Any progress with the Edward Hain?

Will there be any breakthrough in the standoff over the Edward Hain Community Hospital? The one-ward hospital has been closed for nearly a year over fire safety concerns – the government and NHS were not convinced that in the event of a fire, the twelve inpatients would not be able to be evacuated. Hence the inpatient unit remains closed, and those requiring such services have to go further afield, out of our town for treatment. The outpatient unit, however, remains open to existing residents.

Residents held a protest over the closure of the hospital in October. The common feeling among residents is because that because St Ives is far out to the west, and run by Labour council, the conservatives will not give it the resources in order to modernise. It is almost as if the Conservatives are trying to turn local feeling against Labour by using health as a means of creating dissension. It is no good for the people caught in between. The current building is an old Victorian building and getting inpatients down the stairs could be problematic. The Friends of Edward Hain recently raised £600,000 towards the hospital, but the money remains largely unspent because of the threat that it may be wasted. If improvements are made to the hospital but it still remains closed, the money would have been spent for nothing.

Part of the problem lies not just with underfunding alone. Some believe it lies with a lack of foresight by the local NHS, who failed to cater for post-hospital care services in the area. As a result, there is a lot of bed squatting and those in post-operative care are taking up the spaces on the ward.

The answer could be in building a new community hospital. This consideration has been touted before, and some believe that the creation of a new hospital would alleviate the pressure of the already taxed services in the area. If the problem lies with the existing building and there could still be a protracted political battle over it, then starting completely from scratch to develop a modern building that meets fire regulations, and one that is large enough to provide services for the region, could be the long term meaningful solution.

Rock-pooling and swimming in the St Ives beaches

A strandline is the visual mark of the highest point reached by the tide on a beach and consists of sediments, such as seaweed and other organic matter, driftwood, and general detritus including litter. Due to variations in the height of the tides there can be several strandlines on a single beach and they can be home to a wide variety of life, including sandhoppers, beetles and small crabs, which in turn provide food for birds such as oystercatchers, turnstones, dunlins and sanderlings. With each high tide, new life and materials are deposited, helping to sustain these unique habitats.

Beaches are increasingly under threat from pollution and most of it washes up in the strandline. Many local communities and organisations now arrange regular beach cleaning days, while many of the more responsible visitors and beachcombers, who search the strandline for interesting or unusual items, such as driftwood, shells, bones, sea glass and weirdly-shaped egg cases, also help by removing any rubbish they come across.

While there is easy access to most of the beaches around Cornwall, in particular St Ives, there are a number of coves in which the access route is less obvious and these often require care and attention if planning to visit them. All beaches and the whole of the coastline are subject to change due to the effects of the tides and adverse weather conditions, and coastal erosion can sometimes result in a beach that was relatively easy to access becoming less easy to reach, or even inaccessible. Therefore it’s important to plan a safe route down to the beach, not forgetting to ensure that there is an equally safe and easily negotiable way back up the cliff.

One of the results of the action of the tides are the delightful rock pools that appear on rocky beaches when the water recedes. Like a window into an underwater world, they can provide hours of fun for people of all ages, from children to adults. Here are some basic tips to help to get the most out of your rock pool rambles:

  1. Check the tide times; the lower the tide, the more pools there will be.
    2. Start with the pools closest to the sea and work your way back up the shore.
    3. Keep an eye on the tide and ensure you have an easy return route up the beach.
    4. Be aware that wet rocks and seaweed can be slippery.
    5. Wear stout footwear.
    6. Take a bucket or plastic container.
    7. Nets are commonly used but not advisable as they can cause damage to small creatures; instead, use your bucket or container as a ‘scoop’.
    8. Don’t wade into the pool as this can cause damage – it’s better to stand or kneel on the edge.
    9. Carefully replace rocks or stones after looking under them.
    10. Always gently return sea creatures to where you found them, ensuring they are the right way up.

Jellyfish can be washed up on beaches, especially around the strandline, or encountered in the sea and in rock pools. They are simple creatures consisting of 90% water and have no brains, bones or blood but some of them can be quite beautiful to look at. However, some jellyfish found in UK waters can sting, even when dead or stranded on a beach, so they should never be handled and avoid any contact with their tentacles. Fortunately, most stings are merely unpleasant, similar to a nettle sting, but if you are stung, inform any lifeguard present and seek medical attention if the pain is severe – applying an ice pack or taking ibuprofen and paracetamol can ease the pain and swelling.

Over 200 people die every year around the coastline of Britain and Ireland, and thousands more find themselves in difficulty and have to be rescued. The safest beaches on which to swim are those patrolled by RNLI Lifeguards, provided you follow their advice.

