|Well, the dog days of summer are upon us, and the drizzle that accompanied me around Avebury is left far behind. We head to Cornwall, wonderful West Penwith, for two weeks of R&R. After a couple of lazy days, with nothing more energetic that a stroll to The Badger, by Tuesday (15 June) I'm itching to get out onto the West Penwith moors, my favourite place in the world.
We get the bus to St Just, for a walk that has become a regular fixture of our Cornwall hols, whether in summer or autumn. It's a great walk if you are not tied to a car, because it's long and linear rather than circular, and it ends in a pub. St Just, the "first and last" town in England, is not perhaps the industrious centre it was when the tin mining was at its height. But it still sells a mean vegetable pasty, courtesy of Warrens the bakers. Under the clearest of blue skies, we sit on the churchyard wall next to one of the ancient crosses and stuff our faces, before heading off northwest, towards the little village of Tregeseal. After the initial downhill drop from the town, the route climbs steadily past the houses of the village and towards the moors. The farm lane is dry and mud-free today and we are soon up into open access moorland. The grazing policy implemented last year seems to be having an effect, the bracken is definitely lower than we're used to (although this year's late-ending winter may have played a part).
Tregeseal stone circle, or more properly the eastern circle, is the first stop-off today. Almost always deserted on our visits, today is no exception and we can sit undisturbed in the sunshine, breathing in sea air and generally chilling. I mess about in the bracken looking for the remnants of the western circle and g/f lets me get on with it – she has more sense. It's only just gone 11 o'clock and it's already shaping up to be scorcher, so sun-cream is liberally applied. I love this circle. If it wasn't for one other (more of which later) it would be my favourite of all.
Eventually we head off, by-passing Truthwall Common barrows, Tregeseal holed stones and the battleship hulk of Carn Kenidjack. On other walks these have been integral parts of the route, but today I'm keen to look at a site that has eluded me previously in a tangle of spikey gorse and heather.
We head east off the moor and, on reaching Boslow Stone
, swing north along a little track. Still almost hidden, in a triangle of land next to the track is Portheras Common barrow. I have looked for it before but always been defeated, but Chrisbird's photos from earlier in the year have given me fresh heart and sure enough, the barrow has been freed from the mess of undergrowth for the first time in years. This is a terrific little barrow, with a near-complete kerb and a central chamber/cist still boasting its capstone. Already the vegetation is growing back, brambles are trailing the barrow and patches of purple-ish campion sprout around the centre and the lovely Cornish foxgloves are doing their thing nearby as well. But it's great to finally see this barrow, especially to see how well-preserved it is.
A choice of routes is open to us from here. We could follow the Tinners Way between the downs, possibly with a visit to Boswens Croft thrown in. But instead we opt to take the high(er) road, heading across The Gump towards Chun and its megalithic mushroom of a quoit.
Chun Quoit is another of the area's "show sites", but to see it ahead of you in its beautiful setting is still enough to cause a flutter of anticipation. Watch Croft, Penwith's highest point, rises behind and the blues of sea and sky meet over to the north. The Quoit itself needs no introduction, so we'll just sit and have a snack and enjoy the view for a little while.
This time we're heading up to the nearby Chun Castle hillfort, which actually we rarely visit on our trips. Its circular walls are satisfyingly chunky and provide a wonderful 360-degree panorama, including the engine house at Ding Dong mine, which is such a ubiquitous landmark from much of the peninsula. But we don't hang around here for long, as our main reason for heading this way is another site we haven't visited previously.
From the Castle, after a bit of bracken-exploration, we find a vague path heading northeast, which clears a bit as it finds a route between two hedges. Some lumps and bumps appear in the field on the south side of the path, telling us we've found Bosullow Trehyllys, one of the best preserved courtyard house settlements in the area. Much less visited than Chysauster
or Carn Euny
, this settlement has been dogged by restricted access and impenetrable vegetation, so we've never tried to visit before. But the barbed wire has rusted away and the little gate is open to us, so we go and have a mooch round. Thanks again to Chrisbird for pointing out that the site had been cleared. The vegetation is actually already pretty high again, but we easily found simple round-houses in the south-western field and the impressive courtyard houses in the field next door. We're joined by a fellow enthusiast, who tells me this is his first visit to the site for over a decade.
After a good poke about, we continue on in a north-westerly direction over Carn Downs, which gives us a nice retrospective of Chun, before joining the road briefly as we pass Men an Tol Studio, where Ian McNeill Cooke has written and illustrated his fabulous books of Penwith prehistoric sites. We are joined again by our fellow enthusiast, who lives a few miles up country and comes here on his days off (lucky bugger). He heads off to Men-an-Tol, but we carry on, past Men Scryfa until we reach the Four Parish Stone. From here the path starts to climb southeast, towards my favourite site of all. We stop briefly at Boskednan Cairn, but really this is just an appetiser.
Boskednan circle, or Nine Maidens, is without doubt my favourite circle of all (and by extension my favourite site of all). It's not a perfect or pristine circle, many of the stones lean alarmingly or have fallen. It's not on a dramatic peak, or surrounded by a fairy ring of trees. Instead it sits on a bare moor, exposed to the elements and sticking its figures up at 'em. We've been here in dreadful weather, rain, mist (never snow though) and it's never less than brilliant. Today, under a cloudless cerulean sky, I think that there can't be a more perfect place to be.
Time passes and we reluctantly drag ourselves away, for the pub beckons but there's still a way to go.
The path heads east and a minor road takes us past Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement and then over the saddle between Treen Common and Mulfra Hill. From here Mulfra Quoit can be easily visited, but neither of us fancy the extra mileage and press on instead. The remainder of the walk, via Higher Kerrowe and Trewey Hill, is a bit of easy but dull road-work, but is rewarded by the sight of the Tinner's Arms at Zennor. Our journey ends with pints in the beer garden before catching the bus back to St Ives. Perfect.
Posted by thesweetcheat
25th August 2010ce
Edited 26th August 2010ce
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