Welcome to Speedy Piran

Free interactive family adventure stories that help you discover more about Cornwall

 
 

 

No Hot Chocolate!

The Captain has just finished meeting with an old friend in Falmouth when Speedy Piran arrives to collect him from the docks. He has Chalk and Cheese the canoes in tow, and Tom the trawler man's son on board. They are worn out from an exciting day exploring the docks, ships and beaches in the area while they waited. They had seen mediaeval castles and modern ferries and explored loads of harbours and estuaries in the area, but now they are ready for bed.

"Home now?" enquires Speedy Piran hopefully. He reckons they could just make it back in time for a hot chocolate at the boat yard if they are quick.

The Captain is dressed smartly in a naval uniform, complete with a peaked blue cap. "Not today" he replies, "I have an appointment in Truro to keep tomorrow." The Captain is his owner so he had better do what he says. Reluctantly Speedy Piran turns up the River Fal instead.

It is already dark by the time they reach Truro river and getting quite late by the time they moor up in the town centre. As the Captain takes Tom to stay the night in a local inn, he points to a nearby church tower through the darkness.

"Cheer up Speedy Piran, that is the church of St Piran and your namesake" he tells him.

"Is that the lost church we are looking for?" enquires Speedy Piran.

"No, but tomorrow I have an appointment that I think will reveal where it is" he confides, "now sleep well" and with that he leaves Speedy Piran and the two canoes alone on the quay.

"Which church? I can't see a church" moaned Chalk, She is a white canoe that hates the sun, and is always complaining that having to endure endless hours outside isn't good for her complexion.

"You can't see anything in the dark, silly" comes the reply from Cheese. He is a laid back yellow canoe that never worries about anything, but often suffers from his attitude. Chalk is always telling him off for not applying sun tan cream and Cheese has the blisters to prove it.

"It's not the right church anyway" chips in Speedy Piran, "not the one we are looking for. There have been many churches, wells, towns and bays named after St Piran. Even I am named after him, but the Captain has never found the first church, the oratory set up when he first sailed over from Ireland in the 6th century."

"What does he want to find it for anyway? It's just a smelly church. Hardly exciting is it?" said Chalk.

"It's much more than that" said Speedy Piran taking offence, "it's the start of Cornwall's identity. St Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall, and the black and white flag comes from St Piran's discovery of white tin in black rock when he lit a fire. If we could find the lost church, it would unite the Cornish people and attract visitors from all over the world."

"May be it's called the lost church 'cause it's meant to stay lost" sneers Cheese, "Who cares? I'm off to sleep" and a few seconds later, annoying snoring starts from his direction.

"Well I think it sounds interesting" says Chalk.

"It is" Speedy Piran tells her, "and there is even more to find too. The lost church might also have the skull of St Piran. No one knows where it is, but the Captain reckons it might have been buried there to protect it."

"Wow" says Chalk, "we might have a busy day tomorrow."

"We had better get to sleep now then" decides Speey Piran. "Good night Chalk."

Chalk closes her eyes and soon she is asleep too, but Speedy Piran is too excited to go to sleep straight away. He listens to the sounds of the strange quay, the snores of his friends and wonders if tomorrow they really will discover the location of the lost church of St Piran, and may be even his skull too.

 

 

News from the Museum

Next morning, Tom and the Captain haven't reappeared and so he takes Chalk and Cheese for a leisurely look around the the Truro river businesses, quays and boatyards.

When they return later that afternoon, Speedy Piran is eager for news. "Where have you been?" he asks. Tom and the Captain climb aboard and start to head back down the river before they speak.

"We have just spent the day in the Royal Cornwall Museum, reading a report by a man called Dexter" begins the Captain.

"Who was Dexter and what has he got to do with the lost church?" enquires Speedy Piran.

"Dexter used to dig up things lost in the ground. He was an archaeologist but he is long dead now. He wrote his book about the lost church back in 1920. In it he discovered clues that will help us find the site once and for all. He says that he thinks it is near an ancient cross, 8 foot high, next to a stream. This is the clue we have been looking for."

"That is great news" says Speedy Piran.

