Tried to visit 12.4.10.
The one that got away!
On my week exploring Cornwall I had made a list of sites I wanted to visit. I am pleased to say I hit all targets - except this one.
I thought I would chance my arm and just turn up and ask permission to see the site. However, when I arrived there was no one about and although there looked like there were people at home I got no answer when I knocked on the doors of the holiday homes. I telephoned the number given to ask permission but all I got was the answer phone. The Fogou was not obvious and I couldn't see it amoungst the trees. As I didn't fancy getting 'caught' trespassing. I decided to leave and telephone the next day. Despite several calls all I got was the answer phone, so I am afraid I never did see the fogou.
Visited the fogou 9th June 2004.
(rewritten 23/06/04 cos I was half asleep first time!)
What a lovely place!
I was a bit nervous of this place after all I'd read about the odd happenings here, but found it to be a very peaceful place. We'd meant to visit many times but ALWAYS forgot to call ahead or bring the phone number with us (had to call Moth for it this time!)
The setting is very beautiful - I found it strange to think there was a house close by cos it just felt so secluded!
I find fogous odd anyway (I'm sure I'm not alone here!) - I start off full of beans, happily exploring and snapping away with the camera (normally just so I can see where I'm going! The torch normally gets swallowed up into the darkness...) and feeling like this is just a man-made hole in the ground... Then, unexpectedly, I get a shiver, and have felt quite scared (at Halligye I fair shat meself after about half an hour of feeling fine!)
So what is it with fogous? Boleigh is very beautiful, and very peaceful, as mentioned above, and is not exactly in the middle of nowhere...
I loved it here - it felt like I was in a time machine... I thought I was there for about 10 minutes, but emerged from the hole in the ground over an hour later!
Rob and (I'm so sorry I didn't catch your name!) his wife/partner (sorry again!) were absolutely lovely. Very welcoming indeed. The house itself is amazing, and some rooms are being let for a really relaxing B&B style holiday, along with a HUGE cottage that sleeps around 6!!! (Check out http://www.rosemerrynwood.co.uk/ for more info)
We shall definately return to Boleigh - not just for the fogou, but to spend the week (or 2) - maybe I'll even pluck up the courage to explore the fogou at night - wooo! Big chicken... ;o)
It was pouring with rain outside, so the shelter of Boleigh's gaping dark mouth, moustached by moss and ferns and liverworts seemed rather attractive. The fogou is tall, 7 or 8 feet in places and about 9 metres long, perhaps more and beautifully corbelled. The creep leads off immediately to the left as you enter the fogou. I could just squeeze my child-bearing hips through the crack and I found the creep not only almost doubles back on itself, but rises to virtually ground level.
I loved it here! I felt so protected and quite happy. Not freaked at all.
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.
Well I arrived on a hot sunny morning, shorts, sandals etc., oh what a mistake! The fogou was no trouble to find, most of the surrounding trees and foliage has been cut down and removed (this can only have been done to allow more sunlight onto the ground to dry up the soilwork surrounding the fogou to prevent any further collapse), well in I stomped, straight to the back of the main tunnel and straight into a watery swamp! Not as big as Halligey Fogou I must say but such a nice feeling in here! More natural daylight manages to penetrate inside too. Well into the creep I crawled, over the large rock on the floor and left into the small chamber, sat myself down and opted for a quick meditation. Well, that led me into a state of semi trance... I'm not sure of what the knocking sounds were that echoed from the walls that surrounded me, nor was I sure of the presence I felt within the chamber, it was nice though! Not at any point did I feel like grabbing my sandals and making a run for it, I stayed put and carried on......Spriggans?? Piskies?? Who knows, eh?
Well dont just turn up and expect to be allowed to visit this litttle gem. It's by appointment only and only if its convenient to the land owner. worth the wait though, I'd say... set in typical wild "Cornish jungle".
[A mysterious cavern] at Bolleit, in the parish of Buryan, which was so large and perfect in the time of the Great Rebellion, that Cavaliers were for some time concealed there; where, like the prophets of old, they were fed by Mr. Levellis of Trewoof, until opportunity offered for them to return to the King's army.
About a furlong south-west of Trove, but on a tenement of Boleigh, is the Fuggo. It consists of a cave about six feet high, five feet wide and near forty long, faced on each side with rough stones, across which long stone posts are laid. On its north-west side a narrow passage leads into another cave of similar construction and unknown extent; as it has long been blocked up by a portion of the roof having fallen in. One may be pretty sure, however, that much of the stories about its great length are fabulous. They say that it extends from its entrance, at the foot of Boleigh hill, to the old mansion at Trove; in proof of this the old one has often been heard piping under a parlour of the house. It is supposed he meets the witches down there, who have entered by the Fuggo to dance to his music. Hares are often seen to enter the Fuggo which are never known to come out the same way; they are said to be witches going to meet their master, who provides them with some other shape to return in.
