Goodaver Stone Circle – Bodmin Moor

Some places feel lost even when you find them.

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Goodaver stone circle is one of those places. Hidden on an peaceful area of Bodmin Moor between Goodaver Downs and Smith’s moor this circle is rarely visited, mostly because it is so hard to get too. Continue reading

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Logan Rock – Louden Hill, Bodmin Moor

There are a few places in Cornwall that are really special to me that I tend keep to myself and until now the logan rock on Louden hill was one of those places. But after walking out there today I decided its just too fun not to share!

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Bodmin moor is relatively small when you compare it to Dartmoor or the wilds of Wales and Scotland but that for me is part of the attraction. It means that within a few minutes the walker can find themselves in complete solitude and in a strange and forgotten country. Continue reading

Those Ruined Places: Westmoor

Bodmin Moor feels like a place with secrets and stories to tell.  Perhaps it’s the wildness, the wide open spaces and the distance that makes the visitor feel that this is a place that you will never really know completely or quite understand.  I do know that it is under my skin.  If I didn’t live so far away I would be out on that moor as often as possible.

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It is a characteristic of every moorland that there are hidden features, places that are often lost in the landscape. Places that can only be seen from a particular hilltop or when you walk a particular path.

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The ancient enclosure on Westmoor near Leskernick hill is one such place.  The tumbling walls are only visible from a particular point as the path traverses the old tin streaming works near the base of the hill.  The first time I saw it, it was the tree that caught my eye, it is just about the only tree for as far as the eye can see.  I just had to walk over and pay a visit.

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That time and every time I have visited there since the wild moorland ponies are already there or have arrived to graze.  The grass within the old walls is much finer and greener than the rest of the moor, presumably due to human activity and I assume they come to take advantage of this sweeter meal.

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It is also a very sheltered spot, calm and out of the wind.  Close by there is a steam flowing and a spring bubbling up from the damp ground.  I am almost certain that there was once a building there too.  In on corner of the enclosure there are smaller walls and what looks like paving slabs.  There are also larger pieces of granite there that may have been doorposts or part of a fireplace in another life.

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Whatever the weather it is such a peaceful place, I have never met anyone else there apart from the ponies and sheep.  And that twisted old tree festooned in lichen and moss provides a lovely bit of company and shelter from the sun or the rain.

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This part of the moor is perhaps the most isolated that I have ever visited, it doesn’t have the sites like Rough Tor or Brown Willy, there is no Cheesewring or Hurlers to draw visitors.  But I will come here again and again if only to listen to the constant chorus of the Skylarks as they rise and dip and dive above the windblown grasses.

For more moor tales try: Those Ruined Places: Garrow Tor’s Lost Village or The Singular Mr Daniel Gumb & his house of rocks

For more hidden places try my page dedicated to Forgotten Places

 

 

Rock Solid Love

I grew up in a household where farm work and animals came first above anything else.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining, I had a blessed childhood with a kind of freedom that sadly very few children experience today.  It taught me not only independence but also the

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Me and Dad, Lemon Quay car park c 1980

importance of hard work and responsibility.  However it did mean that we never went on family holidays and days out were very few and far between.

 

I was, and still am, a bit of a daddy’s girl and I hope that my father has had a strong influence on the person that I have become.  One thing that I know he did instil in me from a young age was an admiration for a good piece of granite.

Those days off I mentioned were never spent on the beach making sandcastles.  They were spent on the Penwith or the heights of Bodmin moor or Dartmoor tramping through undergrowth looking for ancient pieces of stone.  It is a tradition that you may have noticed I still enjoy as often as life allows!

In the summer of 1999 my father and I spent a whole day together driving around the west of the county looking at big rocks.

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My father standing with an outlying stone near Boscawen-un, 1999

We admired their size and shape, marvelled at their probable weight and puzzled over how ancient man had moved them and raised them up.  You see my father had a plan.

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At Mulfra Quoit

 

He wanted his own standing stone.

 

 

Our farm is a hill and the highest point affords beautiful views across the valley and the tidal creek below, it was the ideal spot for our very own monolith.

He took himself to the local granite quarry and spent hours walking around looking at the available stones.  He wanted a piece of granite that was as natural in shape as possible with no obvious signs that it had been split by drilling or handled by machinery.  Like ancient man all those thousands of years ago I am sure he had a particular piece of stone in mind.

