|Visited 26th June 2015
We weren’t intending to visit any megalithic sites today, a thick sea fog blanketing everything in a damp muffling duvet of cloud when we awoke this morning in St. Just, but during a day spent in Falmouth the clouds finally burnt away leaving blue skies and blazing sunshine. So over a pint of Hobgoblin in ‘The Grapes’ a quick check of the TMA site on the phone (isn’t technology a wonderful thing!) produced a list of nearby candidates for a visit.
By far the most promising was Halliggye, somewhere I’ve never been before, and an impressive looking site to boot. So setting course for Garras on the B3293 we soon managed to find the Trelowarren estate and driving up the main drive (beware of the stealth humps though, which nearly ripped my car’s exhaust off!) soon the information board and layby appeared. It’s then only a short walk to the lovely enclosure surrounding the modern steps which lead down into the fogou.
As soon as we stepped inside we could tell this one was going to be something special. Ducking down to get through the entranceway, the passage soon rises enough to just about stand upright, and the feeble glow of my torch, desperately in need of some new batteries, struggles to illuminate the end of the corridor. Inching my way along due to the uneven floor, a long curved passageway soon opens up to the left, and I’m straight down it like a rat up a drainpipe.
The curve of the walls is disorientating as you carry on walking, the corridor seemingly wending its way into the depths of the underworld. It reminded me of the Tumulus de Rocher in Brittany, which had a similarly long and winding interior passage. Like Carl mentions in his fieldnotes, the stygian gloom of the surrounding darkness seems to suck the very light from my torch as I proceed, and only Ellen bringing up the rear with the light from her phone helps to penetrate the dimness.
Soon we reach the ‘stumbling block’ a raised stone ridge protruding from the floor, which marks the passage’s end, and I shuffle forward, crouched over, down the southern creep to the end of the fogou. Here I sit, Ellen waiting in the corridor nearby, and we turn off our lights. The darkness is all consuming. Total blackness surrounds you, and the atmosphere of the place becomes even more tactile. I become very aware of the sounds of my own breathing, and nearby an occasional squeaking sound, possibly from the bats that often roost here. I was expecting a damp, dank place, but it’s nothing like it. I can smell a faint but lingering scent of incense, then overlaid by a subtle lilac fragrance, and through the darkness I become more aware of all my other senses. If ever anyone needed help in practising mindfulness this is the place to come, something about it is affecting, sharpening your awareness of your place in this place, only the here and now seemingly existing as you float in the comforting darkness which surrounds you.
After maybe minutes or maybe hours, it’s hard to tell, the pinpricks of our torches come back on and we head back toward the entrance. Before leaving I wedge myself into the smallest northern creep, toward the original entrance to the fogou. It’s tiny but I can just squeeze in, although so wedged I fear I’ll ever get out! Happily after a bit of scrabbling I manage to ease myself back into the more spacious passageway, where we take more photos, before reluctantly taking out leave.
Although there is a suggestion fogou’s may have had a purpose as a place of storage this just doesn’t make sense to me, why construct such an elaborate and impractical cellar? I imagine it would be one hell of a hassle for an Iron Age farmer having to nip down the creep each time they wanted to retrieve an item! Visiting Halligye just strengthens my view that there was more likely some form of ritual purpose involved, seeing how an experience of the fogou can affect you psychologically I can only imagine the impact it would have had on people in that long ago culture.
Well I might have gone on a bit about this place, but it’s just that I haven’t been so blown away by a site visit for some time. There’s certainly a power here, and even for those less enamoured with the mystical mumbo jumbo a visit to Halliggye provides you with possibly the finest example of a fogou you could wish to see, so it’s a definite must visit.
Posted by Ravenfeather
27th June 2015ce