Petition for dog ban reversal

The spring season is in full swing and now that we have reached April is it a good time to bear in mind that the dog ban on certain beaches is in force. Don’t get caught out!

The ban on dogs is rescinded in the winter months because there are hardly any sunbathers on the beach during the colder months and the dogs are hence not a threat or a nuisance. However with the warmer months approaching and more people heading for the beaches, the dog ban is now in operation.

There have however been calls for the ban on dogs to be reversed. The few beaches where dogs are allowed a poorly accessible, rocky and not just a danger to man’s best friend, but to man or woman itself.

Campaign group ‘Life’s a beach – Stop the extended dog ban in St Ives’ posted to their Facebook page as the seasonal rules came into force in St Ives over Easter.

It means those with four-legged friends are being forced to use beaches which they say are poorly accessible.

Now the post has created a huge debate online, with many dubbing it a ‘disgrace’.

One user wrote:
Ok so you’re a resident of St Ives…you pay your council tax and your extra st Ives town council precept. You own a dog….this is your access to one of the only dog beaches in town…what would you do/think/feel?

The health benefits of owning dogs is well known. It gets children out and about, provides companionship and supports people with depression. It keeps older people active…so why the heck to we have to put up with this! I don’t want to break a leg to walk my dog!

There are three beaches dogs can go on in the summer. The beach at Lambeth Walk has been highlighted for its stony paths and the council has agreed itself that that could be improved. But council representatives also claim that Barnaluz beach near the recently-opened St Ives museum is more accessible now, and has been since the steps were repaired, and dog owners may find it better there to let ttheir dogs go for a run.

Non-dog owners claim that their enjoyment of the beaches is tainted by dogs running free, threatening younger children, following their noses into picnic baskets. But dog owners claim that they are being picked on, and that non-dog owners can also spoil the beach for others in terms of litter and drug-related paraphanelia.

A holidaymaker also waded into the debate.

David Ray said: “Our family (and dog) used to visit St Ives at least twice a year, but not since these ridiculous rules were introduced.

“I wonder how much additional revenue is being lost by local business’s due to the intransigence of their local council?

“Vote them out and lets have some more sensible rules. We will then no doubt return.”

Even though the dog ban is now in force, it seems some are ignoring signs which have been put in place at the spots where dogs aren’t allowed anyway.

We just simply need a bit more consideration for everyone else.

St Ives and the history of Cornish smugglers

Despite the inroads of commercialisation, there lingers in many Cornish fishing villages and coves something of the romantic atmosphere of the old smuggling days, when sea-booted figures shouldered heavy tubs of spirits up steep cliffside tracks on moonless nights to the waiting horses above, running the gauntlet of Revenue cruisers, Preventive boats and the coastguard to get the precious ‘goods’ safely landed and away. Inevitably, much nonsense has been written about the smuggler; and the truth, as is so often the case, proves to be far more interesting than far-fetched fantasy.

The smuggler emerges from many tales neither as a criminal nor a hero, but as a courageous, resourceful and enterprising character, who did no one – except the Chancellor of the Exchequer – any particular harm, and benefited his fellows not a little in providing them with cut-price luxuries. Left to his own devices, he was the most harmless of men; it was only when Authorities sought to curb his activities that he showed how ready he was to defend what he regarded as his legitimate interests.

Most of these stories belong to the early nineteenth century – that period when smuggling was in slow but steady decline, and when the violence and bloodshed of earlier times had been somewhat moderated. Traditions of such incidents are still handed down in a few local families – though they are not always for the ear of the inquisitive stranger.

Every smuggling operation was carried out by two teams of men, who had to work in the closest concert with each other to achieve success – those on the ship which brought the contraband goods from France, and the shore party who helped to land and convey them safely away to their destination. The latter task was often the more dangerous, and required much physical effort, particularly when heavy casks had to be carried up high and steep cliffs. This explains why it was sometimes necessary to employ large numbers of men in the landing party – as many as a hundred or more – to get the goods removed expeditiously from the coast before the onset of daylight.

