TPK Walk 100: Radnor – Carn Marth via RADruth

FULL CIRCLE

I was in familiar territory cycling back to the trigpoint at the start of walk 100. Having lived on a farm below Carn Marth just outside Redruth back in 2013 whilst studying a fine art degree at Falmouth, it felt like coming home.

A SKETCHY START

My brother Matt and good friend Adrian (Ade) looked a bit sheepish when I arrived having dropped them off in my car half hour earlier. Having left them with loose instructions to take photos from the top of the trigpoint, I was surprised to see all the gear where I had left it on the corner of the road… they had tried to do the photos but aborted the operation when confronted by a local landowner…

OH DEAR 1

Next thing a very animated and angry woman with her hoodied son jump out of their car and confront us (sorry no pics, I thought it wise not to include them here and destroy the 10 second timelapse gopro frames that was quietly recording the intense double octave expletives).

OH DEAR 2

It turns out that the field one has to go through to get to the trigpoint is owned by this woman we had deeply offended and no amount of calm measured explanation by myself assuaged her vociferous anger. I accepted full responsibility for our trespassing misdemeanor, whilst apologising profusely and trying to explain that we had no idea who owned the land. I then made the big mistake of saying ‘it was dark last week when we were there’ – at the end of walk 99 having a discreet blue moon party and dancing to a youtube recording of the waterboys – oopsies hmm (yes I didn’t give those details)

Above: Radnor trigpoint (Circled in red)

OH DEAR 3

That particular comment had the effect of pouring petrol on an already blazing fire… Suffice to say that amongst threatening to take our addresses, taking our pictures on her phone, talk of ‘miscreants chopping horse heads off for fun’ (?) and ‘peoples strange obsession with trigpoints’, this conversation was not going to end with HMQueen’s English niceties, and so finally the woman and her son got into their small car, dramatically wheel spun and burnt rubber in front of us and screeched off up the road, about 50m to their house.

OH DEAR 4

Well, we were of course in the wrong, having crossed an electric fence and essentially trespassed to get to the trigpoint so I will write to the woman to apologise – I don’t want to offend anyone in doing this project; that is definitely not my intention.

WHEAL PEEVOR: PAST INDUSTRY

The area around the trigpoint was once important for mining, and being called Wheal Peevor, I couldn’t help saying we had whealy peeved off the locals 🙂

Joking aside, these 3 mines (above and below) are amongst the best known mining remains in Cornwall, and quite unique for the way they preserve what was formerly a common and typical arrangement of engine houses – one building to pump water out, a second to winch material up and out of the mine, and a third to operate the powerful stamps which would crush the ore rich rock into manageable material for processing.

Photo by ICLOK 2008

Between 1872 and 1889 Wheel Peevor mined 3280 tonnes of black tin, 5 tonnes of 4% copper ore, and 7 and 12 tonnes of pyrite and arseonpyrite (All figures sourced from The Metalliferous Mining Region of South West England, Volume One, HMSO, Dines 1956)

Easily mined cheap minerals from the far east (East & South East Asia) finally put Wheel Peevor out of business, but not before it was named ‘the big surprise of Cornish mining’ as it was still profitable till 1889, 20 yrs after others were beginning to go out of business. In common with many other Cornish mines, Wheel Peevor briefly opened for Wolfram (Tungsten) extraction which was used for munitions and other military uses during the first world war.

GREAT PLACE TO VISIT

£800K has been spent on restoring the aforementioned buildings and developing Wheel Peevor for recreation, and the 5ha site was opened in 2008 to the public after years of post industrial neglect. Being tucked away from the busy centre of Redruth, Wheel Peevor is a hidden gem for biking, walking and exploring Cornwall’s heritage. Just please ask permission if you have a strange obsession to go and visit the trigpoint 😉

We walked on leaving the incident and the mines behind us and I hid my bike beside the A30 cutting to pick up later.

3 Walking Gommo’s I: Photo courtesy of Matt Guyver

A30 REVERBERATIONS

At the A30 underpass Ade disappeared whilst I found a suitable sized road sign of the symbolic engine house for the artboard, a fitting icon central to Cornish identity.

I showed Matt how to use the zoom sound recorder and he went off to record Ade who had started to sing away at the top of his voice in the amazing acoustic of the A30 underpass.

I have now crisscrossed the A30 artery of Cornwall 7 times, and each time I have tried to document it in some way, being struck by its scale, importance, even its brutal beauty, but perhaps most importantly its existential value. I walk into the tunnel’s sharply contrasted shadow and glare to the sound of long reverberating voices mingling with crescendoing vrooms and shhooms. 🙂 x x x It seems my walking buddies are getting into this place immersion thing…

Ade was improvising with his voice under the drone of the main traffic above with the occasional passing below of bemused drivers – quite a sight to behold so early in the morning – me in the middle of the road drawing, Matt recording and Ade singing away. It was a beautiful moment and the intensity of the upset woman melted into the warmth of sound and light.

Of course I couldn’t resist getting the violin out, discovering Ade singing roughly in the key of A-flat major some simple but moving phrases with plenty of space round the edges to enjoy the echoing decay. The somewhat subjective analysis of Ernst Pauer’s acclaimed 1876 theory of musical key characteristics state that A flat major is:

“…full of feeling, and replete with dreamy expression.”

…which certainly seemed to fit this moment nicely.

Some of these musical sketches will go into a Cornish symphony of existence – watch this space for a big mash-up of sounds, words, interviews and music ‘out of place’, carefully and sensitively edited to reflect the complex layering of 21st Cornwall life.

PRESENT POST-INDUSTRIES

I wanted to walk through some post-industrial areas of Redruth; and so roughly knowing through my own landscape business that today the Cardrew Way Industrial estate is where most Central and West Cornwall large scale things are made or distributed through, decided to walk right through the middle.

Lorries, wide quiet roads, security fences, large warehouse buildings and tightly cut grass verges are the visual pallete of this pragmatic and utilitarian urbanscape and I stop to draw and also rub some chainlink fencing, a ubiquitous divider of these places.

One commercial property agent describes: ‘The combined conurbation of Redruth, Pool and Camborne is the largest in Cornwall, and this business estate is one of the County’s principle industrial centres’.

In this walking stretch I also find most of the found objects seen next to the artboard* which were appropriately industrial and somehow too spoke of the place – a broken drill bit, an extending drill arm, a wheel weight, mild steel fragments, a tin lid, a large metal washer. These things all exist and from an archeological and forensic point of view are evidence of life and society.

A footpath (above) neatly followed the railway beside close knit urban estate terraced housing with tiny fenced gardens, perfectly complimenting the landscape and reminding us of where we all grew up, in suburban East London.

I sent the boys off to the railway bridge to try and record the sound of a train coming into Redruth and all about me I drew the grey terraced housing with a bit more space around them.

KNOW YOUR PLACE

Matt was chuffed to have recorded a train going past whilst sitting on the bridge steps and we all had a break under the vivid blue sky overlooking Redruth. The monotone cerebral graffiti on the railway bridge was an eclectic and insightful mix of ideas: anti-Christian, anti satanic, satanic, spiritual, left wing political, teenage fantasy, motivational sayings, socialist and humanist profundities, a real flavour of a youthful and slightly playful zeitgeist, a mash up of post-postmodern angst, meanings and searchings. And my favourite from these musings, in large letters above all the other scribblings:

K N O W Y O U R P L A C E

Of course, I liked this because this whole project has been about place, but to write this, what was running through the persons mind?

Know your place in life?

Know your place in society and ‘class’?

Know your places’ surroundings?

Perhaps all of these. I reflected that the ambiguity of the statement is healthy, I think.

Redruth Raliway Pedestrian bridge. Photo courtesy of Matt Guyver

Interestingly there has been a programme on BBC 2 by a presenter called Simon Reeves about Cornwall, told from the point of view of Cornish locals struggling to make ends meet. I don’t personally have a tv license and havent seen it but from the many comments people have been making the programme sounds like it is trying to re-address the narative in favour of hard realities and not just about beautiful good times living the dream Cornwall, something I have been trying to do all along. Here’s a link

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000pb6s/cornwall-with-simon-reeve-series-1-episode-1

LOWENA, SMALLHOLDING FARM

We needed a loo break and it was just the right nudge I needed to slightly adjust the walking route to take us up to Sandy Lane near Mount Ambrose, and up to Lowena (Cornish for ‘Joy’) or Channel View farm as it is written on the OS map. On the way up through another small housing estate we met two older women whom I said hello to and asked for directions, hoping to start a conversation. Both sent us in the wrong direction, or the directions you would take in a car (I roughly knew where to go) but the first woman (below) replied these words to the question ‘What it is like living here?’ :

People are lovely – I can call on any of the neighbors at any time if I want anything … and I think there’s only one way for the future – and that’s up!’

So ignoring the directions a little bit we carried on up the track over Sandy lane to the farm. This is the place where I lived for a year (below), and where this whole project started…

The views from the front of the house are stunning NW towards Carn Brea, further to Godrevy and out to St Ives, and it brought back memories of spreading all the OS maps of west Cornwall out in the front room beside a roaring fire and working out how many trigpoints there were, and whether it was feasible to walk between them all.

Mark Selwood (above), owner of the smallholding, met us in the old farm yard in his walking boots. This smallholding looks after sheep, goats, dogs, chickens, geese, horses, grazing and hay fields and a vegetable garden which enables the Selwoods to be about 95% self sufficient with the exception of grains. There is also the youngest Selwood son and daughter running their businesses of Jack Selwood joinery and Alice Selwood Textile design and others living on the land. The Selwood family moved here in the early 2000’s from Birmingham and brought up their 4 children on the farm.

Round the back, Mark’s wife Jo (below, also with Bridget) can always be found on the veg patch beavering away on her own or with helpers, and she is always generous with life advice, gardening tips and spare plants.

I asked a few questions about what Cornwall and Redruth meant to Jo,

After the classic one liner joke ‘The best thing about Redruth is getting out of it’ Jo went onto say:

‘Its kind of Gods place, for us, where He led us, freedom, the beaches, and the lovely… rain (!?!) … and the sunshine, out in the elements’

Bridget then answered my question ‘What do you think is the future for Cornwall?

Well these days, you don’t know what it going to happen tomorrow… people can just change the laws, just like that…

Jo also replied:

‘I’m loving lockdown because I don’t have to think about tomorrow… I don’t look ahead that far… I’m very much present and living in the moment’

And went on to say:

‘… Folk in Cornwall are fantastically grounded people and generally not chasing after material things, and I think that’s an important thing’

REDRUTH TOWN CENTRE

I was so glad we visited the farm. We then walked into town via Sandy lane and a fortuitous dome mirror 3 Gommo’s II selfie moment thanks to Adrian Wright.

