff Train Station--still referred to as 'The New Station' by the locals, though it has stood upon a spot on the bluff high above the town of Tewiff-by-Sea since the old station's thatched roof caught fire twenty years before--is a functional brick building housing the ticket desk and station master's offices. A large fireplace, merrily crackling with a fire when cold weather is outside, sits at one end of the rectangular lobby, and a number of benches have been placed to accommodate waiting passengers.

The view out the back window of the station shows the rails and the boarding sheds, dusty from coal and sand. If you were to look out the front window, you would see the bluff overlooking the coastal town of Tewiff-By-Sea, a small town huddled around a half-moon harbour.

Granite Bluff above Tewiff

The baytop road, as it is locally known, traverses the broad granite headlands overlooking the crescent-moon shaped town of Tewiff-By-Sea. A popular spot with tourists, Tewiff's famed white houses and businesses appear, from this vantage spot, to tumble down the hill to the semi-circular sea bay below you. The town always appears to be busy, save by dead of night. Its people, tiny insects from this height, walk busily through its streets and along its many docks.

The road continues around the circumference of the bluff, gradually winding down to sea level at the westernmost side. Tewiff's train station stands at the broadest section of this high plateau.

The Tin Mine on the Moors

A mile to the west of the village, south of the trade road, an abandoned tin mine sits in the center of this rocky clearing, its luminescent stones ominous by day and barely visible by night. The roofless building surrounding the deep carved hole in the earth is two stories high, perhaps only ten feet wide, and built of white limestone. Two arched windows at the top, and the battered door leading in, give the building the appearance of a mournful face.
This place seems melancholy year round.

Inside this shell of a building, the walls seem close and claustrophobic. The sky is visible where once was a roof.The ground is littered with bricks. Old machinery, rusted past recognition, moulders in the corners. Weeds have grown rampant in the dust, only half-hiding the discarded rubbish of country tramps.

A quarter mile to the south of the mine lies majestic Religan Tor, an ancient hill of granite jutting sharply up from the earth.

Religan Tor

The ancient inhabitants of Cornwall erected Religan Tor one of Wildcombe Moor's treasures, a stack of flat, smooth stones piled atop each other in a mass reminiscent of a skull. It is difficult to see why the stones have not shifted, or fallen, over the years, and why these iron age ancestors would take so much effort to arrange these heavy, unwieldy rocks in such a fashion.

Atop this hill of granite, the moors below seem vast and distant. A susurrus from the moors--the whisperings of the grasses and weeds--constantly fills the air.

Someone has gone to the effort to carve a hole in the flat stretch atop the Tor. The circular bore is perhaps three inches deep, and is just wide enough to admit a pike, or a hoe handle. Faint scratchings are carved in the rock nearby.

Market Street

Once an empty lane leading to the countryside, Poddington's Market Street has grown somewhat during the forty years since the fire that consumed its neighbour, Acorn Lane. Several small cozy stores have relocated here.

At its far end, the Market Street turns from its meandering northwesterly direction to head westwards, away from the village and towards the sea.

Acorn Lane

Only a few buildings remain on Acorn Lane since the mysterious fire of forty years ago. Lilacs flank the spot where the lane meets the road around the village green. The ruins of the burned buildings are overgrown with withered, dried weeds, and tall oaks loom over the ancient stone wall surrounding the church graveyard lining the street's northern side. A sweet stillness always hangs over the tiny lane, almost melancholy in its cold and windy solitude.

A tiny lending library sits across from Diva Stedman's tea house, near the lane's lilacs, while Mrs. Lovett runs a boarding house that sits near the ruins. No other houses clutter this desolate lane.

Diva's Tea House

Godiva Stedman has transformed the spacious front rooms of her family's house into a tea parlour, open daily. Brightly appointed with gay muslin curtains and linen tablecloths of a not-too-shabby quality, the tea house has become the gathering place for many of the village matrons.

Pots of steaming coffee sits near the blazing fire, inviting patrons to partake of its contents to combat the cold temperatures outside. The room is always full of tantalizing smells.
Diva does not seem to need the money from her business, for her lavish buffet seems to cost rather more than the few shillings she asks. Rather, she seems to crave a house full of company. Usually her brother Giles, fond of a bit of crumpet, can be found here, flirting with the women of the village.

A planchette sits upon one table, and a baize door separates a private seance room from the rest of the house. The kitchen lies behind a swinging door, and Mrs. Stedman's private quarters are upstairs.

