My friend Emily came to stay last week and we spent a lovely time driving around Cornwall's far west - my favourite part I have to say. I know this part of the world very well and I would recommend anyone explore its stunning coastline full of hidden valleys, remote farms, old mines, standing stones and bronze age boulder walls, but when we stopped at Zennor to go for a walk, eat more cake and look at the beautiful ancient carved mermaid in the church (15th century and do research the folk tale!)
I finally went into the small Wayside Museum. I'd always noticed the sign for this small museum, hanging next to an old working waterwheel, but somehow never had the time when I was there to explore properly. The museum is certainly in one of the most stunning positions of any in England, situated in a 16th miller's cottage and old (yet still working!) watermill, nestling into the rugged coast staring out over the Atlantic.
You enter the museum through the shop which is well equipped with souvenirs and a good selection of books about and based in Cornwall. It also sells local Moomaid of Zennor ice cream - you've got to love ice cream that is both site-specific and involves a pun - and organic flour milled on the premises. We were welcomed by a really friendly lady and the entrance was reasonable at £3.95 for adults. Children cost £2.95, which includes a quiz trail to follow. There are also family tickets available. Leaving the shop we walked through the lovely garden to the first building, and then followed the advised route through a network of mill buildings to the cottage. I really loved the feeling of exploring this conjured - how I was never quite sure when I was going to find another building and what it might contain. There was a real sense of adventure to this - also the museum is much larger than I had guessed from outside!
In terms of what was on display there was everything to do with local residents since 3000 BC to the 1950s! There are 5000 artifacts from prehistoric boulders, to milling and farming equipment, displays about local residents, ancient washing machines, packaging, photos, the actual mill itself, tools - there's too much to list really, but it was all very interesting. Two of my favourite things were the charm stick hanging above the fire place in the cottage - the story here is that if devils came down the chimney during the night they would become transfixed by the bubbles in the glass and you could just wipe them off with a cloth in the morning! - and I also loved some of the stories about local characters. These included a man who'd had I think 27 children as a competition and another about a local poet who liked writing about death and destruction. I have tried to include photos of some of this text, but I only had my phone in a darkened room so I don't know how legible they are... There were also some great photos of Cornish grannies. I also loved seeing the working water wheel outside. All in all it was a really great impromptu museum visit and I would recommend tearing yourself away from the stunning landscape for a minute to learn a bit about the fascinating human history of this remote bit of England as well. It's eccentric and lovely and the effort in collecting such a vast selection of items covering such a long span of time is very impressive and worth paying respect to. Do go to the church to say hello to the mermaid too though! Or morveren as they call them in these parts...