Down the old main road (East end through to Fore Street) to visit the sculptures I already knew of and to have some lunch. Along the way past mining labourer cottages, tarmac started to look like engine houses, and we met a woman who described the stone crushing wheel I was rubbing and told us of her experience of going down into a working mine.

Along the main pedestrianised street lies interesting old buildings and shop facades, a steep hill that people labour walking up and down everyday, and today’s particular interest, a crazy artist with his 2 sidekicks walking, sketching, rubbing and interviewing whoever is up for talking.

TIN MINER

The first sculpture we came across is David Annand’s 2008 ‘Tin miner’. It left a striking impression on us at the top of Fore street, the miner leaning into the bracing wind with mining pick in one hand and a tin ingot in the other, candles around his neck and on his funny bowler hat.

TINNERS HOUNDS

Next up were the endearing ‘Tinners hounds’, David Kemp’s 2009 genius doggy creatures, made from bronze casting the original boots worn by Cornish miners into animated and joyful characters seen in little groups all the way along the high street. Some of these loveable hounds have won the hearts of the locals and are regularly adorned with knitted hats, scarves and remembrance poppies, and some are stroked so much that they have polished shiny heads and noses.

David Kemp the sculptor says the sculptures are:

“Relics of a vast underground workforce that rarely saw the light of day, each of the hounds fed up to three and a half families. Released from their subterranean labours, they now wander looking for a proper job”.

I draw them on the artboard as well as the steady stream of people walking up and down the high street.

ASHLEY FROM PENZANCE

As I am drawing and waiting for the boys to finish lunch, I meet the friendly Ashley Ellis, head chef of the Regal cinema and restaurant who is inquisitive about what I am doing in the middle of the street.

Ashley Ellis (below) grew up in Gulval, Penzance but moved inland to Redruth 3 years ago now up the road to Camborne. Ashley said that Penzance has gone down hill in the last 10 years, with an ‘end of the line’ mentality and increasing problems of homelessness, drugs and alcohol abuse. Ashley thinks Redruth and Camborne however, are really nice places to be, with friendly people, a strong sense of community and significantly cheaper places to rent and buy compared to the coast. Ashley thinks the future for Cornwall is strong, having historically had the mining and fishing industries, now tourism as he sees it is the way forward, and although things have been tight due to Covid, Cornwall has that spirit and beaches that no other place has…

In Redruth Ashley said he felt like he could say hi to anyone walking along the street no problem which he just couldn’t do anywhere else and that Redruth really has this openness in abundance. ‘Cornwall just has too much going for it’ to think about leaving and he and his 2 sisters have all been determined to stay in the county despite lower wages.

ST RUMON

The intriguing ruins of the old chapel of St Rumon and its cross now remain preserved for public enjoyment since 2000 when the gardens were opened after being a former library, cinema and druids hall in the 20th Century. You might have noticed these roofless arch windows sitting in traffic queueing by the station viaduct and the junction with West end:

For a brief life of St Rumon the celtic saint who also founded Cornish churches at St Ruan Major and St Ruan Minor (walk 6) click here, and for a really neat potted history of Redruth click here for a link to the town council’s informative and not too long summary which can be easily walked through in an hour or so.

STAR SHOE REPAIRS, ‘RAD’RUTH

George Skinner has lived in Redruth all his life, and Star shoe repairs sitting under the railway viaduct painted in bright blue is the family business passed onto him by his uncle, who in turn took it over from the Star business of a successful London franchise.

Inside the shop, George (below) described himself as ‘an old fashioned cobbler’ and went on to talk about business, life and the future as he saw it:

‘Its been a difficult year due to Covid because I haven’t been open, a lot of my customers are elderly, they buy better quality shoes and have them repaired – a lot of people don’t have their shoes repaired because they buy cheap fashion stuff – its driven by media and the things they see – pop stars and footballers who have everything new all the time- the latest ‘in’ thing – they say they are green but they are not really green, they might recycle but every time the new phone comes out they’ve got to have the new phone , and the same with what you wear- everything’s designer label , its just the way things are going, you cant go back in time, its like a river , if it doesn’t move it stagnates, so you have to move forward – so I sell things we never used to sell like keys that we never used to do, the world is completely different nothing seems to be for ever now, years ago prices used to stay the same, if you were in a job and you were ok at it you were in it for life… not today… if we don’t have to deal so much with Europe or we have to pay more to deal with Europe things will cost more and value things more and not think I’m going to buy a cheap pair of shoes, I’m going to buy a decent pair of shoes look after them and then they will come to me for business! and they don’t polish neither – my uncle back in the 80’s used to sit for I don’t know how many hours polishing and used to sell boxes and boxes of polish every week but now I don’t sell a box of polish a month! – people just don’t polish their shoes… or they buy shoes with so many different colours they cant get the polish for it! people have some very very different colours these days! Doctor Martens in pink! – with some of them have painted flowers on them – I mean they used to do that in the 60’s – do it yourself – now you buy them like that!

The brilliant piece of art perfectly summing up George’s upbeat attitude

So George, what’s it like living in Redruth?

Its brilliant! I know no different – I hear people outside Redruth run it down sometimes , but Redruth is a great little town – I love it. And you’ve got people like Ross Williams who is trying to like improve the whole area, he’s bought the old county school (developed into Krowji artist and craft studios) he’s not a politician, he’s a business man but he’s a really really good business man – he’s not just interested in the money, he’s interested in the area and doing the area up for other people , making the place better , he’s improved it, I mean he’s done the old county school – he’s made it into somewhere where artists and people who make things can rent rooms cheap to do their thing. He gets stuck in as well – when we had the pasty festival or whatever in town, he’d be there doing all the work… he’s not scared to get his hands dirty

For a little insight into Krowji, or Ross Williams click here or here

George, what do you think the future is for Redruth?

I think the people who are interested in the area, they want to make it work, I can’t see any reason why Redruth can’t be great like it used to be in the mining era – you’ve got so much going on here, so much history, it could be a really good place… we used to be a really prosperous town, I mean Redruth is ‘red river’ where it got its name from [the red colour reflecting the rich mineral resources flushed in to the river from mining operations] We used to be a prosperous town, not that long ago really, back 60 years ago when my uncle was a boy and there was market day on a Friday, the town used to be packed – you couldn’t go up that town [street] I mean you had trouble walking up there, I used to remember all the farmer coming in on the Friday and getting all the boots in and doing all those boots, and different villages had different markets on different days didn’t they? so market day was a busy day, now there’s a car park up there [in the old market meeting place]… they don’t do that anymore….

I think Redruth could be a really good place – I mean I think they could do with having lass traffic wardens around and more free car parking like at Chasewater, you go there, its free to park, I think we should have a free car park – I think that would bring more people into the town…part of the problem is people come from further away and they all want to drive – my customers come from all over Cornwall these days… and they all have cars … and its no good saying take public transport on a bus as you could easily spend a morning on that!’

So finally George, what about the rivalry with Camborne?

Ah! well! -We are the best and that’s it! there’s no doubt about it – we play rugby and they try! they do their best, they cant help that, that’s just the way it is… they’s cant help it!

I left the shop to both of us laughing out loud, having enjoyed George’s easy going and positive outlook.

UP TO CARN BREA

3 Gommo’s III. Up Trewirgie lane to Carn Brea

I really wanted to go up to Carn Brea to let Ade and Matt experience the views from up there, also we literally ran past not stopping back in 2015 on walk 24 – click here for that epic walk. On the way up to Carn Brea village I spotted G A S on the road manhole cover, remembering that George mentioned 18th C engineer William Murdoch, pioneer of gas lighting, making Redruth the first town in the world to have gas lighting, I just had to have that G A S rubbing. It was also next to some very cool Cornish gold and black (classic Cornish colours) scaffolding.

The Basset monument at the top of Carn Brea was the last significant planned visit of the day, and with the light already beginning to cast long shadows, and a few friends waiting for the champagne finish up at Carn Marth, I began to one final time feel the pressure of completing the walk before sunset, something I have felt pretty much every single walk!

Carn Brea Hill seen from near Mount Ambrose, Redruth town in the valley below

Carn Brea hill, strikingly visible from miles around, is the site of a Neolithic tor settlement which was established as early as 3400 BC. There is evidence of some activity during the Iron age but the early Medieval period in 1389 saw a chapel built on the site, thought to be dedicated to St Michael. In 1700 the current castle was raised as a hunting lodge for the Basset family of Tehidy and this building still stands today (belwos), run as a Lebanese restaurant. The west wing of the castle is literally built on top of the weathering granite pillow stones (below) and inside the cramped but cosy spaces and staircases are full of stone age and character.

The Carn Brea monument was erected in 1836 by public subscription and questions to this day shroud the monument in a somewhat shady and controversial light. It is roughly inscribed:

THE COUNTY OF CORNWALL

TO THE MEMORY OF

FRANCIS

LORD DE DUNSTAVILLE

AND BASSET

A D 1836

A quick look at the facts of the Carn Brea monument and some of the musings on the well documented mine exploration forum reveal question marks over Francis ‘Lord de Dunstaville’ Basset as a person, his behaviour and his character (of course judged by todays standards); his political power mongering, general unpopularity as an influential person; his perceived disregard of the miners poverty and his complicit role in the Redruth food riots; his failure to financially support a local hospital for the miners…

Whilst Basset did received the Baron title peerage for rallying 600 miners support against a Franco-Spanish invasion (arguably protecting his own interests) and is known to have supported the abolition of slavery abroad, in Cornwall, by controlling the mines and poor mining workforce families, Francis Basset appeared to essentially inflict slavery upon his fellow human underground, the fate of which he was in control of. He died without a male heir and his barony passed to his sole daughter who never married.

The Carn Brea monument, ‘erected by public subscription’ (?), is unlikely to have been supported by destitute miners who could barely feed their families, some saying their presence at the laying of the foundation stone ceremony was under coercion, and it is misleading to suggest that the whole county of Cornwall raised the funds as it is widely known that the project was managed by the local freemasonry ‘club’ with Bassett not known to have provided any significant funds for the construction costs.

Perhaps these reasons are why the words rudely chiselled into the South face of the monument seem to have been executed with a lack of skill, as if a feeble afterthought, some of the rounded carved letters carelessly out of scale with the others, and as if there was little will or motivation to do this task with any sense of pride or belief…

Scratch below the surface, and history is not as it seems or not as some hope us to believe… thank goodness things have changed today?

