Meet the GM

MEET THE GM – MARTIN LYALL

Those of you who have visited Bodmin recently will have noticed the tall, yellow crane and scaffolding surrounding the town’s most historic and iconic building. Cornwall’s former county Gaol which originally opened in 1779, is currently in the middle of the largest private leisure development in the South West since the Eden Project; a £40 million investment that will result in a world class visitor attraction and 70-bedroom boutique hotel, both scheduled to open in 2020.

Behind the scaffolding, the Bodmin Jail team is busy getting the new attraction ready for the opening launch, led by general manager, Martin Lyall. Martin was appointed in December 2016 to help steer the business through the development, and he’s really had his hands full!

Martin Lyall – pictured on the right – presenting Cornwall Hospice Care with a fundraising auction cheque from Bodmin Jail

‘What I like most is being instrumental in managing the transformation of such an iconic building from start to finish,” Martin says when asked about what he loves about his job. “I work with an amazing group of people who are truly passionate about what they do, and this dedication is going to be very obvious once we open the new attraction.’

Bodmin Jail is steeped in history and heritage, with a whole host of stories, legends and paranormal activities to keep visitors entertained. ‘Let’s just say there is definitely an atmosphere and a presence,’ Martin says about the haunted reputation of the Jail. Any favourite prisoner stories? ‘I love the chap who kept committing a petty crime each year, just before Christmas, so he could get a half decent meal and a warm bed for Christmas,’ he laughs.

Horseshoe batThe building works have not been without challenges, and Martin and the team have had to steer through some interesting situations over the last few years. ‘The biggest challenge we faced was probably the bats,’ Martin states. ‘Bodmin Jail is home to over seven species of bats, including two species of the very rare Horseshoe Bat. As part of the development we have worked very closely with ecologists to ensure we protect the bats and their habitat – we even built a bat bungalow to ensure they have somewhere to roost!’

Martin, who grew up with a father in the RAF, moved to Cornwall in 2016 with his wife, who’s from the South West. ‘I love the beaches, the walks and the culture of Cornwall,’ he says. ‘The heritage and the history are what attracted me to Bodmin Jail in the first place – the chance to deliver an experience like no other by restoring the ruins of this captivating monument so that new generations can experience and understand its importance. We want to give people the opportunity to really feel, hear and taste what it was like to be a prisoner in 18th century Cornwall!’

‘The new year has seen some real developments in the building project,’ he continues. ‘We have finally got a roof on the Jail for the first time in a century! What a milestone.’

 


Posted: 5th February 2020 By: Tara Jones



Beast of Bodmin

Is there such a creature?

image Beast of Bodmin MoorThe so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor has sparked stories and legends for three decades about a phantom black cat the size of a puma stalking the moors of Cornwall. Since 1978, more than 60 reports have baffled local police about sightings of a large cat-like creature with supposedly sharp, prominent teeth and white-yellow eyes; a cross between a domestic cat and a panther. A string of mutilated livestock has done nothing but fuel the rumours.

Some people have reported being chased by the powerful and scary cat-like creature. Others have spotted it in the distance, not quite believing their eyes. Grainy photographs and video footage exist, but not enough to prove that it is real.

In 1995 the Government ordered an official investigation into the existence of the beast, which concluded that there was no verifiable evidence of a big cat on Bodmin Moor. It is worth noting it was careful to state that there was no evidence against it, either.

Theories abound as to whether the beast is a myth or reality. A small boy found a large cat skull lying on the banks of the River Fowey in the late 1990s. It was thought this was finally evidence that the Beast of Bodmin Moor actually had existed. However, the Natural History Museum confirmed that the skull did, indeed, belong to a leopard, but that the leopard had been imported into Britain as part of a leopard skin rug!

Another long-held hypothesis about the Bodmin Beast centres around the release or escape of big cats from private collections or zoos. It was first claimed that Mary Chipperfield, a 1970s British circus entertainer, released three pumas into the wild following the closure of her Zoo in Plymouth in 1978. Another claim was made in 2016 by Dartmouth Zoo about a pack of pumas released in the 1980s, which would explain the existence of big cats on the moor for the last 30 years. However, scientists have rejected this theory based on the grounds that the numbers needed to sustain a breeding population of big cats would be too large for the food supply.

There is, of course, the possibility that the animal is a species of wild cat thought extinct in Britain many years ago, still surviving on the moors of Cornwall. Others blame the paranormal, believing the beast to be a mythical and ghostly apparition of a creature that roamed Cornwall in the past.

Meanwhile, the Beast of Bodmin sightings continue


Posted: By: Tara Jones