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Jacksprat's Big Old Tour of Mistakes: Cornwall, June 2007

Staying in Padstow last week I decided that I would cram in as much as this wonderful county could offer me in terms of ancient sites.

What a week it was. I got lost every day, battled bulls, bison and snakes, got rain soaked to the skin, broke my GPS, saw fairies and sprites, got stung and bitten. It really was the best!

I came here last year and with one thing and another only got to see precisely nothing. Which was frustrating, appalling and a waste of a visit. I was not going to be denied this year.

I bought the 'A-Z Cornwall Visitor's map', which is actually really useful in giving the rough locations of sites and I was surprised of how much was included: From well known sites like the Hurlers and Men-an-Tol, to less traveled sites like the St Breock monoliths and Bodmin hut circles. I would recommend it to others who have not visited much before.

This was the first problem. With such a glut of sites to consider I naively thought that I could see it all in a couple of days, which tied in nicely with keeping the FMJ in a tolerable state of mind. Everything looked conveniently close to roads and pathways. How wrong I was. When I bought the OS map of Penzance and one for Bodmin Moor, the enormity of my schedule hit me.

I decided not to share my concerns with the FMJ however and decided to do my tour in three hits: A gentle bike ride to St Breock on Sunday, Bodmin Moor in the car on Wednesday and Penzance region on Thursday. Brilliant.

So duping the FMJ with 'a gentle bikeride through the countryside' on the Sunday, the tour was underway.

We cycled from Padstow to Wadebridge along the Camel Way. It was my intention to ride up toward Burlawn and across the hills to see Men Gurta and Pawton Quoit.

First mistake. Assume everywhere is signposted as you're reading on the map. Wrong. I somehow contrived to lead us out of Wadebridge on a lovely picturesque, but ultimately, completely wrong lane.

The FMJ sensed my indecision to where we were headed and duly kicked off. I took refuge at a cattery and B&B (go figure) for directions.

Directions I got. Mistake number two: Ask for directions out of earshot of workshy partner. the guy directed me up a lane up another lane up through a house and along a track where the lane ends and up another bit, etc. The key word the FMJ had latched on to was 'Up'. then the bombshell as the kindly gentleman, almost mocking said 'I'd be surprised if you cycle it though, it's quite steep up there!'

20 minutes of cajolling the FMJ up the hill later and off we we were off. He was right. The track started as a slight incline and I was thinking 'this isn't so bad' when we turned the corner and it went up and out of site at about 40 degrees!! An hour of cycling, stopping to tell the FMJ she could do it, pushing and puffing, we reached the point where the lane turned into footpath. We could see the wind turbines and new we were close.

However I didn't have the OS map for this region and was going by instinct! Mistake number three. Take map.

Ambushed by nosey cattle we eventually reached the summit of the region. I was about to give up when I caught a glimpse of something over the hedge row: Men Gurta. What a stone!

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Men Gurta — Images

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<b>Men Gurta</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>Men Gurta</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>Men Gurta</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>Men Gurta</b>Posted by jacksprat


We stayed with Men Gurta for a good half an hour, although if she'd had the energy, FMJ would have been out of there as soon as she spied the snake.

I was defeated with finding Pawton Quoit, through lack of map and sense. Still, the journey up was now going to be a fantastic cycle ride of about 5 miles - all down hill!

It was less than two minutes into this ride that I caught site of another monolith looming in the distance...This was not on the map so I hadn't been expecting it. It wasn't until I got onto TMA that I was able to confidently identify it.

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St Breock Downs Menhir — Images

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<b>St Breock Downs Menhir</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>St Breock Downs Menhir</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>St Breock Downs Menhir</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>St Breock Downs Menhir</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>St Breock Downs Menhir</b>Posted by jacksprat


I then noticed another surprise; There is clearly the remains of a barrow in the bottom right of the field.

Men Gurta — Fieldnotes

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This amazing monolith's markings give it an almost reptilian quality, scarred through with quartz. Striped, it gave me the impression of a dinosaur.

Peaking over the hedgerow as you approach, It is hugely impressive the closer you get. Towering 12 ft above you, it is a wonderful sight and well worth the hike up here.

There was no rubbish either, which had been a concern reading other field notes.

The gentle swoosh of the wind turbines in the distance got me to thinking what the erectors of this masterly stone would have made of the surroundings 3000 years on.

The silence was shattered by the FMJ screaming at the site of a grass snake. I should think it was more bothered at the interuption of it's sunbathing

St Breock Wind Farm Barrow — Images

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<b>St Breock Wind Farm Barrow</b>Posted by jacksprat


It is clear that the stone is a marker for the barrow and it may be completely coincidental but the angle and size of it was reminiscent of another stone; The Lynham Longbarrow Menhir.

Both stones are roughly the same size (St Breock is a little bigger), but they seem to be aligned at the same angle and at faces of the stones faces away from the barrow and toward the horizon. Like I say, probably coincidence, interesting none the less. I'll bring it up on the forums.

