We have often driven down the A30, and wondered what is on the hill to the north of us, as we pass Goss Moor, haunted with memories of its horrendous traffic jams.
The answer is Castle an Dinas, one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Cornwall. It is a superb site, with stunning views ranging from Rough Tor and Brown Willy in the east, Hensbarrow to the south, St Agnes beacon to the west, and glimpses of the sea to the north. This is one of the few places where the term ‘360 degree view’ is completely valid.
It was a cold, bright January day and we were clutching our iWalkCornwall app to take us on a walk around the fort and the valley of the infant Menalhyl river.
The fort is some 260m across with several layers of rampart – some as high as 7m – encircling a large open area which contains a large pond and, curiously, the remains of two Bronze Age barrows. It must have been a strategically important site down the ages, given its central location and ease of access from other such sites such as St Dennis, just across the valley.
No one seems sure whether it was used as a permanent home for a local chief, a small community, or simply a place of refuge when times were tough.
The walk took us through the fort and down into the Menalhyl valley, past the remains of a C20 tungsten mine and into a gentle valley with some wonderful traditional stone-built Cornish farmsteads set tactfully quarter of a mile separate from each other. The names tell their own story: Reterth, Trevithick, Trewolvas, Tresaddern with signs to Tregonetha.
There is not much of the river at this stage but it bubbled along, collecting side streams as it made its way westwards, to skirt St Columb, pass through Mawgan, and emerge at Mawgan Porth. Around us, there were signs of an early spring: some snowdrops, primroses and even some confused campion in the hedgerows. Away from the fort with its background roar from the A30, only the occasional aeroplane leaving Newquay airport disturbed the peace. The sky was a vivid blue.
As we climbed the hill back to the fort, the bright sun highlighted the webs of field spiders hanging from the fence, making it feel as though one was being caressed by gossamer or prepared for an Iron Age ritual as one approached the fort’s ancient ramparts. Cold, crisp days have their benefits.
This was a lovely walk of about 6 miles.