|Cornwall October 2003
A 4:00am start saw us pass the first planned stop of the day in the pitch dark. Popham Beacons were totally invisible at 5:30, so we continued on via Salisbury, down through the mist and fog toward Dorchester.
The first site of the holiday was therefore The Nine Stones of Winterbourne Abbas, after a break for breakfast at the local Little Chef.
Visited 3rd October 2003
Even at 7:30 in the morning, the A35 is a damn dangerous place! Parking on the wrong side of the road in the 'makeshift layby', I precariously made my way the 50 yards along the road to the small concrete bridge across the ditch to the oasis of calm that is the stones. Despite laying only feet from the roar of the traffic, I was surprised at how little it intruded upon the stones.
A ritual had obviously been performed here the previous evening, as a clear swept circle of leaves remained in the middle of the stones. Unfortunately, the light was all wrong for photographs, and I encountered the same difficulties in taking pictures that I had when trying to photograph the Hoar Stone
at Enstone. All were out of focus, with a strong colour cast, despite using a monpod.
Access: Dodgy, even for the fully fit, due to the traffic hazard.
Continuing along the A35 we passed through the Winterbourne Poor Lot barrow cemetery, but missed the lay-by that contains the Broad Stone. We did stop to take a look at the Helstone though, shrouded in the mist alone in its field.
A couple of hours later, we pulled into Chagford for a comfort stop, and to check the maps to find the way to Fernworthy Forest.
Visited 3rd October 2003
Like Martin, we drove as far as possible along the approach road, past the official car park. The forest track heads off to the left from this point (don't follow the footpath immediately ahead). The track rises steadily for a way (took me what felt like about 5-10 minutes, but with no watch it's hard to say). Suddenly the clearing appeared to the right. Two large stones proclaimed the entrance, but I think they're there to stop possible vehicles (which obviously use the track) from progressing further. The site opened up from this point on, everything being nicely laid out before me.
There was no fire damage evident within the circle, although there was a fire pit just outside of it. What was obvious to me, was the slant of the circle, with taller stones on the south progressing down to smaller ones on the northern side. I'd seen this effect before, during our trip to Ireland earlier this year. I don't recall seeing this in other circles in this country, but then I don't remember what I had for breakfast this morning!
Later: I saw this Frith photo
which shows the site in 1907 - quite a difference!
Access: A fair uphill trek to get to the area of the sites. I wouldn't want to push a wheelchair up here - it's quite a bumpy path.
3rd October 2003
From the access track, several very low stones, barely poking above the earth were evident. Also apparent were several moss covered tree stumps, which confused the picture somewhat, as it was necessary to determine which were stones and which were stumps. It was quite tricky to make out the stone row, which didn't seem that straight to me.
3rd October 2003
Lying to one side, in a cleared area parallel with the forest track, the cairn sadly had a significant fire pit on top of the mound. Despite the low number of stones, the circle can clearly be seen.
3rd October 2003
The northern row gave me slightly less difficulty that the southern row, but many of the stones are extremely low indeed. The blocking stone stands a foot or so high and was the most recognisable to me, the grass being fairly rough and high during my visit.
Having already been on the road for several hours, and still a long way to go, I decided to forgo trekking out to the Greywethers on this occasion. We failed to spot the Heath Stone either whilst approaching or leaving the forest, but there are a lot of stones, random bumps 'n lumps and the remains of old field walls to choose from.
As the mist was finally lifting, and the sun broke through as we crossed over Dartmoor, I took the opportunity to revisit the Merrivale complex as my previous visit had been somewhat damp.
3rd October 2003
Last time I was here, it was typically Dartmoor damp. This morning, it was typical Dartmoor sunshine, a glorious day!
I took my time walking the rows, circumnavigating the circle and outlier and I actually found the cracked cist this time - I'd totally missed it last time round.
An excellent place to stop on the moor whatever the weather.
Stopping briefly in Liskeard for a late lunch, we eventually arrived in West Penwith some 320 miles and 13 hours after leaving home.
Despite copious lists, and piles of printouts, I'd planned nothing particular for today, so we drove into Redruth, and did some retail therapy. From there, we approached Carwynnen, where I viewed the quoit from the road, rather than clamber over the field boundary and trespass. We then drove down to Porthleven for lunch before heading back toward Penzance. Travelling along the A30, I was heading for St Just's airport when Boscawen-un slipped past. I quickly pulled over into the small lay-by and headed down the path to the circle.
