Life in No Man’s Land, the tiny village that’s split in two

There is a small village in Cornwall that never fails to intrigue motorists or first-time visitors.

No Man’s Land, a couple of miles from Looe, bears a name we have all heard in history lessons.

But No Man’s Land is not a mysterious and unoccupied land, nor is it located between two enemy trenches.

It is actually quite a normal village – except for the fact that it’s split in two.

“It’s an old village,” says Barbara Reynolds, who has lived there for 49 years. “It didn’t actually belong to any particular place.

“Now there’s a bit of a split and the parish is divided straight down the main road.”

No Man’s Land belongs to two different parishes, Morval and St Martin, and is represented by two different parish councils.

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Local historian Jenny Wallis, who regularly writes her ‘History Snippet’ column in the St Martin parish magazine, explained that, in the 16th century, the piece of land where the village lies was not claimed by either of the parishes when they had to define their boundaries – which explains the settlement’s curious name.

Ms Wallis wrote: “Once upon a time, when the first Elizabeth was Queen, there was much unrest in the land. The monasteries had gone – and all their good works – and the countryside was beset with beggars and vagabonds, the halt and the lame, wounded soldiers and political refugees. Parishes had to raise a tax! This did not meet with universal approval.

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

“But it was seen as fair to care for your own parishioners. Legislation was imposed. (…) The congregation was required to ‘beat the bounds’ of the parish so that everyone grew up knowing where their responsibilities lay. Licences to travel were introduced – and anyone found beyond their home parish could be whipped and branded.

“So St Martin’s beat its bounds (on Rogation Sunday) and Morval beat its bounds and it became apparent that there was a piece of land that was not claimed by either – No Man’s Land!”

The road down to the Village Hall in No Man's Land
The road down to the Village Hall in No Man’s Land
(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Ms Wallis explained that the boundaries eventually became blurred.

“So the exact location of No Man’s Land is unclear,” she wrote.

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

The plan is now to merge the village together for all inhabitants to be part of the same parish. A decision should be made in the near future by the Boundary Commission for England.

One thing the villagers who spoke to Cornwall Live agreed on, is that No Man’s Land is a lovely place to live in.

Roberta Powley, vice chairman of St Martin Parish Council, said: “It’s a very close and helpful community.

“I’ve lived here all my life, I love it. We’ve closed the village hall because of COVID but it’s usually very busy.”

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

Karen Brown has been living in the village for seven years.

“We always get together at Christmas,” she said. “The village is close enough to Looe to have the beach and shops, but it’s also remote enough to avoid the tourists during the summer.

“I’ve got the countryside views as well. It couldn’t be better placed. Plymouth isn’t too far and Truro is on the other side.

“I feel very lucky to live here.”

(Image: Greg Martin / Cornwall Live)

But No Man’s Land also has its own issues, just like any other village in Cornwall. The main one is the B3253, a 50mph road which runs through the village.

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“It’s quite scary, really,” Karen said. “People often do 70mph. It’s really, really bad. There are a few children who live around here.”

The village has its own shop, its own 20ft Christmas tree during the festive period, and a secret well, which is now being covered by a bus stop.

Cornwall Live