Poddington Lending Library

Letitia Farnsworth's lending library seems less oppressive during the daylight hours. Once a glorious Jacobean inn, the building now reeks of damp, dust, and old books. The room's narrow windows are clogged by the thick-growing vines of ivy, which rattle the panes from time to time with the breezes. A draught of cold air always blows from underneath the old door, even in warm weather.

The main room of the library is simply crammed with books--tattered books, preserved books, old books, older books than that, and any number of leather-bound journals and sermons. Many are stuffed haphazardly into Victorian bookcases. Most, however, are stacked on tables, on cabinets, in corners, and on Letitia's desk. Letitia's assistant, Prudence Buttock can often be found here during the day.

Poddington Village Green

This field is at the center of the village, surrounded by trees on three sides. The high tower of the church of St. Athenasius looms over the green here, and the church walls run along much of the green's western expanse.

A number of quaint stocks sit at the northernmost edge of the rectangular green. The last historical record of their use is from the early nineteenth century, when serving maid Flora Budd was imprisoned in them for two days for stealing a silver fork.

At the green's foot sprawls the irregularly shaped pool known for decades upon decades as the Ducking Pond. Several ducks can always be found perching about its edge.

The public house known as the Languishing Apple sits near the stocks.

The Languishing Apple Public House

The public room of the Languishing Apple sets the standard for a village pub. A huge bar, stocked with whiskeys and other liquors, spreads across the wall opposite to the door. The centre of the room is taken up by a loomingly large discussion table, while there seems to be sundry other tables scattered around the room in plain view. The Languishing Apple has its fair share of fine Cornish treats available to tempt your taste buds. The liquors are equally as good, and a few local drinks are available on the menu.

Two small windows, plain and narrow, look out upon the peaceful, dark village green.

The Apple has rooms to let for the overnight visitor.

The Church of Saint Athenasius

A quaint and very old graveyard surrounds the church, protected by a wall of brick mounted with iron finials. The interior of the church is architecturally stark. The high ceilings rise in graceful, unelaborate arches to high windows of primitive stained glass. Above the entrance of the church shines the Rose Window, miraculously undamaged through the centuries. The altar sits at the other end of the vaguely cross-shaped interior, and a Victorian organ and choir stalls, plainly comparatively recent additions, sit in the left arm.

St. Athenasius Church's rood screen is known to be one of the finest in Cornwall--and certainly one of the oldest, having been one of the few that survived the dissolution of the monasteries. Carved from oak, its procession of saints and its stately arches frame the altar area. The silver communion chalice, one of the treasures of the church, is kept in a locked enclosure in the altar area. The date on the door informs you that the chalice is over three hundred and fifty years old.

The church tower contains a number of antique bells, and a mechanism that causes them to toll every quarter hour.

A late addition to the church is a mural by John Frallis. It had traditionally been covered in muslin, to protect village eyes from its sensual images.

The Church of Saint Athenasius: The Reliquary

A rickety ladder in the church tower leads down to the reliquary. Here, in the oldest remaining section of the original church, the dank coolness smells of earth and damp. A single gas lantern hanging from an iron hook in the ceiling provides the only illumination in this hollowed-out chamber. Although the ancient slate floor is flat and even, the walls of this underground shrine are but earth and rock. At one end of the room, a rudimentary gate surrounds an opening in the floor that leads to the crypts below.

At the center of the chamber, like a grotesque mushroom pushing its way from the earth, sits the reliquary of St. Athenasius. A man-sized tomb topped with a sculpted supine figure with hands held together in prayer, the reliquary is niched with miniature alcoves, each containing the figure of a saint. Time has worn away the details of the stones, leaving only ghostly shapes caught in melancholy mannered poses. Many locals still kiss the reliquary for luck.

The Church of Saint Athenasius: The Crypts

Deeper still beneath the church, accessed by a hole in the reliquary, are the crypts. The ancient crypts of St. Athenaseus outdate the church itself, illuminated by a flickering lamp in one corner. Deep in their cold depths lie the preserved mummies of hundreds of village ancestors. Unlike the camphor-smelling, glass-encased mummies of the British museum, however, these ages-old remains have been preserved only by some peculiar salts or chemicals in the walls of earth around them.

The biers of the dead are stacked high to the ceiling; skeletons lie frozen with the flesh hardened on their bones, their long dry hair hanging to either side of their brown, desiccated faces, grotesque ribbons of bone flashing where their dried skin has pulled back from their teeth and eye sockets . . . skeletons arrayed still in mouldering grave-clothes, their skeletal fingers still arrayed with leathery skin. In one corner lies the pitiful dried body of a small child hung up by the hair.

