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Zennor Quoit

Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech


Zennor Quoit
Site visit 4th September 2012
Well I couldn’t have chosen a better day if my intention was to not find this iconic Penwith site as it was completely fog/mist bound!
I had approached the area via the B3306 road from the east (St Ives end) heading for the Eagle’s Nest house which thesweetcheat had mentioned was in the area marked as Higher Tregarthen on the OS 1:25 map (102). It was so foggy that I drove past the house three times looking for its name and never did see it, even when I walked by after parking up.
So, coming from the east, I parked in a small parking place on the left about a hundred yards prior to the house which is on the right on the very brow of the hill. As you climb the hill you will notice an outcrop of rock not unlike a small tor on the left very close to the parking spot
Walking from there with my two dogs Chief and Indy, I stood near a building to the right-hand side of the house
and looked directly across the road. It was so foggy I could barely see across to the other side, although when I took the photos on my return it was much clearer! Across the road was a collection of boulders that had been placed across a ‘path’ that went off into the distance.
It wasn’t even a track as such as it was so overgrown but I felt I ought to try it as I could see nothing else remotely like a track due to the fog. As we ventured into the mist the thought went through my head that I must be nuts to even consider venturing out into unknown territory in such conditions…but we did! After about two hundred yards the track came to an ‘entrance’ flanked by two stone posts which I passed through. So far so good.
On and on we went and it was noticeable that this tiny track only some 18” wide at best was bearing around to the right in a large curve. Other than that I could see zilch. The gorse is impenetrable so you just have to stick to the path and make sure you are wearing tough old jeans or leathers.
After about 20 minutes of pretty slow going we arrived at a derelict building called the Carne I believe. TSC suggested turning left south-east here and I took that to mean you walked alongside the building before turning, but I was wrong as it is just a dead end after the building. At this point I thought it too risky to carry on because only metres from the building it was lost in the fog and I felt a complete idiot for even attempting it.
So I decided to turn back but had only retreated about 40 yards back down the track when I saw Chief disappear off to the right. Aha I thought, is this the ‘left’ path? So, following close behind the dogs I ventured on and after another 2/3 hundred yards the track widened right out to something like 20ft wide with the tiny worn path still running down the middle of it. That cheered me up because I knew we were now on the right track but why it took so long to widen out was a bit of a mystery to me!
After about another two hundred yards the dogs suddenly shot off to the right again up another track. I saw them start but they soon disappeared into the fog so I decided to follow. Lucky I did, because within a few seconds Zennor Quoit loomed up out of the fog. Phew, we’d made it but what a journey. It wasn’t the distance so much but the tension of not really knowing where I was that slowed everything down and put me on edge.
But, we were here and it was magical and if as by magic, the fog suddenly began to lift and actually added to the experienced and I quickly got on taking pix and shooting a vid.
All sorts of questions were going through my mind about this quoit as I filmed and my first impression was that the capstone had only slid to the rear and to the right-hand side and not off a tall back-stone as shown in Borlase’s sketch of 1769. I wondered why they had gone to the effort of shaping huge side flanking stones if the slope on them was not to be accommodated by the capstone as it is now as such. Looking inside the chamber where bones or cremations would have been placed, there is a stone leaning the full width of the chamber that if raised fully would fit exactly where a back-stone should be as it would be level with the top of the sloping section at that point. But, if the lid was really up high then we have to accept that unless Borlase drew what he assumed it would have been like originally, then that’s how it really was…at that time at least! It does puzzle me somewhat though that he shows the now missing rear support as being almost needle-sharp and very slender for a stone that is supporting such a vast and heavy capstone that other than that only rested on the front closure at the opposite end.
Another puzzle is why he assumed it was completely covered at one stage seeing that there would have been such huge gaps that would allow the ingress of cairn material into the burial chamber. If it was to be covered then it would have been boxed in full height surely and not have sloping sides. Its complete covering had to be pure speculation on his part, possibly spurred on by the material he shows to the lower regions which to my mind (more speculation) would only be there to add rigidity to the base.
That apart, it is a wonderful sight to behold. Heaven alone knows how long it took them to shape those angled side flankers and prepare the front closure and raise the lid. The façade stones are just as big and you can only admire the tenacity of the builders for undertaking such a task without the benefit of the machinery at our disposal today. I assume the main orthostat is earth-fast otherwise it would have been down now for sure.
It was disappointing that the fog prevented me from observing the landscape surrounding the quoit but that’s how it is sometimes on the Cornish sites so close to the sea, but I will return. Getting there for me was a challenge when the fog blanked it all out but it tested and confirmed my great will to still defy the conditions in the quest to appreciate what our great ancestors left behind for us. I hope it never leaves me for what is life when your sense of adventure and thirst for knowledge is no more!
Posted by Sanctuary
8th September 2012ce
Edited 8th September 2012ce

