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Looking down on Kernow

Well I made it to Cornwall's highest point, Brown Willy (stop tittering at the back there!), which ironically is an ancient monument as well because it is a Bronze Age cairn. And I'd come via several other ancient sites, including a rare Long Cairn.

This was a long walk, about 10km in total. Very rough and tough in many places. Lots of ups and downs. Areas of wet ground and areas of very uneven ground. However there were also a few small bits of pleasant easy-ish walking. It took me 3 hours, but that was without hardly any rest. I would allow 4 to 5 hours for a more leisurely walk.

I didn't see a trace of human life for the entire walk except for a Land Rover in the distance. Some fields had cows, sheep or horses in, but very few and far between.

If anyone wants to follow the route, the fieldnotes are given below in my route order. I wouldn't particularly encourage doing the Catshole Tor Settlement or the western cairn on Catshole Tor on the way back because the land is very uneven and not easy to get into, but instead taking the easier (outbound) route back to Tolborough and maybe nipping over later to the western cairn if you wish.

Technically most land on Bodmin Moor is 'private' as it is owned by someone, even Downs and Common land. But in reality places like these Downs are rarely visited by anyone or anything and as long as you use the normal common sense country code I don't imagine anyone challenging you (don't quote me though as some sort of magic access key!).

Tolborough Tor Cairn — Fieldnotes

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Tolborough Downs - 28.3.2004

There is probably no easy way to reach the barren Tolborough Tor, on the Tolborough Downs. However, one decent way is to start near Bolventor. Cheryl Straffon's guide 'The Earth Mysteries Guide to Bodmin Moor and North Cornwall (including Tintagel)' (Meyn Mamvro - 1993, amended 2000) says "A pathway behind Jamaica Inn crosses the bypass up to Tolborough Downs". Umm, well, I doubt the first bit, unless she means the underpass to the East of Bolventor. There is no obvious route across the dangerous A30 otherwise.

I found a good place to park and start from, at SX182769, just a few metres from the footpath that leads to Tolborough Downs. If heading towards Launceston on the A30 take the turn off for Bolventor but then take a sharp left turn (signposted 'Bolventor Church') and another immediate sharp left (signposted the same). This dead end lane takes you parallel and above the north side of the A30. The footpath is clearly marked about 300m along this road. If you are driving towards Bodmin the principle is the same. Get off at the Bolventor turnoff but don't go into Bolventor itself. Instead imagine you were trying to get on the A30 towards Launceston, and you will see the Bolventor Church signpost on the bend just before the A30 starts again.

This footpath takes you down a few fields (cows grazing) and across a stream to a few houses at Dairywell Hill. Keep to the right of the houses, through a farm looking gate and head up the very steep and rocky track. Carry on until you finally come out into the bottom of the field where Tolborough Tor lies. If you wanted a slightly less hilly/stony walk you might be able to approach (on foot) along the lane from the main road (at SX191777) towards Tober Barton Farm. Don't know where you would be able to park on the main road though.

The Tor field was very rocky and very wet.

Tolborough Tor Cairn — Fieldnotes

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Tolborough Tor Cairn - 28.3.2004

For directions etc, see the main Tolborough Downs page.

This large cairn sits on top of the hill and is visible all around; a bump of green on the otherwise light brown hill.

The cairn aligns with the south cairn on Brown Willy, the west cairn on Catshole Tor, and the Catshole Long Cairn, although the long cairn can only been seen from this cairn, whereas the other three can all be seen from one another.

Tolborough Tor Cairn — Images

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<b>Tolborough Tor Cairn</b>Posted by pure joy

Tolborough Tor Stone Row — Fieldnotes

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Tolborough Tor Stone Row - 28.3.2004

For directions etc, see the main Tolborough Downs page.

Cheryl Straffon's guide 'The Earth Mysteries Guide to Bodmin Moor and North Cornwall (including Tintagel)' (Meyn Mamvro - 1993, amended 2000) says "On the top of the Tor is a large cairn, to the South East of which is an unusual miniature row of five small stones - SX17567786". Well, yes, but I should add that it is VERY small and overgrown and that is hardly decipherable. It is also very close to cairn (the final, furthest stone is barely 8m from the cairn) so don't go wandering off looking for it many metres away. This final stone is also now broken.

Tolborough Tor Stone Row — Images

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<b>Tolborough Tor Stone Row</b>Posted by pure joy

Catshole Downs — Fieldnotes

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Catshole Downs - 28.3.2004

For one way to get to the general area, see the Tolborough Downs page.

To get towards the Catshole Downs Long Cairn and the eastern Catshole Tor cairn, from Tolborough Tor head north to the gate in the angled bit of the field (circa SX171782). This leads you out towards these sites.

The Catshole Tor settlement and western Catshole Tor cairn are in the opposite field. From Tolborough Tor head for another gate, just to the west of the angled bit of the field. These gates are very close to each other. This leads you out towards these sites. Note that these four sites are in two separate fields with a fence in between.

Technically most land on Bodmin Moor is 'private' as it is owned by someone, even Downs and Common land. But in reality places like the Tolborough Downs are rarely visited by anyone or anything and as long as you use the normal common sense country code I don't imagine anyone challenging you (don't quote me though as some sort of magic access key!).

Catshole Downs — Fieldnotes

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Catshole Downs Long Cairn - 28.3.2004

For directions etc, see the main Catshole Downs page.

