HISTORY-TREKKING — NEW CASTLE DELAWARE

Founding principles feel present, still, in venerable New Castle, Delaware.  Literally on the banks of the Delaware River, famed as William Penn’s landing place.  But when the Swedes arrived around 1638, this bucolic spot was home to legendary Lenapes.

Flag Draped New Castle dwelling July 2017

Brick sidewalks thread through brick neighborhoods.  Flags are as likely to bear thirteen stars as the sharp angles notorious as the British banner (proudly displayed to left, below.)

A far cry, this joining of emblems, from the high spirits of the Founding Fathers hammering out a country in nearby Philadelphia; debating, and then signing, the Declaration of Independence.

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That Declaration and our Constitution remain living, yes, sacred, documents to me!  Democracy was the fruit of their labors, and where is it now?

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British Heritage New Castle Delaware July

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To my great delight, Revolutionary history is EVERYWHERE.  Here we read of (my hero!) Lafayette’s having given the bride away in this church:

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Lafayette Gives Away the Bride New Castle Delaware

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Buildings echo Philadelphia’s most venerable.  Here, both country’s flags blow in a July wind off the adjacent Delaware River.

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Essence of New Castle July 2017

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Venerable signs have faded on vintage buildings.  It’s eerie to see Coca Cola as a vestige of some storied past.

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Fine Sign New Castle Delaware

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Here and there, one passes “packet alleys” — long slopes, brick-lined, leading to the Delaware.  Here, clipper ships had landed.  Along these time-worn ramps, ‘stores’, –ships’ provisions–, had been tugged into the commercial part of town, by four-legged and two-legged creatures.  At one time, an epidemic closed the major port of Philadelphia.  New Castle had to step into the breach until a change of season brought a change of health.

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Model Ship Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

SHIP’S MODEL IN WINDOW OF HISTORIC JESSOP’S TAVERN

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The Shadows Know New Castle Delaware July

THE SHADOWS KNOW… What stories these rooms could tell…

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O Say Can You See New Castle Delaware July

“O, Say, Can You See?”

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Venerable New Castle Delaware Scenes July

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Wharf New Castle Delaware River Scenes

PORT OF CALL

Delaware Memorial Bridge Delaware River New Castle Delaware

COMMERCIAL DELAWARE, DELAWARE MEMORIAL BRIDGE TO NEW JERSEY

Inn op New Castle Delaware 2017

YOU, TOO, CAN OWN A STORIED INN

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Thomas Jefferson Ale Jessop's Tavern New Castle Delaware 2017

THOMAS JEFFERSON ALE, JESSOP’S TAVERN OF NEW CASTLE —

300-year-old building

From “Delaware, 200 Years Ago”, by Harold B. Hancock, “New Castle remained the county seat, but it lost out in trade and population to Wilmington…  Visitors in the port [of New Castle] considered it a town of lost importance.”  In 1785, New Castle was described as “a little, insignificant town.”  There were predictions that it would “bloom again”  And bloom it does for this traveler, in search of the courage, honor, dignity of Revolutionary Days, in a setting of unparalleled early beauty and taste.

When Lafayette and Jefferson join me on my history treks, I ask no greater boon.

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Cornwall’s Wild Beauty

Wheal Coates

Cornwall’s Wild Coastline, Wheal Coates Tin Mine

 

NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I tend to be enraptured about wilderness in New Jersey.  You may not realize that many other wild places call to me.  I am re-reading Daphne du Maurier’s Vanishing Cornwall, with its eloquent retelling of Cornish tales and magic, dooms and disasters, legends and lore — above all Arthurian.

In 1995, Darlene Prestbo and I set off on an Arthurian quest to Cornwall, which ‘just happened’ to be scheduled so that we were there for the Autumnal Equinox.  We’d found a National Trust House, Mouls Point, on the Bay of Tintagel – the perfect locus for setting out to places that had mattered to The Once and Future King.

Our National Trust Dwelling was perched, as is this one (from Internet), high above black rocks and not far from tiny Port Isaac and Port Quin.

 typical Cornish hiking scene61

steeo ricjs if cornwall.jp

Typical Brooding Rocks of Cornish Coast — We watched oystercatchers (birds) feeding among them

port-isaac tidal reach-32

Minuscule Port Isaac at Low Tide

It is a treat to re-read books that nourished past journeys.  Du Maurier is a gifted storyteller, as anyone knows who has devoured her riveting novel, Jamaica Inn.  Among our non-Arthurian expeditions was one across Bodmin Moor to Jamaica Inn, where we sat in an inglenook by a roaring fire, after being out in a mizzle of rain and quite thoroughly drenched.  We were brought shepherd’s pie to restore us, and some local ale.  As a gift, the barkeep (not the villain of the book, though overlooked and scolded by a raucous parrot) gave us our first tastes of mead.  Mead on the moor.  What could be better?