"Dexter even drew a map. He says it is on Gear Sands, near Perranporth. That is where we are heading now."

"But that is the other side of the county" complains Chalk, "it will take us all night to reach it".

"Who rattled your rudder?" asks Cheese. "If that is where we are going, it sounds fun to me. I quite fancy a paddle in the surf anyway."

"It's true that it will take all night to reach it" agrees the Captain, "but it's where we are heading nonetheless. We will pull in for shelter before the night is through anyway. We can't explore until morning or without sleep, and with that he sets Speedy Piran to full speed, pulls his blue Captain's hat down over his eyes and settles down for a snooze.

 

 

Questions, Questions, Questions

As they motor around the beautiful Cornish coast, Tom tells the story of exploring the museum.

"There was a nice librarian in their who knew a lot about St Piran. While the Captain was reading, she set me a challenge to see if I was worthy of discovering the lost church or not. She gave me three questions to answer.

Sounds like fun thought Speedy Piran. "Ask me too then."

"OK, here goes" starts Tom.

Question 1

"Many towns, bays, wells and churches have been named after a version of St Piran's name. What is the more common version:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 2

Question 2: The Lost Church has remained hidden from view for many centuries, but why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question 3

Which family have helped to protect the skull of St Piran throughout the ages?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stone Heads

"I got them all right too and as a reward, the librarian took me to see three stones that were found by Dexter near the stone cross. These are believed to be part of the oratory that we are looking for. They were carvings of a man, a woman and a cat."

"Really? Why would a cat be in a church?" queries Speedy Piran.

"It seems that when St Piran settled in Cornwall, legend has it that his first congregation was a fox and badger and a bear. The sneaky fox stole St Piran's leather sandals and wanted to eat them, but the badger and the bear brought him back and St Piran told him off. He made the fox go hungry until he had learned his lesson. The cat is the fox and represents the all the animals that St Piran helped when he first arrived."

"Well muddy my mast! That is interesting" says Speedy Piran.

The Captain wakes up and takes over the steering. They round Land's End and after a long while, they steer into the bay of St Ives. They moor up for the night for sleep, food and fuel.

 

 

Perran Bay

Next morning they are awoken early and set off again. After many more hours passing beautiful and stunning scenery, they steer into Perran Bay.

The tide is out and the golden sands stretch as far as Speedy Piran can see. First he sees the small town of Perranporth, built on the approach to a crowded beach at the near end. He can see a busy car park surrounded by shops and cafes, all offering treats for the children on holiday.

As they motor past, Speedy Piran can see cliffs rising high, with lots of excited tourists exploring the many caves and rock pools below, but as they continue, the crowds thin and eventually disappear. By the time the Captain steers for the shore, the beach is deserted.

The Captain cuts the engine and make himself ready for a paddle into shore. He gathers Dexter's map and a radio and skillfully climbs into Chalk the canoe. Tom climbs into Cheese, putting on his life jacket and helmet too.

"We'll stay in touch with you using the radio, Speedy Piran. We need to you wait out here. Don't get anywhere near the waves or it will throw you onto the sands" directs the Captain and with that they eagerly paddle towards the shore.

"I don't like the look of this" complains Chalk, as the Captain paddles closer to the beach. "Are you sure we will make it?"

The Captain is too busy trying to keep the boat upright in the power of the waves to answer. As a huge swell through Chalk forward, it takes all the Captain's strength and experience to keep the nose pointing forward.

Tom is not so lucky. The wave that Tom rode in on was too big for him and Cheese's nose turns left and then rolls over. Tom crawls out but can't hold on as Cheese is washed ashore ahead of him. Tom uses his life jacket and paddle to ride the waves in himself and emerges wet and embarrassed on the beach.

Speedy Piran watches this with alarm, and so he was relieved to hear the radio crackle into life. "We're fine Speedy Piran" radios the Captain, "if a little wet and bruised. We will pull the canoes high up the beach out of the reach of the tide because we don't know how long we will be."

The Captain and Tom turn around and set off up the large sandy crevice between the two cliffs where they slope down to meet in the middle. It is a steep climb, made more difficult by the slipping sands and the lack of any path to follow. Eventually they reach the summit and head for a large stone cross on the horizon. Tom calls in as they reach it.

