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We talk to the Cornish Bird – Elizabeth Dale

Born on a farm near Falmouth, writer Elizabeth Dale can trace her Cornish ancestry all the way back to 1550. But it wasn’t until she returned home after nearly a decade travelling the world that she came to fully appreciate her own heritage. Five years ago, the CornishBird blog was born, with the aim of telling some of the county’s incredible, untold stories. Since then, she’s launched a podcast and has also appeared on TV.

Why did you start the blog?

I was fed up with the way that Cornwall was being represented in a very narrow way. Visitors were ending up at all the same places, over and over again. I just wanted to have somewhere I could talk about the lesser known places, the lesser known stories; aspects of local history that local people weren’t so aware of. And I wanted to preserve these stories: if we don’t write them down, if we don’t talk about them, they disappear.

Where do you find your stories?

Anywhere and everywhere. I’ll be researching one thing and come across something else. People write to me and say, ‘Have you heard about this?’ I also have an obsession with newspaper archives, so I’m always going through the papers and digging out funny little stories that I can research and add to.

What are your favourite things to write about?

I’m really interested in the ordinary lives of people in Cornwall. I wrote a blog post about the women of the Killigrew family, who were the original builders and benefactors of Falmouth. They were also pirates and smugglers, and just generally ruled the roost – much more than the history books have previously given them credit for.

Tell us about your own heritage.

I can trace my father’s line back to 1550 and they’re all farmers, although there was the odd miller. They lived in the Zennor Penwith area, moving to the Falmouth area in the 1880s. The house I live in now has been home to five generations of my family.

What do you love most about the Cornish countryside?

I love all its landscapes. We have this incredible coastline, with beautiful, idyllic golden beaches, and tremendous booming Atlantic cliffs. Then, for the peace and quiet and space, Bodmin Moor is one of my favourite places to go. I just love escaping up there.

What’s the most unusual thing that you’ve discovered while writing your blog?

I think that my tastes are quite quirky sometimes. There was one recently about electricity created by pilchard oil and lighting the streets of Cornwall with pilchard oil! I wrote a piece two or three years ago about wife selling. And that always makes me giggle because it sounds like a dreadful thing but, when you read the stories, it very much sounds like these women were on board. There was no way that they could divorce, so it was a bit of a get out.

What’s the spookiest story you’ve uncovered?

I like ghost stories. I’m going out with Cornish ghost hunters at Pengersick Castle soon, which is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Cornwall. Although I’ve had spooky feelings in places, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a ghost. So I’m excited to go to the most haunted castle in Cornwall!

If someone only had a day in Padstow what is the one thing that they shouldn’t miss?

I would walk out to Stepper Point. That headland is just lovely, with a stunning panoramic view, and seeing the Doombar. There are supposed to be some mermaid-like sirens there. In the 1920s, this chap went walking and he spotted them singing in the gorge; they tried to lure him into the water.

You’ve also had some TV appearances…

They were looking for someone to talk about choughs at Kynance Cove with Julia Bradbury. I have seen them there but they’re quite rare birds, so I warned, ‘We’re not necessarily going to see any’. Anyway, we rock up and, literally, they got the camera out, Julia Bradbury’s standing there and three pairs of choughs just come flying out! It was ridiculously lucky.

Thank you so much Elizabeth for talking to us. If you’d like to read more of ‘The Cornish Bird’s’ stories visit here website here


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