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W. H. (William Henry) Hudson.

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NRLF




117 ShD



THE LAND'S END




IN THE HARBOUR, ST. IVES



Frontispiece



THE LAND'S END



A NATURALIST'S IMPRESSIONS
IN WEST CORNWALL



BY

W. H. HUDSON



WITH FORTY-NINE ILLUSTRATIONS BY
A. L. COLLINS



OF






UNiVERSfl-X : ;::V:::;:v;l;
OF** Jr- " .:.::::

>



NEW YORK

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

1908



u



GENERAL






CONTENTS

CHAPTKR PAGI

I. WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL . .' i

II. GULLS AT ST. IVES . . . . 19

III. CORNWALL'S CONNEMARA . . . 29

IV. OLD CORNISH HEDGES . 39

V. BOLERIUM I THE END OF ALL THE LAND . 50

VI. CASTLES BY THE SEA . . . 63

VII. THE BRITISH PELICAN . . . 74

VIII. BIRD LIFE IN WINTER . . . 89

IX. THE PEOPLE AND THE FARMS . . . 102

X. AN IMPRESSION OF PENZANCE . . .121

XI. MANNERS AND MORALS . . . 135

XII. CORNISH HUMOUR . ... 153

XIII. THE POETIC SPIRIT . . . 179

XIV. WINTER ASPECTS AND A BIRD VISITATION . 204
XV. A GREAT FROST . . . .222

XVI. A NATIVE NATURALIST . . . 240

XVII. THE COMING OF SPRING . . .261
XVIII. SOME EARLY FLOWERS . . .275

XIX. THE FURZE IN ITS GLORY . . . 293

XX. PILGRIMS AT THE LAND'S END . . 303

INDEX . . . . . 319



192696



ABOUT a fourth part of the matter contained in this volume
has appeared in the Saturday Review and the Speaker, and I
am obliged to the editors of those journals for their per-
mission to use it here.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



IN THE HARBOUR, ST. IVES

BOATS AT ST. IVES

COURT COCKING, ST. IVES

GOSSIPS

AN OLD STREET IN ST. IVES

JACKDAWS

GULLS AT ST. IVES

A CORNISH FISHERMAN

GULLS AT ST. IVES

FISHERMEN

IVY ON ROCKS .

A CORNISH STILE

STONE HEDGE .

HEDGE AT ST. IVES

NEAR LAND'S END

LAND'S END .

FISHERMEN

THE LOGAN ROCK

GURNARD'S HEAD

GURNARD'S HEAD

GULLS ON THE ROCKS

DONKEYS ON THE MOOR .

PEOPLE AT THE FARM

THE CORNISH CELT



PAGE

Frontispiece



4
9

13

17
. 19

21

Facing page 22

25
. 29

. 32

39

47
5 53

Facing page 58

. . 63
. . 6 9

Facing page 70

. 74

. . 89

Facing page 92

. 102

1 06



VII



Vlll



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



CORNISH FARM-HOUSE

CORNISH FARM-HOUSES

PENZANCE

MARKET JEW STREET

NEWLYN

MOUSEHOLE

SMALL FARM .

CORNISH PEASANT

CORNISH WOMAN

NORWAY LANE, ST. IVES

STILE AT SENNEN

CORNISH LABOURER

ROCKS AT ZENNOR

OLD HOUSES, ST. IVES

ZENNOR

ZENNOR

SANDHILLS

CORMORANTS

CARTING BRACKEN

FURZE

SENNEN COVE .

OLD FARM, LAND'S END

NEAR SENNEN COVE

ROCKS AT LAND'S END



Facing page 1 1 4
. 115

. 121

123

135

H3

153
% . .161

. 167

177
. 1 79
. 191
. 204
. 213

. 222

Facing page 224
. 240
. 261
. 275
. 293
. 303

Facing page 304
. 309
. 317




THE LAND'S



CHAPTER I
WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL

England's " obscrvables " Why I delayed visiting Cornwall A
vision of the Land's End Flight to St. Ivcs Climate The
old town The fishermen Their Jove of children Drowned
babes The fishing fleet going out at sunset Old memories sug-
gested Jackdaws at St. Ives Feeding the birds A greedy
sheep-dog Daws show their intelligence Daws on the roofs
Their morning pastime Dialogue between two daws.

