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Pendeen Vau


<b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by JaneImage © Jane Tomlinson
Also known as:
  • Pendeen Fougou

Nearest Town:Penzance (10km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   SW381356 / Sheet: 203
Latitude:50° 9' 42.58" N
Longitude:   5° 40' 3.09" W

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<b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by postman <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Moth <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Jane <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Alchemilla <b>Pendeen Vau</b>Posted by Alchemilla


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Had I tried to leave the best til last I couldn't have done much better than Pendeen Vau. I had only one problem, it's exact whereabouts, The map was pretty vague, yes I knew it was at a farm, or at least in a farm yard, but I couldn't quite get which of the houses had that very farm yard. Off I went, on my own, down the lane, before too long I was at the lighthouse, this I decided was definitely too far, so I back tracked, talking to Eric on his phone looking at the map and going on street view and such trying to figure out which of the houses had it, but then I was back at the car and with only one way to go. We peeled off the lane, right, down a red gravel farm track, I parked just fifty yards from the farms front door.

It was universally agreed in the car that I would be going solo on this one, no kids no dogs, just me, camera, torch and Fogou. At the front gate I looked in the front yard and reckoned on a back door approach instead, but that felt too invasion of privacy so I went back to the front gate opened it and went in, no path across the lawn or letter box in the front door persuaded me that the back door is the way to go. As I approached the back door an Audi with occupants old stopped right by me. Time to apply charm and smarm, I said hello and asked If I can have a look at your Fogou, he said of course do you know where it is? I said I think I can see it from here through the gates, with that he left me to it, no hesitation at all he didn't even blink. I challenge anyone to come up with a more trusting, care free farmer any where in England.
I, quite literally had the place to myself, so I shimmied straight up the drain pipe and took some photos of the site from above on the farm house roof. Then I went in had a cup of tea, watched Countdown, had a quick lie down, then headed back out to see the Fogou, right, yes the fogou.

Through just three gates and I'm in the farm yard, the fogou sits before me. There are no cows, no mud, no gate covering the entrance, it was as if someone above had created the most awesome visit ever.
Torch, camera and twine at the standby position I entered the labyrinth. There is a lot of rubble on the ground, unsure whether that was something I should be concerned about I carried on with one eye on the roof.
In short time i'm at the tiniest entrance I've ever seen in an ancient site, only in actual caves are passages smaller than this. I crawl through, almost on my belly, squirming and wriggling through without getting dirty proved impossible. Inside the Rab cut chamber, I use the words calmly and without stammer but still have no idea what they mean, does it just mean it's underground? hewn out of the earth itself. At the end of this domed passage is a small pit full of dirty water, did some one dig here looking for bones and stuff?
On the domed roof is a silvery spread of I don't know what, possibly the same kind of stuff as the green glowing mossy stuff, but silver. Dangling down from a crack in the roof are what look like roots hanging with brownish watery droplets on them, and I guess that's what they were, rather than the strange cave dwelling worm? that hangs silk with droplets on them and they catch an insect and then pull them up to feed. It would have been cool if they weren't just roots.
Back out into the fogou's main passage I carry on along the passage til it gets too small to get into, there is a small gap through which you can see back out into the world, turn and take a photo.

Then it's back to the tiny portal, sit for a bit, photo a bit then back outside. I go round the back and have a look at the blocked creep entrance.

And I'm just about done, back in for some toast, and that's it.
Noting on the way in and now the way out That antiquarian Dr William Borlase was born and lived here, firstly I thought well no wonder he got interested in things with a Fogou in his back yard, then I wondered if he'd built it himself after getting inspired by all the other sites he'd seen.
I'd have one in my yard if I could.
postman Posted by postman
5th August 2018ce
Edited 5th August 2018ce

Visited 13.4.10.
What a fab site!
I parked at the farm and was happily shown where the fogou is by a helpful and friendly farmer. There was a metal railing covering the entrance (to keep the animals out) which I had to slide to one side. Luckily the weather had been dry for several days so the mud/muck from the cows was all crispy and dry underfoot. On a wet day you would get covered - take your wellies! After moving the railing I crouched down and entered the darkness into the fogou. Inside was reasonably dry and I got to the little square entrance ok. A plank of wood had handily been left on the floor which allowed you to pull yourself through the gap on you belly without getting too muddy. I then followed the passage to the ned and turned my torch off - what an experience. There were several tea lights inside and a large puddle to avoid. Even though it was a warm, sunny day outside, inside the fogou you could see your breath. I considered how similar fogous are to the 'Earth houses' I have visited in Scotland. It seems to me (in my non qualified opinion) the fogous were used for storage - seems to make most sense?
I really liked this place. Please try to visit if you can.
Posted by CARL
22nd April 2010ce

To reach the entrance of the fogou you must wade in ankle deep slurry and shooo a splendid yet shitty herd of friesians to one side of the farmyard.

