After two of the wettest days/nights in Cornwall we’ve had this year I decided to seek out the seldom visited (it would seem) Goodaver stone circle on Smiths Moor as I’d already previously planned it. Looking at the OS map, common sense told me that it would be somewhat hazardous trying to reach it from East Moor via Goodaver Down, as where the two meet, it is extremely wet and boggy. So, rather than try and approach it from East Dozmary/Goodaver where most of the land is farmed and private, I took what I considered the better option…through Halvana Plantation where I had been told by local horse-riders it was well pathed.
The plantation is a rather large example of its type and although I’m not a fan of this type of woodland, the thought of easier walking made it quite appealing…and so it turned out to be.
It is a 5 mile round trip as the crow flies which over the moor itself would be a bit of a slog in soft ground, but more like 6 due to the direction the paths through the plantation take you but much easier going underfoot.
So, heading down the A30 from Launceston, after about 6 miles you’ll see the turning for Altarnun/Five Lanes/Trewint on your left off the dual carriageway. Take this turning which brings you to a mini roundabout. Take the second exit signposted Tregirls/Trenit/Halvana and a single track road takes you to Eastmoorgate and beyond. Follow the road as it bears to the right at this point and with the northern end of the plantation on your left, it will bring you directly to the main chained gate into Halvana Plantation at the end of this road. Park up here alongside the entrance into the wood on the right-hand side, but enter the wood via the main entrance immediately in front of you through the unlocked pedestrian gate. Initially the track takes you in a westerly direction for about 300 yards before bearing left to the south. On your left and right on this bend you will see cage-like structures in the undergrowth which are dangerous mine entrances and to be avoided. Also on the right-hand side of this bend are two concrete structures that I went to look at but soon came away due to some funny goings on that had taken place there. Hung up about 10ft off the ground were different birds and animals hanging from their slit necks on a long line of string linked to three trees. It looked to me that some sort of ‘ceremony’ had taken place there! All in all a bit too ‘Deliverance’ like to me!!
Thinking ahead, I had brought my compass with me because you need to keep heading directly south in this plantation as once in there you are completely enclosed in a dense wood although the roads/paths are excellent and easy to follow. ‘Most’ of the tracks take you south but just keep checking the compass out as now and again you are taken left for short distances before the track turns south again. It is not a plantation you can really get lost in (for long!) because it is a long narrow affair where if you venture too far to the east or west you will come to its boundary with virtually open moor either side. You are heading to its most southerly point which looks like an arrowhead on the map with the circle about 50 yards further on, so if push came to shove you can find your way to it by keeping to the extremities, but this should not be necessary and time consuming. By keeping on south you will eventually come to another chained gate with a sign saying no access but I ignored it as the likelihood of meeting anyone here is extremely remote. This is the lower part of the plantation and I would imagine pretty much devoid of any woodland activity with 1,000’s of trees looking pretty grim and dying. Plantations can look dark depressing places on dull days and do nothing to cheer you up! Moving on you will observe on your left in the trees a ‘hidden’ or secret field and shown on the map as a clearing. Continue south until the track sweeps to the left and takes you directly to Goodaver Down and above the marsh/boggy ground you would have met by taking the direct route across East Moor from Eastmoor Gate. You are now only about half a mile from the stone circle. A grassy/stony track alongside the inside of the plantation takes you some way up toward the circle but then terminates. Just walk a few yards into the plantation at this point and you will be looking directly up the line of conifers leading up to the tip of the arrowhead. A few rows in will bring you to a wider channel which is more like a track-way, take this one. You are nearly there.
Within five minutes that ‘magic moment’ arrived as I approached the fence-line and saw the tips of three stones appearing through the trees. Wow!
You then make your way into the corner of the plantation where the fences meet. The fence here has been rather patched up where the two meet, so after scrambling through a bit of undergrowth and overhanging branches and climbing a low section of sheep netting you are out onto Smiths Moor on Shepherds Hill. Yay!
And you won’t be disappointed, as this is a gem of a circle and in the main complete it would seem although restored. It is built on sedge-covered ground that is very boggy. The really heavy rain over the previous two days had not made it any easier to walk around the circle but overall not bad considering.