Daphne’s son Christian Browning journeyed with her from cove to moor to standing stones to tin mines.  His photographs in the book are arresting, mostly black and white,  as evocative her prose and that storied land itself.

These, from the Internet, will just have to do until you follow in Darlene’s and my footsteps, anywhere within a day’s journey of the Bay of Tintagel.

standing stones of Cornwall120So Many Standing Stones, So Little Time

remnants of tin mines of Cornwall41Sentinels of Vanished Tin Mines

Wheal Coates tin mine St. Agnes indexWheal Coates, our favorite abandoned tin mine

I take notes in books to savor later.  In this twenty-first century, I read my own comments from 1995 such as, “The magic of Cornwall matters to her, but the sinister, more-so.”

Notes of Daphne’s descriptions only fired our determination and eagerness to BE THERE, such as “to learn the call of the night-jar.”  “to hear wind in rigging, scent tar and salt.”  “to stand in a mizzle of rain.”  “to discover the nursery of the oyster.”  “to look on sea from every aperture.” “to hike among the moors and tors.” “to stride amidst bracken.”  “to build a fire of turf and furze.” “to hear drowned steeple bells and the calling of curlews on the wind.”  Above all, we yearned for the last two, which we did not achieve, nor were we, though we longed to be, “pixie-led.”

Arthur was our magnet.  Even when we didn’t know we were searching for him, we came across references.  He was nearly worshiped as the horned stag in his time — a bridge between the ancient ways and new Christianity.  Going to a pub so we could order “bubble and squeak”, an antlered deer glowered over our table.  In a remote squat church, far from Arthur’s former fortress, we came upon a stained glass window of a saint who had (Perhaps in an excess of mercy) restored to life a villain Arthur had executed, a man who had harmed her.  We heard the sea toss the rounded stones in the multi-entranced cave where Merlin gave the boy king to the wise fisherman who took him to another enchanted land, Brittany, to be raised until his time would come.  We walked on the Tintagel headlands, where fierce storms had recently uncovered foundations and ruins old enough for our king.  We two poets found ourselves riveted in the stone-outlined space known and signed as “the place where the bards declaimed.”

We hiked the entire Pentire, a 12-mile jaunt, on a day so windy we had to hold onto seaside thrift not to crash onto the black rocks and rollicking tides below.  One of our discoveries that day was the site of the battle between Uther Pendragon and Gorlois, without which contest and its outcome, there would not have been an Arthur.

He’s everywhere, in the magical land of Cornwall.  DuMaurier asserts, “There is no fever like the quest for the past.”  True, indeed, especially when that past is studded with sites dear to Arthur, Guenivere, Lance, Tristan, Gawain, Gareth…  well, you know…

Even our hike through St. Nectan’s Glen, fueled by an ancient mystery of two eccentric women who had lived and died there alone, turned out to be Arthurian.  Darlene discovered that St. Nectan was a hermit, to whom Arthur sent knights on the eve of their being elevated to knighthood.

In that glen, we came across mysterious arrays of white feathers on mossy streamside ground.  Something as silent and huge as an owl, whooshed past us, though it was noontime.  The only person we met on that trek was wearing a black and white horizontally striped jersey and had a gold ring in his ear.  Of course, the Pirates of Penzeance were never far from our consciousness.

Daphne insists, “Arthur is to Cornwall as Theseus is to Greece.”  We followed him to Dozmary Pool, where Sir Bedivere had to be commanded three times to jettison the sacred Excalibur.  The water was darker than Cornish coastal rocks, and guarded by horned long-haired red cattle that could have been wooly mammoths.

We moved through golden sands at the Camel Estuary, where the wounded Arthur was taken from barge to barque to travel, in the company of holy women, to Glastonbury Tor — where Darlene and I had begun our Cornish journey.

I see now, as I write, that we had been, not pixie-led, but Arthur-led.

And there were sites and sights we were denied, by the famous mists of Avalon.  A key quest was Land’s End.  We never found it.  Fog hid the boot (hood) of the car from my eyes, and turned cattle to stone.

Instead of Land’s End that day, we returned to our local baker for scones and clotted cream, to savor at next morning’s breakfast, in our sea-girt kitchen, looking out over a tin mine’s chimney, which faced Mouls Point.  Little did we know that the name of our dwelling was the site of the battle between Pendragon and Gorlois…

Everything was meant.  I spend my life searching for magic to equal that of any  Cornish day.

We learned a new word, Darlene and I, on that journey — “Errantry.”  “Wandering around in search of adventure.”  As in knights errant.

That’s what I do in New Jersey.  That’s what I do for NJWILDBEAUTY.

Meanwhile, you can see why my soul always yearns for Cornwall.

typical Cornish harbor and town93Typical Cornish Port Town and Harbor

135-pentire-point-newquay rugged seacoast of Cornwall

Though Not Moul’s Point, our waking view was similar – onto the backs of coasting gulls and crashing surf