For a further discussion critiquing the public sculptures mentioned in this blog click here for a short chapter (page 12 and 13) of my BA dissertation on a Cornish spirit of place

The sun was setting and we were still 4 miles off the trigpoint. I then reacted as I do and went too far ahead and whilst I was having a great chat with a 50yrs resident half wondering where the boys were, my phone rings and we struggle to re-rendezvous, wasting 10 minutes of sunlight … I’m now sweating as I run to meet the guys and we join the great flat lode, a route I walked in the opposite direction back in2016 on walk no. 25

Its exactly like last time when I finished the first 24 walks in 2015, a litttle bit strained and sweaty lol- the thought that people are waiting for me and I am late is just terrifying in my people pleasing world! In my haste I leave my phone on a gate as I rub the words ‘copper’ onto the artboard, the last thing I add to the artboard reportage. Fortunately Ade spots the phone when they pass by the same spot and picks it up for me.

On the way up to Carn Marth I bump into Brill and Fidget, local legends of the land and the community, who walk with me the last stretch, truth is I actually rush on after 5 minutes and Ade and Matt are not far behind. Its 4:51pm.

4:51pm 4/11/20. Carn Marth sunset. Photo courtesy of Roger Wyatt

The sun has set and we’re not there yet. Its getting dark and the air is dank and its uphill uphill all the way to the fading light. Then I spot a certain familiar 4 x 4 vehicle and in the distance, a man in boots and a paramo, cheekily perched atop the concrete trigpoint with 2 other silhouettes, one instantly recognisable, and never late.

Its Roger Wyatt, Phil Ball and James Miller my good and faithful friends.

Yay! we finished! I’m finished! (walking)

Lets get the champagne. A lovely Rose Brut from the Camel Valley vineyard we cycled to yesterday, and highly recommended, as is the neat wine tasting ‘flight’ you can buy for sampling their 4 sparkling and 3 still wines, just be careful when you cycle back to Padstow or Wadebridge along the bike trail 🙂 (pic 3 below is from the vineyard itself)

As I have come to learn to accept, these walks barely scrape the surface of the layers of life and history that continue to express themselves through the people and the fabric of the places they inhabit.

THE ARTBOARD:

THE ROUTE:

THANKS:

Especially to Adrian Wright and Matt Guyver who put up with my walking art practice on walks 99 and 100 (Ade also on walk 83), never complaining once and entering fully into all the fun! I love you guys so much.

And just to say with 3 sets of photos and films to edit, I lost track of who took which picture, suffice to say Matt and Ade’s pictures (better than mine) feature heavily in this massive blog endeavour which took two days to put together.

SO, BIG PHOTO CREDITS TO BOTH MATT GUYVER & ADRIAN WRIGHT

And, to all these lovely people who came along to some or one of the walks or just sweetly met me at the end – that was so nice too:

Bridget and Phil Clemoes (walks 5, 11 and 17)

Mark and Jo Selwood (Walk 5 Goonhilly)

Karensa Laurie (walks 91, 84 and 82)

Francesca Casey (walk 93)

Noah Ball (walk 81)

Phil Ball

Caitlin Lord (walk 81)

James Miller (walk 57)

Roger Wyatt & family

Alan and Kay Guyver (walk 99)

Darren Ray (walk 9)

Juliet Walshe

Rob Selwood (walk 24)

Hannah Brown (walks 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 29, 30)

Doug (walk 1)

And to the countless named people I had the pleasure and priviledge of talking to and recording as I tried to engage with the people and the places walked through. THANK YOU

BACK HOME

I cleaned my boots of Cornish soil one last time:

I will post progress on a multi media immersive exhibition…

There’s so much material to boil down –

Now for the big edit:

  • Soil out of place
  • Sounds out of place
  • Music out of place
  • Words out of place
  • Lines out of place
  • Pictures out of place

TO BE CONTINUED…

Thanks for reading

Ian

x

PS: ‘Heaven is a place nearby’

PPS: ‘Know your place’

PPPS: Be blessed

TPK Walk 99: St Agnes Beacon – Radnor

So happy to have family and friends join me for this penultimate walk which featured windy engine houses, a bad sad Giant, and blue moons.

GUYVER’S: A rather wild breed: L – R: Alan, Kay, Ian, Matt

We expected heavy mizzling rain all morning 😦

We got violent winds and bright skies 🙂

By the time we got to the top of St Agnes Beacon it was wild but clear.

THE WIND DRAWS AWAY

I naturally wanted to record these extreme airs. The walking sketchbook woman does this thing (click the link above for her great work) where she attaches pens to quivering tree branches so they can draw… I attached the pen to my hand and tried to stand still:

Its a bit blurry (Ade’s camera didnt like the wind) but you get the idea.

We fell down the other side of the Beacon and headed towards St Agnes Head and the coastal path, where a volunteer observation post supports the coastguard, the RNLI and the general marine traffic. I wouldn’t like to be on the seas today…

HEAVEN IS A PLACE NEARBY

We attempted heading west into the winds, gusting to 60mph but fading, we thought. We found a memorial plaque which said ‘Heaven is a place nearby’ as an epitaph, which aligns perfectly with my own philosophy for life 🙂 We thus all joined to hold the paper down for the printing of these profound words out of the place.

MATT ‘S ARTBOARD HEROICS

Unfortunately I briefly slipped and let go of the artboard shortly after this and the wind proceeded to rapidly to take the art away into the gusting sky. Fortunately I have a feisty little brother, Matt, whose skills include singlehandedly accosting naughty robbers in London without a thought for himself. Matt reacted and sprinted off faster than the wind which was ripping the paper away, and dived in mid air to catch the art, the moment captured by my gopro and Ade’s camera below:

BIG GUNS VIEW

After all this drama we sheltered for a while on a precipice overlooking the most stunning view, which also happened to house an anti aircraft gun from the second world war. I rubbed the concrete foundation pad as a texture onto the board, holding on a little tighter to the paper now. We took these great shots (below), the third one from Ade particularly capturing a strange mixture of misty haze, exposed cliff and wild wind :

AUNTY KAY GUYVER

Meet Kay Guyver (below), a legend who often led this walk from the front, straight into the wind and up and down the steep coastal cliffsides whilst we all languished behind. Kay is a wonderful combination of loving care, tolerance, openness and inquisitiveness, topped with an endearing west country accent. Thankyou Kay for coming along!

CORNISH ENGINE HOUSES

We carried on and met our first Cornish Engine House, silhouetted beautifully against the misty bright cliffs.

For a good little potted history of these iconic Cornish buildings click here. These giant buildings and chimney stacks have lasted because they were built to withstand 50 tonne wheels and tremendous forces rendered by the piston arms that used to pump out water out from the mines and enable the rich resources to be extracted all across Cornwall and west Devon.

Below: Botallack Mine in West Penwith; Dolcoath Mine at Redruth; East pool restored engine house showing the wheel.

The first engine house we went past on the coast path (below) was so clean edged, manicured and ‘made good’ for photos like these that it seemed out of place:

Later on we found a less touristicated and photoshopped version with bits falling off and decaying which somehow seemed more authentic to the place*.

CHAPEL PORTH

Tourism in Cornwall means cars, caravans, campervans, coaches and car parks. This is why I will always take the opportunity to draw cars and vehicles, since it is authentic to the reality of this wonderful place, whether we like it or not. And Chapel Porth has a good car park! and it is therefore popular with walkers who can get to Porthtowan across pure golden sand on a low tide, and surfers who catch good Atlantic swells.

THE FATE OF BOLSTER THE GIANT

Local folklore in this area speaks of Bolster, a giant, whose stature was such that he could stand with one foot on St Agnes Beacon and the other on Carn Brea, a distance of some six miles. It is said that Bolsters wife was given the unenviable task of clearing rocks from the area surrounding St Agnes Beacon by her tyrannical husband. Bad Bolster!

One day, Bolster is reported to have met and fallen in love with St Agnes, the virtuous saint after whom the parish is named. Despite her protestations, Bolster would not refrain from his romantic pursuit of the saint and she had to resort to employing a cunning scheme to get rid of him. She was helped by the Knight Sir Constantine and his local worthies who searched for giant to challenge him to a duel.  But sadly each one was easily overcome and so Bolster still remained. And so Agnes thought again and pretended to be persuaded by the intensity of the giant’s love, telling him that she required yet one small proof of his love, asking him to fill a hole in the cliff at the base of the Chapel Porth valley with his blood. If he would do this for her, then she would return his love.

Bolster, eager to demonstrate the sincerity of his feelings, agreed to do this. However, what Bolster did not know was that the hole in the cliff drained to the sea. The lovesick giant allowed his life blood to pour into the hole for hour after hour until he finally collapsed with exhaustion and died.

This tragedy is reenacted at the St Agnes festival where everyone dresses in red and a giant ugly puppet Bolster is taken up onto the cliffs in a memorial ceremony. Click here for more about this strange tradition…

I cant help feeling sorry for Bad Bolster the giant… when we walked past Chapel Porth the red flag was flying on the RNLI truck.

PORTHTOWAN

In Cornish Porthtowan literally means ‘landing place in the sand dunes’. It was a popular seaside getaway for the Victorian and Edwardian population in Redruth and is another well known seaside and surfing town similar to Perranporth. We had a coffee at the Unicorn pub and parted with Aunty and Uncle, not before meeting an interesting chap who is a Mercedes Benz expert fixer, driving a very unusual but cool G-Class truck

Leaving Porthtowan we were glad to be heading out of the wind and up the old mining valley, where Wheal Basset mine sits 2 miles due south of the trigpoint. Back in 1873 the Basset family owned two of the richest mines in Cornwall (Dolcoath and ‘Cooks Kitchen’ at Pool) and were the biggest and most powerful landowners around.

As we went off the beaten track up the valley and along the mining spoiled hillside, we met a friendly mountain ebiker who chatted with us about how wonderful it was to go off road and uphill easily in Cornwall on his ebike, giving him a new lease of life and love for the landscape.

Retracing the ebike’s single wheel treads in the damp mud path, we found our second engine house to play in, *a less polished version of the past, and spent lots of time photographing and drawing it from the inside and out.

PICTURES OF ME & ADE

It has been odd doing this blog and seeing myself in the pictures so much. Many thanks to my good friend Adrian Wright who acted as the walk photographer and has taken so many great shots 🙂 Adrian even bought his new drone to fly for special ariel shots but the wind was too harsh on this occasion. We are hoping to fly on walk 100 this coming Wednesday!