NOW," said wise old Fuller, most of the
rooms of thy native country before thou
goest over the threshold thereof. Especially
seeing England presents thee with so many observ-
ables." But if we were to follow this advice there
would be no getting out of the country at all. It is
too rich in its way : the rooms are too many and too
well-furnished with observables. Take my case. I
have been going on rambles about the land for a good
many years, and though the West Country had the




2 THE LAND'S END

greatest attraction for me, I never got over the Tamar,
nor even so far as Plymouth, simply because 1 had
not the time, albeit my time was my own. Or be-
cause there was enough and more than enough to
satisfy me on this side of the boundary. It is true
that one desires to see and know all places, but is in no
hurry to go from a rich to a poor one. I was told by
every one of my friends that it was the most interest-
ing county in England, and doubtless it is so to them,
but I knew it could not be so to me because of the
comparative 1 poverty of the fauna, seeing that the
observables which chiefly draw me are the living
creatures the wild life and not hills and valleys and
granite and serpentine cliffs and seas of Mediterranean
blue. These are but the setting of the shining living
gems, and we know the finest of these, which gave
most lustre to the scene, have been taken out and
cast away.

Cornwall to me was just the Land's End " dark
Bolerium, seat of storms " that famous foreland of
which a vast but misty picture formed in childhood
remains in the mind, and if I ever felt any strong
desire to visit Cornwall it was to look upon that
scene. Then came a day in November, 1905, when,
having settled to go away somewhere for a season, I all
at once made up my mind to visit the unknown pen-
insula and to go straight away to the very end. It
almost astonished me when I alighted from my train
at St. Ives to think I had travelled three hundred and
twenty odd miles with less discomfort and weariness
than I usually experience on any journey of a hundred.



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 3

It is common, I think, for lovers of walking to dislike
the railway. So smoothly had I been carried in this
flight to the furthest west that I might have been
sailing in a balloon ; and as for the time occupied it
would surely be no bad progress for a migrating bird,
travelling, let us say, from Middlesex to Africa, to
cover the distance I had come in a little more than
seven hours !

St. Ives is on the north side of the rounded western
extremity of Cornwall, and from the little green hill,
called the " Island," which rises above and partly
shelters the town, you look out upon the wide Atlan-
tic, the sea that has always a trouble on it and that
cannot be quiet ; and standing there with the great
waves breaking on the black granite rocks at your
feet, they will tell you that there is no land between
you and America. Nevertheless, after London, I
wanted no better climate ; for though it rained
heavily on many days in December and the wind
blew with tremendous force, the temperature was
singularly mild, with an agreeable softness in the air
and sunshine breaking out on the cloudiest days.
The weather could be described as " delicate " with
tempestuous intervals. On bright, windless days I
saw the peacock butterfly abroad and heard that idle
song of the corn bunting, associated in our minds
with green or yellow fields and sultry weather. I was
still more surprised one day late in December at
meeting with a lively wheatear, flitting from stone to
stone near the Land's End. This one had discovered
that it was not necessary to fly all the way to North



4 THE LAND'S END

Africa to find a place to winter in. Early in February
I found the adder abroad.

The town, viewed from the outside the old fish-
ing town, which does not include the numerous




COURT COCKING, ST. IVES



villas, terraces, and other modern erections on the
neighbouring heights appears very small indeed. It
is small, for when you once master its intricacies you
can walk through from end to end in about five or



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 5

six minutes. But the houses are closely packed, or
rather jumbled together with the narrowest and crook-
edest streets and courts in which to get about or up
and down. They have a look of individuality, like a
crowd of big rough men pushing and elbowing one
another for room, and you can see how this haphazard
condition has come about when you stumble by chance
on a huge mass of rock thrusting up out of the earth
among the houses. There was, in fact, just this little
sheltered depression in a stony place to build upon,
and the first settlers, no doubt, set their houses just
where and how they could among the rocks, and when
more room was wanted more rocks were broken down
and other houses added until the town as we find it
resulted. It is all rude and irregular, as if produced
by chance or nature, and altogether reminds one of a
rabbit warren or the interior of an ants* nest.