4th October 2003
I adore this place - I want to have its babies. The bracken was chest high, and I wasn't sure how much I'd see of the circle today, but I needn't have worried as the centre stone was easily viewed from the approach. When I was last here at this time last year, the stones were almost completely covered by the bracken, but some care has been taken this year to keep them clear. The sun shone, and the stones were all quite warm, apart from the large quartz stone, which was icy cold to the touch. Its magic worked on me once again, and I found it very difficult to leave. I daren't look back as I finally left, in case I felt impelled to return.
Access: Difficult even in good conditions -it's a tricky (though not long) walk from the road whichever direction you approach from. I'd suggest able bodied access only.
Returning to the car, we continued on to the airport (where I booked my ticket for the Scillies for next Friday). Travelling through St Just (one day, we want to live here) I'd hoped to revisit the Tregeseal Dancing Stones and to find the holed stones close by, but I missed the turning.
We therefore continued on to Men an Tol studio, where I'd hoped to pick up some books, but the studio was closed for the winter. Rather than walk up to the Men an Tol today, I consoled myself by stopping at Lanyon Quoit and took some photos there.
We continued back to Penzance and the A30, past Madron Well, which I noted is no longer signposted simply as 'Madron Well', but as 'Boswarthen celtic chapel and well'.
The final stop of the day was the Fairy Well at Lelant.
4th October 2003
This place is seriously out of the way! Thanks are due to Goffik for his directions which led me straight there. This is not somewhere that someone who has a problem with heights (like me!) should go. Goffik's directions state 'take the left fork'. As the path clings limpet like to the side of a very high cliff, the only way I could see a left fork taking me was straight down. Luckily, the main path forked right and up, and the left fork consisted of just a few steps down to the well itself. There's not much more than a thin covering of foliage stopping anyone falling off the cliff though, so I wouldn't suggest visiting here in wet or windy weather.
Access: Not for the faint-hearted!
We started the day at a Boot Sale in Hayle, hunting in vain for bargains. No archaeo books to be seen.
After a quick and noisy breakfast in Tesco's, we headed along the Zennor coast road, heading inland for the Men an Tol. I decided to take the walk this time, and managed to get some good photos.
5th October 2003
Having read the Cornwall Archaeological report from 1993 last night, I'm more convinced that this was a circle at some point in the past. On previous visits, I'd not noticed the buried stones, and the approach path from the track has what could possibly be a fallen (and now semi-buried) outlier across it. To me, this only adds weight to the theories.
We headed south toward Tregeseal, but the track I'd hoped to take (at SW372324) proved impassable in the car, and with time passing, we continued on. Tregeseal will have to wait.
Continuing around on the coast road, we came to Sennen.
5th October 2003
From opposite Sennen Church (with its couple of fine old crosses), a private road runs back toward the farm buildings. The footpath is shown as going up to the shed, but I'm not sure where it goes from there. I ventured over the locked gate, and around the back of the shed, startling a large fox in the process.
The stone, visible from the road when the foliage is low, is built into the field boundary wall, is covered in lichen, and I'd guess stands approx 3-4 metres tall. Being on private land, permission should really be sought, but there was no-one around during my brief visit, other than a herd of cows in the neighbouring field.
Alsia Holy Well was next on today's list, so we headed inland toward St Buryan.
5th October 2003
After a false start, confused a little by the directions here, I found the stile easily enough. Park by the Alsia Farm entrance drive, and walk down (West) past the Mill. The stile is on the left, opposite what would be a parking place if not blocked off by stones. Climb up the stile steps and a totally unexpected view awaits. A pleasant meadow with a large informational sign leads to the far field boundary, where another small sign points to the (private) footpath leading to the well. Down the hill, the bracken and brambles open up on the right, and turning right into the brambles again reveals the rusty gate by the well.
Access: The initial stile is quite high, but the walk is reasonable across grassland. The return trip is uphill, and the stile can be tricky to return down to the road.
Passing through St Buryan, and saying a quick hello to the ancient cross outside the church, we carried on up to the A30, to Drift, then NW past the reservoir to Sancreed and the Holy Well.