Here are a fews shots of him and it has been an honor and priviledge to have him alongside on this occasion and in the past 🙂 PS First photo courtesy of Matt

SO, wanting to avoid the boring road we ventured through parts of Wheal Basset mine and imagined miners from old returning from long shifts underground along the stream up to nearby villages. Unfortunately no miners still walk along there and we only found barbed wire at the end of the old path – ooppsies. We thus needed to traverse a few barbed wire fences to get to the footpath above a wooded hill, something I try to avoid doing but sometimes its just impossible to not go off-piste to avoid walking in the pitch black.

With the daylight now diminishing with every step, we had about 20 minutes before dusk and night fall, but still made time for some more rubbings – this Celtic cross from the little village Methodist chapel of Mawla.

The sun had nearly gone down but Adrian was still taking rad shots of random noteworthy moments:

BLUE MOON TRIGPOINT

We left the car near the trigpoint in the morning when Aunty and Uncle met us and took us to the start (they got the bus back to the Bolsters Beacon from Porthtowan) We wanted to spend at least sometime at the trigpoint as we knew it was a blue moon but unbeknown to us the mist-shrouded moon had risen behind us as we arrived and we didn’t spot her till we turned around.

As the moon disappeared behind low cloud, Adrian made our very own concrete moons on the trigpoint (below) replete with blue edge and cheese hole texture, and I improvised a minimal drone on the violin as Ade hummed along. You can listen a bit here:

Then we googled up and danced away to The Waterboys ‘The whole of the Moon’, and went home full of memories of the place.

The artboard:

The route:

The 3 gommos:

I would like to dedicate this walk to Granny and Grampy Guyver, who inspired adventure, fun, and wonder in us all 🙂

THE LAST WALK, NUMBER 100 (!) , IS THIS WEDNESDAY 4TH NOVEMBER TO AVOID WALKING DURING LOCKDOWN

IT IS A SHORT WALK OF 5 MILES FROM RADNOR TO CARN MARTH, VIA REDRUTH

JOIN ME FOR THE WALK IF YOU LIKE, THERE ARE 3 SPACES LEFT, OR JUST FOLLOW AT A DISTANCE 😉

OR- JOIN ME AT THE FINISH – SUNSET 4:51pm AT CARN MARTH TRIGPOINT, BRING A GLASS FOR SOME CAMEL VALLEY CHAMPAGNE!

THANKS FOR READING

IAN

TPK Walk 98: Carland Cross – St Agnes Beacon

An epic sunrise welcomed me on this walk back to the north Cornwall coastal path from near where I live in Perranaworthal. It was a short 20 minute drive to the start at Carland Cross, and no bike ride as I was planning on meeting an auntie and uncle at a rendezvous point along the way.

The long grass of the field edge was wet and the air dank and still as I hurried to the top where light was growing.

A band of low cloud delayed the spectacular colours bursting along shadows like ribbons of firey gold.

I was magically bathed in dawn herself.

Over to my right curious drivers glanced as they drove along the A30, me a figure with a violin on a high place.

I drew the giant turbines and the busy roundabout traffic naively and quickly as a start to the art board and with the A30 on my right started walking.

I had to walk a half mile section of the single carriageway A30 and fortunately the verges were wide. Traffic was slow and many faces in vehicles smiled back at me trapsing along doing my thing. I collected lots of road spill, evidence of vehicular life here.

The rain came in heavy as I headed towards Perranporth, hoping to find the disused railway that goes into Goonhavern as a path.

It seems the dormice are encouraged to use the old railway tracks but not humans. I have come across these wildlife corridors regularly in north Cornwall and am encouraged to see that they are increasingly seen as soft green veins through the intensive agricultural landscape.

The footpath spat me out into holiday home sales and the promise of Cornish tourism work at Goonhavern.

North of the town roundabout I arrived at St Pirrans round, an iron age circular enclosure that was converted into a good example of a ‘plen-an-gwarry’ – a sort of amphitheatre for public events, sports and plays, most notably the performance of the ‘Ordinalia’; 3 medieval mystery plays spoken in the Cornish language to spread the Christian message familiar to the time.

This is a very impressive meeting place circle with a 3 metre high bank all around the edged which can accommodate up to 1500 people. The round features a ‘devils spoon’ a small ditch and circle for use in performances.

The popular and critically acclaimed local theatre company Miracle Theatre first performed here in 1995. I improvised a little on my violin, trying to reimagine performances from the past. This example of a Plen-an-gwary which literally means ‘playing place’ is thought to be the best example in Cornwall and I draw its lines onto the artboard around and around. Unfortunately my planned rendezvous here with Auntie and Uncle didnt happen and I tried not to think how I would get back to the car at the end of the walk.

In my professional work as a garden and landscape designer we often use a builders merchant local to this area called RJ Trevail and as I have got to know Brian Curnow the site manager, I decided to call in on him and interview him about his work life here. Below: A local new build using RJ Trevail materials

We spoke for half an hour about Covid, the construction industry and tourism and how RJ Trevail has been busier then ever during this strange season. Brian’s Cornish family from Manacan go back many generations on the Lizard Peninsula and he considers the main thing about survival into the future was being flexible and adpatable to the challenges that face us.

Across a couple of footpaths from Brians office I can see the sea (and the sea sees me) and all the good times promise of sand dunes, breakers, seaside town shops and rugged cliff lines.

Also there’s a sandy golf course, numerous residential developments boasting large window Atlantic views and several holiday villages, perfectly positioned to take a slice of the Cornish surf dream.

The centre of the little seaside town has the regular good times shops, ice creams, amusement arcades, surf stores and snack places, and a small benched promenade with a busker singing songs delicately pitched to the ice cream licking, pasty munching clientel.

I could have stayed there all day on that bench, sketching the family feel good times but have to get to the beacon before dark along the coastal path.

Strange post industrial buildings lurk amidst the mining rubble and rusting iron bars, heavily distorted. The sense of place here mixes the sublime landscape with mystery and anguish; minerals mined using extreme human labour within a setting we romaticise as rugged and beautiful. David who served me my pasty in Perranporth told me of the WW1 dynamite factory on the cliffs where several woman died after the foreman forgot to take his boots off, the static sparking a big explosion. This factory was started by Alfred Nobel whom the Nobel piece prize was named after and who invented dynamite. There is so much history associated with this little stretch of coastline with wrecks and mining and other noteworthy things. this handy guided walk gives little potted summaries as you go along and I highly recommend it…

But now the sun is setting and engine house chimney stacks are darkening against the dusk skyline. I cant even see St Agnes Beacon, the other side of the village in a steep valley and I take the road to save time.

By the time I reach the top of St Agnes Beacon, assisted by nice locals, there is only a small moon and the lights of Redruth and Camborne left. I get a nasty electric shock on a fence not being able to read the signs up to the top, but rest on the leeside of the trigpoint out of the cutting wind and am glad to have covered another 14 miles and experienced and recorded an interesting section of north Cornwall.

AT THE DATE OF WRITING THIS POST, WE COMPLETED WALK 99 YESTERDAY, 31st OCTOBER (THAT IS MYSELF, MY BROTHER, AUNTY & UNCLE, FRIEND FROM LONDON) – AN AMAZING WINDY BUT DRY DAY FINISHING WITH THE BLUE MOON RISE…

…BLOG TO FOLLOW…

BUT DUE TO IMPENDING LOCKDOWN WILL BE WALKING NO.100 ON WEDNESDAY!

LAST WALK No. 100 WILL BE WEDNESDAY 4TH NOVEMBER.

JOIN US AT SUNSET ON CARN MARTH

TPK Walk 97: Zacry’s point – Carland Cross (via Newquay)

On an overcast but dry autumn day, I interviewed a wide range of different people about their views of Newquay:

1. ‘Ambient’… ‘Sea atmosphere’… ‘Wow!’
Scott Wilson, Caravan holiday maker and trumpet player

I was pleased to find the van I had seen the previous week at the start point when I arrived on my bike at 10am. Last week I had heard a trumpet playing from the road layby and by the time I had got out of my car intrigued and ready to say hello, the van had started and drove off.

This week the van was there again and Scott Wilson (above), on the last day of his holiday, was practicing his brass band music because he ‘didnt want to cheese people off’. Scott was happy to talk and have an informal interview. From Sheffield and on regular twice a year holidays to Cornwall in their caravan, Scott and his wife + giant dog whom I met on the beach later said the following about Newquay:

‘Its just so ambient… I seem to relax more here, I dont know what it is, its just the air, the sea atmosphere, everything. Its not the same as Scarborough, you get waves, but it isn’t as good, at 6 o’clock in the evening when you just sit and float there when the power has gone out of the sea, its just amazing you cant buy that, its beautiful. I get that every time we come down here and you just think – wow!’

2. ‘Asylum…’ ‘Freedom…’
Nottinghamshire couple & Newquay photographer

Next I was improvising on my violin at the burial mound where the trigpoint used to stand and 3 walkers stopped, interested in what I was doing. The couple instantly said the word ‘Asylum’ since Nottingham had recently gone to ‘tier two’ within the national Covid strategy, only allowed to meet outside including cafes, so are doing outside day trips with their friend who they were supposed to be staying with. Their friend (pink trainers above) said the word ‘Freedom’ best summed up Newquay, particularly with the sense of space and air on the coastal path, which she contrasted against restricted urban lockdown.

3. ‘Walking & enjoying the Cornish Sun’ vs. ‘Problematic night time economy’
Ex Police officer & partner

Further along the path I met a friendly and open couple from Saltash. They regularly do weekend camping here in Newquay. In reply to my question ‘what does Newquay mean to you?’ The woman answered:

Relaxation and walking and enjoying the Cornish Sun

The man was a police officer in Plymouth and had a more complex picture of Newquay:

The stuff around the edges is great. The North coast is fantastic’. Relaxation, pubs, nice meals. In the centre of Newquay with its night time economy is a different matter entirely. We love it down here, it is nice, but problematic from a professional point of view with the amount of clubs. If you’re a tourist you don’t see what really goes on – you just see everybody having a good time, it has attracted a lot of drugs but it is the same for any area, these days unfortunately. especially when you get holiday areas and you get a lot of people who come down and work in the hotels, poorly paid, they get made redundant, stay down here… …and so you get a lot of people who come down from up country who are now unemployed and it becomes deprived as well.’ ‘And its not all about the tourism, the surf scene is very laid back, a different culture, a way of life, there isn’t a perception of violent surfers is there?

