Cornwall in the Blood

Debra Campbell
10 min readMay 28, 2018

The home of my ancestors was beyond my imagining.

The town of St Just in Penwith, Cornwall was a hub of the tin and copper mining industry which dominated the south western coast of Cornwall from ancient times until the mid-twentieth century. Research into my own family tree revealed that my ancestors had lived in and around St Just for centuries and only left for Australia, New Zealand and the United States less than 200 years ago.

Rocks off Priests Cove, St Just

I wanted to see the rugged, natural majesty of the Cornish coast, I wanted to know if I’d feel any affinity with my ancestral home and I wanted to know more about why they departed for Australia in the 1850’s.

So, adding a week’s holiday to a London business trip, my husband and I seized the opportunity, hired a car and went to find out. After a night in Bath and a stop at Glastonbury Abbey, we found ourselves becoming quickly immersed in one of our most beautiful adventures.

Day One

St Just is located on the south-western coast of the UK, not far from Land’s End. At nearby Cape Cornwall the steep cliffs of the dramatic rocky coastline form a background to silhouetted ruins of the characteristic Cornish mining engine houses with their tall chimney stacks. Old mine buildings still cling to their once industrial clifftop sites, now largely returned to original lush green pastures, dotted with spring wild flowers.

Old mining buildings near St Just, silhouetted against the sea and sky

We hiked from our Airbnb (cosy, with awesome views of Cape Cornwall) along the coastal paths, through fields, coves and old mine sites up the hill to the Cape. It felt like the edge of the world. It took my breath away.

“Why would you leave here?” I asked the ghosts of my ancestors.

This was their home and it’s so beautiful.

Across Cornwall, Neolithic barrows and henges are not difficult to encounter on a rambling hike and their presence in the rugged landscape invokes a sense of connection to those ancient people. I felt connected to the now and then in equal measure, which gave me a sense of comfort and equanimity as we hiked the landscape under blue spring skies. It truly…

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Debra Campbell

Dr Debra Campbell is a psychologist and author of Lovelands, a self-help memoir about becoming your own hero. You can find out more at www.drdebracampbell.com