The cycle ride back into Wadebride was fantastic - down hill all the way, even the FMJ was appeased!

That evening I took the car out onto the A39 to see the last on the day's list: The Nine Maidens Stone Row and the Magi Stone.

St Breock Downs Menhir — Fieldnotes

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The St Broeck Down's (or ups) Menhir.

I wasn't sure if or how we were supposed to get close and was considering cycling backto the entrance to the wind farm but at the bottom edge there was a gap in the fencing so I left FMJ with the bike and jumped over.

Like Men Gurta this stone is scarred thorugh with the distinctive quartz markings. Standing about 7ft high, there is a distinct fissure through the stone.

It reminds me a little of the Lynham Barrow Stone in Oxfordshire and I wonder if the angle of it's erection is deliberate or if it's down to subsidence. Both mark the locations of barrows and are at a 10 degree tilt. This is a bigger stone to the monolith at Lynham however and beautfully marked. Wonderful.

The Nine Maidens — Images

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<b>The Nine Maidens</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>The Nine Maidens</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>The Nine Maidens</b>Posted by jacksprat<b>The Nine Maidens</b>Posted by jacksprat


About 400 metres away in the next field I found the Magi Stone. I wondered how this old stone was related, if at all, to the dancing maidens I'd just left behind? By now it was getting dark so I called an end to what I felt was quite a productive day.

St Breock Wind Farm Barrow — Fieldnotes

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Having stumbled across the Menhir, the sheep pointed me in the direction of the Barrow, located in the bottom right hand corner of the field, about 200 yards from the stone itself.

Clearly visible from the road, although it's not the most spectacular of barrows, it's there none the less!

St Breock Downs Menhir — Fieldnotes

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The St Broeck Down's (or ups) Menhir.

I wasn't sure if or how we were supposed to get close and was considering cycling backto the entrance to the wind farm but at the bottom edge there was a gap in the fencing so I left FMJ with the bike and jumped over.

Like Men Gurta this stone is scarred thorugh with the distinctive quartz markings. Standing about 7ft high, there is a distinct fissure through the stone.

It reminds me a little of the Lynham Barrow Stone in Oxfordshire and I wonder if the angle of it's erection is deliberate or if it's down to subsidence. Both mark the locations of barrows and are at a 10 degree tilt. This is a bigger stone to the monolith at Lynham however and beautfully marked. Wonderful.


After a couple of days keeping the FMJ happy doing non stone spotting activities (including the Eden Project - a big garden centre, what's all the fuss?) I was allowed back on the road, this time alone.

Setting off about 06.30hrs, I decided I was going to tackle Bodmin today. Armed with the OS map for the area my GPS and camera, I headed off with genuine excitement. I'd never been to Bodmin. I'd circled, somewhat ambitiously, all the sites I wanted to visit: Stannon, Fernacre, King Arthur's Hall, Stripple Stones, Trippet Stones, The Hurlers, Trethevy Quoit, Brown Gelly and Dozmary Pool.

Disaster struck early when (please don't laugh) I'd been driving for about 20 minutes when I slowed at a cross roads at the A39 and was surprised to see my GPS fly into my line of vision over the windscreen, down the bonnet and into the road, where a 10 tonne truck smashed it to smitherines. I'd left it on the roof of the car. Fourth mistake: Don't leave GPS on car roof.

Then it rained.

Not to be put off (who needs GPS?) I made my way onto the moor.

It was about now that I wished I'd called upon someone like Mr Hamhead for assistance because the warren of lanes that criss cross the villages and hamlets on the moor are, to the first timer, somewhat confusing.

I navigated from St Breward to Roughtor and somehow stumbled across Fernacre.

The Nine Maidens — Fieldnotes

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The Nine Maidens was marked on my Visitors to Cornwall map but, because of the gloomy evening, it took about three drive by's and ten minutes aimless traipsing before I finally spied the Maidens at the far end of the field.

Maybe it was the evening or the light, or that I was alone but I gained a sense of uneasiness approaching the stones, almost forboding. It passed when I reached them and was snapping away.

Ironically named, the stones all seem to be male, if you go by the shaping if they were in a circle. They bear the now familiar quartz scarring and stretch some fifty metres in total alignment length.

Set at the far end from the road, there is a style for easy access about 200 metres from the layby I parked in.

Stannon — Images

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<b>Stannon</b>Posted by jacksprat

Trippet Stones — Images

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<b>Trippet Stones</b>Posted by jacksprat

The Hurlers — Fieldnotes

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I had no such trouble finding the Hurlers, with a great sign heralding its proximity and boasting its own car park. I half expected a neon sign, Vegas style, to guide me, such was the heralding!

It wasthe pity but the rain was coming down in sheets and with the occupants of the other vehicles parked up questioning my sanity, I was drenched within one minute.