It cannot be nice to live in such a warren or rook-
ery, except to those who were born in it ; nevertheless
it is curiously attractive, and I, although a disliker of
towns or congeries of houses, found a novel pleasure
in poking about it, getting into doorways and chance
openings to be out of the way of a passing cart which
as a rule would take up the whole width of the street.
Outside the houses hung the wet oilskins and big sea-
boots to dry, and at the doors women with shawls
over their heads stand gossiping. When the men are
asleep or away and the children at school these appear
to be the only inhabitants, except the cats. You find
one at every few yards usually occupied with the
head of a mackerel or herring. The appearance was



6 THE LAND'S END

perhaps even better by night when the narrow
crooked ways are very dark except at some rare spot
where a lamp casts a mysterious light on some quaint
old corner building and affords a glimpse into a dimly-
seen street beyond ending in deep gloom.

In this nest or hive are packed about eight hundred
fishermen with their wives and children, their old
fathers and mothers, and other members of the com-
munity who do not go in the boats. The fishermen
are the most interesting in appearance ; it is a relief,
a positive pleasure to see in England a people clothed
not in that ugly dress which is now so universal, but
in one suitable to their own life and work their
ponderous sea-boots and short shirt-shaped oilies of
many shades of colour from dirty white and pale
yellow to deep reds and maroons. In speech and
manners they are rough and brusque, and this, too,
like their dress and lurching gait, comes, as it were,
by nature ; for of all occupations, this of wresting a
poor and precarious livelihood from the wind- vexed
seas under the black night skies in their open boats is
assuredly the hardest and most trying to a man's
temper. The navvy and the quarryman, the labourer
on the land, here where the land is half rock, even
the tin-miner deep down in the bowels of the earth,
have a less di scorn for table and anxious life. That
they are not satisfied with it one soon discovers ;
Canada calls them, and Africa, and other distant
lands, and unhappily, as in most places, it is always
the best men that go. Possibly this accounts for the
change for the worse in the people which some have



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 7

noted in recent years. Nevertheless they are a good
people still, righteous in their own peculiar way, and
so independent that in bad times, as when the fishing
fails, hunger and cold are more endurable to them than
charity. They are a clannish people, and it is conse-
quently not to be wondered at that they have no sub-
scription clubs or friendly societies of any kind to aid
them in times of want and sickness such as are now
almost universal among the working classes. These
benefits of our civilisation will doubtless come to
them in time : then their clannishness the old " One
and All " spirit of Cornishmen generally being no
longer needed, will decay. It is after all but another
word for solidarity, the strong, natural, or family
bond which unites the members of a community
which was once, in ruder ages, everywhere, to make
social life possible, and has survived here solely
because of Cornwall's isolated position. Unfortu-
nately we cannot make any advance cannot gain
anything anywhere without a corresponding loss
somewhere. Will it be better for this people when
the change comes when the machine we call " civili-
sation " has taken the place of the spirit of mutual
help in the members of the community ? 'Tis an
idle question, since we cannot have two systems of
life. At present, in our " backward " districts, we
have two, but they are in perpetual conflict, and one
must overcome the other ; and if there be any beauti-
ful growths in the old and unfit, which is passing
away, they must undoubtedly perish with it.

One of the most pleasing traits of the Cornish



8 THE LAND'S END

people, which is but one manifestation of the spirit 1
have been speaking about, is their love for little
children. Nowhere in the kingdom, town or country,
do you see a brighter, happier, better-dressed company
of small children than here in the narrow stony ways
of the old fishing town. The rudest men exhibit a
strange tenderness towards their little ones ; and not
only their own, since they regard all children with a
kind of parental feeling. An incident which occurred
in the early part of December, and its effects on the
people, may be given here as an illustration. One
morning when the boats came in it was reported that
one of the men had been lost. " Poor fellow ! " was
all that was said about it. And that is how it is all
the world over among men who have dangerous occu-
pations : the loss of a comrade is a not uncommon
experience, and the shock is very slight and quickly
vanishes. But there was no such indifference when,
two or three days later, one of the herring-boats
brought in the corpse of a small child which had been
fished up in the Bay a pretty little well-nourished
boy, decently dressed, aged about two years and a half.
Where the child belonged and how it came to be in
the sea was not discovered until long afterwards, but
the intensity of the feeling displayed was a surprise
to me. For several days little else was talked of
both in St. Ives and the villages and farms in the
neighbourhood, and they talked of it, both men and
women, with tears in their voices as though the death
of this unknown child had been a personal loss.

