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H is for Hidden History

Updated: Jul 3, 2020


If you fancy having a Famous Five style adventure this holiday, here's a few of the area's hidden secrets for you to enjoy. Just pack up your sandwiches and lashings of ginger beer and get ready for a "spiffing adventure!"

Treasure Hunting

Whilst enjoying a trip to the beach, you may be surprised what you can find in the sand..

The storms in 2017/18 removed large quantities of sand from Summerlease dunes and uncovered the remains of a railway track in the sands. These tracks are the remnants of the tramway built in the 1920's to transport sand from the beach to barges on Bude canal. More permanent sections of the sand rails can be seen running alongside the canal wharf to the lock gates.

Visit Northcott Mouth at low tide and you may be able to find the wreck of The Bellem - a Portuguese ship seized by the allies in 1916, she foundered in dense fog off Northcott in November 1917. The crew of 33 were rescued but the ship was broken up for scrap. Some remnants of metal work including the boiler can still be found at Menachurch Point at the north end of the beach, but the propshaft was reputedly taken by locals and now supports the barrel at barrel rock on Bude breakwater.

Mysterious Mansions

In 1954, The National Trust purchased Dunsland Estate near Holsworthy - 92 acres of parkland and farmland with a dilapidated manor house, parts of which dated back to the 14th C. 13 years later, the house had been painstakingly restored to its former glory but just a few months before opening to the public, the house and its contents were completely destroyed by a devastating fire. Now the only clue to the casual passer by is the granite gateposts and wrought iron gates at the park entrance. Dunsland is now a lovely peaceful place for a walk, and whilst exploring you may find remains of the old terrace steps, Victorian greenhouses and stable block.

Little more remains of Penhallam Manor near Week St Mary. This is the remains of a fortified medieval moated manor house which was abandoned in the 14th C. Parts of the wall foundations were discovered by archaeologists in the 1960's and 70's. Since then the moat has been restored and the full outline of the house uncovered. Now managed by English Heritage, it is free to visit.

Secret Passageways

Wandering through the streets of Exeter you might be surprised to find just what's underneath your feet! A huge network of Medieval passages were built to bring natural spring water into the city and you can enjoy a guided tour through the vaulted passages - which are the only ones in the UK. Whilst in Exeter you can also join a guided tour that includes the Egyptian style catacombs - the first to be built in England in this style. Find out more about Exeter's history for free at The RAMM.

More adventure ideas..

Find out about shipwrecks & smugglers at Hartland Quay.

Visit a lighthouse - Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Ho.

Find your own treasure island with a day trip to Lundy.

Explore castle ruins at Launceston Castle

Useful Links:

Images of The Bellem used with permission of Paul & Pauline Chandler

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