This long trip is worth it for this alone. A huge rarity and relatively easy to find (once you get to the general area), especially if you've previously seen a picture of it. You can also spot it from Tolborough Tor.

From Tolborough Tor head for the gate in the angled bit of the field (circa SX171782). Note -the downs were pretty swampy in places when I visited (& more swampy than other upland areas in Devon & Cornwall). The Long Cairn is then 100m away just to the right of the old field wall.

What does a Long Cairn look like? Imagine a small long barrow, made of stones instead of earth, in a triangular shape, typically 17 to 30 m long sometimes with traces of internal structure. At Catshole you can see the large-ish front stone, and from there you can make out what might have been flanking stones, and a small litter of stones in the interior. They are of the fourth millennia BC.

Peter Herring and Peter Rose, in 'Bodmin Moor's Archaeological Heritage' (Cornwall County Council - 2001), map three long cairns on the moor, with three other possibilities. They suggest that the Catshole long cairn is carefully aligned to the east part of Catshole Tor. What I can add is that the cairn in general does align with the west cairn on Catshole Tor, the south cairn on Brown Willy, and the Tolborough Tor Cairn, although the long cairn can only been seen from the Tolborough Tor Cairn, whereas the other three can all be seen from one another.

Catshole Downs — Images

18.04.04ce
<b>Catshole Downs</b>Posted by pure joy

Brown Willy Cairns — Fieldnotes

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Brown Willy Cairns - 28.3.2004

For directions as far as Catshole Downs, see the main Catshole Downs page, and the Tolborough Downs page.

Well, if you've got as far as Catshole and still want some hard walking you might as well bag the highest point in Cornwall, Brown Willy.

And from the east side of the fence on Catshole Downs it is pretty easy to get to, if a hard slog. Carry on North, close to the fence / old field wall. Cross into the next field. After 1½ kms a rocky outcrop will be visible on your right. Continue by the fence for 100m and a stile lets you into the field on the east side of Brown Willy. A recognisable (but unmarked) path takes you across the field and straight up Brown Willy to its highest point. This 'path' is just a boggy lumpy track but it is obvious that people / livestock have used it, and its direction straight to the northern cairn on Brown Willy is useful. It's a very steep climb to the top (only about a 75m rise but all steep!). As I made the last step onto the plateau at the top I surprised several sheep that dashed past me. I bet they weren't as knackered as I was!

Even on an intermittently dull and drizzling day like this the views are not surprisingly amazing, across Rough Tor to the north west and Colliford Lake several kilometres south east.

The south cairn on Brown Willy aligns with the west cairn on Catshole Tor, the Tolborough Tor Cairn, and the the Catshole Long Cairn, although the long cairn can only been seen from the Tolborough Tor Cairn, whereas the other three can all be seen from one another.

Note - this is very much the unofficial and (probably) much harder route to Brown Willy. I did it this way so I could get Tolborough, Catshole and Brown Willy all in one long walk. The real 'permissive' route seems to be the path on the map that enters Brown Willy from the north, from the Fernacre track (circa SX148797)

Brown Willy Cairns — Images

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<b>Brown Willy Cairns</b>Posted by pure joy<b>Brown Willy Cairns</b>Posted by pure joy<b>Brown Willy Cairns</b>Posted by pure joy

Brown Willy Settlement — Fieldnotes

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Brown Willy Settlement - 28.3.2004

For directions to the general area, see the record for the Brown Willy Cairns.

In a field on the south east edge of the slopes of Brown Willy there is what I assume is a Bronze Age settlement. I know nothing about this site - just what I saw on the OS map - and haven't seen it mentioned in any of my books. Given that the area is littered with a variety of settlements, I imagine this is pretty much the same as others. Despite the moorland undergrowth several roundhouse are quite clearly visible and worth a quick visit if you have any energy left at this point.

Brown Willy Settlement — Images

18.04.04ce
<b>Brown Willy Settlement</b>Posted by pure joy

Catshole Tor Settlement — Fieldnotes

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Catshole Tor Settlement - 28.3.2004

For directions etc, see the main Catshole Downs page.

I know nothing about this site - just what I saw on the OS map - and haven't seen it mentioned in any of my books. Given that the area is littered with a variety of settlements, I imagine this is pretty much the same as others. I walked through the area on the map but couldn't see anything obvious. The ground in this field is very uneven and hard work and by now I was too knackered to look too hard!

Catshole Tor Cairns — Fieldnotes

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Catshole Tor Cairns - 28.3.2004

For directions etc, see the main Catshole Downs page.

The OS map shows two cairns on Catshole Tor, one on the east side (SX172786 - which I didn't find), and one on the west side (SX170785). Note that they are in two separate fields with a fence in between. The western one is basically flattened but you can make out the circular shape and probably flanking stones. Ironically the clitter of stones around the area are more 'obvious' and larger than the actual cairn.

The west cairn on Catshole Tor aligns with the south cairn on Brown Willy, the Tolborough Tor Cairn, and the Catshole Long Cairn although the long cairn can only been seen from the Tolborough Tor Cairn, whereas the other three can all be seen from one another.

Catshole Tor Cairns — Images

18.04.04ce
<b>Catshole Tor Cairns</b>Posted by pure joy
pure joy Posted by pure joy
4th April 2004ce
Edited 21st April 2004ce


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