The Zimapanners

 

 

 

 

                                                

 

Life at Zimapan 
 
1987-1989
 
The Prentices 

Prentices move into Zimapan (1987)
In 1987, Pete and Pam Prentice sold their house in Truro and bought a plot of land in Cornwall. In need of a temporary home while their new home was being built, and knowing that nearby Zimapan had been empty for years, they approached its owner Brian See, and asked him whether they could stay in the house. The house was in "an appalling state", despite all the time that had been spent renovating it five years earlier, and "was not really habitable, but my kids loved it", Pam recalls.


Zimapan from beyond the line of boundary stones
Photo: Courtesy of Pam Prentice

No rental agreement
Brian See agreed, and so the Prentices moved into Zimapan in April 1987, with their three children, aged 7, 9 and 11. They ended up living there for two years while they were building their own house, Rivendell, in the village of Tresillian, about three miles outside Truro. There was no rental agreement; Brian See kindly let them live in the house for free, but they did pay the council tax and the utility bills. This suited the Prentices down to the ground, as Pete was working on the new house and had no paid employment as such, while Pam was the one with a regular income from her job as a mortgage manager at Midland Bank (later HSBC).

Idyllic playground for children
The Prentice's children loved playing in the nearby woods (Unity Wood), which lie immediately behind the back garden wall. The family had some great parties and barbecues, and had bands come and play for them in the front garden. Pam Prentice's adventurous children enjoyed living in Zimapan and roaming about the house and grounds, and they would often invite their friends over for birthday parties or just to stay over. They buried the family cat, Mungo, in the garden.



Children's tea-party in front garden at Zimapan 
Photo: Courtesy of Pam Prentice 

Hallway of the 'count house'
The hallway, or entrance hall, Pam was told, was "where the mine captain paid out the wages". The building was always known to them as the 'count house'. In Cornwall, count houses (or counting houses) were mine offices where the mining records were stored, the accounts were kept, and the mine captain would meet and pay the miners their wages each week.2 No early 19th century Cornish mining tokens such as the locally made Scorrier House penny
 were ever found during renovations.

Lake in back garden
There was a large holed area in the back garden that had been used to dump building rubble. One day, during a heavy thunderstorm, the holed area filled up with rainwater and turned into a small 'lake'. The children got hold of a rubber dingy and sat in it on the lake. There was a dilapidated greenhouse at the back of the house.


Peter Prentice and two of the children in Dante
in the rainwater 'lake' at Zimapan
Photo: Courtesy of Pam Prentice

Lay-by
The Prentices never really used the lay-by as they parked their cars (mini plus another car) in the front garden. Just outside the large white farm-type gate were shrubs and bushes that had long been neglected. Pam used to hoe and clean away the debris and cut them back. The bushes grew on both sides of the garden gate. On the odd occasion, a car would park in the lay-by which drew Pam's suspicions. It was usually someone who was just walking their dogs in the woods; the path to Unity Wood was just a few yards further down from the gate.

Football match in paddock
Pam used to mow the 'paddock'—the plot of ground that lay beyond the walled area—on which the children played football. "It took a lot of time to mow as it was quite large". Beyond the paddock was Unity Wood. Pam's children once had a football match in the paddock. The grown-ups had started off partying in the garden while the teenage boys were playing football on the paddock. It was not long before all the adults joined in the match and were playing a full-blown match against the children. [6]

Garden enjoyed by wildlife
On one occasion, Pam's son came running up to her shouting that a herd of cows had entered the garden and were walking all over the front lawn! On another occasion, in the afternoon, thousands of baby frogs hopped across Zimapan's back garden. "No-one knew where they were migrating to. They had most probably jumped out of the nearby man-made lake" and hopped, skipped and jumped all the way up to the Prentice's back door, after which they crossed the main road, never to be seen again.

Man-made lake
A local farmer once had builders bring lorries full of landfill onto the land neighbouring Zimapan. The lorries were full of hardcore from building sites, and the farmer paid them to dump their loads on the site where he had made a man-made lake, just beyond Zimapan. One of Pam's sons went through the nearby woods when he was last in Cornwall a while back, and noticed that the lake had disappeared.

New kitchen installed
Pam and Pete often used the back kitchen/dining room which opened onto the side and the back lounge, which was quite large. To one side of this room was the original kitchen, which Pam remembers was "quite grotty, so we never went in there". Her husband also installed a second-hand kitchen (see floor plan). "Pete was very talented at his trade; he'd worked on film sets as a painter, and so always had good ideas".


Photo: Pam Prentice in the kitchen in Zimapan 

Brain See's drawing room: storeroom for antiques
The drawing room, situated to the left of the porch with its new central door, was filled with furniture that Brian See had collected, so the Prentices were not able to use this room, and Brian never used it. Brian See used to store his collection of "old bits and pieces, mostly antiques; nothing was ever new or to my taste". Due to neglect rather than bad management, the inner wall in the drawing room collapsed while the two Petes were renovating the room, and so the lath and plaster wall had to be replaced. They used new plasterboard for this.

The Williamses
Pete and Pam Prentice never met the Williams families, either those in Scorrier House or those living in near-by Tregullow House. "We never really mixed with anyone other than Christine Humphries across the road". Both worked and were out all day, and were "too busy building the new house", which absorbed all of their spare time. Once a year, Pam recalls, the Williams family would open up their house for a Red Cross charity day in their garden, but they never went. "The Williams's house was far behind high walls, so we never really noticed them".

Tregullow Cottage
Just opposite Zimapan was a small house called Tregullow Cottage which Pam Prentice believes the Williams's sold to Christine Humphries, who lived there with her then husband and two children. Pam met Christine through her husband. Mrs Humphries got divorced but continued living in the cottage with her children for many years. Later, Christine Humphries met and married a central-heating and boiler technician called Frank Massey. The couple eventually moved to a smallholding in Vogue. One of Christine's (now Christine Massey) daughters, Lois Trathen, still lives in Tregullow Cottage.

House burgled after Prentices moved out
After the Prentices moved out of Zimapan into their new home in the village of Tresillian at the end of 1989, they heard that Brian See's drawing at Zimapan had been broken into, and that thieves had stolen much of his antique furniture collection. Following the burglary, Christine Massey (née Humphries), who lived opposite Zimapan in one of the Tregullow Cottages, moved into Zimapan with her daughter, Lois Trathen, to house-sit. While living there, the Humphries rented out their own cottage to ensure it, too, was not targeted by burglars as a result of being left unoccupied.

Christine Massey later moved to St Ives, but Lois remained in the Tregullow Cottage.


Footnote
Recollections of Pam Prentice, 2009.