A Cornish Delight

As the weather improves, more sunshine hours cheer us up and we start thinking about our holidays, many of us will be booking an annual trip to Cornwall – myself included!

While we may hope for the best possible weather on a trip to the surfing heaven of the south west, the skies often don’t turn out to be so fantastic. It’s a good idea to have a wet weather plan.

The Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is one fabulous indoor attraction that should be pencilled into your diary – and it’s one of 50 Days Out Underground to feature in my new book.

Porthcurno is the home of the telegraph – and remarkably, this is the place where underground cables leave the UK and go all over the world.

From the white building close to the shore, cables were laid in Victorian days along the floor of oceans so that Morse Code messages could be sent to all corners of the British Empire, from India to America and Australia.

Whereas delivering messages by boat could take weeks, the telegraph allowed messages to be sent and deciphered in seconds and allowed real-time conversations to take place between people at different ends of the Earth.

The communication hub at Porthcurno was so important during the Second World War that the entire operation room was transferred into a specially created bunker beneath a hillside so it could not be bombed by German aircraft.

This underground transmission centre was a key player in the war years, sending key information abroad and planting red herrings in case the enemy was listening in.

Complete with thick blast doors, measures to take against a gas attack and an emergency exit to the top of the cliff, much of the underground lair remains as it did back when this rural part of Cornwall was on the frontline.

The rest of the museum is a joy to tour around as well, keeping visitors informed about how communications has changed over time, from semaphore to the internet.

Top of the exhibits is a table where two people can sit end to end, sending and receiving Morse Code messages. Trying to decipher them is a lot harder than it sounds and the speed in which the experts did it is bewildering.

Days Out Underground: 50 Subterranean Adventures Beneath Britain is published by Bloomsbury and signed copies are available to buy here.

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About peternaldrett

I'm a writer who contributes to newspapers and magazines on a regular basis and has also published several outdoor guides to the Peaks, Lakes and Yorkshire Dales. I write educational material for multiple publishers and have just finished writing my first book for Bloomsbury - out in 2019. My new Peak District Year Round Walks is out now.
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