Comments (12)

Really great notes and links, it does sound like the dogs found it for you, didn't they, my bloody things would just disappear into the fog and i probably wouldn't see my hound for the rest of the day, i bet it's great to have useful dogs like you have, it can be a tricky find for people when it's clear, so you [ your dogs ] did well. bladup Posted by bladup
9th September 2012ce
Enjoyed your write up Sanctuary, More so that you continued into the unknown when turning back was probably foremost in your mind and probably the right thing to do given the conditions. Have you not considered a gps with mapping ? They can be very useful in such situations and can rescue a site visit when all seems lost.
I always carry one for situations just like this when i visit unknown territory.
harestonesdown Posted by harestonesdown
9th September 2012ce
Thanks for your kind words bladup and harestonedown. Re my dogs, both are trained sheepdogs and used to making decisions whilst working often not seen by myself so they are very confident. This seems to have made them very intuative and tuned in to me as I trained them. It was Indy's first trip out but his sire Chief has been my constant stoning companion for 7 years now. He does like 'watering' stones though and if anyone else is about I put him on a lead at the site itself :-).
GPS I've never used and wouldn't know how at the present time but I have considered it before. Most of the tramps I go on would not require it as I work mostly in my own area these days, but I take your valid point entirely. Would it have been useful at Zennor though because it may have pointed me in the right direction but there is no way you could walk in a straight line (if that's how it works) due to the dense gorse?
Posted by Sanctuary
9th September 2012ce
Great stuff, you got there! Hoopefully the directions weren't too bad - at least the dogs could follow them anyway :o)

I guess the drive to The Carn is getting more overgrown (and narrower) the longer the house is empty.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
9th September 2012ce
I had to smile to myself seeing the garage door to the rear of the property and wondered how the hell did they ever get there by car! It was so foggy I couldn't see the driveway you mentioned Alken but I'm sure it must still be there somewhere. Great spot I would imagine to live though if you could get your services in there.
Oh and I roared with laughter when I saw the CCTV notice board at the entrance considering the shambles the place was in!!! LOL
Posted by Sanctuary
9th September 2012ce
Our house is a shithole but we're STILL watching you!! i'd love to see the eyesore disappear and gps is no good for people who don't mind getting a bit lost [ fairy led], i like this because very often [ like you did ] it only feels like your lost, i laugh when this happens and it always goes away, i bet they're great if you are really and properly lost though. bladup Posted by bladup
9th September 2012ce
Sanctuary, What i do if i think it'll be needed is plot a course on "Where's the path" where you can see your route in detail, then export it to my gps, so you don't have to go in a straight line as such, just plot a course through the line of least resistance, The gps will tell you if you're on course, It's much easier than it sounds.>=1

It can take the fun out of stone hunting as Bladup allures too but it's not something i use all the time only for those "oh shit" moments, Or trying to find a particular stone in a sea of others ie the Cup Marked stone on Fyfield.
They can be very handy and save a wasted trip. Personally i use Viewranger on my phone rather than a dedicated gps, But it does exactly the same job.
harestonesdown Posted by harestonesdown
9th September 2012ce
Thanx Harestonesdown, I'll check all of that out and give it serious consideration. Thinks... Christmas is approaching, maybe it's time to pass out a few hints :-) Posted by Sanctuary
9th September 2012ce
Don't tell me Sanctuary that you're trying to prevent other people traipsing up and down paths, scraping through fences, wading through nettles, being nipped by loose dogs etc etc ? It's very community spirited :)

If you want to make the links look neater you could always pop them into some code as explained here:

so you could put this in your fieldnote (but without the spaces near the a's):
< a href=""> description of the photo < /a >

and then it'll make you a neat little link.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th September 2012ce
Actually I thought about linking up misdirections just so that stoneheads could carry on in the time honoured way of going around in circles, taking the longest route, crossing private property, scaling 9ft high bramble covered hedges only to end up in fields full of bullocks and having to negotiate boggy ground to get around them. Mmmm, might reconsider that :-)

Thanks for the info
Posted by Sanctuary
9th September 2012ce
Boggy ground, yes it's not a proper expedition unless you've either left a shoe behind or fallen over in mud is it? And how could I forget over-nosey livestock, it's de rigueur. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th September 2012ce
Sounds like a day out with you would be fun Rhiannon. Obviously as long as you were the one with one shoe, fallen over in the mud, rather than me. :o) thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
9th September 2012ce
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