This incident served to recall others, of St. Ives



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 9

children lost and drowned in past years, especially
this very pathetic one of three little things who went
out to pick flowers one afternoon and were lost.
They were two sisters, aged eight and nine respec-
tively, and their little brother, about six or seven




GOSSIPS



years old. They rambled along the rough heath by
Carbis Bay to the Towans, near Lelant, where, climb-
ing about among the sand-hills, they lost all sense of
direction. There meeting a man who spoke roughly
to them and ordered them home they became terrified
and ran away to the sea-front, and, climbing down the



io THE LAND'S END

cliff, hid themselves in a cave they found there. By
and by it began to grow dark, and there were sounds
above as of loud talking and shouts and of a galloping
horse, all which added to their fear and caused them
to go further into their dark wet house of refuge.
They did not know, poor children, that the cries
were uttered by those who were seeking for them !
After dark the tide rose and covered the sandy floor
of the cave, and to escape it they climbed on to a rocky
shelf where they could keep dry, and there huddled
together to keep warm, and being very tired, they
eventually fell asleep. In the morning when it grew
light the sisters woke, stiff and cold, to find that their
poor little brother had fallen from the ledge in his sleep
and had been carried out by the sea. His body was
recovered later. The two survivors, now middle-aged
women, still live in the town.

The most interesting hour of the day at St. Ives
was in the afternoon or evening, the time depending
on the tide, when the men issued from their houses
and came lurching down the little crooked stone
streets and courts to the cove or harbour to get the
boats out for the night's fishing. It is a very small
harbour in the corner of the bay a roughly shaped
half-moon with two little stone piers for horns, with
just room enough inside to accommodate the fleet of
about 1 50 boats. The best spectacle is when they are
taken out at or near sunset in fair weather, when the
subdued light gives a touch of tenderness and mystery
to sea and sky, and the boats, singly, in twos and
threes, and in groups of half a dozen, drift out from



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL n

the harbour and go away in a kind of procession over
the sea. The black forms on the moving darkening
water and the shapely deep-red sails glowing in the
level light have then a beauty, an expression, which
comes as a surprise to one unaccustomed to such a
scene. The expression is due to association to vague
suggestions of a resemblance in this to other scenes.
We may be unable to recall them ; the feeling returns
but without the mental image of the scene which
originally produced it. It was not until I had watched
the boats going out on two or three successive evenings
that an ancient memory returned to me.

Sitting or walking by the margin of some wide
lake or marsh in a distant land, I am watching a com-
pany of birds of some large majestic kind stork,
wood-ibis, or flamingo standing at rest in the shallow
water, which reflects their forms. By and by one of
the birds steps out of the crowd and moves leisurely
away, then, slowly unfolding his broad wings, launches
himself on the air and goes off, flying very low over
the water. Another follows, then, after an interval,
another, then still others, in twos and threes and half-
dozens, until the last bird has opened his wings and
the entire flock is seen moving away in a loose pro-
cession over the lake.

Just in that way did the crowd of boats move by
degrees from their resting-place, shake out their
wing-like sails, and stream away over the sea.

That was one scene ; there were faint suggestions
of many others, only a few of which I could recover ;
one was of large, dark red-winged butterflies, seen at



12 THE LAND'S END

rest with closed wings, congregated on wind-swayed
reeds and other slender plants. It was the shape and
deep red colour of the sails and the way they hung
from the masts and cordage which restored this
butterfly picture to my mind. And in every instance
in which a resemblance could be traced it turned out
to be to some natural and invariably to a beautiful
object or scene. The spectacle had, in fact, that
charm, which is so rare in man's work, of something
wholly natural, which fits into the scene and is part
and parcel with nature itself.

In buildings we get a similar effect at the two
extremes in the humblest and the highest work of
man's hands ; in the small old thatched and rose- and
creeper-covered cottage in perfect harmony with its
surroundings, and in ancient majestic castles and
cathedrals, in which the sharp lines and contours have
been blurred by decay of the material and the whole
surface weathered and stained with lichen and alga
and in many cases partially draped with ivy.