Moth's maglite firmly gripped in hand, I stepped out of the slippy shit and into the darkness. The chamber has a narrow entrance and a steep drop. The height never allows you to stand up, so I walked along, hunchbacked, as far as I could go. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dark I realised that the fogou was Y-shaped, with another exquisitely corbelled passageway leading off to the left, just as long as the one I'd just come down - about 7 metres. And from the point where the two main chambers meet, down at the bottom, a little square hole no more than 18 inches high. This is the creep. Squatting down in the mud I shone my torch through the hole to view a rock-cut passageway, again perhaps 7 metres long. For a moment, I felt like Howard Carter! It was only the mud that pervented me squeezing through, though this was no bar for Moth who disappeared through it like a small boy up a chimney. We loved this fogou!
Jane Posted by Jane
15th March 2004ce
Edited 16th March 2004ce

Fantastic. After you have negotiated the farm gates and the cattle that is. Small but clear entrance leading down with a tiny entrance to the creep. Absence of a torch (or so we thought - Nic had one in her bag but didn't realise!) stopped us slithering in. Could have sat in here for hours.

The farmers were very helpful and friendly. Said they had lots of visitors and didn't mind at all that people tramped through their workspace to get to the fogou. They'd like you to try to avoid milking times though.
Posted by Zuma
31st August 2000ce
Edited 16th March 2004ce


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The house in which Dr. Borlase, the famous antiquary, was born, was the next place of interest to be visited [Pendeen Manor House], and here Mr. Millett read a paper dealing with the history of the old mansion and its most interesting features. He reminded his hearers that there was a tradition to the effect that John Wesley had once preached in that very farmyard, bu the founder of Methodism makes no allusion to the fact in his diary, and it rests on very slender evidence.

A hundred yards or so from the house is Pendeen Vau, an artificial cave of considerable extent, which according to local legends, stretches many miles under the sea. Some have even said that you can, if you only know the way, and have sufficient courage, enter the cave at Pendeen and emerge from it at Scilly!

The explorations of our antiquaries did not extend so far, but they traversed the cave from one end to the other, without finding one particle of the "fairy gold" which is said to exist in its walls, or seeing any of the "little people" who are reported to haunt it.
In the Cornish Telegraph, 9th August 1888.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
15th August 2018ce

An older version of something mentioned by Bottrell:
A short distance from the Cove a mysterious cave was pointed out to us, called Pendeen-Vau, which is conceived by the rustics to be interminable, for they had penetrated at least fifty yards, and still, found no end. At the entrance of it there appeared some years ago a strange lady with a red rose in her mouth, for what purpose it was not easy to ascertain, for the good people seemed unwilling to allow their imaginations to dwell on the possible horrors of the circumstance. This cave was probably used in remote ages as a place of concealment for property during times of war and invasion.
From A Voyage Round Great Britain undertaken in the summer of 1813' by Richard Ayton.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
1st October 2012ce
Edited 1st October 2012ce

Pendene vowe, a holl or deepe vaute in the grounde, wherinto the sea floweth at high water, very farr under the earth: Manie have attempted, but none effected, the search of the depth of it.
From John Norden's "Speculi Britanniæ pars: a topographical and historical description of Cornwall", written in the beginning of the 17th century. (I have transcribed this from the scan on Google Books.) I take it he didn't go in. But then I'm a coward as well.

Borlase (in 1769) didn't think much of his story - "but the sea is in truth more than a quarter of a mile from any part of it. The common people also thereabout tell many idle stories of like kind, not worth the reader's notice, neglecting the structure, which is really commodious, and well executed."

I think he rather liked the place, saying "Of all the artificial Caves I have seen in Cornwall, that called Pendeen Vau (by the Welsh pronounced Fau) is the most entire, and curious", and "You see nothing of this Cave, either in the field or garden, 'till you come to the mouth of it, as much privacy as possible being consulted."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
31st March 2010ce
Edited 2nd August 2011ce

There is to be seen at Pendeen, a cave, known by the name of Pendeen Vau, and concerning which there are many ridiculous stories.*

It appears to have been one of those hiding places in which the Britons secreted themselves, and their property, from the attacks of the Saxons and Danes.

The cave is still almost entire, a circumstance which is principally owing to the superstitious fears of the inhabitants, many of whom, at this very day, entertain a dread of entering it.
*Oh the irony. This is in 'A guide to the Mount's bay and the Land's end' by John Ayrton Paris, published 1828. You can read it on Google Books.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th February 2009ce

There is a somewhat graceful creation of fancy associated with the Vow, or fuggo, at Pendeen, which is said to extend from the mansion to Pendeen Cove, and some say it has branches in other directions, which spread faraway from the principal cavern.

At dawn on Christmas Day the "Spirit of the Vow" has frequently been seen just within the entrance, near the Cove, in the form of a beautiful lady, dressed in white, with a red rose in her mouth. There were persons living, a few years since, who had seen this fair but not the less fearful vision; for disaster was sure to visit those who intruded on the spirit's morning airings.
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.

A slightly different account, from the second series, volume 4 (1868) of the Proceedings of the London Antiquaries Society
Such caves, inasmuch as they are, almost invariably, found under hedges or large banks of earth, I shall venture to place in a separate class, and term 'hedge caves.' Two of the most remarkable of these may be noticed in passing - one, at Pendeen, in the parish of St. Just, which legend connects with an Irish lady, who, dressed in white and bearing a red rose in her mouth, is to be met with on Christmas morning at the cave's mouth, where she confides to you tidings brought from her native land through the submarine recesses of that mysterious cavern...
But why call them 'hedge caves' when fogou will do?!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2006ce
Edited 21st April 2013ce