Kernow – Searching for the Wild Past.

Jun 4th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Continuing my semi-regular walking blogs at request from readers, I thought I would share a recent “spring” archaeological walk on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. I say spring because of the time of year, but as readers may know, we have had some unusual wintery weather in March, which has delayed the onset of spring.
Cornwall is the most south west county in England, known for its stunning beaches, (over 300 of them) and dramatic coastline of over 400 miles – the longest in the UK. There is nowhere inland more than 20 miles from the sea, and Cornwall has over 5 million visitors a year. Evidence of Cornwall’s mining heritage can be found everywhere as pump or engine houses are dotted along the coast and inland. Indeed records show that mining for copper, tin and arsenic can be traced back to the Bronze Age and in the 1800’s, Cornwall used to produce over 15% of the wold’s tin. Cornwall is one of the six recognised Celtic nations, and has its own language, Kernowek which is a Brythonic Celtic language, along with Welsh and Breton.
This short-ish walk of 4.5 – 5 miles, starts at one of the moors most famous landmarks, The Hurlers, which are 3 large stone circles that run NNE to SSW and date back to the early Bronze Age. The three consecutive standing stone circles are unique in England and have an intense definitive energy, which almost pulses when standing in the centre of each circle. This always has a profound effect on me, time seems to stand still and what seems like seconds can be hours, or no time at all. The heartbeat and song of the land is strong and steady, matched only by my own. To the west are two further standing stones known as the Pipers. The legend associated with the Hurlers states that a group of young men forgot it was the Sabbath and played games of hurling on the moor and were turned to stone for their mistake. Similarly fated were two Pipers who also forgot it was Sunday and played their pipes in a merry way.
When I arrived this part of the site was already quite busy and very wet underfoot thanks to the previous night’s rain. Rather than follow the main well-trodden path to the Cheeswring, I diverted west over pathless moorland towards an abandoned mine chimney on Craddock Moor. The ground became very boggy and had streams running through it every now and then, so I was glad of waterproof boots and gaiters. The ground swells and is very uneven so can be hard going, therefore I would suggest a walking pole or in true Druid fashion, a staff. The Chimney and remnants of the old mine are impressive and well worth an explore.
The whole of Craddock Moor is blessed with remains of Bronze Age settlements and I found various cairns dotted around. Behind the Chimney is open moorland which is very boggy but fairly flat. Walking I headed NW about two miles towards some burial mounds which are distinct against the skyline. However according to our OS map, there was a stone circle between the chimney and the mounds, so I spend some time searching around and finally spotted them with the help of the trusty binoculars. The stones had all fallen but the size of the circle was much larger than any seen before, and appeared complete with 24 stones. Finding this “lost” circle felt like stumbling across buried treasure. The high moorland meant the circle had a completely different energy to the Hurlers. The complete stones themselves were around 6 foot in height and it was clear to see that the circle would have been an impressive site in its days of use. I spent a while there exploring the earth energy of each stone and peace surrounding me. The day was warm and sunny with clear visibility, I could faintly hear sheep and cows on the breeze, and smell the dampness of warming soil. In due course, I followed an old sheep path down from the ridge towards an ancient field system and settlements with Siblyback Lake barely visible to the left. From here the Cheesewring was plainly apparent – my eventual destination.
I was surprised and delighted to find directly between myself and the Cheesewring is Gold Digging Quarry featuring two seemingly bottomless, dark man-made pools which positively glistened in the midday sunshine. Here I stopped to eat lunch and watched some mountaineer’s abseiling down one of the steep granite faces. I then walked down into the valley below the Cheesewring and began climbing up towards it, passing many grazing sheep who seemed oblivious to the passing tourists. The ground was wet and boggy with many undulating mini streams and banks. Back on the main tourist path I easily found and followed the min path to the Cheeswring. This can be a strenuous climb and slippery if wet underfoot. I was thankful that the stone is granite, which is easier to grip with boots and hands.
The Cheeswring is a curious pile of seemingly constructed granite stones, however it is entirely natural and stands as a 30ft proud guardian of the valley below. Named because of its similarity to a cheese press, legend has it that it was actually formed by giants. St Tue, a small saint heard the giants complaining that they had a particularly bad deal in Cornwall and that the saints were living the good life. Challenging the leader of the giants, Uther, to a rock throwing contest, needless to say, with divine intervention, the saints won and the giants out aside their evil ways and converted to Christianity. The Cheesewring was a lasting memorial to remind everyone of the struggle between the giants and saints.
From here, it’s a short easy walk back to the Hurlers and car park, leaving plenty of time for a clotted cream tea or ice cream in one of the Minions numerous cafes.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Comment