It struck me before I had been long in St. Ives that,
in spite of the delightful mildness of the climate and
the charm of the place, nobody but myself was winter-
ing there. The lodging-houses were quite empty ;
the people were the natives or else the artists, who
form a pretty numerous colony. The few others
to be seen were visitors for the day from Penzance,
Falmouth, or some other spot in the " Cornish
Riviera." This was not a cause of regret, seeing
there were birds for society, especially that old fav-
ourite, the jackdaw. Doubtless he is to be seen there




AN OLD STREET IN ST. IVES



14 THE LAND'S END

all the year round as he is so common a town bird all
over the country, but at St. Ives many of the cliff-
breeding daws settle down regularly for the winter
and exist very comfortably on the fish and other
refuse thrown into the streets. Very soon I estab-
lished a sort of friendship with a few of these birds ;
for birds I must have, in town or country free birds
I mean, as the captive bird only makes me melancholy
and in winter I feed them whether they are in want or
not. It is an old habit of mine, first practised in early
life in June and July, the cold winter months in the
southern hemisphere, in a land where the English
sparrow was not. Now, unhappily, he is there and a
great deal too abundant. I fed a better sparrow in
those vanished days, smaller and more prettily shaped
than our bird, with a small crest on his head and a
sweet delicate little song. But in England one really
gets far more pleasure from feeding the birds on
account of the number of different species which are
willing to be our pensioners. At St. Ives I first
stayed at a house in The Terrace facing the sea- front,
and there were no gardens there, so that I had to feed
them out in the road. First there were only sparrows,
then a pair of jackdaws turned up, and soon others
joined them until I had about a score of them. By
and by a very big shaggy sheep-dog, belonging to a
carter, discovered that there was food to be got at
eight o'clock at that spot in the road, and he too
came very punctually every day and thoughtlessly
gobbled it all up himself. After two or three days of
this sort of thing, I felt that it ought not to be allowed



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 15

to continue, and as the daws were of the same mind and
loyally seconded my efforts to stop it we were soon
successful. My plan was to go out and scatter the
scraps and crusts far and wide over the road, and
while the greedy dog galloped about from crust to
crust the daws, hovering overhead, dropped down
and snatched them one by one away before he could
reach them.

Later, when leaving St. Ives, I asked the landlady
to explain to the birds on the following morning the
reason of there being nothing for them, and to request
them to go quietly away. They were very intelligent,
I said, and would understand ; but on my return, a
month later, she said they had not understood the
message, or had not believed her, as they had con-
tinued to come for several mornings, and had seemed
very much put out. It was plain they had kept an
eye on that house during my absence, for on going
out with scraps on the morning after my return they
promptly reappeared in full force on the scene.

There are few persons to feed the birds in those
parts, and those few, I fancy, are mostly visitors from
other counties. It amused me to see how the natives
regarded my action ; the passer-by would stop and
examine the scraps or crusts, then stare at me, and
finally depart with a puzzled expression on his coun-
tenance, or perhaps smiling at the ridiculous thing he
had witnessed.

The following winter (1906-7) 1 found a lodging
in another part of the town, in a terrace rather high
up, where I could look from my window at the Bay



1 6 THE LAND'S END

over the tiled roofs of the old town. Here I had a
front garden to feed the birds in, and, better still, the
entire jackdaw population of St. Ives, living on the
roofs as is their custom, were under my eyes and could
be observed very comfortably. I discovered that
they filled up a good deal of their vacant time each
morning in visiting the chimneys from which smoke
issued, just to inform themselves, as it seemed, what
was being cooked for breakfast. This was their pas-
time and watching them was mine. Numbers of daws
would be seen, singly, in pairs, and in groups of three
or four to half a dozen, sitting on the roofs all over
the place. As the morning progressed and more and
more chimneys sent out smoke, they would become
active visiting the chimneys, where, perching on the
rims, they would put their heads down to get the
smell rising from the pot or frying-pan on the fire
below. If a bird remained long perched on a chim-
ney-pot, his neighbours would quickly conclude that
he had come upon a particularly interesting smell and
rush off to share it with him. When the birds were
too many there would be a struggle for places, and
occasionally it happened that a puff of dense black
smoke would drive them all off together.

A dozen incidents of this kind could be witnessed
any morning, and I was as much entertained as if I
had been observing not birds but a lot of lively,
tricky little black men with grey pates inhabiting the
roofs. One morning when watching a pair perched
facing each other on a chimney-top their movements
and gestures made me imagine that I knew just what



WINTERING IN WEST CORNWALL 17

they were saying. First one leaning over the rim
would thrust his head down into the smoke and keep
it there some time, the other would follow suit, then




JACKDAWS



pulling themselves up they would stare at each other
for half a minute, then poke their heads down again.
" A funny smell that ! " one says. " I can't quite
make it out, and yet I seem to know what it is."



1 8 THE LAND'S END

" Red herring," suggests the other.


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