Chris Ryan

Visitor Services Assistant (or, as he puts it, Vehicle Location Consultant), Chapel Porth

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Chris Ryan - Visitor Services Assistant (or, as he puts it, Vehicle Location Consultant)

Chris has worked here for 14 years, he tells us about the atmosphere of the place, the local history, the mystery, and the fun you can have at our simple Cornish beach.

Part of the SS Eltham wreck shows at low tide at Chapel Porth, Cornwall
I really enjoy being able to make someone’s day simply by doing my job.   It’s great when I can offer a sea view parking space, instead of a toilet wall (although it is actually a great toilet wall, being part of the old waterwheel pit that drove the tin ore crushing stamps).  Pointing people in the right direction for the caves, the wreck and the rock pools that are exposed at low tide is fun, they are always keen to explore. 
 
What do visitors like most about the place?
 
They like the closeness of everything - car park to beach, café or loos in 20 seconds. They love the fact that staff are here parking cars (no road rage here thank you) and looking after them.
 
Why were you first interested in the job?
 
My love of the sea came from my Dad, he was a keen sailor and gig rower, and my Grandad who was a ship’s Captain.  I’m Cornish born and bred, and always wanted a job near the sea.  I like to meet interesting people, and visitors from all over, which I get to do here.
 
Has the site changed much over the years?  Have you seen an increase in visitor numbers?
 
The site has hardly changed, and that’s what people love.  Some families have holidayed here for over 50 years.
 
Yes, there has been an increase in visitors, it used to be a bit of a secret, tricky to find down a narrow road, but these days the secrets out.  It’s a fantastic spot.
 
What do you like most about the place?
 
I think that the mining heritage of the area is really interesting, especially as I’m a former mining ‘trammer’ at Wheal Pendarves, Cambourne.  People are amazed to learn that the hills, valley and car park were once a bustling industrial landscape.  At low tide you can walk out on the sand, and see the old Engine House ruins high on the cliff top.
 
I like the local histoy and there is a piece of a wreck that still remains in the sand, but you can only see it on a spring low tide.  It is part of the SS Eltham and her story is a strange one…
 
The 600 ton steamer was found on the 18 November 1928 by locals, after a night of storms and big seas.  She had left Swansea the previous Thursday, laden with a cargo of coal, and was bound for Rouen, France.  However, when she was found, save for a hole in her hull, there was no other damage.  There were no crew, no log book or papers, her anchors and chains were stowed away, and what’s weirdest, there was no cargo, no ton of coal. There had been no reports of flares in the night.  Some sailors of the time believed that she was carried by mysterious vortices, lifted high in to the air, shaking all cargo and objects loose, and finally being dropped at Chapel Porth.
 
What are the most memorable days that you have spent here?
 
The 50th anniversary of Chapel Porth’s bequest by Betty Cowan was a great day – we had vintage cars, a 1950’s band, and the café sold ice-creams at 1950’s prices.  We enjoy our vintage occasions here, like the bellyboarding and the North Cliffs (vintage car) Run.