5th October 2003
I took the approach from the telephone box opposite Sancreed Church, which had a sign advising that an alternative path was available 300yds up the road. The approach was long and narrow - no room for a wheelchair here. The path is quite clearly delineated, except for one point where stiles appear both in front, and to the right. I chose right, which was right! A short incline, and the well appeared in front of me. The first thing I saw was the ugly modern cross that's been erected here. Climbing down into the well, I spotted the phosphorescence straight away, but it proved difficult to photograph. Sitting in the cracks on the far walls, it gave the impression of minute fairy grottoes, complete with lighting!
After 10 minutes or so, I began to feel uneasy, and had the start of a headache, so decided to leave. But before finally leaving I took a quick look at the remains of the small chapel just above the well. Only part of the walls remain, similar to, but in a worse condition than the chapel at Madron
Leaving via the continuation of the footpath, after a short climb a stile led to the road, just around the corner from my starting point.
Deciding to miss the rest of the day's list, we returned to Hayle to prepare for the evening's entertainment: The Old Rope String Band were playing at Praa Sands. An excellent evening's fun - this is the fourth time I've seen them in 10 years, and I always leave in pain from laughing so hard! Well recommended.
After last night's excitement, today was to be a gentler day. A trip into Truro proved expensive. I saw a copy of Barnatt's Sacred Wells of Cornwall for sale in a flea market for £75! I was sorely tempted, it being a limited, signed edition, but finally managed to resist, rationalising that I could spend that amount on books about stones (my primary interest), whilst wells are only a secondary interest. In fact, I spent that, and more during a visit to the museum, lusting over the Neolithic finds and geological displays, then picking up an armful of books in the museum shop. This was followed by a visit to an antiquarian bookshop (another 25 quid), then Mikki kindly purchased a copy of 'Megaliths' by David and Lai Ngan Corio - a large format coffee table book containing wonderful b/w photos of some of the most famous landmarks around the country. An early Yule present. She is wonderful!
On the way back, we headed for Falmouth, and diverted off to take a look at a couple of sites: Mabe Church, Eathorne Menhir and Trewardreva Fogou (Piskey Hall). We didn't find the Eathorne Menhir, which isn't shown on the OS map, but the others were easily located.
6th October 2003
There's a car park right next to the church, and a 30yd or so gated path down to the church. The stone is just past the entrance door to the church.
I didn't notice when I was there, but from the photos I took, it looks as if a smaller stone has been perched on top of the main stone, which stands on a slight mound next to the path.
An old cross stands on the opposite side of the path (W Cornwall 69). This cross was first recorded in the 1890s, located in the vicarage grounds. It had moved to its current location by the 1920s.
6th October 2003
The fogou is actually in sight of the road, opposite the entrance gate to Trewardreva House itself. A herd of cows in the adjoining field made me slightly nervous, as they all charged toward the gate as I entered the field. I wasn't sure if they could get into the field containing the fogou…
Andy Norfolk described this as a "cosy, cuddly fogou" on the Stones Mailing List, and I'd have to agree with him. I didn't descend all the way in, partly because of my bovine nerves, but it looks as if the main passageway may open out to the right at the end. Craig Wetherill in Cornovia refutes this stating that "it was once thought a branch passage may have run southwards…this is now considered unlikely".
Daylight pervades the far end of the fogou, where the covering stones have shifted somewhat, but this didn't detract from the cuddliness for me.
Tracking between the sites, we spotted (and photographed) a couple of wayside crosses at SW754320 and SW 729304.
We must have also passed by the Tolven Holed Stone without realising it on the way back to Hayle, via Helston and an early finish to the day.
I had only two things planned for today: a walk across Treen Common, hopefully to Bosporthennis, and a walk up to Tregaseal Holed Stones. We arose early from our slumbers, had a quick breakfast and hit the road. Unfortunately, the weather was against us, and as we passed through St Ives to the coast road, it closed in substantially. Crossing Rosewall Hill, we couldn't even see the coast to our right.
Making a quick change of plan, I stopped in Zennor to take a look at the church, and the Zennor Mermaid carving inside. Quite an intricate carving, but the tourist gumph alluded to the comparison between some Israeli woodworker being semi-divine, and the mermaid being semi-aquatic. I didn't get it… There were a few old celtic crosses outside the church though. And I saw the Rev. Borlase's grave, which was nice.
