Altarnun – Pausing To See More Than A Road Sign

As is often the way here there are unexpected surprises sometimes waiting just around the next bend in the road. John and I took the time to discover one a few weeks ago. For as long as John has lived in Cornwall, Alternun has been just another name on small roadside sign, one of many villages scattered just off the A-30 as it snakes it’s way through Cornwall all the way to Land’s End where it does what everything does there, it ends.

While he is often given to impromptu side trips to explore new places, John had never taken the turn to the village below. Last Christmas his cousin Mary came to stay with us for the holiday and while she was here shared a story with him about this sweet little village that had been one of her mother’s favorites. Cousin Mary if you remember is 87 and has had a fondness for Cornwall since she first came here as a child. As we were driving back from an errand in another village John saw the sign and detoured taking us straight off the A-30 to see Alternun.

We parked near the church which has an interesting history that I’ll share here in a post here tomorrow.  For now I’ll take you on a little walking tour around the village. The bridge above was built in the 15th century and is known as the packhorse bridge.

John took this photograph from a grassy patch near the village hall. The church tower is tucked just behind the trees on the left and the building in front is a row of cottages.

This sweet little bridge as I said earlier is called a packhorse bridge and not wide enough for cars.

This was taken from the packhorse bridge and that is John in the striped shirt off in the distance near where he stood while taking the second photograph in this post.

Just over the footbridge you see this memorial to those who died in several wars. In the distance you can see a row of cottages with the one on the end having a big garden. This is all right in the heart of the village which adds even more visual interest.

Here’s another view looking down the main street.

See the monument in the shadows of the right corner, this row of cottages is to the right of it.

Here is a shot of that pretty little veggie patch I mentioned.

I found this row of cottages pretty interesting. There was a small running stream right underneath the stone slate footbridges that led to each front door. I asked John if these were designed this way in order to dump waste into the stream for removal when originally built … he was not sure, but it did seem likely to us both.

This had to be one of the best looking rural phone boxes I’ve seen in Cornwall. With cell phones so accessible and in wide use the need for pay phones is not really necessary. People have protested the removal of the easily recognizable red phone booths based on how they’ve come to be symbolic images associated with the UK and while they stay in place for now, most are beginning to look pretty uncared for.

I’m not sure about this building, I’ll need to go back sometime soon to ask some questions about the history of the buildings from some locals. It was very quiet when we were there and so I came away with lots of questions and little answers.

John graciously agreed to pose next to this door so you could see how low the entrance was. No one lives here now and it could use some renovation and repair.

This may not look too odd to some of you … just and old farmhouse cottage across the street in a Cornish village in southwest England until you notice that silver thing with the bell hanging off the back end of it. Hmm … this might look familiar to any Americans reading this post.

Yep, I do believe that says U.S. Mail on it which seems so out of place in Altarnun particularly with the word cottage on the wall behind it. Someone has removed the red flag normally found on the side of the mailbox. I like the use of the bell as an alert.

If you look behind the row of cottages you can see the church on the hill. Just inside the gate is a Celtic cross said to date to the 6th century. Remember … come back tomorrow for a little show and tell as to what makes this church so special.

14 thoughts on “Altarnun – Pausing To See More Than A Road Sign

  1. I spent just about every weekend in Altarnun when I was 16/17, Marty used to live there & his parents still do. It’s a beautiful village, Porl Thompson from The Cure lived there too!

  2. I was just remarking to Shayne that if he ever gets a contract in England we are so there…I visited once in 1992 for a summer and it has never left me…I loved it there…I loved exploring and just “taking it all in”…what a beautiful little village and the history…oh, how I adore history!!!

  3. How idyllic and lovely….sometimes it seems that the most special places are found when we take these impromptu detours. Thank you for sharing these lovely pictures, they’re really like something from a book.

    Oh, look! Sean Connery was there too!

  4. That’s looks so peaceful and beautiful and…. Restful. I’d love to be there right now! Thank you for sharing!

  5. A sneak look back into the past. It still retains that sense of being in the quiet and sleepy past. No modern signage. No brightly coloured cars. Maybe everyone was at work…?

  6. That’s my mailbox! *grins*.. We’ve lived in Altarnun for about 5 years. And if your into reading Daphne Du Maurrier books you’ll find that the evil Vicar of Altarnun has a starring role in the book Jamaica Inn. His house is still standing and rather impressive. Figsbury Cottage was built around 1820 and the walls are built from solid granite blocks about three feet wide. Oh and the mailbox.. We do have a letterbox in the door but the dog ate the mail.. (we have a 156lb Newfoundland dog).. so the mailbox was installed. I am so glad you enjoyed your visit to our village, it is a truly lovely place to live.

    • Hello Paul and thanks for commenting. I love learning more from people who stumble across my blog. Where did you get a US mailbox over here? I must admit I felt a twinge of homesickness when I saw it. We love Altarnun and bring visitors to see it whenever we can. It is such a lovely place. It’s pretty amazing that Figsbury Cottage has such thick walls. Do you know much of its history?

  7. Many thanks for your response, it really made me smile, and yes I completely understand re ‘the stalker’ thing. *smiles* (I moved away in my 20’s however now in my 40’s I had that strange need to return to my roots and head back home to Cornwall). I was given the mailbox whilst living in Suffolk (East Anglia), they were available locally as they were popular due to the USAF airbases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath. Alas I have no idea if they are still for sale (mine has taken a battering over the years having moved house with me wherever I went.) As for Figsbury Cottage, I do know some of its history as some of my neighbours have lived all their lives here. It was originally a one story village shop. A second floor was built in the late 1800’s to house the village cobbler. Next it became a tea shop and stores and finally it was converted into a cottage around 1930’s. I do have a few pictures of it somewhere and will dig them out of you’d like. Many many thanks for taking the time to reply to my post, I have now subscribed and hinted at my proffession as a Pirate with ‘The Pirates of St Piran’. If you ever get the chance please feel free to come and see us this Summer on the Tall Ships in Charlestown.
    Kind regards ~ Paul

  8. Just traced my family back to Mary Coumbe who lived in the parish around 1790, so I was pleased to see these lovely pictures of the village.

  9. Thank you so much for this post!! I went through Altarnun on the bus today and was too shy to ask if I could get out to take a photo of the wonderful bridge (I should have asked, I think they’d have said “sure!”). I googled for a photo and found so much more in your blog. Thank you! Especially for the carvings on the sides of the pews and the wonderful notes about the buildings and all. What a great blogger you are.

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