I seem to have lost the art of packing for a journey, judging by my attempts this morning. I am carrying a laptop in a carrying case and my camera and clothes in a medium sized rucksack, this I’ve assessed, is the optimum for practicality and relative comfort.
I have packed my Canon and just the one lens, I had to leave my tripod and two other lenses behind as they take up too much room in my bag when packed with protective dunnage like socks, t-shirts and the like.
A couple of months ago on social media a cousin sent my sister a photograph of me aged about one or two. My father is holding me while I am playing with a football. This is the first and only photograph I have seen of me with my father, it was very moving. My father died in a motorcycle accident shortly after my third birthday. I am now sixty years of age.
I thanked my cousin Delia for the photograph and in conversation mentioned how I had lost contact with my fathers side of the family, Hodge, over the years. The next day she had managed to trace an aunt through an ancestry website and supplied me with her address. This rekindled my interest in tracing my family and with her help I found I could trace the Hodge side of my family back to 1659.
To say this piqued my interest would be an understatement.
If the research is correct it means my great great grandfather through to my 7th great grandfather lived and worked most of their lives in Cornwall. I had to investigate further. My bones wanted to walk the paths my ancestors bones walked upon.
You should always listen to your bones.
It was my G G grandfather Thomas Hodge who left Cornwall and made his way to Liverpool. He was born in Redruth so this is where I decided to head for and start my walkabout.
It was an eight hour journey by rail to Redruth station from Liverpool with two changes along the way. I had plenty of time to wonder how this journey may have been for Thomas and his wife Charlotte.
I booked a room in a local pub not far from the station and arrived there at about five in the evening. Time for a cup of tea and a wander about the town which is situated astride hills that can be quite steep. All about you can see remnants and reminders of the mining industry from the huge chimneys in the distance to the statue of a miner at the top of the local high street.
In the evening at the bar I was introduce to a chap who was a miner and is now retired. He told me a little bit about life as a miner in Redruth and suggested a couple of places to visit. He corrected me when I asked if the tunnels are crooked because they follow the seam of ore in the ground? He said no, the miners call it the lode not the seam and they are anfractuous because the miner will only cleave out of the ground the ore and enough space to work in. Anything else would be a waste of time and energy and you don’t get paid for that.
The next few days I set out to visit the towns, mines and churches I knew my ancient Cornish family had lived, loved, worked and died in. I found myself touching the old stone walls in country lanes where I imagined they once walked and the brickwork of churches where they were baptised and married. This was an instinctual thing I found myself doing, a primeval urge for some form of contact, a communion of blood and bones.
The last day of my wanderings I spent in Pendeen, staying at The North Inn. I could have quite happily stayed there a week. I visited Geevor tin mine which is only a short walk away from the Inn and has guided tours of the mine. Even though there were only the two of us, my guide and I, and there was not the noise and air pollution of rocks being wrenched from the earth and hauled to the surface, I found myself keen to get to the surface. I had only been down there for half an hour and thought never to do so again. These men and boys who worked down there hour after backbreaking spirit crunching hour have my total admiration.
I decided to walk the coastal path back to the Inn. The heavens were dazzlingly bright with clouds racing across an azure blue sky in the strong Atlantic wind. The noise of the pounding waves beating against the outcrops of granite and cliffs of Penwith and Pendeen formed such a contrast with the claustrophobic darkness of the mines, each emphasising the intensity of the other.
How many miners have walked the coastal paths after ascending from the dark depths of the mines? Paths which have since eroded with time and tide and fallen into the sea.
Following the Lode