"Have you found the cross of St Piran?" radios Speedy Piran.

"No" Tom replied. "This is too modern and it's made of concrete. We are looking for a stone cross from the 11th Century. We will keep on looking."

 

 

Searching for The Lost Church

With that, Tom and the Captain turn away from the sea and survey the land in front of them. The whole area is covered in sand hills and valleys, richly woven with low shrubs and grasses. There is no order to any of it, just wilderness. As the Captain looks around, he can understand why St Piran would choose such a place to settle after he arrived by boat from Ireland. The dramatic impact of the landscape, and the isolation, would be ideal for such a hermit.

They scramble down the hill as best they can, and then climb up the next one, searching for the lost church. They can't find any clues and so scramble down the other side, and then back up the next. After an exhausting hour searching they sit down to rest.

"We will be here forever searching the sands" exclaims Tom. "No wonder the place is lost. These dunes stretch as far as I can see" he adds, somewhat dispiritedly. "It must be here somewhere" encourages the Captain, and with that they pick themselves up and continue the search.

At the bottom of the next sand hill, the Captain discovers a ditch running across their path. In it are lots of plants including spiky furze bushes and several small trees.

"What do you make of that?" asks Tom. The Captain thinks for a moment. "It looks like a dry river bed to me and Dexter said it was near a stream, now long drained by the miners. Let us follow it."

They climb down into the ditch and back up the other side. There are no paths but they manage to fight their way through with some difficulty and a few scratches. They are just deciding whether to head left or right when they see a circle against the sky line.

The captain races over towards it and tom catches up to see what he had found. Amid the sands and the grass stands a mighty stone, 8 foot high, with a cross carved into a circle. The cross has been made by making four holes. Once they would have been quarter circles, but any shape has long since been smoothed by the sand on the the wind. However, there is no mistaking it. It is the cross of St Piran.

"We must be close now" realises the Captain looking around expectantly, but as they scan the area they can only see sand and grass. The landscape is beautiful, but desolate. As they search the winds pick up once more and they need to turn away from the gushing wind as it brings more sand ashore. "If only we could find the church, we could shelter in it " calls out Tom, crouching down behind some rocks nearby. The captain hurries over to join him to get away from the sand too.

"You have found something. These rocks we are sheltering behind were put there on purpose" he tells Tom excitedly, "look."

He pulls a small trowel out of his bag, and begins to remove some of the sand and grass from them. After a short while he reveals rectangular blocks of a man made wall, now long collapsed and abandoned.

"You've found the second church" he declares to Tom, and Tom looks around in amazement at his discovery.

"How long has it been here?" he asks.

"Since the 12th century" replies the Captain. "then back in the 1800s the people of the parish were having to dig their way in to use it. They had the same problem with the sand that you are having today. The sands had consumed it. So they took the stones they could and build a third church further inland. They left this site to disappear under the sands."

"The sands have done a good job. It looks like any other pile of rocks to me." After a moment he realises what this means.

"The oratory must be close" he declares. They both hurry to look at the map. "We have the cross, the stream and now the second church. The map shows that the first one is closer to the sea" and off Tom races, hurdling the stream ditch as he searches.

It isn't long before they discover a small hill with an unnatural shape. They see some disused steps in it leading up and at the top they discover a small rock. Into it, weathered by the wind are the words "St Piran" and a plaque explaining everything. This monument finally solves the riddle that had puzzled the captain for so long.

"We've found it Speedy Piran, we've found the lost church" calls in Tom. "But we're not the first. We'll tell you the story when we return."

They make their way back to the beach and realise that the tide had come in quite a way. The waves are calmer now. With a final last effort, they are both able to paddle through the surf and out to where Speedy Piran is waiting for them. They lay still and exhausted, and wrap themselves in towels. Only then does the Captain explain the story he had pieced together.

"In 1911, Dexter and his friends had uncovered the oratory and dug to find many treasures, bones of the dead and the remains of the church walls. Many who helped were interested in the finds for their importance to Cornwall and wanted them to be on display in the museum. However others arrived to steal them. They were greedy and sold them to private collectors who would pay lots of money, but never show them to anyone.