The greatest danger which the ships had to face came from the Revenue cutters which constantly patrolled the coasts of Cornwall and also from the Preventive boats, which usually operated closer to the shore. But even if they eluded these hazards, there still remained the possibility that their boats, on landing, might run into an ambush should the Preventive men have discovered that a ‘run’ was to be made at that particular place.

The existence of such an ambush would usually be known by the shore party, who might quite well have been disturbed by it themselves. The recognised manner of warning the boats approaching the trap with their precious cargo was by lighting a fire on shore. For this purpose, a beacon of furze or other suitable materials was prepared in advance, and some of the party were detailed to kindle this should the need arise. So common was this practice that it was made a punishable offence to light a fire upon the coast as a signal, and several instances are recorded where men were brought to trial for this offence.

At Cornwall Lent Assize in 1828, John Brown, John Dunstan and William Borlase were indicted for making a light to give notice to their associates at sea, in order to prevent the landing of a smuggled cargo. It appears that on the 9th of March Samuel Gammon, boatman of the Cawsand Coastguard station, was on duty on Rame Hills, near Porlorn [Polhawn] Cove, about a mile and a half from Cawsand. At three in the morning, Gammon and another boatman called James Dyer hid themselves in a furze brake near Rame church. They saw a fire in the gateway, and three men came into the field with lighted straw in their hands, and made lights in three different directions.

Gammon ran across and caught Dunstan, who was coming from the gateway where the fire had first been seen. On seeing three smugglers running across the field pursued by Preventive men, Gammon let Dunstan go and joined in the chase. Eventually three prisoners were secured. Before the fires were lighted, a vessel had been seen standing in for the land.

To take another example: at Cornwall Lent Assize in 1825 a smuggler named Spry was indicted for lighting a fire on the banks of the Helford river for the purpose of warning smugglers of the approach of Customs officers. It was proved that on the arrival of Preventive men at the spot where the defendant was found, some straw was ignited, and the defendant cried ‘Run! Run! They are coming!’ The officers then rushed forward and secured him. Spry admitted the truth of this evidence, but declared he had no hand in lighting the fire; he was merely on his way home, and on seeing the officers approach cried out to the smugglers to run. He handed to the court a testimonial to his good character signed by several respectable persons, but this did not prevent him being found guilty.

During the early morning of December 4th 1831, the French smuggler Elizabeth, having on board 338 kegs of brandy and gin and some packages of highly dutiable manufactured glass, appeared in the vicinity of St Ives. Her master was a certain Jean-Marie Yves Creach, and she carried a crew of six French and two British. When first observed from the shore, she was standing into the bay under full sail, it being their intention to land the goods either at Gwithian or Hayle.

The Coastguard at all times maintained an all-night watch from several vantage points in and around St Ives and as soon as Moses Martin, Chief officer of the local station, was told of the craft’s suspicious behaviour, he and his assitants immediately went out after her in the Coastguard cutter, together with the St Ives customs boat. However, the smugglers had confederates waiting ashore; and as soon as they realised that the Elizabeth had been detected, they lit fires to warn her of danger.

The French vessel promptly turned about and put off again. A stern chase then developed between her and the pursuing coastguards. Martin was a sworn and inveterate enemy of local smugglers; and he kept determinedly on the vessel’s tail until eventually she was overhauled and captured about six miles from the coast. She was then brought in triumph into St Ives harbour.

Her crew were subsequently brought before the St Ives magistrates on December 13th and fined £100 each, but being unable to pay, they were committed to Bodmin Gaol. Two of them were Cornish: one, called Yellam, from Probus, and the other named Bawden, from Mevagissey.

As for the poor little Elizabeth, she suffered an even sadder fate. At that time, to prevent seized smuggling craft from being ‘bought back’ by their former owners at the subsequent auction and once more used for contraband running, the authorities had the hulls of such vessels sawn into three parts, and their ropes destroyed prior to the sale. And this is what happened to the Elizabeth.

