Family’s declaration of love to Cornwall after 50 years of visits

A Cornwall-loving family have made it to the county to celebrate half a century of precious trips.

Visiting since pre-internet and pre-motorway, the Riggs’ say they fall more in love with Cornwall every year and see it as a spiritual home.

It was 1970 when Marina Riggs, now 83, first stepped foot on Cornish soil with her late husband Tom and his two sons, Reg and Ron.

In the years that followed they welcomed three sons of their own and even joke that youngest son, David, was almost born Cornish when an eight-months’ pregnant Marina was powering through the coast path trails.

As the years have passed and with new family members coming and going, one thing has been a constant – a Riggs’ family holiday to Cornwall.

And so this year, gutted by the prospect that coronavirus could see their holiday cancelled, Marina, 83, stepson Reg, 58, and son David, 47, are over the moon to be spending two weeks exploring their home away from home.

“We usually always visit for the first two or three weeks of July but this year we were really disappointed at the prospect of potentially not making it to Cornwall to celebrate 50 years,” said David.

Reg and Marnia overlooking the bay at Penhale Caravan & Camping Park, where they have been staying for two decades
(Image: David Riggs)

“But fortunately the pandemic has not held us back and we have felt very safe. We tend to keep away from the crowds anyway because we like exploring the countryside.”

“All those years ago it was a friend of a friend who introduced us to Cornwall,” said Marina. “They lived in Par and it always worked as a good base for Cornwall with the location. I still remember the beach all those years ago and the barbed wire on it.

“I have seen Cornwall change lots over the years.”

Reg, who was just eight years old on their first holiday in 1970, says he has always loved Cornwall for its unique qualities: “It is such a unique county with the cliffs and the industrial history of it all and I find the China clay past very fascinating.”

While David, who was born not long after they returned to Southampton following their third Cornish holiday, says he thinks the family fell for the endless exploration that Cornwall has to offer.

“Even to this day, after 50 years, we are always finding and discovering new things,” he said.

Marina, 86, holding an image from their first ever visit to Cornwall in 1970

“I live in Wales now but I have always loved the Celtic spirit and Cornwall has that same spirit to I truly do think of it as my spiritual home here.

“I actually went off and got married and had children of my own so stopped visiting Cornwall for a number of years and then returned to coming back with mum and dad years later.”

Eight years ago was a particularly special year for the family as it would be the late Tom’s final visit to the Duchy.

Even now they always make sure they pin a picture up of him in whichever static caravan they have booked so “he is always with us”.

Marina added: “We have met a ton of people over the years and made some great friends. Some have come and gone but it has been a great experience.

“When you visit somewhere so often you get to know people and we have been visiting the same cafes and places for 50 years and you see so much change.”

The late Tom Riggs’ last visit to Cornwall in 2012. Marina and Tom first came to the duchy in 1970 with Tom’s sons, Reg and Ron.

Back in 1970 Marina and her husband paid just £25 for two adults and two children to ride the train down from Southampton to Cornwall, which would take seven hours.

Today it takes them just two hours to drive on a good day.

“The first year we ever came down we ended up in Paignton somehow and it wasn’t just a simple case of getting the next train,” she said.

Marina and Tom pictured at St Mawes in 1996

Asked why they never made the plunge to move here, Marina said they had seriously thought about it once the children were older but getting a good job in Cornwall at the time was really difficult.

“David was just coming out of college and there really were not any good job opportunities in Cornwall. Tom and I really did consider it though.”

“I won’t stop coming until I’m psychically unable to,” said Marina. “We love it here and it holds so many special memories for our family.”

Cornwall Live