Originally written for suite101, published 15/11/08, now hosted at Xomba.
Arguably best known outside of Cornwall as the home of chef Rick Stein, the friendly town of Padstow has much to recommend it all on its own.
The sad fact of tourist literature is that the more emphasis placed on how friendly and lively the place, the less likely this is to be the case. Padstow, thankfully, bucks the trend by being every bit as friendly and interesting as claimed, even out of season. A considerable variety of speciality shops, art galleries and museums remain open even through the winter and of course the cream teas come highly recommended.
Harbour and the Camel Estuary
Padstow has a busy Harbour with an active fishing industry and fresh catches regularly draw crowds of onlookers. A passenger ferry runs regularly during daylight hours out from the Harbour to the Rock – a deceptively named outcrop, renowned for it’s long fine sand beaches and water-sports centre.
Just five miles up the coast at Trevose Head, is the lifeboat station. Padstow has had a long association with the Lifeboat Service, having had a lifeboat prior to 1827, the station being taken over by the RNLI in 1856. The station was only moved from its original home within the Camel Estuary in 1967 when the river mouth began to become silted up.
Over 620 lives have been saved in that time, though not without losses of their own, a plaque on the Town Church attesting to the loss of 5 crewmen during a rescue in 1867. Open days are held by the station throughout the summer while the station itself is open to visitors daily between 10am and 3pm.
National Lobster Hatchery
Established in 2000 to attempt to conserve the local lobster population by raising and releasing young lobsters back into the wild. The National Lobster Hatchery seems an unusual project to be undertaken in a town in which fishing is still an important industry. However a major part of the project is to promote sustainability in lobster and other fisheries, with the project also relying on fishermen bringing them ‘pregnant’ lobsters to allow them to incubate the young.
Clearly the reasoning that stabilising the population and ensuring the natural biodiversity is good for both the lobsters and the fishing industry has gone over well. As over 40,000 lobsters have been released back into the wild around the Cornish coast and off the Isles of Scilly.
In addition to its conservation work, the Hatchery provides a variety of educational programs, from primary school children to university students. Many of the exhibits are interactive giving children a chance to see lobsters (from babies to giant varieties) and crabs close up and learn all about these important crustaceans.
The Hatchery is open 7 days a week, all year round, opening at 10am and situated on the South Quay at the head of the Camel Trail. Admission is currently £3 for adults, £2 for senior citizens and £1.50 for children. They also run an Adopt-A-Lobster program, which makes a rather unique ethical gift.
Follow the twisting streets away from the Harbour front and hidden down Lanadwell Street is the Cinedrome, a proper old-fashioned cinema. Cornwall has a notable number of old and unusual cinemas (The Regal in Wadebridge, The Savoy in Penzance and the Reel in Plymouth spring to mind) but the small but perfectly formed Cinedrome has something special.
Having been converted from its previous incarnation as a music hall in 1924, it still shows the latest blockbusters, along with unusual gems, if only during the summer months and school holidays. Recently restored with new seating, a bigger screen and a digital sound system, having reclaimed its original name – it was The Capital for 25 years – it retains something of its original magic.
- By road: Following the A30 and A39 through Cornwall (Visitors from further afield should follow the M5 south, exiting at J31 marked Bodmin A30) coming from the south of Cornwall the B3274 can make a picturesque shortcut, however the narrow nature of the road makes it best avoided during Autumn and Winter months.
- By bus: The 555 which services Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow runs every hour (every second hour on Sundays) and the 556 from Newquay. The nearest National Express coach stop is in nearby Wadebridge.
- By Rail: The nearest train station is 15 miles away at Bodmin Parkway which is served by regular trains between London and Penzance, and from Plymouth to Newquay.