Devon landmarks that really belong in Cornwall

For centuries Cornwall and Devon have been split by a fierce rivalry – that people never truly understand unless they live here.

Perhaps it was sparked by a disagreement over how you should top a scone (jam first – for your information).

Or maybe it was the correct way to crimp a pasty.

The historic border along the River Tamar marks a dividing line between two counties with some friendly competition.

Both would both claim to be better than the other. But those at CornwallLive think their county is oh so much better in every way, which is why they’ve chosen to claim these below landmarks as their own.

Because they really belong in Cornwall, don’t you think?

The nearly home trees

Anyone who has ever been in and out of Cornwall will recognise the beloved ‘nearly home’ trees.

The small copse of trees, found on the A30 near Lifton, marks the border between Cornwall and Devon and are a familiar sight for anyone leaving on their travels or returning home.

But did you realise they are technically located in Devon – over the border in Lifton.

Cookworthy Knapp
Cookworthy Knapp

Known as Cookworthy Knapp, the clump of 140 beech trees have inspired many works of art over the years, but the story behind the landmark is a source of wonder to Devonians and the Cornish.

The cherished sight is known by many different names according to people living in and visiting the area – ‘Cornwall beyond’, ‘grandma’s trees’, ‘nearly home’ or ‘coming home trees’, ‘the unicorn’s wood’ and ‘fairy wood’ – are just a few of the most regularly used nicknames.

Historians believe the trees were planted at the top of the hill around 120 years ago – in about 1900 – however there are a number of suggestions as to why.

One of the most romantic rumours was that the plantation was constructed by a farmer in memory of his late wife. Some say that this is why the aerial view of the copse looks to be in the shape of a heart.

Cookworthy Knapp
Cookworthy Knapp

Others suggest that the trees were intended to be a landscape feature to mark the northern edge of the Lifton Park Estate or as cover for pheasants.

Another nickname for the copse, the Trafalgar Clump, could suggest that the trees were planted in relation to that particular war, however they would have been a bit tardy, given that the battle took place in 1805.

One rather smart suggestion claims that trees were planted in clumps on hills all over the country by cattle drovers, to mark water sources so they knew where they could take their animals to drink.

Smeaton’s Tower

Plymouth’s iconic Smeaton’s Tower has long been a centerpiece on Plymouth’s Hoe and is one of the South West’s most well-known landmarks.

It may come as a surprise, but Smeaton’s Tower hasn’t always been on the Hoe.

You can climb Smeaton's Tower for free
Smeaton’s Tower
(Image: Penny Cross)

The lighthouse was originally built 12 miles away from the city in 1759, on the Eddystone Reef, which is pretty much the same distance from Devon and Cornwall.

It was taken down in the early 1880s when it was discovered that the sea was undermining the rock it was standing on.

But if you climb the 93 steps to the top of Smeaton’s Tower on a clear day – you can still see the original base of the lighthouse standing on the notorious Eddystone Reef.

If that’s not enough – the lighthouse was built by Cornish hands with many tin miners from the county employed during its construction.

Tamar Bridge

No one really knows if Tamar Bridge is Cornish or Devonian, but the argument for Cornwall having it is so we can raise the bridge.

Bridges over the Tamar
(Image: Lawrie Richardson)

Mayflower

Four hundred years ago, a ship carrying around 100 colonists left the shores of England for the new world. The voyage of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower has gone down in history as a pivotal moment for America and has become part of the country’s creation myth.

The traditional history is that the ship left Plymouth in Devon in September of 1620, arriving after a dangerous voyage across the Atlantic at Plymouth in Massachusetts.

But one town in Cornwall has been trying to overturn that history.

It has long been believed by people in Newlyn, in west Cornwall, that their port was the last stop in the old world for the Mayflower.

The Mayflower II, which is a replica of the 17th-century ship Mayflower
(Image: PA)

John Chapman, from Lelant, has campaigned for Newlyn to be recognised as the last port of call for the Mayflower.

He said research undertaken by a highly-respected Plymouth librarian Bill Best Harries proved that the ship had put in for fresh water at the Cornish port.

John, a retired policeman and former radio presenter with Coast FM, said: “Bill Best Harris was a Plymouth librarian responsible for all libraries and many archives in the area. He had unrivalled access to a vast amount of historic information.

“It is commonly accepted that Bill believed that he had uncovered the location where Mayflower finally made ready for the voyage – not at Plymouth but at Newlyn instead.”

He said Plymouth was racked by a cholera outbreak at the time which would have made it an unlikely landing place.

A depiction of the Pilgrim Fathers preparing to board the Mayflower in Plymouth
A depiction of the Pilgrim Fathers preparing to board the Mayflower in Plymouth

John added: “After all the delays, the fresh water for the two-month voyage was now on the turn and Plymouth water was at risk of spreading cholera infection. A port well away from Plymouth was needed to obtain fresh water and offload the cargo which was causing Mayflower to be dangerously overloaded.”

Mr Best Harris passed away in 1989 and – tantalisingly for all concerned – his evidence of a link to Newlyn is now lost.

John said he had been in contact with Mr Best Harris’s son, Sir Martin Best Harris, who remembered how his father “spoke with confidence” of the Newlyn connection.

He added: “Apparently Bill Best Harris did establish a connection but all his research was lost when his weekend home was destroyed by fire. As a result his findings are subject to debate but the evidence must be out there somewhere.”

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