The DeWinter Estate

The DeWinter Estate, once called Barleymeade, is a gray and malevolent outcropping of stone in the midst of a cleared patch spiky, forbidding timber. The forest lies thick around the grounds. Few in the village visit the estate regularly, though most attend the annual Midwinter Ball in order to view the stately, but always chilly ballroom and its famous whispering gallery above. The house contains an extensive library and a disused orangerie, as well as an assortment of private chambers, servant's chambers, and reception rooms. The gardens at the back of the house are highlighted by a high-growing hedge maze. Beyond the walls of the estate, deep in the forest, is an ancient stone fortress.

The Stone Quarry

Carved deep into Cornwall's heart of granite at the edge of the moors, this quarry is older than all other marks of man for miles around. It is said that stones from this very quarry were removed by the ancient Goths for their fortifications, which spread far to the south. The ancient fortress on the grounds of the DeWinter Estate, though long decrepit, was built from this very quarry, so the story goes, and it was that same fortress, built so strong, and so well, by the primitives, which was among the last to fall to the Roman invaders.

Not much activity takes place under these clear, quiet skies, as today's building tastes lean toward imported masonry, or cheap imitation stones. But the quarry sometimes is visited by the occasional mason who knows the value of his stone--a stone somewhat scarce now, with a pale pink vein said to bring good tidings from the wee folk when it was incorporated into a new fence or hearth.

The road from the south here narrows to a dirt track as it winds down to the verdant moors to the west. The river Slossip to the northeast is obscured by hillside.

The Stone Glade

Perched where the moors rise to overlook the lazy Slossip, a half-circle of seven large uneven and unmatched granite stones, strangely dark and imposing, even at the height of the day, stands silent sentinel. Each twice the height of a man, the stones' origins are bathed in mystery. Some old-timers claim this is a secret place where druids once worshiped. Others, those more practically minded, state that glaciation is probably responsible for the stones' erratic positioning.

This glade of stones seems in a way an even more primitive version of Stonehenge, but the stones themselves seem too immovable and oddly-shaped to have been moved here by human hands. People of the village often attribute strange happenings to this place.

A few steps west of the westernmost stone is an ancient stone well, many times the scene of tragedy. Small children and animals, heedless of the danger, have fallen down its depths, never to be seen again. It is reputed to be bottomless; certainly, no one has ever managed to measure its entire length. Nor has anyone ever been able to board up this gaping hole, obscured as it is by the high grasses. All attempts to make the area safe have failed, for within days, the boards have rotted through. Some villagers write their wishes on scraps of paper and drop it down the well.

The path passing through this dry, cold clearing on this edge of the moors ambles from the east up one of the stone age mounds to the north. You can spy footprints in the dust around you.

The Stone Age Mounds

This quiet section of Wildcombe Moor, too hilly and rugged to allow any roads or large homes, is always quiet and picturesque. To the immediate north, the strangely shaped Cat's Tor dominates the skyline.

The stone age inhabitants of these lands along the River Slossip long ago erected a line of grassy mounds as a memorial--though to what, no one knows. Tall, grassy Mouse Lane Hill to the south dominates the other mounds, though the Cat's Tor is nearly as high.

Magnusson College

Magnusson College, a provincial institution established during the early reign of Queen Victoria, sits in a quiet valley among the countryside's gentle hills, surrounded on three sides by dense forest. The buildings look tentative, even make-shift, in the lush, rural atmosphere. The structure known as Memorial Hall, for example, started as a tiny college chapel, and after many mid-century additions reached its present form as a monstrous, many-turreted gothic revival nightmare. The college library, once an ancient armory, is a large plain, octagonal building. Many of the students live in Burleigh Hall, a hulk of rough pink stone at the edge of the commons.

The college buildings are linked by an underground network of access tunnels, and though forbidden to students and dons alike, they serve to allow access to the buildings after the college porter closes them for the evening.

The center of the campus, always busy with students going about their afternoon activities, is decorated with a small fountain.

A cobbled road leads villageward through an ancient orchard into the forest, while a larger, much-travelled avenue leads seaward.

White Cove

This tiny cove, a mile's distance from the college, is popular with the students. Tall, unclimbable headlands of granite here project northeast and northwest into the ocean. They hold within their arms a triangular wedge of cove, its sands sparkling and perfectly white, opening wide and spreading down to the shoals of the sea. The sea winds billow up the gently sloping sands, while the waves lap the rocks.