4. ‘The trick is to be in Newquay and NOT…’
Three maidens at Trevelgue Head

Near Porth I met three local women who gave some more nuanced views of Newquay. In answer to the question could you sum up Newquay in a few words:

‘Freedom, maybe? You can do what you want, so many beautiful beaches, (I guess if you like outside stuff) no rules, living a nice life, its beautiful for dogs I suppose, its really not pretty in the centre, its awful, its really ugly, and when you live here you dont go to the town centre… the trick is to be in Newquay and NOT [be in Newquay town centre] , if you can avoid it [the centre] you do, and thats what makes it really nice’

5. ‘Absolutely love it every time’
Young couple from Plymouth

This charming couple happily talked to me, the young woman is studying healthcare at Plymouth university and the young man is working for Babcock the large MOD contractor in Plymouth docks. They said: ‘We regularly come on daytrips here to enjoy the beach and the walking and absolutely love it every time’

6. ‘Its free, fresh, and good for your mental health’
Six children with parents walking along the beach

No pictures here but a lively little group from brother and sister adults with 6 children between them under the age of 7, said the following when I asked the children ‘so what’s it like living in Newquay?’:

They all ssream together loudly – ‘Its GOOD!’ – But why is it good? Little one shouts out – ‘Because there’s’ Flambards!’ [All weather theme park] – ‘Its really good, it goes slowly up… and then it zooms down! – ‘We also love coming here don’t we?’ [to the beach] (Mum) – ‘Days at the beach’ – ‘Yeah!’ – ‘sand castles!’ – ‘The beach and the sea’ – ‘Sea Bass hunting!’ – (Dad) ‘So we grew up here in Newquay and especially the beach down here in Summer – its just brilliant’ (Mum) ‘We come down here summer and winter, its just great, its free, its fresh, and its good for your mental health… adore it, cant beat it’

7. ‘Madness’… ‘Mental’… ‘ A toxic vortex’
Cornish couple studying further education locally

Next, this young couple, students studying Psychology at Truro College stopped me and asked me to play them a tune. They were inquisitive and intelligent and had a lot to say about Newquay but unfortunately there was a problem with the recorder so I missed much of what they said including their names. In response to my question of summing up Newquay in a word or two, the girl said ‘Madness!’ and ‘Mental!’. She went onto say that ‘unspeakable things go on at night in the town centre, …it can be a drug fueled ongoing party and if you are not careful it can suck you into its toxic vortex and spit you out…

8. ‘We just open our doors and lay in the dark… …its fabulous’
Greg & Dianne, East London couple post lockdown getaway

I sat on some rocks overlooking the sea to draw and before too long a middle aged couple came over and said hi. They own a holiday let and had been staying away from London for 3 months. I recognised the accent and we chatted and laughed about Romford Market near where I grew up and knew that coming from East Ham the man had to follow West Ham football club. Saying ‘Up the ammers’ broke the ice somewhat…

Greg: ‘Newquay town I’m not a big fan of, but the surroundings of Newquay is like HEAVEN… around the edges it need knocking down and rebuilding , one or two bits they should board up and regenerate like that Hotel at Pentire that has been derelict for 20 years, they should at least put boards up with surf scenes and artwork or something! – Diane: ‘They really need to hide those things they are not ready to renovate yet… coming from London the reason to come down here is for the space…and the scenic, so going into Newquay into Whetherspoons is not why we come down here, different for other people from elsewhere…

Greg: ‘You know we dont watch TV? When we are at home we will turn the tv on and watch Netflix and whatever but not here, we just open our curtains – because we are right there on the beach at Porth there, so we just open our doors and lay in the dark… …its fabulous… …We’ve been here for 3 months… The centre has got its own charm in its own sort of way, (pause) but its not my sort of charm…’ Diane: ‘but when you go into the surf shops and outdoor shops, they all know what they are talking about…’ Greg: ‘yeah, Snug [tailor made wetsuit company] are making me a bespoke fitted neoprene vest to go under my wetsuit…’ Diane: ‘Yes I like that in Newquay you have your specialists down here, and the surf schools are very good… its set up for the outdoor life’ Greg: ‘The Cornish are a bit funny though aren’t they?, dont you think? do you know that had more money off the EU than the whole of the UK and then they all voted to leave!, I just think its funny!’

9. ‘Surfing’
72 year old local man 54 yrs resident

This man (above) slowly walking up the hill from Tolcarne beach asked me what I was doing. I explained and asked him what Newquay meant to him in a few words. ‘Surfing’ he said with a sparkle in his eye. He went on:

I used to go up and down the north coast but for me Great Western is now the best beach for surf. My dad was in the army in the war and I was born in Devon, Bideford, after leaving school I was helping with some Portland stone facing work in Leeds and some of the workers said we are going to Newquay do you want to come along? I said OK, and here I still am! I have been surfing here ever since I was 18… There were surfers back then but not as many…’

10. ‘Its a shithole’… ‘Its really good for skateboarding and surfing’
Young people gathering at the railway station shelter

Walking past the railway station after getting a pimped Honda civic to rev up his idling engine* (ahem outside the police station), a lot of young people in their teens were hanging about so I chatted with them to get a feel of what they thought of Newquay:

‘Newquay? …its a shithole!… No, Only joking,’ (embarrassed) ‘There’s quite a lot do I guess, its quite open space, quite busy, like there’s lots to do…’ two lads sitting with skateboards on the steps said: ‘Its a really good town for skateboarding and surfing’ and that they were here because ‘Truro was quite boring’ (where they lived), and one lad wanted to get out of Cornwall and ‘didn’t like it here‘ because he was from Birmingham and missed the urban environment, whilst the other one wanted to stay. Some of the girls were shocked I was walking across Cornwall: ‘Walking? oh my god I hate walking’… and another: ‘why would you do that? walk number 97?! are you taking the piss?!‘ Another girl asks what I am doing and I explain I am an artist trying to understand what Cornwall, and today Newquay, is all about, and what it means to people. She replies ‘Its a shithole’ its awful, I wouldn’t say it was anything I would take photos of… (Pause) ‘No, when its sunny and there’s a nice sunset its fucking gorgeousAnother remarks: ‘No, I don’t like it here, theres nothing to do and I want to move back’ (turns out this particular girl is from Barking East London and her parents moved down here) There’s obviously a lot of group bravado going on here, but most of these young people live here and go to the two main secondary schools Tretherras and Treviglas, and the railway shelter is the main place where they meet. They said that these 2 schools are not in competition with each other and everyone gets along. After a while talking, the girl offered her hand in some youthful sign of respect but then remembered and offered her elbow saying ‘safe one‘. I naturally reciprocated to much laughing and joking and thanked them all for their time. At least I seemed to have entertained them a little…

11. ‘They cant spoil the scenery’
RNLI volunteer, local resident 40 years

The knowledgeable and friendly volunteer woman in the RNLI gift shop explained that Newquay used to be called Towan Blystra before the literal ‘new quay’ of the harbour was built around 1450 and where the Lifeboat and a smattering of fishing vessels are now tucked away, often overlooked. Towan Blystra meaning ‘blown hill’ in Cornish is now generally forgotten about except it is the name of the Wetherspoons pub in town which, whilst offering cheap food and drink and a sense of busy community during the day, by evening is often the go-to cheap filling station before the big night out in the clubs. The woman had many insights into Newquay:

We’ve found over the years that the quality of the shops and the accommodation has gone down…’ adding the caveat: ‘But I think its pretty much the same countrywide, its not just Newquay…‘ and I think they [the authorities] should be encouraged to bring in better shops for the people who live here… its not good (walking through town) if you need to but ordinary everyday things you struggle.. the high street definitely exists there just for the holiday makers… its not all year round, July August and September are the busy months, this year they are coming down a bit longer because of Covid, they cant go aboard and its definitely been busier this year, we’ve had pop up restaurants all across the sand and its been really busy down there, its been really good… because we want to get the people in you know…

The night life is not good at times, it can be troublesome… my son has been going out in Newquay since he was 15 and he’s 35 now and he hasn’t got into trouble but if you live here everyone looks out for each other and they don’t get into trouble. Its unfortunately the people coming in – the hen and stag parties that cause the trouble… we do get more families but having said that accommodation; [the quality of] hotels and b & b’s are getting lower and less and less of them and its more holiday flats, yes, every building that is empty is turned into flats, but they are not affordable for those who live here, so its the second home owners [who buy them] The people who live in cornwall make do – they manage – they rent, very few young people have got their own houses, very few, or they have to go away from the coast, they have to go inland to buy, they are cheaper. People who are born and brought up in Newquay and want to stay here its a struggle… a lot of people here live on the poverty line, a lot… we dont get too many homeless but we do get people coming here thinking they might be able to get a job and they never do… so it [Newquay] has its downsides, but we love living here… in winter time its like being on holiday… you can wander about, theres nobody about so you can take a picnic out anywhere…

12. ‘We shot 39 today’
Local father with aspiring game shooter sons

Whilst not an official interview (I was focused on walking the remaining 12 miles in 2 hours – yikes) I was intrigued to stumble upon a father and sons moment as the eldest returned from a days shooting in the nearby estate of Rejerrah, land managed for game. All dressed in his greens the proud lad was looking forward to when he was legally allowed to shoot a rifle and not go on the shoot as just a ‘beater’ (helpers who control the movement of the birds – ‘beating’ – into the direction of the ‘guns’) The younger son was holding a clutch of pheasant and they were ready to go and skin the birds for dinner. Dad and lad said:

‘He’s desperate to go shooting only just turned 14 so he can only get his license now…’ Lad: ‘Im only beating today, but sometimes I shoot‘ – Dad – ‘Hes got to prove himself to them and then…’

Much of the wooded and sheltered land tracts of ancient estates have been managed for game hunting like this since before medieval times and so this last encounter was a compelling contrast of the old order of things with the present and a fitting closure to Newquay as I now headed inland through some of these ancient family estates up to Carland Cross

Some other pictures from the day:

Lusty Glaze. Shut for a while
Porth view
Jet skis on Tolcarne
Black velvet hotels
Black velvet up close – Beautiful muscle colony
Pile driver for luxury sea view apartments
The high street, GYM, TAXIS, pink holiday noise
Bright lights and sounds 1
*Dude revving up his R Type Civic
Drawing Newquay high street
Bright lights and sounds 2
No more Corona thanks
Newquay fishing harbour formerly Towan Blystra
Newquay fishing rope
Fistral no swell
Fistral dude
River Gannel, Newquay seaside lolipop selfie
Soulless new estate with no trees or chimneys outside Newquay + crashed caravan
Gnarly hawthorn dusk
Heading up to Carland cross
Last light

On reflection I thought to myself can I really capture the spirit of this place in a single day, walking through?

