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Buzza Hill (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes
We headed up here after a walk around the wonders of Peninnis Head (22.6.2011).
Last time I came was at the end of a long walk around the island's principal sites, and Buzza Hill doesn't quite compare with the top drawer chambered tombs at Bant's Carn, Innisidgen or Porth Hellick Down. But actually it's still really impressive. It sits in a commanding position overlooking Porth Cressa and the narrow "neck" of Hugh Town, as well as giving views of the neighbouring islands of St Agnes, Samson, Bryher and Tresco. Only one capstone remains in place, but the mound itself is impressively large and bits of kerb protrude here and there from the grass.
The second tomb recorded by Borlase was apparently destroyed when the nearby windmill was built. Possible remains of a kerb can still be found at its base.
22.6.2011. The weather on this summer's Cornwall holiday has been anything but predictable, most days vary from heavy rain to blue skies and back again over the course of the days. But I am determined to get back over to the Isles at least once. Tickets for the Scillonian III can be bought on the day, so we head to Penzance, in the rain but hopeful that the weather is going to improve.
The upshot of all of this is that the ferry journey (2hrs 40 or so) is something of a trial. This is the fourth time we have made the trip, but there's no flat calm today. Talk about peaks and troughs! Although we are both pretty good sailors, sharing a deck with a dozen people being noisily sick begins to upset the hardiest of stomachs - I head up on to the outside deck, preferring to brave the wet, while GF turns her ipod up and sits through the traumas.
But we arrive at Hugh Town harbour on St Mary's in due course, all safe and sound. A last fleeting squall of rain accompanies our walk to the Old Town, then the sun is out. We haven't been to the southern tip of the island before, as there are few prehistoric remains and nothing to compare with the extraordinary chambered tombs that pepper the north and east coasts.
Old Town church is worth a quick visit, but the first stoney treat is on the pebbly beach of Carn Leh Cove, where some enterprising artist(s) has stacked the beautifully smooth pebbles up into little piles, making the whole beach look like an outdoor art installation.
From here the path climbs bracken-covered slopes onto Peninnis Head itself. We are greeted by some of the most bizarre and striking natural sculpture I have ever seen. The granite of Scilly, while still very hard, is more porous than its mainland cousin and lends itself to being carved into amazing crests and molar-like blocks, over millenia of assault from wind and salt-water. What an astonishing place!
The cairns themselves are something of a disappointment. Only one is easily identifiable, just NW of the lighthouse and one particular rock that reminded me of the head and shoulders of a troll or goblin, emerging from the clifftop.
The cairn has some visible stonework, possibly indicating the remains of a kerb. There are no chambers here though. A second, badly damaged cairn is just down the slope to the SW. A bit further down is a shallow scoop, which looks likely to be remains of quarrying or even a kelp pit, but isn't a cairn. We don't even see the most northerly of the group, missing it under the purple edging on the OS map (the edging indicates Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust access).
But the spot is a great one, wild and windswept. The extravagantly shaped stones of the headland more than make up for any disappointment in the cairns.
From here we headed up Buzza Hill for a quick visit to the chambered tomb there.
Under the cliffs of Peninnis Head on St Mary's there is a cavern, termed the Piper's Hole, which extends a long distance under ground, and is absurdly said to communicate with another cave of the same title, the entrance to which is in the island of Tresco. This legend would make the length of the cavern at least four miles; and the inhabitants of the locality tell you of dogs let in at the one entrance coming out, after a time, at the other with most of their hair off, so narrow are some parts of the cave. So there is a tradition in Scotland of a man getting through a similar cave, but paying the penalty in the loss of all his skin.
From 'Rambles in Western Cornwall' by J O Halliwell-Phillipps (1861).