I am sure the workmen thought he was balmy but perhaps that is where I also get my own nonchalance with regards to looking silly myself.  He found his perfect stone and had it delivered to the farm.

The pit was dug and with the help of todays modern mechanised assistance our standing stone was raised to mark the year 2000.

We have never really spoken about it, my father is a man of few words, but I think he really enjoys the idea of something so lasting, so solid and unmoving marking his time on the land he loves so much.  And so do I.

For more family stories try: My Grumpy Grandpa & his Shires or maybe My Grandmother & Rope Walk, Falmouth

 

Those Ruined Places : The Vacant Farm

I have always loved the mystery that a ruined place creates.  They are on one hand like a blank page on which I can jot down any story that my imagination likes and then on the other they of course already have a real history to discover.  Real characters and real events.  The past halted in time by decay.

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On high ground known as Tonkin Downs, close to Castle-an-dinas, there is the remains of an old farmhouse.  It has no roof, it is now open to the elements and it’s glassless windows stare blank-eyed out across Mount’s Bay.  It is all that remains of all it’s past owners planning as they sat beside the fireplace that once glowed with hot coals.

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This building has stood empty since 1953 when its last family left, driven out by the blasting noise from the near-by quarry.  As I stand at the empty thresh-hold I wonder if they still locked the front door when they left for that last time.

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On the surface this would have been a wonderful place to live.  The views are breath-taking and even now with the quarry’s activity still rumbling you are surrounded by space and birdsong.  But even before the arrival of the earth-shaking quarry I expect that a life farming here would have been particularly tough, especially in the winter.  The ground is poor, only cleared relatively recently by the hopeful James Hosking in 1813, and there is very little between this farm and the harsh elements.

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The last people to live at Castle-an-dinas Farm were the Wooldridge family, before them was William and Christine Pearce and their 4 children and before them William Martin and his family.  Generations of hands that pushed open the yard gate, rubbed their chilblains in front of the Rayburn or pressed fresh white plaster to the walls.  Until finally they are all gone.

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The ghostly sadness of an empty home jostles oddly with my enjoyment of poking about someone else’s house and day-dreaming the forgotten life of this shell of a cottage.

For more atmospheric places to visit try: Those Ruined places: Merther

The Singular Mr Daniel Gumb & his house of rocks

Walking out in to the silence of Bodmin moor when the sky is bright blue and the air is still there is a kind of rare peacefulness for me.  The whisper of the breeze though the dried grasses and the buzz of various flying beasties seems so loud in that vast open space.  Tricked by the recent wonderful weather I can almost imagine myself living out there in the still isolation.  I have forgotten the wild winter winds that you can barely stand up in and the horizontal hail stinging your cheeks.

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Daniel Gumb must have loved it too because in the 18th century he made this moor his home, in fact in a way he became more a part of it, and it of him, than most can boast.  He was a stone-cutter by trade and built his very own house out of the giant slabs of stone that litter this ancient landscape. While he was alive no one paid much mind to the strange stonemason living out on the moor but after his death his house became famous, a bit of a tourist attraction for the Victorian day-tripper as the picture below illustrates:

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It may surprise you to know that Daniel Gumb was not out there alone, he and his wife Florence had 6 children in their strange little stone house.  There is a description of it in Cornish Characters and Strange Events by S Baring-Gould published in 1908.  It says that while Gumb was hewing blocks of granite on the moors near to the famous Cheesewring he discovered an immense slab – “this it struck him might be made the roof of a habitation”.  He apparently excavated under the slab and built up walls to support it, the house had a chimney, lime-cement walls and was “sufficiently commodious” for Gumb, his wife and their 6 children. According to a description from 1802 it was like an artificial cavern of roughly 12 feet (4m ish) square.

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I have to admit looking at it today it is hard to imagine it as it is described by Baring-Gould.  But for me the location is hard to beat!  The wonderfully odd rock formation known as the Cheesewrings rises up just behind and empty moorland stretches out beyond the front door for as far as you can see.

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Daniel Gumb was no fool.  He had another motive for his choice of back garden other than convenience for the commute to work.  He was a mathematician and a star gazer.  The roof of his house served as his observatory and the moors offered clear skies and peace and quiet for his calculations.

He even carved diagrams with his chisel into the rocks lying about his home.  Maths is not my strongest suit but my reading tells me that they are something to do with the problems of the Greek mathematician Euclid . . . Gumb also carved his name and the date, 1735, beside what was his front door.

