My cornwall life: Truro

PUBLISHED: 13:50 05 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 20 February 2013

My cornwall life: Truro

My cornwall life: Truro

Truro is a friendly, clean city and a cultural centre of cornwall, writes Lesley Double, who speaks to David Watson, Communication officer for the Diocese of Truro

Throughout history there has been a question as to which is the county town of Cornwall. Prior to 1800 it was Launceston, but then Bodmin became the county town when the assizes court moved there. Ask today and most people would say the county town was Truro, the only city in Cornwall and the centre for administration, leisure and retail, and where we would find the Royal Cornwall Museum, the Hall for Cornwall, the Courts of Justice and, of course, Cornwalls only cathedral. Built on three rivers, the Kenwyn, Allen and Truro Rivers, Truro is supposedly derived from the Cornish tri-veru or three rivers, and there has been a town on this site since the 12th century. Truro was an important inland port and a stannary town, where copper and tin were assayed before being shipped to other parts of the globe. When tin prices increased in the 18th and 19th centuries, Truro flourished and Queen Victoria granted it city status in 1877. Three years later, the cathedrals first foundation stones were laid on the site of the 16th-century church of St Mary the Virgin. Truro Cathedral was completed in 1910 and today stands proud above the city skyline, a welcoming invitation to one and all.
David Watson is a veterinary surgeon by profession, although his James Herriot days have long passed and he is now a journalist and writer working as Communication Officer for the Diocese of Truro andEditor of the Diocesan monthly magazine, The Coracle.

What would be your perfect weekend in Truro?

I am at an age where there is a certain pleasure and reassurance to be gleaned from recollections of earlier days, especially of ones childhood. Times when the pace of life was more measured and expectations were filled by simple, uncomplicated pursuits.
Recently voted Britains Cleanest City, Truro is the perfect place to fulfil those retro maybe rose-tinted reminiscences, over a long weekend. It is somewhere the health and safety zealots have yet to spoil cobbled streets, open gutters that fascinate the children, and unspoilt alleys yielding surprises at every turn.
I guess the place to stay would be Mannings Hotel, right in the heart of things on the edge of Lemon Quay, and an easy walk from the Prince of Wales Pier and the ferry to St Mawes. A day trip down the river would be a must, especially for views of the Truro skyline on the return journey, followed by a show at the Hall for Cornwall.
Sundays programme would involve at least one visit to the cathedral with its sublime lofty airiness and its sense of tranquillity displaced occasionally by the sound of the choir and the Father Willis organ. And after a traditional roast lunch, Id take a leisurely stroll along the Malpas Road to Victoria Park, before sung Evensong in the Cathedral at 4pm.

Where would you eat?

Im not a great one for making a meal out of eating, so breakfast will be in one of the early morning tucked-away cafs; lunch will be a pasty from one of the corner shops or, better still, off the market, and dinner just has to be at Charlottes or in the Old Grammar School.

What do you think is the best pub in the area?

Pubs are very personal places and Truro has a range to suit every mood and taste. There are some interesting hostelries between the cathedral and the bus station, and although Im actually a St Austell Brewerys Proper Job man, I do enjoy a pint of Cornish Knockers and an occasional Betty Stogs when I am in the city. After all, were only a barrels roll away from the Skinners Brewery. And Im told that this is well worth a visit too.

Where is your favourite beach?

My favourite beach is the estuary at low tide, especially viewed from the weighbridge in front of the scrap yard. Dilapidated boats are stranded at all angles and seabirds pick their argumentative way at the edges of the channel. There is an evocative smell of slightly stagnant salt water and seaweed, and starkly contrasting views from both sides of the river with, as always, the silhouette of the cathedral across the water in the distance.

Where would you go for a special occasion?

Because most of my life is run by deadlines and other peoples agendas, a special occasion for me would be to have an open-ended day to gently meander through Truro Museum, with a detour into the archives to pour over the pages of the West Briton newspaper of 200 years ago. This would be followed by a trip to the second-hand bookshop in an alleyway just off Pydar Street, and end with a visit to the Driftwood Gallery to see whether they have any Anthony Amos original pictures on display only to look, of course!

What event sums up Truro?

There are two events that epitomise Truros community. Every year, late in September, the Cornwall Food & Drink Festival takes ploace, bringing together crafts and produce from across the county to provide a special blend of local pride and marketplace hospitality. Then, during the last days of Advent, there is the magical Grand Victorian Christmas Market that brings the crisp winter evenings alive and seems to reawaken the sleepy old streets with sights and sounds of bygone days.

Where would you take your friends out for the day?

This depends upon the friends and could be any one or a permutation of the places mentioned above. But a must would be the Cheese Shop in order to choose some delicious local cheese, bread and a bottle of wine for later.

Where would you buy local produce?

Local produce doesnt come more local than from the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Lemon Quay.

Whats your favourite view?

I work out of Diocesan House, which is an old school building high above Truro on the hillside at Kenwyn. From what was my old office window there is the most wonderful view over the city and the changing seasons. Across the middle distance runs the spectacular 92ft high railway viaduct designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and over which we can occasionally watch steam trains as they leave Truro Station.

What would you say is the most interesting piece of history about Truro?

The cathedral is not as old as it looks, having been completed just over 100 years ago. It incorporates the aisle of the original 13th-century parish church of St Marys in its south-east corner and because space was very tight, the architect had to bend the building six feet towards the north!

Getting there

Most roads lead to Truro.
The A390 from Liskeard leads straight into the city, and from Penzance take the A394 towards Penryn, then the
A39 into Truro.

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