I didn't get to appreciate what must be an amazing site when the weather is fairer.

I couldn't even get a feeling for the size or quality of the circle, the rain was so hard and clouds so oblique, it was almost as if I wasn't welcome. I took a few stolen snaps and ran back to the car. I have unfinished business here.


This was harder than I thought. I went to the car to get the OS map. Which was gone. To this day I have no idea where that map is. Flapping free as a bird on the moor somewhere I'm sure but I don't know how. Unless it learned to open car doors. It was in the car and witnessed the death of the GPS with me, then it was gone. Slightly spooked, all I had now was the Cornwall Visitors A-Z, which, whilst willing, only showed a fraction of the lanes and tracks.

I looked and looked for Stannon Stone Circle with no joy. I wrote off King Arthur's Hall and headed for the Trippet and Stripple stone circles.

Magi Stone — Fieldnotes

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I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. I think I'd been spoilt by the sight of Men Gurta earlier in the day so I was a bit deflated to see the Magi Stone.

This must have been a very proud stone once apon a time but, alas, it now lies prostrate all on its own away from the maidens.

It was a gloomy evening it was getting quite dark so I didn't take any photos of the stone

Trippet Stones — Fieldnotes

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I had stopped and asked for directions from Blisland and told to go up to the hamlet of Bradford, right at the phone box and follow the road toward the A30. This I did, although locating the stones was going to be trickier now I had killed the GPS and the map had gone missing. I nearly crashed trying to keep an eye on the road whilst looking along the sight line for the circle.

The rudimentary A-Z of Cornwall's Visitor's map I was working by listed the stones near the track but I knew it wasn't so straightforward. I'd headed down the track towards the farm but couldn't see anything so headed back and over toward Hawkstor. Again nothing. I spent over an hour searching, my eye led toward any stone formation, which when you've been up there, you'll see is a lot.

Finally they revealed themselves, as if having grown bored with mocking me were now prepared to grant me an audience.

They were further away from the road than I had expected but I raced the 300 or so metres to the circle. What a place!

A good mile from the A30 they are located ¼ mile to the left of the road, 100 metres before you hit a cross roads. Luckily I was upwind from the main road so couldn't hear the traffic. Just the silence of the moor.

I had to brave a herd of bison but having heard they're vegetarian, walked past them with no incident.

I counted nine stones and a smaller central stone with a carved 'C'. To me it looked as if they were alternate male and female stones. The beauty of this place is overwhelming and even the weather felt sorry for me and relented, the sun prying out to see what I was doing, allowing me to take some pictures in peace.

The only company were the bison and ponies and this suited me as I acquainted myself with my new friends. I was sorry to leave, I could have stayed there all afternoon.


Despite the proximity to the Trippet Stones, I spent another 40 minutes on foot looking for the Stripple Stones and try as I might, without the GPS or OS and with the heavens opening once more, I begrudgingly retreated back to the shelter of the car.

Whilst looking for the Trippet Stones I came across two standing stones and a third, fallen stone.

I've checked the TMA and can't find a reference for them so I've tentatively authored a site for them and called them Carbilly Tor Standing Stones. They are located near the cheesewring that can be seen from the road near the dissused quarry at Carbilly Tor.

The OS reference is SX 127 752 GB but it doesn't like it when TMA asked for the reference.

The stones are about 50 metres from the road, in high fern and bracken. I can't imagine they've not been seen before.

The two upright stones stand roughly five feet high and three yards apart. The third stone lies three yards in front of them and is well covered by grass.

I drove to the A30 and across to Minions where I had no such trouble finding the Hurlers.

Fernacre — Fieldnotes

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With Roughtor bearing down on you and the wind whipping in your ears, this is a marvelous place, one of the few places in the country where you can imagine the view has pretty much stayed the same as when this circle was built.

Not far from the track, the views here are amazing. The noisy silence of the place strikes you. It is quite a moving place to be. I stayed for 20 minutes, wishing I could know more of why this circle was made.

The circle itself is made up of modestly sized stones, close together. More of a boundary for a leader's hut than a place of worship, I'd have said. But I'm a monkey who leaves his GPS on his car roof to be run over by a lorry so what do I know?

By now the weather was so bad I could hardly drive and had to pull over for a while. I decided to review the pics I had taken and turned on the camera. Sixth Mistake: Don't turn on wet camera.

fizz Splut. The camera said goodnight. So that really ended the day. The FMJ was on the phone so I headed back to Padstow, almost bereft of the equipment I'd taken with me. Explaining the GPS (A gift from the FMJ) and the camera (the FMJ's) was going to be interesting.

So interesting that I was not allowed to complete the final leg of my tour to keep her happy. Penzance can wait, I've fallen in love with the county and will be back later in the summer. I may ask for assistance. You can't rely on maps...especially ones that learn how to open doors and escape.
jacksprat Posted by jacksprat
18th June 2007ce
Edited 14th July 2007ce


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