Local matters - Home from Home - CycleBlaze

Local matters

Ah, who doesn't love some local rivalry! I always find it fun to hear about these when I'm a visitor. I'll never forget being told what bastards the Flemish were by a Turkish waiter I got chatting to in Wallonia. "But you guys ... are exactly the same!" I always think. Though I don't say it. Not since my visit to Belfast at least.

This brings us to Cornwall and Devon, the two most west counties of the Westcountry. As mentioned, I'm a transplant, and growing up in Devon we definitely felt that Cornwall was elsewhere. A strange land. Which is odd, because despite the many charms that Devon has it doesn't have the singularity of Cornwall.

Cornwall is properly Celtic, resisted Roman invasion, had its own language and maintained paganism rather longer than up country. Until the arrival of the railways it was genuinely very hard to get to, and a good chunk of the economy was based on resisting the crown by piracy, smuggling and wrecking. Even afterwards, it industrialised far more than Devon, being at one time the richest mining region in the world for tin, copper and gold. In contrast, the richer soil of Devon remained solidly agricultural and it's still somewhat wealthier today.

This division even comes down to the flags in the thumbnail. Cornwall has a bunch of weird saints, reputedly Irish monks that drifted down on coracles in the early middle ages (those guys got everywhere west of Britain, including maybe Iceland). One was St. Piran, who after attempting to teach Christianity to the local wildlife (a fox and a badger - history does not recall if he was successful) cooked up his hearth stone and discovered how to extract tin. The white cross on the black background represents the tin rising out of the ore.

St. Piran's cross, as it's called, is indeed an ancient symbol of Cornwall and you see it flying everywhere throughout the country (or I should say Duchy). And Devon's flag, greener and more fertile was ... invented a few years back as the winner of a BBC radio competition. It's a fairly blatant copy, and rather annoyed some Cornish people. Still, it looks nice and it's fun to see it around.

So when people ask me where I'm from, I quickly say I'm not from London and that I did grow up in the area just to prove I'm not a tourist. When they ask exactly, I do tend to mumble Totnes South Devon. And then I go and have a Cornish pasty, which frankly are better. 

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Rachael AndersonGood to hear from you again. We recently completed 3 months bicycle touring in Great Britain which included Devon. I read your journal about rides you did during Covid and loved them. Also, it semi prepared me for how tough the riding would be between rough roads and extremely steep climbs (Lake District being the toughest).
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1 year ago
Jon AylingTo Rachael AndersonThanks Rachel - pleased you like them! Likewise I've been following your adventures in the UK and glad you had a good tour. British roads are definitely a mixed bag - our cycle infrastructure isn't too great compared to the continent, but when you get away from the traffic on the lanes it can make for pretty good touring. Rough roads and steep climbs may be unavoidable though!
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1 year ago