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9th March 2015
Photos of Padstow Obby Oss Cornwall
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About Padstow Obby OssPadstow is located about seven miles from Wadebridge at the mouth of the River Camel. The Cornish word for Padstow is Lannwedhenek and it was originally named Petroc-stow after a Welsh missionary called St. Petroc who landed at nearby Trebetherick in around AD 500.
The town is situated on the West side of the Camel estuary in North Cornwall in an area of outstanding natural beauty that has wonderful bays and beautiful golden beaches. Padstow has an extremely mild climate and a very sheltered position due to its position on the River Camel estuary. The area rarely has snow and there are very few days of frost.
Padstow has a long history dating back to well before the birth of Christ it is known that around 2500 BC people travelled from Brittany to Ireland and used the Camel valley on their journeys During the Reformation the church no longer controlled Padstow and the ownership of the land was transferred to the Prideaux family. On the site of the former Barton of the Monks of Bodmin the family built Prideaux Place which was completed in the 16th century and still has one of the oldest deer parks in the country. This house is, even today, in the hands of descendants of the Prideaux family and is open to the public on some afternoons. Sir Walter Raleigh also lived in Padstow when he was Warden of Cornwall, and his Court House on Riverside is now a private residences and are not open to the public. Padstow's importance as a port developed from earliest times and it was here in 1565 that Sir John Hawkins took shelter when returning from the West Indies so did Sir Martin Frobisher on his return journey from his search for the North West Passage to China in 1577.
Padstow had a thriving fishing industry and during the 17th century, when mining in Cornwall was expanding the area shipped copper ore to Bristol and slates were exported. In the 19th century a number of ship-building yards were built and the fishing industry was at its height pilchards were landed and cured here. 1899 saw the arrival of the railway which helped the port and also started the beginning of the tourist industry. During the 20th century there has been a decline in the fishing industry and this was badly affected when the railway closed. The old railway line is now the Camel Trail, a footpath and cycle path which is popular owing to its picturesque route beside the River Camel. Also for the nature lovers and walker there is a long distance footpath known as the Saints' Way which starts in Padstow and ends at Fowey on the other side of Cornwall.
Padstow is perhaps best known for its "'Obby 'Oss" festival and although its origins are uncertain it is probably an ancient fertility rite, it has been speculated that it is the Celtic fstival of Beltane Celebrations begin in the early morning on May Day with the 'Obby Oss' that looks like a big black caped animal and is thought to represent a stallion. This oss has a strange mask and snapping jaws. There is a strange pagan dance and the rhythm of the drum beat is quite hypnotic and infectious. The song sung is the May Day 'Day Song' and the words are
Unite and unite let us all unite,
For summer is acome unto day,
And whither we are going we will all unite,
In the merry morning of May.
The day is very popular and people crowd onto the narrow streets and harbour to watch the procession. It is great fun especially as the 'Obby Oss' is led on by a 'Teaser' who dances around the 'Oss' and prods him with a special padded stick
On Boxing Day and New Year's Day, there is another old tradition for some residents of Padstow who blacken their faces and parade through the town singing minstrel songs. The day was called "Darkie Day" but has now been renamed mummer's day in an attempt to avoid any offence
Around the harbour there are craft and gift shops, bookshops, grocers, newsagents, leather workshops, a home-made fudge shop and a lot more. Today Padstow is still a working fishing port and its produce has been made world famous by Rick Stein, his television series and the restaurants that he owns in the area.
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