If on a beach where there are no lifeguards and you decide that the conditions are nevertheless suitable for entering the water, please be aware of the following advice:

  1. You are responsible for your own safety and that of any dependants.
    2. NEVER swim alone.
    3. Do not allow children to enter the sea alone.
    4. Check where any safety equipment is situated. Sennen Cove
    5. Wear a wetsuit if intending to be in the water for more than 15 minutes.
    6. In high swell avoid deeply shelved beaches and don’t swim near rocks or into caves.
    7. Swim only within sheltered coves or bays unless you understand the tidal streams that can be found near headlands and in the open sea – that takes local knowledge and experience.
    8. Never jump or dive into water unless you have checked it for depth and obstructions such as rocks.
    9. Never use inflatables – they can drift on the current or in the wind.
    10. Avoid areas where rip currents commonly form, such as river mouths or estuaries, piers or the edges of coves, but also be aware that they can be found anywhere off the beach so learn to spot their characteristics, such as a break in the pattern of the waves, excessive foam, or debris being dragged in the opposite direction.
    11. If caught in a rip current do not attempt to swim against it but instead swim to the side, parallel to the shore, until free of the current, then swim to the shore.
    12. Never approach seals or their pups.

Strange sightings in St Ives

Cornwall is richly steeped in folklore and many interesting stories have come from the St Ives district. One of the most character-istic is that of ‘The Lady with the Lantern’. This tells how, one evening around dusk, during a year notorious for storms and wrecks, a large ship was driven on a sunken rock at the back of the Island. Many of those on board perished at once, and as each successive wave urged the wreck onward, yet more of the crew were swept into the angry sea.

Despite the terrible conditions, a boat was manned by some St Ives fishermen and rowed towards the ship. Approaching as near as they dared, they managed to rescue two or three sailors by means of ropes. Then a group appeared on deck supporting a lady who held a child in her arms. The lady, despite entreaties, refused to give her child to the care of a sailor while they endea-voured to pass her across to the boat. So, with the ship fast breaking up, she was lowered into the sea, and the fishermen drew her through the waves.

In her passage, the lady fainted and was taken into the boat without the infant. The child had fallen from her arms, and was lost in the boiling waters. She later regained consciousness; but finding her child was gone, she lost hope and died. They buried her in the churchyard, but shortly after a lady was seen to pass over the churchyard wall on to the beach and walk towards the Island. There she spent hours amid the rocks, looking for her child, before returning to her grave. When the nights were stormy or very dark, she carried a lantern, but on fine nights she made her sad search without a light. The Lady and the Lantern have ever since been regarded as predictors of disaster on this shore.

Less well known than this story is the legend of the White Horse of Porthgwidden. In the early part of the nineteenth century a gentleman called Birch owned a magnificent white horse with a flowing mane and a flying tail. The animal was beautifully groomed and the delight of his master. Every evening at dusk Birch would ride on his horse to Porthgwidden for a bathe. He was a powerful swimmer, but one stormy evening the wind and waves proved too much for him, and he was swept away and drowned. Some time later the fishermen noticed the horse patiently waiting on the beach, far beyond the usual time for its master’s return, and so came to learn of the tragedy which had occurred. Some time after this, people living in the vicinity vowed that after dusk the ghost of Mr Birch was seen riding his lovely horse through Island Road, down to Porthgwidden Beach and out to sea. The spectre is said to have been seen as late as the 1890s.

The pilots of St Ives had a superstition regarding ‘Jack Harry’s Lights’; these phantoms were named after the man who was first deceived by them. They were generally observed before a gale, and the ship seen with them resembled the one which later was sure to be wrecked. Scores of pilots had seen and been led a fine chase after them. One old pilot told of how they put off in their big boat, the Ark, when a large vessel was reported in the offing. The vessel stood off the head, the wind blowing WNW. They went off four or five miles and thought they were alongside, when the ship slipped to windward a league or more. Again the Ark went in pursuit and once more closed in on the stranger, but away she flew to Godrevy over the course they had just sailed; so the pilots gave it up for ‘Jack Harry’s Light’ and with disappointed hopes bore up for the harbour. These manifestations may be likened to those of the Flying Dutchman, seen off the Cape of Good Hope.

The harbour of St Ives

Life at St Ives has traditionally revolved around its harbour. Here, up to about the time of the First World War, were to be seen the town’s large fleets of mackerel and pilchard luggers, coasting vessels loading or discharging cargoes, seine boats arriving from Porthminster deeply laden with silvery fish; and all the bustle and activity associated with a prosperous seaport and fishing town.

Today, the scene has vastly changed, yet the harbour remains the focal point of St Ives. Nearly all the fishing boats have gone, their places taken by gaily painted pleasure craft, whilst the sand, once grimy with coal, is now a clean golden bathing beach. Many regret the change, but it was inevitable with the decline in the fishing industry; and St Ives is at least fortunate in having a type of harbour that has adapted so well to meet new circumstances.

As early as the sixteenth century St Ives was the chief port of departure in the west for passage to Ireland, and there are several entries in the old Borough Accounts relating to this traffic. Thus in 1592: ‘paide William Ots to pay for 2 passengers bounde to Irelande whiche weare hosted at water treweks 3s.4d.’ ‘Paide to a man of Irelande that had his barke stollen by pirats 1s.’ 1604: ‘paide to a poore souldier that came from Irelande 3d.’ The importance of this sea-link with Ireland is shown also in a by-law passed in 1619, which decreed that ‘All yrishmen landing hencforth ther loades or Burden of tymber [are to pay] ijs.ijd. & ballaste of Sand to be taken at this charge if they liste to take it.’

