The Rocky Valley walk is quite famous in these parts and it’s close proximity to the surfing mecca of Newquay means that it gets plenty of footfall all year around. I have only ever been there once when there was no one but me and a three-legged dog. (And that’s another story.)
This valley gets all those visitors because it truly is a magical place. When you descend from the cliff path into the valley itself the path then winds its way beside a stream gushing downhill towards the sea. It is lush and green and shady even on a hot day.
“The delight of the Rocky Valley lies in its endless contrasts: at its seaward end, bear and wild, in harmony with the coast it joins; higher upstream, noble trees and giant ferns cluster on either bank of a sylvan water, while here and there are giant rocks outcrop starkly to remind the beholder of the cliffs he has just left . . . ” SH Burton, 1955.
Part way up the valley is the ruin of a mill and it is behind this roofless shell on the cool, damp rock face that you find the carvings.
They are easy to miss but once you spot them they are pretty fascinating. I have traced their gentle curves many times with my eye and my finger, it feels like a forgotten game or a spell somehow.
There is a plaque above which claims they date from the bronze age (probably) but in actual fact their origin is a complete mystery.
No one is really sure who carved them or when but there are several theories. One idea is that they were in fact carved by a bored worker at the now abandoned mill.
During the 18th century mazes such as these saw a bit of a revival, it is unclear why but the labyrinth pattern started to pop up all over the place, in architecture and in gardens and in other odd locations too.
Above is a picture of me and a friend in the 1990s at the Troy Town maze on St Agnes island in the Isles of Scilly. The seven ring maze pattern is not particular to these parts it is common throughout Europe and it has been said that they were built on sea shores to protect sailors by sending them fair winds.
The one on St Agnes dates from roughly 1790, which is also the date of other graffiti carved into the walls of the mill in Rocky Valley.
It would be nice to known the Rocky Valley carvings real origins but I doubt there will ever be any real certainty over their true date.
It could be telling that while so many of my early guidebooks to Cornwall mention Rocky Valley and the walk to St Nectan’s Glen none actually include the mazes . . .
I do feel that the sign that is there now is a little misleading however and could perhaps do with a bit of an update to leave their provenience a bit more open to thought and perhaps our imagination.
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