A copy of the advertisement was put out by the St Ives’ Custom house. It will be seen from this last case that warning beacons were not always effective in enabling a smuggling vessel to make her getaway; but that many were saved by this means is an undoubted fact, and explains why those who lit these beacons were hunted down so vigilantly by the Preventive men.

The days of ore

St Ives may have the most beautiful beaches in bygone days but it was hardly the coastal view that attracted visitors.

Although Cornwall is one of the most geographically isolated parts of Britain, paradoxically it appears to have enjoyed its fair share of visitors from across various parts of the ancient world. Visitors from Ancient Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece and Rome have at various times trodden Cornish soil and interacted with the natives.

Cornwall’s popularity in those far-off days was hardly attributable to its spectacular scenery, stretches of golden sands or board-rideable surfs. Cornwall had something far more precious – tin and copper (in addition to other valuable ores) found near the Earth’s surface and running through its very bedrock. Such easily mined resources were pretty scarce in other parts of Europe.

What made these metals so special? Around 5,000 years ago the Sumerians discovered that a small amount of tin ore added to molten copper produced an incredible new alloy – bronze. Bronze was harder than tin or copper but was far easier to fashion (by means of casting) into useful things like weapons, armour, agricultural implements, household objects and jewellery. So ended the Stone Age, and with the Bronze Age came a growing international interest in Cornwall. The county’s metal resources began to be exploited around 4,000 years ago with the burgeoning demands of the civilisations of the Near East and Europe. Prosperity increased and early Bronze Age settlements sprang up around the county, some of whose remains still exist in places.

Two particularly beautiful archaeological artefacts – a fine gold cup and a bronze sword hilt – illustrate the connection between ancient Mediterranean cultures and Cornwall. A sensation was caused in 1837 when archaeologists excavating Rillaton Barrow (on eastern Bodmin Moor near Liskeard) unearthed a fabulous gold cup. The ancient burial with which it is associated, along with other grave goods, indicates that the object was owned by a person of very high ranking, probably a chieftain or royal family member. Having been cleaned and restored it served for a while in the ignominious role as a holder for King George V’s collar studs; thankfully the Rillaton Gold Cup can now be seen in the British Museum. It displays remarkably adept Aegean-style metalwork and is thought to have been made around 2,300 BC. Strangely enough, a local legend claimed that a mysterious gold cup lay deep within the barrow – could this possibly have been a memory passed down through a couple of hundred local generations? Another example of an Aegean import, probably Mycenaean, is the so-called Pelynt Dagger – actually an ornate bronze sword hilt – found in 1845 in Pelynt Barrow near Looe and now on display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.

Bronze Age Cornish prosperity peaked at around 1,500 BC, followed by a social decline. The Celts had begun to populate parts of Europe and the British Isles, introducing new farming practices and communities that were more geared to martial matters. While it’s not known whether there was a violent clash of cultures between the ancient inhabitants of Cornwall and the Celts, it is certain that the seafaring Veneti, Celts of the Brittany peninsula, managed to seize control of the metal trade between Cornwall and the rest of Europe. Around 1,000 BC there was a sudden resurgence in metalcraft and more technologically sophisticated design.

But the magic and usefulness of bronze began to evaporate in the 8th century BC when the Iron Age arrived in Britain. Iron ore is smelted, cast into ingots and hammer-fashioned into implements by blacksmiths; with the addition of carbon it becomes steel, a material weighing about the same as bronze but far harder and more suited to weaponry and agriculture. With its acidic soil, Cornwall has few surviving iron implements from this era, and the patchy nature of human settlement in the county has made it difficult to identify sites linked with iron working. One of the few examples lies at Trevelgue Head Iron Age settlement on the cliffs above Newquay, where the remnants of an ancient foundry have been unearthed.

Cornwall continued to mine and export its metals, whose uses changed with technological advances, right up to modern times. With the closure of South Crofty near the village of Pool in 1998 came an end to four thousand years of Cornish metal mining – for the time being, at least, for the story of Cornwall’s metal wealth may not yet be finished.

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.