The results might have been different in the height of summer, but the thoughtful and more reflective autumn season was probably the right moment to attempt a snapshot of life here, and I am really pleased with the sense of place captured in interviews, sound, word, photography and on the artboard (below)

Some lines and rubbed bits all over the place of Newquay

The route:

Thanks for reading. Next week. No. 98 of 100 – Braving the A30 at Carland Cross to join Perranporth SWCP and finish at St Agnes Beacon.

NB this walk was done on the 17th October – the blog is a week late due to work and life pressures! So right now as I write this (Saturday 25th October) I completed walk 98 yesterday (Friday 24th) and am now starting to edit all the photos and content.

Not too late to join me for last two walks.

Ian

TPK Walk 96: Mountjoy – Zacry’s point (Porth nr Newquay)

THOUGHTS AS I APPROACH FINISHING 100 WALKS

The project is drawing towards the finish on Saturday 7th November with walk number 100 finishing at Carn Marth.

The walks certainly aren’t getting any easier, but they are so rewarding every single time, regardless of weather, season or difficulty.

To try and engage authentically with the Cornish landscape and the people has been such a privilege.

Chatting with local who bought the converted Colan chapel near the A393

The hard work comes after I finish the walks and when I edit the words, sound and vision I have captured into a cohesive and immersive expression of 21st C Cornish existence… Yikes. Help. But ultimately I am only a busy squirrel gathering morsels I have found for others to feast on.

It will be nice to go on a walk somewhere without the record button flashing away.

WALK 96

It was with some apprehension that I cycled up to Mountjoy trigpoint just outside of St Columb Minor, as the insanely busy and fast traffic of the A393 last week mercilessly forced me into muddy fields with terrifying intensity.

CARS

I remember musing over our reliance of the car when I first moved to Cornwall in 2012 and still wonder what would happen if something catastrophic happened to transport logisitcs or we had serious long term fuel shortages. Perhaps we would go back to horse and cart. The world would shrink to how far we could walk, cycle, ride, float or sail once again. For now, electric bikes (and cars following on soon) are booming and getting people out and around the hilly Cornish landscape, and I was shocked recently to meet a bright eyed student riding an ebike, wrongly assuming that this assisted 2 wheel locomotion was only the preserve of the retired ‘grey pounders’ middle class with the required budgets of £2500+ to spend on. A friend in London told me about the latest models and expects prices to come down and accessibility to increase…

With Lithium mining literally beginning to open up on our Cornish doorsteps, the guts of the new clever batteries might well be made locally and herald in a new era of clean’er’ transport. But cycling is not the fast dry box of convenience we have lazily come to rely on and I think it will take further perhaps painful paradigm shifts to ween us off our comfort driven relationship to getting about, transport, landscape and existence.

(BACK TO THE WALK)

Next to the old trigpoint a vodafone telecommunications transmitter was buzzing away and beeping intermittently as the cars sped to and from Newquay.

The view from the trigpoint here took in the claypits to the south, twin peaks of Rough tor and Brown Willy to the east, and the Atlantic promise of Newquay’s bays to the north.

The freshly ploughed fields offered striking lines to follow and I trapsed along field edges to avoid the dangerous road. Finally clambering over a hedge onto a verge where I could cross and find minor roads and footpaths away from the A393.

In the hamlet of Colan, a chap proudly looking after the grounds of his converted chapel tells me the queue into Newquay during ‘silly season’ backs up 3 miles to past his house. A mix of mainly retired folk, a few local tradesman and ‘a chap who runs a successful forest school’ make up this group of 12 properties and ‘everyone knows each other well’.

  1. Below: Converted Colan chapel
  2. Below: I study the tilling and sowing of field lines
  3. Below: Striking Elder tree forms stripped of autumn leaves
  4. Below: Colan church lichen colony

Tucked away down some old byways through Fir wood estate woodland where I chance upon forest school dens, I aim for Porth reservoir, a beautiful flooded lake and dam, a serene contrast to the bustle of popular Newquay, and home to green clad fisherman, bird hides and wildlife of all shapes and sizes. The walk around the perimeter of the lake is really special, inviting walkers to regularly join the waters edge and view the expanse of water.

The dam was built in 1960 with brutalist concrete modernism (utilitarian functionality), presumably to replace Melancoose mill just beyond the dam where I was walking, its unusual pieced granite millstones a rarity.

At the giant dam, I just couldn’t resist rubbings of the concrete, recording muted water sounds and stunning photographic shots of the algal colonies softening the waters progress down the concrete slope… The cappuccino water scum striping was noteworthy too (below), and I dipped the artboard into this watery place.

Above the reservoir on a high plateau sits Mawgan military airfield and Newquay airport. A thomascook.com jet sits in the view as do many other aircraft, redundant during this strange season the world finds itself in.

I wander past lots of rectangular box holiday homes, orientated towards the golden bays of Fistral, Lusty Glaze and Watergate, a slice of the Cornwall surfing capital. But we are just on the cusp of Newquay and heading slightly north, to Porth, via St Columb minor. The showers come and go and I descend into the valley, a golden sanded childhood dream in the distance. I sketch the outline of the evocative landscape again and again, the tower of St Columb minor church somehow rooting the scene into the past, and the shapes of the bay personifying holiday good times.

Crossing through a 1970’s bungalow housing estate, communities have grown up and thrive close to the tourism magnet of Newquay. Each house has its view of the sea along the steep sloping roads that lead down to the sands. A packed Mermaid Inn sits where freshwater mixes with the salty breakers and I add some sand to the artboard to lessen the impact of a horse manure accident.

The cliffs are dramatic and randomly shaped, adding to the fun of hidden coves and caves.

And the old rubs shoulders with the new, swaying with grasses, palms and tamarisk in the breezy setting.

The inevitable costa del Porth apartments rise on the coastal road in the warm mizzling slowdown.

And the views, colours and sea mysteries are worth it, all weathers.

I head along to the twin tumuli (ancient burial ground) where the trigpoint I discover, USED to sit. An iron bolt set within a concrete pad is all that is left.

The art board:

The found object treasure:

The route:

Having just brushed the very edge of Newquay this week, next weeks walk I am keen to ask everyone I meet the question ‘What is Newquay?’

TPK Walk 95: Belowda Beacon – Mountjoy

Although I was preparing for the worst with a big belt of rain coming in, I was overjoyed by the early bright skies and light…

Dawn bikeride
Up to the trig

I was joined by ponies at the trigpoint, which looks out towards the St Austell clay pits. The vast Goss moor stretches out below the ‘Cornish Alps’ as they are known locally.

I made the most of the weather and improvised on my violin to my charming equine audience, who seemed to enjoy the sound, slowly getting closer and closer with simple 2 note harmonies.

Down in the little hamlet of Belowda I rubbed the words BELOVELY from a house sign into the centre of the artboard and briefly met a homeowner whose land the public footpath runs through. It must be strange having walking folk pass by your life and perhaps doesn’t suit a more private person, highlighted later on the walk by a homeowner denying that the footpath led through his land even though the OS map clearly indicated a public right of way.

The stark low light was still doing great things like this to the tunnel under the A30, 1 of 3 bridges I passed under on this walk which seemed to continually juxtapose humanity with nature

I lingered at a railway line which cuts through the middle of Goss moor, hoping to catch some train sound and vision. I rang my train enthusiast friend Adam Cox who said I might be waiting all day for a train on that line which is a freight line working some of the clay pits, but I did some interesting rubbings on the board before heading further into the moor.

I found out the wet way that smaller footpaths on Goss moor regularly disappear into the marshy mire, probably due to lack of use.

Hacking through public ‘Footpaths’ on Goss Moor

In many places even the hydrophyllic willow scrub seemed to struggle in the anaerobic conditions their roots find themselves in, and up close, the branches, happily draped in lichen, look like a scene from Lord of the Rings

GOSS MOOR

Seen from afar and above, Goss Moor, a designated National Nature Reserve, stretches out as a vast boggy green belt below the claypits and right beside the A30 although one is unlikely even to notice it driving past.

Goss moor is also the source of the river Fal, which drains out to Falmouth and the south coast Atlantic. I dip the corner of the art board in to acknowledge this watery provenance.

Giant electricity pylons cross the moor overhead, buzzing above the main paths where walkers, horses and bikes enjoy the unusual setting. Fortunately there are also main paths around the moor, dry and elevated 1m above the peatland and lowland heath surrounds, and from here one might just catch rare birds like Nightjars and Spotted flycatchers or endangered butterflies such as the marsh fritillary.

SHRUNKEN CORNISH CLAY INDUSTRY

Along one of these good paths, made out of the clay pit spoil, I meet Mel, a veteran clay industry worker employed by Imerys the French company who run all the clay works, and who kindly gives me an informal interview as we walk along. When Mel started back in 1987 there were 20,000 people employed here but now only 1,000. Brazilian clay has effectively closed down the pits by 75%, Mel told me, because for 1 just 1 tonne of usable clay product, there are 10 tonnes of waste, but the opposite is true with Brazilian clay, meaning that globally Cornish clay as a product cant compete with the cost of production. I reflect that without all the that waste Cornwall wouldn’t have its ‘Cornish Alps’.

ST DENNIS

Mel then gives me a lift up to St Dennis Church which Pevsner the architectural writer described as ‘set in the craziest landscape amidst St Austell Clay pits’ – I couldn’t resist visiting after this description and wasn’t disappointed. Seen from a distance it is a steep sided little hill with a dark wooded copse on top, all but obscuring the church tower. But as as one gets nearer the trees up the narrow lane, the wind-sculpted branches all reach into the graveyard like fingers wanting to touch the building which manages to just poke its tower above the sloping green walls.

HEAVY AUTUMN RAINS

I got carried away in the graveyard photographing, drawing and rubbing away, and failed to notice the sky darkening and the sun dimming in the diffuse moisture laden clouds, approaching slowly from the NW…

Heading down the hill back towards the moor as the rain slowly spittered, a public footpath annoyingly led me to a dead end where someone didn’t want walkers to access the moor (what’s the point of a footpath that leads to someone’s house who doesn’t want you going there?) I should report this as many people obviously try to walk down from the church onto the moor the route I came.

Going off-piste over a few fences (of course I’m used to this by now – fully loaded with all my gear and with one arm free to delicately scale any barbed wire fence I come across) the rain now heavy, I really do hope that the disused railway on the map through the moor has become a walkable path and I don’t have to hack and yomp to the next location.