There are also traditions of this cavern having served as a place of refuge to some of the Levelis in troublesome times; and of its having frequently been used by our fair-traders, as it afforded them a secure hold for storing their goods, and to have a carouse therein.
[...] A short time ago an old inhabitant of Boleigh informed us that many persons in that neighbourhood are afraid to enter the Fuggo, even by day, as they believe that bad spirits still frequent this place. Women of villages near often threaten their crying babies that they will carry them down to the Fuggo, and leave them there for the Bucca-boo if they don't stop their squalling. there are traditions that almost all these caves were haunted by beings of a fearful nature, whose path it was dangerous to cross.
From William Bottrell's second volume of Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall (1873), which you can read at the Sacred Texts Archive website.
Jo May (the former owner of the fogou) mentions some legends connected with the site.
Firstly, " in AD937 the fields surrounding the site witnessed the slaughter of the last of the Cornish Celts led by Howel in their final battle against King Athelstan and his invading Saxon army. The fogou is known as the 'Boleigh Fogou' and Boleigh means 'place of slaughter'. Legend has it that after the battle the stream by the fort ran red with blood."
He also has a tale connected with the Civil War: that in 1646 some Royalist soldiers who were fleeing the Parliamentary troops were kindly concealed in the dank fogou for several days by a member of the Levellis family. May points to two apparent blocked vents in the roof as a relic of this episode.
May also suggests that the fogou was used as a hiding place for smugglers' and wreckers' booty.
The place became known as the Grambler Grove, it was "..well wooded and the upper part thickly covered with hazel, thorn and elder, with a tangled undergrowth of briars, brambles and furze. Few persons liked to pass this place, because strange noises were heard and fires often seen within it by night, when no one would venture near the place."
(Jo May, who seems to be quoting Blight's 'Churches and Antiquities of West Cornwall' (1885) in 'Fogou' (1996), a sample of which is online at http://www.gothicimage.co.uk/books/fogou1.html
The tale of 'Duffy and the Devil' tells of how the squire, out hunting hares one night, chased one from the nearby Merry maidens, past the Pipers and down into the fogou. Once inside the fogou he witnessed a ceremony of witches, disturbing them as they met with the Devil. He reportedly had to run for his life.
"In the middle of this barton of Trove on the top of a hill is still extant the downfalls of a castle or treble intrenchment called … , in the midst of which is a hole leading to a vault under ground. How far it extends no man now living can tell by reason of the damps or thick vapours that are in it, for as soon as you go an arrow flight in it or less your candles will go out or extinguish of themselves for want of air. For what end or use this vault was made is uncertain though it is probable it was an arsenal or store house for laying up arms ammunition corn and provision for the soldiers of the castle wherein it stands. In the wars between Charles I and his Parliament divers of the royal party pursued in the West by the Parliament troops under Sir Thomas Fairfax were privately conveyed into this vault as far as they could proceed with safety, where Mr Leveale fed and secured them till they found opportunity to make their escapes to the king's friends and party."
There is apparently a carving at the entrance of the fogou - you can see it on the CAER site here: http://www.caer.co.uk/index_files/CAER/carving.htm
It was noticed by Dr EB Ford, who excavated the site in 1957. The Caer logo is based on the carving - interpreted as a person holding a staff and a snake. It looks rather ambiguous in the photo though - but perhaps you've seen it yourself?
From W Hal's 'Compleat History of Cornwal, general and parochial' (1702), quoted by Jo May in his 'Fogou' (1996).
[you see] the downfalls of a castle or treble entrenchment in the midst of which is a hole leading to a vault underground. How far it extends no man living now can tell, by reasons of the damps or thick vapours that are in it, for as soon as you go an arrow flight in it or less your candles will go out or extinguish themselves for want of air.
The fogou in the garden of a property of a very nice gentleman called Rob Donaldson, to whom Jo May sold it last year. Contact details are: 'Rosemerryn', Lamorna, Penzance, Cornwall, TR19 6BN, phone 01736 810530.
He takes his guardianship of the fogou seriously and welcomes guests, but PLEASE phone for an appointment and don't trespass in his garden!
The owners of Rosemerryn currently offer bed and breakfast, and a self-catering cottage. On visiting the fogou, their website says:
We would like guests staying at Rosemerryn to feel free to explore the Fogou as often and whenever they wish, and ask only that people are respectful of the site and considerate of each other. We would be grateful if non-resident visitors could phone in advance to arrange a convenient time to visit the site.