"The local community vowed to protect what was left. The first church had been built in a ditch to protect it from the worst of the weather and so around it they built a building, much like a garage over the remains to protect it.

"Even with this building and a locked door, thieves still broke in and stole the bones and other finds. Desperate action was needed. In 1980, the locals decided to bury the building to protect it from thieves. The oratory was built in a ditch to protect it from the storms, so when the ditch was filled in, the land appears level, with only a small mound showing above the sands. The sands that had forced the second and the third church to be built, were now used to protect it. There it has remained, under the sands, lost and forgotten."

"Well dent my decking, That is fascinating" said Speedy Piran. "But what happens now?"

"It has been my life's work to find the lost church, and you have helped me do it" the Captain says contented and exhausted from his adventure. "But actually we have found two churches and they both need reclaiming from the sands once and for all. I think it is time to call in some friends of mine."

When the Captain arrives back in Treeth, he makes a few phone calls, packs a few essentials and returns to Gear Sands. Over the next few days, the typically quiet place sees a lot of activity. The captains friends are people who dig up old things found in the ground. These archaeologists are very excited to find out that the Captain had rediscovered the location of the two churches of St Piran.

They set up tents and bring in lots of volunteers to help clear away the sands covering the second church, over 250 tonnes of it! After many, many weeks, they discover that much of the lower walls to the building are still in place, although they are in poor condition. It is decided to protect them with a lime plaster and they employ some local experts to do it and stop the decay becoming any worse. The archaeologists also discover many bones and skeletons, although no skull on it's own.

Speedy Piran returns a few weeks later, and calls the Captain on his radio to tell him he had arrived. The Captain and the head archaeologist come down to the beach and are really pleased to see him.

"It all thanks to you and the decisions you have made" the archaeologist tells Speedy Piran. "You learned enough to help the captain locate the two St Piran churches. Now we have now excavated as much as we can around the second church and we made some great finds."

"Have you found St Piran's skull yet? What about the lost church, the Oratory?" asks Speedy Piran. "What progress have you made there? "

"That is a much bigger job. We need to clear away the sands that have buried the building, before we can take the building down" replies the archaeologist.

Speedy Piran is excited about this, but wants the dig to begin straight away. "Why can't we start now?" he asks.

"First we must raise a lot of money to pay for a survey and the equipment we need. Only then will we discover if the skull of St Piran is still buried in his old church."

Speedy Piran sighs in disappointment. The archaeologist is pleased though.

"These things take time. The people of Cornwall now know the place that St Piran first settled when he arrived from Ireland. They finally have a site to visit to pay their respects, and a cause to unite behind in raising the funds to reveal the foundations. The people of Cornwall will never be able to thank you and the Captain enough."

This cheers up Speedy Piran. He is happy to help the Captain find the lost church, but he realises that there is still a lot to do to discover all it's secrets. The search for the lost skull continues....


The End


 

For more information about the St Piran Trust, click on the logo.

The trust is engaged in uncovering the Oratory of St Piran near Perranporth in Cornwall, and in preserving other sites associated with the saint, including Perran Round and the Old Church. 

Note from the author:

The trust is not linked in any way to www.speedypiran.co.uk, I just liked the story about the lost church and so it inspired the Speedy Piran stories. The old church (the second one) has recently been excavated and preserved by the trust, and they continue the work to raise funds and restore 'The Lost Church'. Please visit the site and consider making a donation to this worthy cause.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops...

"No, Speedy Piran, that's not correct. Why don't you have another go?" suggests Tom.

 

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Correct!

"That's right !" says Tom. "Now for question 2."

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops...

"No, Speedy Piran, that's not correct. Why don't you have another go?" suggests Tom.

 

 

 

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Correct!

"Well done !" says Tom. "Now for question 3."

Speedy Piran

 

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oops...

"No, Speedy Piran, that's not correct. Why don't you have another go?" suggests Tom.

 

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Correct!

"You have been paying attention on our adventures Speedy Piran " says Tom. "All correct ."

 

 

 

Continue....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All content designed and created by Marc Coton. Please enjoy, but remember, it's mine!

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