YAY! the old railway had become an ok path, and some of the original concrete sleepers still reveal its railway past under 60 years of nature (above), and this post postmodern path leads me all the way across the moor to a dry shelter – another bridge under the A30!

With all the countryside/rural/field and cow heaven this project has immersed me in, I really do miss some of this classic urban infrastructure, its associated post modern angst and dystopian cues that often go with concrete, tarmac and dense built environments. I enjoyed the orange graffiti above popping out against the wet green and and dry grey.

RUTHVOES

After hot and sweet refreshments (tea and cake) and waterproofing the artboard in a spare coat, I make my way to Ruthvoes pronounced Ru-voze where I hope to find the Holy well of St Columba. Below: Past some more local thoughts (hmmm…) and guided by a local, I find well is gently gushing from the place where St Columba the virgin was beheaded and where a Holy water well ‘issued forth’…

Naturally I try and play my violin – an ode to the woman who was beheaded by a local ruler after months of being twice imprisoned and chased to this valley of Cornwall, all because she didn’t want to renounce her faith.

Here is how the story goes, taken from David Nash Fords Early British Kingdoms :

Columba had a vision in which the Holy Spirit appeared to her in the form of a white dove (Columba also means dove), promising her blessings and love. She decided to remain a virgin and refrain from attending the pagan temple with her parents. Shocked at her behaviour, they had Columba whipped and then thrown in prison. She escaped with the help of an angel who led her to the desert (?)

Eventually a local king captured Columba and, admiring her beauty and grace, offered to marry her to his son, so that they might rule together after his death. Columba declined the offer and so was tortured on a wheel and thrown into gaol once more. Again, she escaped with the help of an angel and fled to the coast where she boarded the first available ship. This took her to Trevelgvy (Trevelgue Head) in Cornwall, but her prospective father-in-law caught up with her at Ruthwas (Ruthvoes) and chopped off her head! She was buried at nearby St. Columb Major.

Ruthvoes is thought to mean Red Wall in Cornish after St Columba’s death. The violin didnt like the rain but I persevered. Its now drying out ready for next wewk.

FINAL UPHILL PUSH

It stops raining just as I leave Ruthvoes, and now fairly soaked, I head under another bridge, this time the A39, and carry on up towards Mountjoy where the trigpoint waits. I was now approaching the popular tourist vicinities of Newquay, and the very name ‘NEWQUAY’ seems to proliferate lots of holiday parks, campsites, and busy roads full of cars and ‘tradies’ serving this particular facet and brand of Cornish appeal.

I found the footpaths to be equally terrible here as people rarely walk across the land, and my path took me to meet the son of a holiday park owner (above) and then through a field of fiesty Holsteins (below) whom I quickly retreated from as they started to buck and charge about me in some sort of euphoric animal excitement… yikes! On this occasion I really didn’t mind going around the field and climbing two fences to avoid these gentle, inquisitive but unpredictable cows. It is the first time in all this walking that I felt in serious danger from cattle.

I then had to negotiate the narrow and very busy Newquay artery of the A392 where Mountjoy trigpoint eluded me (I cycled the road earlier that morning), and where I twice turned back as the road was just too dangerous. Having been kindly assisted with a facemask from a White acres holiday park (below) I refused a staggering £30 cab (Newquay holiday ‘I’ll pay anything’ prices I presume) for the last 500m. After seeing I simply couldn’t cut through further up the hill, I donned my emergenecy high-vis vest and braved the sketchy road before I could slip and fall into a ploughed farmers field and walk safely but muddily up to the top where the trigpoint stood proud. Phew!

I was shattered and damp by the end of this walk, but really pleased to have scratched the surface of some fascinating places, and got some art down before it rained.

Below: The artboard, a little damp but intact, and the route taken, 13.3 miles (but kind Mel gave me a lift for half a mile of this ;))

Thanks for looking. Any comments appreciated. Cheers!

Next week:

Mount Joy to Tregustick (Just north of Newquay)

TPK Walk 94: Denzell Downs – Belowda Beacon

This walk took in two hidden gems of Cornwall past and present. Castle-an Dinas, an iron age hillfort, and St Columb Major, once destined to become Cornwall’s Cathedral town, now tucked behind a line of trees along the A39 obscuring the old church and its fabulous buildings from view.

The first trig point was up at Denzell downs in the centre of a giant windfarm. Before I had finished cycling up to Denzel downs trigpoint, the perfect shape of the hill mound of Castle an dinas sort of followed me on my left all the way, a gently imposing pregnant bump with a furry heathland top.

The dawn bike ride with gentle mound of Castle an dinas on the left

The wind on these exposed hill does the most spectacular sculpting, inflicting bonsai worthy shapes onto unsuspecting trees just trying to get on in life. On my way up after leaving the bike hidden in a farmers field, this Scots Pine had me drooling. Garden design clients would pay thousands for such a specimen in a Japanese garden.

I met some unusually friendly curly haired sheep in the next field, and they nearly contributed to the artboard by eating and chewing the board (below) Collaboration with the animals of the land, hmm… that has got me thinking…

Curly and friendly long hair sheep
Hoping to get a chewed or hooved signature, they got a bit sheepish and walked away 😉

Another flock of sheep nearly flattened me as the shepherds (modern jeep driving) were trying to direct them right where I was going. They pointed me up to the trigpoint and I had a cup of tea with my wooly friends all around, as the turbines hummed on the breezy bright morning.

I was glad to get down out of the wind and headed through Penatillies farm, the owner not wanting to say much to me but he, bemused, let me rub his gothic font farm sign. I wandered on through dappled tunnels and bent copse trying to get to the birds of prey centre that I had spotted on the map and had wondered about as I drove past several times on the A39.

Before I got there I had the pleasure of meeting a retired farmer and his wife, Mr and Mrs Rodliffe. His great great great grandfather came to Cornwall in 1860 and his family have farmed the land ever since. He was wearing the jumper of the St Columba Cornish singing group which have sadly disbanded but not due to Covid -19 singing restrictions. He joked that his other hobby, bell ringing, now sounds odd due to the social distancing halving the number of ringers allowed in the church towers and that 2 – 4 – 6 – 8 bell patterns instead of 1-8 sound out of time and strangely syncopated.

Across some fields and a marshy willow carr full of wildlife, the sound of the A39 drew closer and I meet Mick, owner of ‘eco lodges’, wooden holiday lodges (some people live there 11 months of the year, others are bought by holiday home owners ‘up country’)

His daugher Kelly and Son in Law Andy run the Cornwall Birds of Prey centre. Even though the centre wasnt open to the public, Andy (below) who has been a falconer and ‘flying birds’ since the age of 12, kindly gave me a quick interview and I found out about the work of the centre which began 13 years ago when he and his wife took over the centre which back then was run down and neglected.

They have rebuilt the place, giving the 50 birds they inherited better aviaries and living conditions and now rescue dozens of wild birds every year, nurturing them back to health and releasing them whenever possible.

Andy, Cornish Birds of Prey Manager

The centre doesn’t breed, sell or swop birds of prey, all the birds have been rescued, and its not just birds of prey, they have had birds of all sorts including gannets, swifts, blackbirds and other species.

Andy’s view about the centre being an ‘attraction’ is that whilst the place is not about humans; the centre exists for the animals; if there wasn’t visitors they wouldn’t be an attraction and the funds would not be there to look after the birds. Andy went on to say that without tourists there would be no west country as we know it today…

https://cornishbirdsofprey.co.uk/

I wanted to draw some birds of prey but settled for a rubbing of the sign and owl graphic

I avoided the A39 and walked into the town of St Columb Major down an old lane which brought me out at this interesting toll house in the valley of the river Melanhyll which ultimately weaves its way out to Mawgan Porth and the atlantic ocean. Note the original rounded window and the bridge in the corner which would have once served to control traffic and trade into this important market town.

Next door to this is the old mill with unique service hatches and openings presumably to store materials and grain in and drop off. I was actually drawn by the sound of running water that used to drive a mill and grind the grain in these buildings. Great that this building still exists and points us to a past dependant on renewable energy.

As I stood drawing the outline of this neo gothic house below (later found to be designed by a Gothic revival architect William White), a fellow artist and violinist stopped in her car to chat. I forgot to ask her name but she said that this house was owned by an eccentric ex doctor who was apparently involved in strange occultist activities. She also mentioned other interesting buildings which I hadnt the time to visit like the Old Rectory and the bank, these and other buildings were designed in the typical gothic style popular in the early 19th C. It seems that many were hoping that St Columb Major was to become the place for the new Cathedral but instead it was built at Truro

A lot of the older buildings pre 19th C have traditional hung slate tiles, a Cornish tradition, and the variety of shapes sizes and forms of construction if ones stands in the East end of the churchyard and looks around is quite astonishing, full of character and narrative, in particular Glebe house dated 1638 (but actually 16thC) with its jettied and impossibly warped first floor storey, like a building from a magical fantasy.

Suffice to say there is a lot of history associated with this town and this area, too much to write up in an art blog, and one can see and sense the layers of time and life that have interwoven here. There is quite a lot to do with St Columba the towns’ namesake, a woman saint who refused to renounce her faith and was beheaded at nearby Ruthvoes (which means ‘red wall’ in Cornish) where a holy well issued forth. I will visit there next week as the walk to the trigpoint outside Indian Queens goes through the village…

I sat down on the grass in the graveyard after doing a rubbing from an old granite cross inside the church tower, and I soon had company, Maggie and Pip the dog. Maggie was a ballet dancer and choreographer with touring theatre shows and shared some lovely stories of her life with me. If we are open and friendly we will discover things that enrich us from others from all sorts of walks of life. It only takes time, and listening.

Time was getting on and I needed to cover 5 or 6 miles to get to the trigpoint and visit Castle an Dinas. On the way below: a dated bridge, a cheeky gnome helping prop up a fence, views of Castle an dinas through the hedge opening, kissing aspen trees; the sharing of intimate life, and up the badly maintained path to the top of Castle an dinas

CASTLE AN DINAS

Castle an dinas is thought to be one of the most important iron age hillforts in the SW. The views are fabulous from the top and the steep fortified ramparts conjure images of attacking armies and a defending community.