The circle has a diameter of 106 ft and I counted twenty three standing stones. Apparently it had a recumbent stone at one stage and a total of twenty eight stones. The stones are generally rectangular and measure roughly between 2ft to 5ft with varying width. They are spaced approximately 12ft apart although I only measured a few spaces as the weather came in nasty causing me to retreat. At one point there is a double-stone with another lying at their base but overgrown so not sure about its setting or meaning. I also detected another lying next to another upright. I was particularly interested in the stones that had that by now almost traditional identical slope to their tops and am yet to discover if they have all come out of the ground like that or have been purposely cut.
(Checking the records I discovered that the Reverend A. H. Malan discovered the circle in 1906 when only three stones remained standing. Local farmers apparently supplied workers to erect the fallen stones in their current position and it is stated that several stones were inverted, spaced incorrectly with some reversed faces and possibly in the wrong places).
There are the remains of a large hilltop cairn showing on the OS map approximately 260ft southwest of the circle but due to the foul weather I left that for a further visit in the summer months.
Summing up, I felt really high after going to the effort of seeking this circle out as I don’t think THAT many people had attempted it. The route I took was really easy underfoot and although through a dense plantation, in the main a pleasant walk which as we all know all adds to the enjoyment. I hope to add to these field notes after I’ve returned in better weather but here is a link to the pix I took aside from those added.
Just as a ‘by the way’, the paths/tracks through the plantation are so good, flat and even that if you took a bike with you in your vehicle you could ride to within 500 yards of the circle in about 15 minutes I would estimate.
Just found this. Couple my directions to this map and you won't go wrong. Just keep to the more central southerly tracks.
I sent my pix to a friend who rides over East Moor and she told me she had spoken to an old woodsman who had worked in the plantation 40 years ago. He told her to not let her dog loose whilst in there because there are open mine shafts that can go undetected due to their covers subsiding and falling in. Gulp, my Chief had been dashing in and out of the trees with relish.
Now a spooky bit. He also advised her to never enter the lower section of the plantation (the secured gate I climbed over) because it was a breeding ground for vipers (adder snakes) as it was so wet there. He then said that was also the case with the stones in a circle at the end of that section!!!
Bells started ringing then and I dived back into the pix I'd taken and found this....
... and Google Earth, I managed the long walk to what, I think, is actually one of the best circles in Cornwall.
Here's how I did it:
Park at the "Y" junction at the bottom of Dozmary Hill (on the Bolventor to Golitha road)
Walk south until you get to Trezibbett Farm. Turn into the farm, then turn IMMEDIATELY left, just past the bridge, and past the rather nice new-build house. Walk past it, and go through/over the gate. There's a new (but VERY steep) track which arcs around , and joins the old path from the farm almost at the entrance to the moor. This completely bypasses the farm. I'm not ENTIRELY sure if it's legal, but it worked for me ;) You can see the new track very easily on the latest satellite maps.
You'll then emerage at a large, green barn. Open the gate here, and you're on to Smith's Moor. Turning right; try and hug the lower fence on your right as much as you can.
There's a long slog ahead; I found that following "sheep tracks" helped, as the ground is VERY uneven, very boggy in places, and there's also at LEAST one hut circle en-route that will suddenly appear under your feet; the long grass hides how difficult this terrain is. It's probably not wise to try this after a prolonged wet spell; the hardest part is at the lowest point of the moor, roughly halfway to the circle.
The circle is accurately marked on the OS map, so that part at least is easy. If you're still following the fence, once you've almost approached the brow of the slight hill that lies ahead, turn left; you'll start to see a few path-ish things here that will lead you to the circle.
The views from Goodaver are worth it alone; Colliford lake and Clay Country stretch out in the distance.
Whatever the innacuracies of the circles reconstruction may be, it's still an amazing place; perhaps moreso for the pilgrimage necessary to get there!
Hopefully if the new path is a legal route, then Goodaver will take it's rightful place amongst Kernow's finest ancient sites. It sort of reminds me of Boscawen-un, without the central stone - just in terms of FEEL, I guess?
Spent all afternoon yesterday trying to get to this circle via open access land...without success. Barbed wire, conifer plantations and knee high grass and gorse plus quite a lot of marshland were all put in my way.
Phil's suggestion back in 2001 may still be possible but you would need to ask permission at the farm.