|Ursula and I took a trip down to Lands End between 5th May and 8th May 2003ce, primarily to see the stones in this area which we had until now not explored. Needless to say we both loved it, and have now added it to the list of places we must return to.
For the first two nights we stayed in a B&B in St. Ives (Norfolk House) where, as it turned out, the owners are themselves frequent visitors to the sites. They also did a fantastic cooked veggie breakfast. The last night was spent in Mousehole. So overall we were able to see a broad cross-section of the Land's End sites, with plenty left over for a return visit :-)
This visit has left me with a bit of a fogou obsession, so I've now got another pile of books, on a relatively new subject, to read up on.
This was our first site on our Cornish trip, and was an excellent start. The size of this monument is quite something - I'd certainly not imagined it to be so big. Luckily I had re-read the fieldnotes for this site and didn't mistake the posts for anything significant, and so was able to impress Ursula with my knowledge. She was a bit taken aback in fact, as she had also thought the semi-constructed cowshed was part of this ancient monument ;-)
A wonderful site, worthy of the attention it gets. The re-positioning of the stones is quite obvious, but doesn't in any way spoil it. We sat here for a while as the midday sun burnt away what was left of the cloud cover, and the day took a lighter turn.
We approached this site with eager anticipation having seen and read so much about it before. Ironically, this exposure meant that once we arrived at the site we were a little disappointed. Needless to say, it is a great site, and the surrounding landscape wonderful, but it didn't really have any surprises left to offer us. It was exactly as I'd expected it to be, nothing more, nothing less. We hung around for a while, and took the obligatory shots, then left as a dogwalker approached the site.
We walked here from Men-An-Tol and were immediately impressed by the small barrow just above the main circle. Both sites are so obviously in reverence to Carn Galver, it just dominates the landscape.
As we approached this site, on our way walking to Land's End, we were greeted with the site of heavy industrial equipment, hauling salvage from a ship run aground below the cliffs. I took a few shots and had a quick look at the site, before getting away from this ugly scene!
The word 'perfect' gets used a lot for this circle, so it was no surprise that Ursula and myself both uttered the word in unison as we approached. An incredible place, which from certain angles achieves total symmetry. I took a few shots trying to frame this perfect symmetry, then we sat on a wall nearby gazing at this wonderful place, before moving on to Tregiffian
It's a real shame that this site is partially submerged beneath the road, as I reckon it would have been another 'perfect' site had it not been (see the Merry Maidens
for a definition of 'perfect'). Like Holy says, not a great place for meditation, though on a very busy day, from within the chamber perhaps the traffic noise above could give the same feeling as listening to Sunn O))), who knows? Traffic meditation, now there's a new idea! :-)
Of all the sites we visited on our Cornish trip, this one blew my mind the most. I'd kind of written off fogous prior to this, thinking that the evidence tipped too far in favour of those who claim these sites were intended as stores and/or refuges. All I can say is, if this was supposed to be a food-store, the builders must have had quite a shock when they realised they'd opened up a passage to the underworld - it really is that good. The psychological impact of staring into it's gaping void from a few feet before the entrance is a feeling I'll not forget in a long time.
We'd arrived at the site unannounced, not remembering (must do my research properly) it was necessary to make an appointment before hand. Jo May's daughter was just on her way out as we drove down the track leading to the house, and so she asked if she could help us. We told her we intended to visit the fogou, and she let us know (in the nicest possible way) that we should really have booked in advance. She said it'd be okay this time though, as there was no activity taking place in the Caer centre, and proceeded to lead us to the fogou.
Having visited countless burial chambers prior to this, and thinking this would be a similar experience, neither Ursula nor myself really had any qualms about just strolling on into the passage. I took a few photographs, and not having a torch used my flash to view inside the creep passage.
It was Ursula who first freaked out. As I sat, gazing down the creep, I heard her yelp from outside. I quickly turned round to see what was the matter, and saw she'd whipped off her coat, shaking it before me, thinking a bee was in her hood. Seconds later she flicked off her shoe, thinking something was in that, and I leapt backwards almost losing my footing. The place was really starting to freak us out so we retreated to the safety of the outside.
We took a few minutes to re-gather our composure, and then I set about taking a few more photographs. As I raised my camera to take a shot, I saw something leap from tree above me, a sudden panic made me stop what I was doing, only to find my terror had been caused by one of the trees branches gently swaying in the breeze. I sat down and laughed - the psychology behind this place is really quite something, and had obviously got the better of us. I decided there and then that I'd have to make another visit to this place, with a more prepared mind and proper permission from it's owner. I really felt like I was trespassing!
Sat before the entrance, I fixed my gaze on it's depths and struggled to see far into the passage at all - the darkness has to be seen to be believed. Life teemed all around the mouth of this 'cave', bees and butterflies fluttered round the bluebells growing on it's banks. Up above in the trees was the noisiest display of ravens I've ever heard. It was pretty easy to start to imagine this was all part of the magick of this site.
This is a real class site, and has made me totally reassess not only fogous, but my entire psychological relationship with all sacred sites. Fantastic.
After visiting Boleigh Fogou
we decided to come here next, in order to compare the experience. This didn't have quite the same impact, but did have one or two surprises in store for us - the phosphorescent moss on the walls of the corbelled chamber impressed us most. We decided that Boleigh's magic must have a lot to do with it's 'living' nature - this felt much more like the sites I'm used to, and so much less alive. A tour group arrived after 20 minutes or so, thus signalling our departure. On the way back we wandered a few metres down the track marked 'pottery' to visit the little well there.
This place really is tiny! I rather ignorantly decided to consult my copy of The Modern Antiquarian after arriving at the site, and so only realised then that I was actually in danger of being chased off the land, so I hurriedly took a few snaps then beat a retreat. I will do my research more thoroughly in future.
Another site which I've been wanting to visit for quite some time, and I'm not in the least bit disappointed by it. We had the place to ourselves, and once we were sat down within the circle, surrounded by the thick gorse, felt completely away from civilisation. Perfect!
On our way back from staying in Mousehole, we decided to make one last trip round the coastal road and stop off at Cape Cornwall to see this monument and the cliffs, before heading to Chûn Quoit, and then back up to Bristol.
The size of this place is impressive, and the view even more so - taking in Land's End at a distance where the horrible theme park is almost invisible. The waves below these here cliffs are quite something, and must have had quite an impact on the minds of the ancients.
Our last site visit of this trip and not a bit disappointing. This really is a treat - every bit as good as I'd hoped for, and then some. The views from here are tremendous, and the decision to come here last worked out brilliantly, as by now I felt familiar with the surrounding landscape. We arrived in glorious sunshine and lay soaking up the warmth for a good while, before lazily strolling back to civilisation.