Some historical facts about Castle an Dinas

  • The site dates back to the 2nd of 3rd Century BCE (Before Common Era)
  • Midsummer bonfire celebrations have been occurring at Castle an dinas since pre -Christian times, today the Old Cornwall Society organise and continue this tradition
  • King Arthur is thought to have had his hunting lodge here… click here for a bit of debunking (sorry) TPK Walk 83: Davidstow – Tintagel via Boscastle (12/06/20)
  • In 1671 a local man named John Trehenban was starved to death in a giant iron cage for murdering two young girls. The stone he was encased upon remains on the site (although I didnt find it!)
  • Sir Ralph Hopton’s Royalist troops camped in the circular ramparts in March 1646 before surrendering to the Parliamentarians at Truro… click here for more civil war Cornish action TPK Walk 69: Cornish Royalist Pride 1643
  • Between 1916 – 1957 a Wolfram mine here yielded Cornwall’s biggest resource of tungsten, important for its hardening properties for tools and armour piercing ordnance as well as electric light filaments

As always it had been a cracking day full of interesting places, people and stories and I think the artboard reflected something of this intrigue.

Next week: Walk 95 – Owls, a Holy well, Goss Moor and India Queens

Thanks for reading

TPK Walk 93: St Breock Downs – Denzell Downs

Roseannon Down, photo courtesy of Francesca Casey

‘DOWN’

First recorded pre 1000; Middle English dun, dune “hill, elevation,” Old English dūn “mountain, hill, down”; cognate with Dutch duin “mound, dune,” akin to Irish, Old Irish dún “citadel, fortress”.

This inland trigpoint walk took in 4 ‘downs’ divided by the busy A39 road.

Agriculturally unproductive and full of spikiest gorse and bramble, these heath down areas are often marked by an ochre colour on OS maps and can be a challenge to traverse in late summer after a year of rampant thorny growth! Myself and Francesca who kindly joined me on this walk made the schoolboy & schoolgirl error of wearing shorts…

St Breock Downs Monolith or ‘Men Gurta’

St Breock Downs Monolith or ‘Men Gurta’

Before having to trapse over heathland downs, the impressive ‘Men Gurta’ marked the start of the walk. Translated from Cornish as ‘Waiting Stone’, Men Gurta is Cornwall’s largest and heaviest prehistoric monolith.

Men Gurta’s stunning white flaming & striated texture

Dating back to between late Neolithic and mid-Bronze Age (around 2500–1500 BC), this monolith is formed from the locally prevalent Devonian shale and has a beautiful and distinct white feldspar veining.

The stone itself is 16 feet (4.9m) long but it now only stands just over 10 feet (3m) high as it has a marked lean to the north. It fell over in 1945, and was re-erected in 1956 after a small excavation had been carried out. Men Gurta is thought to have been an ancient meeting place for rituals and was later adopted as a St Breock parish boundary marker.

Twin Tumuli on Roseannon Downs

This open landscape of heath and pasture surrounding the St Breock Downs Monolith contains many other Bronze Age ritual monuments, with which this stone was probably associated. These include the Nine Maidens, the Fiddler, and a series of barrows and tumuli that extend up to 4 miles to the west, the route we were walking along.

We met a local landowner (above) who said the land up here is not good enough to graze on, and we spoke for some time of a future world which in her opinion lacks hope. Myself and Francesca (below) were having nothing of this despair and spoke of the great shaking the world is going through on so many levels, and how this can inspire us to be more light, shine brighter and to come up with creative solutions to go against the seemingly negative tide and times we find ourselves in.

Human Imposition on the Landscape

Francesca has a very keen and perceptive sense of awareness about the world around and throughout the day kept saying so many insightful things that I realised these gems of wisdom should be included on the artboard. Two of the many profound statements Francesca said throughout the day were ‘Human imposition on the Landscape’ which seemed to nicely frame the land and this walk, and ‘Art is teaching people to see’ so I asked her to write these onto the artboard. Watch out for Francesca Casey in the future as I believe her path will take her to help shape current thinking through her writing.

Human imposition on the landscape 1 (authors title) photo courtesy of Francesca Casey
Human imposition on the landscape 2. Turnips and Wheat
Human imposition on the landscape 3. Land screen

Ancient granite boundary stones (shown as ‘BS’ on Ordnance Survey maps) engraved with a capital letter M were dotted along our route towards ‘the Fiddler’ and the ‘Nine Maidens’, and I print more stone texture onto the artboard.

Nine Maidens

Unfortunately ‘The Fiddler’ standing stone is a disappointing stump in the ground not really worthy of inclusion and so walking on we are much more impressed by the line of ‘Nine Maidens’ along the field boundary not far from the A39, a series of 14 joyful dancing women who were apparently turned to stone after dancing on the sabbath. Some of these maidens, also made out of the Devonian Shale of Men Gurta had also fallen over and possibly split in two along their striking white patternings. There is a theory that they were originally in a circle but another idea is that they are aligned with local ley lines.

Nine Maidens stone line

I play some gentle airs on my violin and some simple folk melodies – a eulogy for the maidens, trying to listen to and play to the sounds of their past.

Hay Bales in autumnal shade
From a Hay Bales perspective (authors title) photo courtesy of Francesca Casey

Nine Maidens Farmers

We then cross the busy A39 to strange looks from drivers, and head across up another field before we are stopped by local beef farmers curious of what we are up to.

First we meet the son James, who is collecting and spreading muck from last winter’s cattle sheds. We asked if we were ok walking across to the footpath and he said no problem but don’t climb over the fences.

Then we met the father (below) who has farmed the land for several generations and who is responsible for looking after the land around the Nine Maidens. He told us of disrespectful types who leave rubbish and catch fire to bales and land on their visits to the stones, and of occasions of theft of the family’s cattle stock and even the fuel in their tractors.

The farmer kindly showed us where the footpath was which started out ok but the path soon become narrower and more overgrown (below). I was very er ‘vocal’ about the continuous scratching of bramble and gorse against bare legs (I didn’t even have my boots because the cobbler who was fixing my trusty but now leaking boots shut half an hour earlier the day before)

We head along what we thought was a path only to find it unpassable and have to turn around which I got very frustrated at. Francesca kept quiet behind me as I fumed away. The strava red line below showed exactly what happened – a painfully pointless triangular detour of over a mile through more scrubby spiky undergrowth – scratches upon scratches now!

Finish

I cheered up as I could see there was probably no more scrub to negotiate now on our final way up to the finish surrounded by wind turbines. The lowering light offered a few more nice photo opportunities and I am pleased that we have experienced and bottled up a little part of mid Cornwall few people ever visit or know of.

Setting sun gopro selfie
Denzell Downs Wind farm sunset 1
Denzell Downs Wind farm sunset 2
Denzell downs triangulation point

Walk 93 Artboard

Walk 93 Drubbing

The art board above with the following rubbings:

  • St Breock Downs monolith textural rubbing (centre)
  • Corner of random concrete water reservoir (bottom L)
  • Michelin Tractor tyre ‘re-tread re-chape’ (L – R)
  • ‘ootpath’ Public footpath rubbing (bottom mid)
  • ‘M’ Boundary stone marker (bottom R)
  • Nine maidens farm manhole cover chevrons (bottom R)
  • ‘Monolith’ from St Breock Downs Mononlith English heritage sign
  • 3 circles rubbing of galv. steel gate post (around top R turbine)

Next week:

Fri 25th: Walk 94: Denzell downs – Belowda Beacon (Iron age hillfort, Birds of prey sanctuary, rural)

TPK Walk 92: Trevose Head – St Breock Down

TPK Walk 91: Pentire Point – Trevose Head via Padstow

SHOTS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER

WORDS ATTACHED TO CHRONOLOGICAL PICTURES

1. Firstly thanks to Karensa Laurie for joining me on this walk. Poor girl, I had no idea it was going to be the longest walk I had done for a long time – 15.7 miles.

2. Kestrels. We saw families of Kestrels all hovering against the prevailing wind together in groups of 5 , unfortunately not close enough to photograph but we wondered at them, so effortlessly floating the gusting sky as they focused their heads and eyes downwards

3. Many walkers and families were on the path, these 2 girls liked my drawing of the Kestrels and the woman asked if I was going to play a violin concerto

4. Heading down into New Polzeath behind Karensa

5. Such overwhelming textures and colours are to be found at the interface between geology and geography

6. The sun was trying hard to break through thick clouds

7. Twin dutch gable ends contrast nicely with the cliff forms

8. Non surfing types happy in the wash

9. Surfers happy in the swelling sets coming in

10. Surf hire on beside Polzeath’s sandy car park

11. Busty, worked here for 21 years, into spearfishing, swam with basking sharks

12. Harry who grew up here chatted about life in Polzeath, his dad was a coastguard search and rescue

13. Super laid back surfs up surf dude instructor, magic seaweed is where to go for where the surf is at

14. Wrecked metal presumably from AWOL shipping containers

15. Charming St. Enodoc church nestled in the sand dunes beside a golf course with wonky spire

16. Sir John Betjeman poet laureate and writer Some of his words:

‘The golden and unpeopled bays, the shadowy cliffs and sheep worn ways. The white unpopulated surf, the Mushroom and Thyme scented surf’

It seems people are now in on the secret…

17. Ferry across the Camel river at low tide

18. We queued with friendly Rock holiday home owner, cheerful son and nice Mexican filmmaker friend who kindly gave me their spare facemask

19. On the other side we parted but kept bumping into each other around Padstow

20. Padstow. Bustling. Busy. Buzzing with late summer good vibes.

21. Crabbing is popular with fish, crabs, gulls and children.

22. Just yards from the masses are empty streets leading up to old Prideaux place

23. A fellow gardener, second horticulturalist encounter on this walk

24. CIRCA 1593 well and pump built at same time as Prideaux place, ancient seated family and estate

25. Prideaux place, opposite strange squeaking deer in their deer park with handsome antlers

26. OS Map of where we walked, past the infamous DOOM BAR

27. Lookout station volunteer describes doom bar as ‘… a dog leg sandbar that comes out… in low water its exposed to a certain degree… locals know it but if you don’t know its there you can get int trouble…’

28. Doom bar satellite image lurking under the water

29. The daymark at Stepper Point, visible from miles around from sea and land

30. A kestrel perches atop the daymark

31. And flies off

32. It is a strange hollow cylindrical tower, an optical illusion of scale

33. Inside the daymark looking up to where Kestrels perch

34. Dramatic skies of approaching weather (Photo courtesy of Karensa)

35. Tamarisk lined hedges in the light rain

36. The clouds break after 3 miles in the rain, the sun is setting, we have been walking 10 hours!

37. Late summer fields with rich seedy edges (Photo courtesy of Karensa)

38. Out to sea (Photo courtesy of Karensa)

39. The route

40. The art