In an earlier post I wrote about the Cornish word Hireth, which means a longing for somewhere, and how many people can feel a deep affliation or connection to a place. For me, Bodmin Moor with its mysterious relics, wild landscape and wide horizons is one of those places.
Canon Elliott-Binns’ 1955 book Medieval Cornwall contains this description –
“The hills . . . are very rugged, having been scored by the torrents of innumerable winters, and ravaged by the rays of summer suns . . . These wild tracts, stretching lonely and inhospitably beneath vast spaces of sky seem to have changed but little since first the eye of man fell upon their bewildering undulations.”
The Canon makes the moor sound slightly grim and unpleasant which it is, I guess on a cold rainy day but it is also so much more.
Garrow Tor in particular speaks to me. I think often about the walking there. Memories of it flit through my minds-eye. The rustle of the grass against my legs, the summer heat rising from the granite or the trickle of the De Lank river. I even wrote a short story about it.
But in this post I have a different story that I want to tell.
The story of a ruin of a cottage and a village that has vanished under the thick turf. The cottage now has no name and no roof. But it was once carefully built beside the slow running steam, with a hearth and a tidy garden wall.
There was once a little medieval moorland village here, known I believe as simply Garrow (sometimes Garrah). From the 13th to the 15th centuries the community thrived but by 1841 it had been reduced to just one farmstead. The farm was occupied by shepherd Thomas Green, his wife Elizabeth and their 6 sons – Nevil, John, George, Frederick, Thomas and William.
By the next census in 1851 however the Green family have moved to a neighbouring farm at De Lank and Garrow it seems has been abandoned.
If that is when my cottage (I imagine its mine!) was finally left to the mercy of the elements I can’t be sure. But the state of it’s decay indicates that it was a long while ago.
There is no sign of glass in the windows and nettles grow out of the fireplace.
No one has tended this garden for many years, although the sheep seem to love the richer grass that you still find around old habitations.
And of course the people who lived here were by no means the first to call Garrow their home, the tor itself is covered in the remains of another lost village – one from around 4000 years ago. Around 174 Bronze Age houses have been identified on the slopes of the tor. So really Garrow Tor is the tale of at least two lost villages.
Wandering around the newer ruins I find other peoples memories in what remains – an old metal gate hanging still attached to its granite post, the view from a window of the horizon, the sound of the wind in the leaves of those beech trees planted for shelter and shade.
The stone bridge, the weedy hearth and those stunted beech trees are all that remain of the last owners hard existence out on this moor. Their cottage’s shell still stands, but only just, beneath the looming shadows of Cornwall’s highest hills – Brown Willy and Rough Tor.
For whatever reason it is one of my favourite places to be.