Daniel Gumb died in 1776 at the age of 73 and his name has since disappeared into the moorland mist.  Hundreds of people come and visit this piece of the moor every year but they come to see the Cheesewrings.  Many pairs of walking boots stomp right passed this fascinating man’s front door without realising it.  I wonder what he would have made of it all.

Visiting Daniel Gumb’s house is easiest if you park at the car park in the village of Minions and walk from there, it’s an interesting walk which passes the Hurlers stone circles.  I have been told that the location of the house has changed and that it was moved from its original location when the neighbouring quarry expanded.  I am not sure how true that is but feel it needs a mention.

For more tales of Bodmin moor try: Remembering the Murder of Charlotte Dymond

 

 

Garrow Tor

 A story inspired by a walk on Bodmin moor

I sit gazing up at the grey rocks above me, like giant building blocks slung at the soft grey-green hill, their solid immovability pleases me and it settles my mind.  Walking always has DSC09202helped me to relax and today is no different. My seat is a moss-covered wall which once marked the garden of the tiny ruined cottage squatting in the valley behind me.  There is little left there now, just tumble-down walls, a glassless window frame and a fireplace filled with crumbled debris.  A smart black rook is keeping me company, I can feel his bright black eyes following as I throw aside my apple core and reach inside my rucksack for my crumpled map.

 

The dry grass rustled against her shins, it was the only sound apart from the occasional wave of air rolling through the crisp seed heads.  Their dry tops rustle and wisps of down drift off on the breeze on an DSC09193uncharted journey of chance.  There was a comfort in the silent stillness of the moor and the sun was warm on the back of her neck. Cloud shadows spun across the empty landscape, adding to the feeling of distance, all sense of scale lost.  Huddles of sheep stand dotted in cosy groups. If she strained her ears she could hear them chewing on the leathery grass. She adjusted her bundle, vegetables bought from market, and walked on, silent barefooted steps towards the base of the distant grey tor.

 

The sadness of that empty home is affecting and despite the sunshine I feel a little chilled.  Sadness from a home forgotten. I can imagine feet walking slowly up the garden path after the long trudge across the moors.  I look at my watch.  It’s time to head back towards my car which I have left parked on a verge at the edge of the grassland.  I drop down from the little wall and head towards hill. The path hugs the edge of the tor about halfway up and weaves between tumbled boulders and masses of bronze-coloured bracken.  The rocky outcrop is always visible above me as I walk.  A watcher and a castle.

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Water has gathered in a slight dip in the landscape, the glassy pool’s surface is pierced by reeds and bugs fizz and hum in the air all around, attracted by the necessary damp.  As she passes the horseflies sense a meal nearby and she has to swat one as it lands on her bare knee.  The bundle was weighing heavier now but she was half way to the trees that shade the valley near the base of the hill.  She was thinking of her home not far away.  The familiar warmth was waiting, the grate would be glowing by now.

 

As the curve of the hill turns me away from the ruin in the valley floor I look back one last time. The rook is circling above the little homestead, the walls aren’t clear from this distance as if, as I have been walking with my back turned, they have nestled themselves further down into the hollow.  The tor looms larger above me now. My eyes trace its silhouette and the flashes of yellow gorse on the slopes.  I walk on towards the patch of trees darker and cooler beside the stream, I can see the snaking strip of water glinting in the distance but there is no sound, it is still too far away.

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When she reaches the band of trees she pauses in their shelter, ferns fanning out beneath them, their green feathers bending towards the rushing stream that dashes off towards her home. DSC09167 The trees themselves are an eerie display of plumes of lichen.  The grey tendrils cover the branches like heavy cobwebs.  She crosses the ancient granite bridge, the slabs of the silvery stone moved there generations ago, her feet just two of many thousands that have walked this path.  Home was just beyond the curve of the hill. The tor looms like a fortress above her.

 

Arriving at the river I enter the shade. I have always loved these trees, swathed as they are with moss and lichen.  I am nearly there, just the walk back across the expanse of grassy moorland now.  I pause and breathe in the damp earthy air.  Strange how some places have a magic about them, a feeling of otherworldliness, like there is something close but that you can’t quite see it pass you by.  Like a memory.  I cross the granite bridge and walk on out onto the sunlight moor.

 

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