We continued on to Porthmeor (Treen) Common, but it was not to be. The fog and mist had descended and we could barely make out the side of the road from the car. It would have been foolish to go tramping across the common in such conditions.
Instead, we continued on the road, through Mulfra and Newmill to Gulval to take a look at the Bleu Bridge Inscribed Stone:
From Gulval Post Office, we headed north up Trevarrack Road (Green Lane Hill is on the left). As the main road bears round to the right, bear left (signposted as a cul-de-sac). Then as it starts uphill, park by the houses on the left, just past a path that looks too small for a car (it isn't!). Walk down the path for 30 yards or so, and the road comes to an end. The stone is across the stream, bridged just ahead of you. It is possible to get a car down here almost to the bridge, which looks wide enough to take a wheelchair if necessary. I didn't risk it, because I've a lousy turning circle on my car.
The stone is against the wall, and a small marble plaque alongside it identifies the inscription and dates it as circa 6th Century.
We then stopped briefly in Penzance to look at some vastly overpriced pamphlets in the bookshop there. 20-odd typed and xeroxed pages from a 1967 survey of monuments in Penwith, cover price 50p, priced at £12.50? I don't think so, matey!
With the day's plan shot, but the weather seeming to lift somewhat, we went on a wander down towards Newlyn, and I decided to look for the Sheffield Menhir. Sadly, I didn't locate it this time round.
Just down the road though, was the Merry Maidens landscape: first Boleigh Fogou (we didn't have permission so didn't even try to get access), then the Pipers, the Nun Careg stone cross, the holed gatepost, the Merry Maidens, Gun Rith, and Tregiffian.
7th October 2003
I spent quite a while at the Maidens today, and had the place to myself for a change. The wind was blowing a gale, but at least the fog had lifted by the time we got here. I managed to take some nice photos, but nothing that isn't on TMA already, though I may try to stitch a panorama together at a later date.
7th October 2003
Nice to see that Gun Rith has been re-erected, complete with original (or near as dammit) lean. The base has been placed into concrete this time, and the field wall has been reconstructed around it, so hopefully it won't fall again in a hurry.
Finally, turning around and making our way home, we made a slight detour to take a look at the Paul Celtic Cross.
7th October 2003
The way this has been 'restored' onto the church boundary wall, makes it look like one with the large (probably originally standing) stone underneath it. I don't think this is the case though. Andrew Langdon in 'Stone Crosses of West Penwith' states that "the shaft and base no longer exist".
Today was a bit of a mess of day, with no distinct plan. I've seen most of the 'attractive' Cornwall sites during previous visits. I did have a list of sites I wanted to see though, so we drove over to St Austell to check out some things in that direction.
We started at Menacuddle Well and the Druids Chair. A quick check of the map showed that the Menear Longstone wasn't too distant. so that was next.
We then headed over towards Fowey, to look at the Tristan Longstone, Castle Dore and the Golant Well.
I had hoped to get across to Duloe, but we didn't get that far, returning instead via Trago Mills and some more retail therapy. I'd also thought to revisit Trevethy Quoit, but again missed out this time round, although we did drive via Carnglaze Caverns and Golitha Falls before getting as close as Doniert's Stone before turning for home.
Passing through Cambourne, we took the opportunity to stop and look at Maen Cadoar. A long day.
A quiet day today, conserving myself for tomorrow's trip to St Mary's. We drove around the Lizard, past St Ruan's Well, and then up to Goonhilly. I found the Dry Tree Menhir without any difficulty.
9th October 2003
No problems here. Turn off the road just south of the Goonhilly Visitor Centre, into the old RAF centre, which is now in use as a car park. Take the path that leads back to the Earth Centre. And follow the path round to the left. When the fence disappears to the right, follow it around, keeping the fence on your left at all times. After a couple of corners, the Dry Tree is in front of you. Watch out for adders in season, apparently!
This is a big old stone, and as others have said before me, affords lots of photographic opportunities with the modern comms dishes in the background. It was re-raised early in the 20thC, supposedly not too far from its original position.
After lunch in Falmouth, we took a slow drive home, and stopped briefly at Tolven (no-one was home, so I contented myself with peering over the fence at the stone).
We finished the day with a stop at Phillack Church to see the crosses and inscribed stone there.
