Figgy Dowdy’s Well – Carn Marth

Figgy Dowdy had a well
On top of Carn Marth hill
She locked it up night and day
Lest people carry the water away!

Carn Marth is the highest of a range of hills that stretch from Gwennap to Camborne. Rising 757ft (230m) above the village of Lanner, it is riddled with quarries and old mine workings. Carn Marth was once a place of refuge in the Bronze Age and the site of one of the beacons that used to be lit across Cornwall in times of war or celebration.

figgy dowdy well carn marth

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Our Defenceless Monuments: The Threat to Cornwall’s Heritage

 

Cornwall is blessed with a long and fascinating history. Although visitors are often drawn to the county by the so called ‘Poldark effect’ many more are also seeking out our enigmatic prehistoric monuments. I wanted to take a look at the hidden threat to this precious heritage.

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Cornwall has some of the oldest prehistoric sites in England. The rolling landscape is dotted with hundreds of stone circles, cairns and quoits, some predating the Egyptian pyramids. Continue reading

The Giant’s Crossing – Statue of Saint Piran, a journey to Brittany

This spring make some time to say farewell to Saint Piran. He is preparing to make another miraculous journey.

saint piran statue, giants crossing, valley of the saints brittany

His passage from Ireland to Cornwall floating  on a granite millwheel was a few hundreds years ago and when he drifted ashore on the wild Cornish coast he brought with him christianity and the secret of smelting tin. Now in 2018 our patron saint is getting ready for another exciting journey our neighbouring Celtic nation, Brittany. Continue reading

What has St Piran ever done for us?

 

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St Piran & his millstone at Helston Flora

Today is the 5th March, Saint Piran’s Day, a festival celebrated across Cornwall with marches, parades, music and some delightfully over-enthusiastic nationalism.

I went to my first St Piran’s Day pilgrimage to the cross and chapel in the dunes near Perranporth today below are some of my pictures.  I was freezing cold and the wind did it’s best to blow me over but I thoroughly enjoyed myself as did the couple of hundred other people there.  But really what’s it all about? Continue reading

The Centre of Cornwall & a rather Mysterious Tail

Everything has a beginning, a middle and an end.  The Tamar river in many senses marks the beginning of Cornwall and of course we all know where to find the End.

It is the village of Lanivet, not20160623_143152 far from Bodmin, that marks the middle.  You see this little place’s claim to fame is that it is meant to be the geographical centre of the county of Cornwall.

And in the centre of the village that is in the centre of Cornwall is of course the parish church.

And in the centre of the graveyard, in the centre of the village, that is in the centre of Cornwall, there is an ancient cross which historically is meant to mark the exact point that is the middle of Cornwall.

But not only that, according to Historic England this wonderful 10th century wheel-headed cross is also the most highly decorated in Cornwall.  Some of it’s intricate features are found nowhere else in this region and are unique to this particular cross alone.  The carvings may be fading now but there can be no doubt of how special this piece of stone was to the people who first carved it so many moons ago.

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At first glance there seems just a pleasing jumble of patterns and shapes. Strips and dots, lines and crosses.  But look closer and the figure in the middle panel that pops out at you.  Who is this rather bandy-legged chap I hear you ask?  The answer is nobody knows and just to add a little more confusion into the mix, although it isn’t really clear from my photograph or from Blight’s lovely illustration, our long-legged friend also has a tail!

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According to Andrew Langdon in his book on the Crosses of Mid Cornwall the carved man has some kind of Pagan associations but alternatively Historic England suggests that we are looking at an unidentified ancient saint (with a tail . . .?)

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I have had a little dig and there are a few global myths about humans with tails of various descriptions.  The Manticore, the Campe, the Cecrops and perhaps my personal favourite the Satyrs: a tribe of nature spirits with the body of men, pug noses, asses ears and horses tails.  But none of this mixed bag of freaky-looking creatures quite fit our funny little man’s description.

Historic England, as I mentioned, does have another theory however, they suggest that the ‘tail’ is in fact a string with a key hanging at the end.  There are several Saints that are

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Another cross in Lanivet graveyard

represented holding keys but probably the most popular is Saint Peter was said to who carry the Keys to Heaven with him.

 

Whatever you think, tailed-man or Saintly key-holder, this cross is a lovely piece of our history.  It stands about 9′ high (2.933m) with another 1′ below the surface and is splendidly decorated on all four sides. Sadly the wheel head has been badly damaged at some point but that doesn’t detract from it’s beauty.

Experts think that at one time there were as many as 12,000 of these crosses all across the English countryside, now less than 2000 remain.

I feel that they are another precious piece of our past to treasure and marvel at whatever your religious beliefs may be.

Oh and I will finish with just a word of advice, don’t put man with tail into Google images! Not for the faint hearted!

For another story about Cornish Crosses try: Three Forgotten Crosses