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 https://picasaweb.google.com/100525707086862773355/ZennorLandmarks?authkey=Gv1sRgCPar6of71Z_COQ#5785902295554289986
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