The inscribed stone was discovered built into the fabric of the church during renovation work in 1856. It now rests against an out-house to the east of the church, alongside the rather battered remains of the Wheal Alfred cross. The stone looks similar to, but is less moss-covered than the Bleu Bridge Inscribed Stone, and is likely to be of a similar age. I couldn't make out the writing on the stone itself.
I had an early start today, leaving Mikki behind (aerophobiac that she is!) for a trip to St Mary's in the Scillies. I had an 8:55 flight from St Just's, which left slightly early, and I was in St Mary's by 9:15.
Having pored over the maps beforehand, I'd decided on a clockwise route around the island, being totally dependent on this trip on Shankie's Pony. It looked a long way on the map, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I reached Hugh Town. A slight misread on the map meant that I took the wrong path for Buzza Hill, but that was quickly corrected, and I stood on the hill, with the Western peninsula of the island spread before me, and the ruined carn overlooking Porth Cressa. There is supposed to be a second carn up here, but I couldn't see it.
Coming down off the hill, there was time to make a quick "I'm here safely" call to Mikki - be warned, mobile coverage is patchy/non-existant on the island - before moving back through Hugh Town and the coast path that leads to Harry's Walls and the Mount Flagon menhir.
A very pleasant stroll ensued, partly on tarmaced paths, and latterly a struggle on a deep sandy path, alongside the golf course, up to Bant's Carn and Halangy Down village. It was now 11am.
The carn is most impressive and sits 50 yards or so uphill from the village remains. There really is too much here to make sense of at ground level. Lots of rocks, several houses (some with separate chambers) and some field layout too! It really does look best from the air, if you're lucky enough to take that route on the way back to the mainland. Later in the day I was that lucky, but was unable to take any photos.
Continuing along the coastal path, it dips inland and becomes a gravel path again, past some old quarry workings. From here, Innisidgen is well signposted, but before that is the path to Long Rock, in the shadow of the radio mast which dominates the north of the island.
Returning to the coastal path, with spectacular views in all directions, the path turned to a soft loamy soil, with a lot of 'bounce' to it, which made for very easy walking. Turning a corner, Innisidgen Lower Carn came into view. Somewhat ruined, but the form can still be made out. The Upper Innisidgen Carn is in much better condition, and I'd reached it with minutes to spare for my midday target time.
Leaving the coast path at Windmill Cove, I headed inland to continue the journey by road. 'Twitchers' were everywhere, carrying large tripods with large lenses attached, and radios squawking. I've never understood the attracting of 'ticking' birds, but then I look at big old rocks, so who am I to argue?
A short while after passing the Pellistry Bay tea rooms (which I'm told are very good, but I didn't stop), I saw the sign pointing back to the coast and the Porth Hellick Down tombs.
10th October 2003
There are apparently 8 tombs in total here. The main one is well signposted, and has been restored by EH. I managed to find two of the others in the thick heather, as well as a strangely sculpted rock that looked like two IKEA armchairs, before the rain finally started. The landscape is difficult to make out, the various lumps and bumps looking like a lunar landscape hidden in the plush heather.
With the rain getting heavier, I headed inland across the Higher Moors Nature Trail to rejoin the road close to the entry to the airport.
I'd now seen all the sites I'd intended, and it was only 14:15. My flight was scheduled for 16:40, so I had a couple of hours to kill. Not enough to get anywhere interesting, so I headed for the nearest pub in the Old Town, 10-15 minutes from the airport, for some welcome refreshment and a quick (but expensive!) meal.
I was told that next week, over 4000 birdwatchers would be converging on the island. It made me glad I was there this week! The island is beautiful, with wonderful views across to many of the other islands in the complex. I was surprised that none of the tombs I'd visited had any obvious visible alignments. The trip cost me just £60 on a day-return special. I understand the usual price is closer to £80.
Stiff and sore from yesterday's exertions - I've not done that much walking for quite a while - we decided to just drive around some of the villages I've not seen before, including Mount Hawke, St Agnes, Porthtowan and Gwithian. So it was very much a stoneless day to finish the holiday with.
And so to home. No planned stops, but we passed many sites of interest, including the Four Burrows, then closer to home, the Stonehenge landscape.
Posted by ocifant
12th October 2003ce
Edited 15th October 2003ce
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