|Fogou is the Cornish word for cave.
Creep, on the other hand, is English, and can mean the sort of greasy, dribbling bloke you wouldn't wish to meet in a dark fogou, or to crawl slowly on one's belly. It is also the narrow passageway within a fogou leading to further long stone-lined chambers which one can usually only access by crawling slowly on one's belly. Often in mud. And usually in darkness.
Such was the extent of my knowledge of fogous and creeps prior to my trip to our magic Land's End. I was also told they were freaky and scary. Having now visited six beautiful fogous, I can tell you that I found them neither freaky nor scary. And in 'The Great Ritual or Fridge?' debate, (see final paragraph), I have come down firmly on the ritual/fridge side.
My First Little Fogou was the best them of all. We were staying at Trewellard, only a stone's throw from Pendeen fogou. Ask at Pendeen Manor Farm to see it but take your wellies! Pendeen Manor Farm is the birthplace of the great Cornish archaeologist William Borlase.
To reach the entrance of the fogou you must wade in ankle deep slurry and shooo a splendid yet shitty herd of friesians to one side of the farmyard. Inspired by Pendeen Fogou we immediately sought out Lower Boscaswell fogou, less than a kilometre away.
Moth's maglite firmly gripped in hand, I stepped out of the slippy shit and into the darkness. The chamber has a narrow entrance and a steep drop. The height never allows you to stand up, so I walked along, hunchbacked, as far as I could go. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dark I realised that the fogou was Y-shaped, with another exquisitely corbelled passageway leading off to the left, just as long as the one I'd just come down - about 7 metres. And from the point where the two main chambers meet, down at the bottom, a little square hole no more than 18 inches high. This is the creep. Squatting down in the mud I shone my torch through the hole to view a rock-cut passageway, again perhaps 7 metres long. For a moment, I felt like Howard Carter! It was only the mud that pervented me squeezing through, though this was no bar for Moth who disappeared through it like a small boy up a chimney. We loved this fogou!
Not entirely easy to find the entrance to this fogou faces seaward in the top edge of a field just off to the left of a track that exits the village at the north. We met up with ocifant to visit the famous Boleigh fogou. We had phoned a few days before to get an appointment, as this is privately owned. (See my 'miscellaneous' post for the latest access information).
It was thrilling to find, but disappointing after Pendeen, for this fogou allows you in for the first six feet only before you meet a barrier. It's been walled-up. Cheers National Trust! Fortunately, NT have not trashed the double entrances and despite the walling-up, it remains a delight to see a fogou lurking in the corner of a forgotten field.
It was pouring with rain outside, so the shelter of Boleigh's gaping dark mouth, moustached by moss and ferns and liverworts seemed rather attractive. The fogou is tall, 7 or 8 feet in places and about 9 metres long, perhaps more and beautifully corbelled. The creep leads off immediately to the left as you enter the fogou. I could just squeeze my child-bearing hips through the crack and I found the creep not only almost doubles back on itself, but rises to virtually ground level. Next day, we made it to Carn Euny.
I loved it here! I felt so protected and quite happy. Not freaked at all.
It was wonderful to see a fogou within the context of an ancient village and to muse upon what it might have been for. It was here that it became obvious to me that this fogou was a place to store the excess goodies; the community's 'bank', 'saving's account' or 'life insurance' policy, if you like. It's construction is quite amazing, especially the internal beehive chamber, leading off from the main passageway - a masterpiece of engineering, 3 metres tall reaching up to ground level and 5 metres diameter. Later that day, in a hurry and enroute to meet ocifant, we swung by Halligye fogou.
The village is wonderful to walk around and easy to imagine a small community of farmers making a living from their land. As you stand in the ruins of their roundhouses you can almost smell the woodsmoke, hear the children playing, the grain being pounded, feel their tie to this land.
It' s clearly marked on the roadmap, but a reet bugger to find the access to. All the access roads to the Trelowarren estate said "No Entry" and we were on the verge of giving up when we stumbled across the main entrance back at the Garras end. Halligye fogou is clearly signposted once you're in. But we were to be disappointed. It was already dusk and although we found the fogou, a padlocked metal gate barred our entry to the main passageway. But the approach itself is impressive: great keyhole-shaped slit in the earth, (Moth said he thought it looked like something specific to women, but I can't repeat what here!) recently shored up with new walling and steps. But the fogou's locked chastity belt prohibited us from further investigation. We had more success at Trewardreva.
Allowing our eyes to become accustomed to the blackness, we could just make our the creep at the end of the passage. I fear we missed something special here :-(
...a piece of cake to find, thank God. Isolated on the edge of a field, it's gorsey mound forcing the ground up slightly, we reached it as dusk fell and the hand of starvation threatened to force me to murder Moth and consume his flesh in some debauched food ritual. 'The Great Ritual or Fridge' debate
A very impressive chamber about 8 metres long and high enough to force me to have to reach up to feel the stones overhead. I was intrigued by its isolation. Every other fogou we had visited had some sign of settlement very close or nearby. This has nothing now. Perhaps it once did.
I go with the larder theory. They feel like storage spaces, a community's 'bank' where surplus stores can be safely defended from raids by wild animals, the weather, other tribes. So a small entrance makes sense - easy to open, easy to seal up. The less the store is disturbed the longer things will keep without perishing. If fogous were food stores, then the contents would be regarded as exceptionally precious and so why wouldn't the space be used ritually from time to time and blessed with thanks?
See fogous for yourself and make up your own mind.
My advice for advance fogou planning? Eat carrots, take a torch, wear wellies and plunge in!
Posted by Jane
15th March 2004ce
Edited 19th March 2004ce
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