No contemporary description of the harbour has survived, but it is known that prior to 1766 the pier ran out from Carn Glaze (the site of the present Fishermen’s Co-operative Stores). It appears to have been of simple construction, probably consisting of timber piles driven in the sand, with a rubble filling. The maintenance of this pier and the clearance of sand from the harbour imposed at times a severe strain on the very limited borough finances.

The harbour began to take on something of its present appearance in 1770, when a new pier was constructed to the design of John Smeaton, the great civil engineer. This was built out from the Castle Rocks, the old pier being at the same time demolished and the Wharf constructed. Though only about half its present length, Smeaton’s Pier sheltered a much greater extent of water than its predecessor did, and so accommodated the growing trade and fishing industry of the town. This growth in the years following the building of the pier is best illustrated by the annual amounts of harbour dues collected by the Trustees, which rose from £593 in 1770 to £1280 in 1814 and to £1824 by 1836.

In 1837 St Ives, very unwisely, was declared a free port, and dues ceased to be collected – a measure that resulted in unavoidable delay in carrying out further improvements.

In 1844, 165 coasting merchant vessels having a gross tonnage of 9723 arrived in the port of St Ives. By comparison, during the same year, 856 vessels arrived at Hayle, these having a tonnage of 65,979. But what was more important at St Ives was the fishing industry; in 1847 the capital invested in the pilchard fisheries was in excess of £150,000, with 400 boats and 735 men employed, whilst a further 100 men were engaged in other types of fishing.

Imports from within Britain were coal, iron and general merchandise and from abroad timber; exports within Britain were fish and copper ore, and abroad, fish and tin. Sailing vessels belonging to the port totalled 8994 tons, with a few steamers totalling 498 tons.

In 1864 work was begun on an outer harbour by erecting the New or Wood Pier at the seaward side of Smeaton’s structure, and running roughly at right angles to it. Its timber frame failed to stand up to the buffeting of the Atlantic rollers, however, and in less than twenty years it had become an almost complete wreck. Today little more than its short masonry stump remains. The failure of this project brought on an acute crisis, the harbour being desperately overcrowded with the ever-increasing fleet of fishing vessels. This situation reached its climax in 1886, with the so-called Tresidder’s riot among the fishermen.

Eventually, in 1888-90 the position was relieved by adding a lengthy extension to Smeaton’s Pier. The shorter West Pier was built in 1894 as a loading jetty for roadstone from the Carthew and Orange Lane quarries. Finally, around 1922 the Wharf Road was constructed from the lifeboat house to Chy-an-Chy, affording much needed relief to Fore Street, which previously had to carry all the traffic.

Since then, St Ives has ceased to be a seaport, whilst its fishing fleet has dwindled to extinction. These events have brought about great changes in the town itself. The smoke houses for curing, the great pilchard cellars, the barking houses for tanning nets, and the net factory have all gone, either swept away to make room for modern developments, or converted to new uses. The last St Ives pilchard cellar, in Norway Lane, was cleared out in 1968-69, much of its equipment being transferred to the St Ives Museum at Wheal Dream. Yet with all these changes, ‘Downlong’, the old fishing quarter, still retains a great deal of its atmosphere, the narrow alleyways and picturesque cottages proving a never-failing delight to artists, photographers and holiday-makers.

Barbara Hepworth and St Ives

St Ives has always proven to be an inspirational seaside town, a font for creativity and artistry. The beautiful landscapes are among the many sources of inspiration and the opportunities to work alongside creative individuals continues to inspire the development of beautiful art.

Various well-known artists, past and present, have passed through St Ives and continue to its vibrant art community.

If you link the word “St Ives” along with “sculpture” it would be inconceivable to imagine that you would not at some point arrive at the name Barbara Hepworth. Such was her influence on the town, that you will see many of her sculptures displayed at various locations around it. There is also a museum, the Barbara Hepworth museum, that continues to inspire modern artists.

Born in Yorkshire in 1903 to Herbert and Gertrude, Barbara frequently accompanied her dad in car rides over the West Riding for his work as a civil engineer. She received a music scholarship during her time at Wakefield Girls School, and the summer holidays were spent at idyllic St Robin’s Bay in Whitby.

Hepworth studiesd sculpture at the Royal College of Art, London and her early twenties were interspersed with trips and stays in Paris and Rome. Her life up to her mid thirties revolved around travel, working with and learning from other artists.

She arrived in Cornwall with her second husband and triplets in August 1939, before the outbreak of war. With little time to work, and living in cramped conditions, Hepworth had no major output until the end of the war, but it was after that when her work flourished and the outpouring of major creative works began.

If you ever visit St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth museum is definitely an attraction not to miss out on. But if you live in St Ives, and are venturing afield, perhaps at some point you might like to visit the Hepworth Wakefield museum in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, where more of the sculptor’s works are exhibited alongside artists who have a link with the region.