A last minute decision to spend Solstice weekend in West Penwith, led to a 4am start on the Saturday. M4, M5, A30 meant we were in Cornwall by 10am. It would have been sooner, but the Little Chef we stopped at near Okehampton was unbelievable slow in serving (and they no longer provide free newspapers, Scandalous!)
We had hoped to stop in Redruth, but the town centre was closed for a parade (Murdoch Day?) so we headed down to Porthleven to spend some money there instead. Suitably broke, we made for Sithney where the Handy Shop provides the best cream teas in the world. If you're in the area, you simply have to try them. Just follow the signs from the A394 just NW of Helston.
Fully stuffed with fresh cream and scones, it was time for West Penwith. We had arranged accommodation for two nights in Trewellard, just north of St Just and on the borders of Pendeen, in a small B&B opposite the Trewellard Hotel. Nice and clean, and very friendly, although Hilary, the landlady was suffering from an abscess and not feeling too well.
We dropped the bags off, she went back to bed, and we hit the road in glorious sunshine for the afternoon. First stop was Brane chambered tomb. I followed the footpath on the map that looked as if it led to it, but could only get within a field and a half of the tomb, due to crops in the fields. Slightly disappointed, we drove on to Carn Euny with no sight of anyone around Brane Farm, which I remembered Moth said provided the access to the tomb.
I had Carn Euny to myself. Last time I was here, the fogou was 6 inches deep in floodwater, and I couldn't access the beehive room. This time it was bone dry.
I was surprised to see the same phosphorescent moss here that I've seen previously at Sancreed Well, brought on by high Radon levels. Attempts at photographing this were in vain, as the light levels within the fogou demanded either a tripod or flash. I had no tripod with me, and flash would have lost the fine details of the phosphorensence.
Another nearby site I'd not seen before was St Euny's Well, so I headed off in that direction for a couple of shots, and also found the nearby cloutie tree, although battling through the undergrowth on the path was difficult.
Back to Mikki waiting patiently in the car, then we headed back through Brane to the A30, where, as luck would have it, the farmer's son was waxing his car. A quick word with him, and I had permission to head off through the farm to see the chambered tomb.
It's possible (and easy) to gain access via Brane Farm. I was lucky in that someone was around to ask, I had no problem in getting permission, and the cows were safely locked away.
There is a path from the cowshed (obviously used by our bovine friends) down to the gate in the adjoining field, and again to the third field where the chamber lies.
From this direction, the first view is of the rear of the chamber (see photo), which consists of some large stones.
The actual chamber was quite overgrown with weeds and small shrubs on my visit, and I suspect some root damage may occur, as several smaller stones which had obviously come from the chamber were spread about near the entrance.
A word of warning: even if a cow pat looks set hard and dry, don't step on it! I did, and had to spend 5 minutes cleaning my boots before returning to the car. But I got to see the tomb and take some photos, so that was two new sites under my belt already!
We drove around aimlessly for a while, and tried to access Tregiffian Vean chambered cairn, but the owner of the campsite wouldn't let us park and suggested we try to get to it from the opposite direction. Cheers pal!
On the way back to Trewellard we took the Woon Gumpus road and stopped to look at the Wheal Buller Menhir. (Re)erected comparatively recently into the field wall, this 8 foot high monster is covered in ivy, and lies near the junction with the B3071 Penzance to St Just road.
After an early night last night, we started the day with a leisurely breakfast, and didn't hit the road till gone 10am. Tregiffian Vean was the first stop, mainly because I was annoyed at the camp owner's attitude yesterday.
We turned off the A30 at SW371270, and headed for Tregiffian Hotel (as marked on the map, it's actually holiday let cottages). At the end of the road, as well as the cottages, is a farm barn, from where the tomb can be seen, up on the hill. Two stiles later and I was heading up the hill, alongside a field of young corn, with planes buzzing overhead practising circuits at St Just's airport. I managed to get within a hundred feet or so of the tomb, but as I'm not in the habit of trampling crops, couldn't get any closer. One for a winter visit possibly, although the tomb looks pretty wrecked out, with not much remaining.
The weather closed in at this point (we'd had heavy overnight rain), so it was more aimless driving while I decided where to go next. Tregeseal, Chun, Mulfra? In the end, we didn't get to any of them, heading instead for Penzance for a bite to eat and to clear the WH Smiths out of their latest magazine stock…
I'd decided Bodrifty was as good a destination as any, but I always find it difficult to get to. We spotted the turn-off for Boswarthen Chapel (as we must now get used to calling Madron Chapel, apparently), and I tried to get up to see the Boswarthen stone, but the 'Private Property' signs put me off the idea, and I returned to the car. Mikki was fine, so I headed off to see the well and chapel one more time.
Driving up past Lanyon to get to the coast road, I thought about finding West Lanyon Quoit for the first time, but the presence of cows in the fields and the general dampness put me off. So we continued up to Gurnards Head, and doubled back past Treen Common and Mulfra Hill before heading in to Bodrifty.
We had the place to ourselves. The only sounds were birdsong, and a very occasional light aircraft circling round. Oh, and the cows! I'd crossed the main settlement at Bodrifty, as I wanted to see if the reconstruction roundhouse was still there. 'Follow the yellow signs' said the signpost. Ok, there's one over there, leading to the next field. No sooner had I entered the field (no gate at the boundary) than I saw three large bullocks staring at me. One was sniffing the air tentatively, but another was openly snorting. I backed away out of their sight behind the hedge. There was no way I could cross the field with them in it. I looked back as I headed toward the car, and all three were now blocking the gap in the field boundary, as if daring me to try. A fourth was joining them, trotting down the hill, and this bugger had horns! I'm not ashamed to say that I ran, until I'd mounted the stile at the bottom of the settlement. Shades of my Cork trip last year! Ah well, another time. That's the nice thing about Cornwall, I know I'll be back, and it won't be too long (September is mentally booked for our next trip here).
I next tried to find the Carfury Menhir, but despite finding the footpath and stream marked on the map, I just couldn't locate the stone. It looks a most unlikely setting, on an overgrown hillside. I've tried unsuccessfully to locate this stone in the past. No doubt I'll try again.
After a petrol stop, it was back to the B&B, via Boscawen-Un. Our plan for the morning was to get down here for sun-rise. Last month, the circle was carpeted in bluebells. Today, the ferns on the path down to the circle were shoulder high, and the ferns in the circle itself were waist high. The gorse around the circle was so high and thick that we'd probably end up waiting an hour or more after sunrise before it actually hit the circle, so we'll have to have an overnight rethink.
Early night tonight, for an early start, and a long drive home tomorrow.
Monday, Midsummer's Day
4am, and up with the lark. After yesterday's early rain, it looked as if we were in for a nice day. We took a slow drive south to Land's End, then East towards Boleigh and the Merry Maidens. There was one other car parked by the gate as we arrived, with less than 10 minutes to go before sunrise. A local couple from St Buryan, and their two dogs thundering up and down the field, were to be our companions for the Solstice Sunrise.
Some locals had obviously visited the circle the previous evening, as a wreath of flowers with tealights lay in the centre of the circle, and various flowers, wreaths and pine cones sat atop some of the stones.
Slowly, majestically, as clouds moved in from the north, the sun rose, casting its glow over the circle. All too soon it was over, and the day had begun. Whilst the other couple began their own private ritual at the site, Mikki and I returned to the car for a final circuit across West Penwith, back to the B&B for a hearty breakfast before heading back to London.
Posted by ocifant
24th June 2004ce
Edited 24th June 2004ce
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