Category Archives: Ancient monuments

Minions to St Neot

Cornwall Council does have a sense of humour after all!

A bright sunny day after a few days of heavy rain tempted us out to start the Copper Trail which had been on our agenda for some time. We decided to start at the beginning at Minions where we discovered that Cornwall Council does have a sense of humour after all.

On the roadside opposite the road sign stood the tall Long Tom wheel-headed wayside cross which may well be an original menhir.

This section of the trail was full of interest and variety, ranging from ancient monuments churches and holy wells, to C19 mining natural delights. 

The Hurlers

The real start of our walk was at the Hurlers and Pipers. The Hurlers consists of three Bronze Age stone circles close to each other: a rare formation but no help in understanding how and why stone circles were used.

The trail proper starts by following a disused railway/tramway south from Minions. Lumps of granite are marked with holes where the rails were originally connected. A short distance ahead, the track descends the former Gonamena incline, emerging eventually at Crow’s Nest. To the east, the remains of the South Caradon mine bespatter the side of Caradon Hill with its enormous television transmitter.

Trevethy Quoit

Our next monument was Scillonian portal tomb of Trevethy Quoit, possibly Cornwall’s oldest structure: an enormous neolithic dolmen. Sadly a row of houses rather encroaches on its setting but on a fine day, there can be few better sights.

The purpose of the hole in the capstone is unknown.

In the distance, the tower of St Cleer was visible above the trees and we took an overgrown bridleway which would never have accommodated a horse, down the hill to Trecarne (where the houses all seemed to have ‘Carne’ in their names). Here, we left the trail to take a detour to visit St Cleer with its holy well and church.

St Cleer holy well

The holy well, dedicated to St Clare of the order of Poor Clare’s – St Francis’ friend – is an elaborate structure which successive restorations has rather hemmed in with an inelegant wall. Its waters, we are reliably informed, will cure insanity but they are sadly inaccessible, which may explain a lot.

Alongside stands a C15 Latin cross.

We rejoined the main trail near South Trekeive. It would have been a short step to the C8 King Doniert’s Stone – or stones – with its inscription and lovely Celtic knotwork but we had already visited them on the way to Minions.

At South Trekeive we passed our third water treatment works of the day – always a delight – before crossing Bulland Downs and emerging at Draynes Bridge.

Golitha falls on the River Fowey

A short detour through some lovely woodland – a nature reserve – is highly recommended to view Golitha Falls. Here we found various people wandering around asking ‘are these the falls?‘ in the manner of someone expecting Victoria Falls on a charming Cornish river.

We can recommend the reserve for dog walking, adventures and picnics.

Back to the road and a steep climb up to the hamlet of Draynes  before an equally steep decline to the converted Methodist chapel at Lower Trenant. From here, the track took us into the lovely Periock Wood, following a stream up a muddy path towards Lower Bowden. Here the farmer had helpfully cut a track across an unharvested hay field to indicate the ‘right route’.

St Neot holy well

We emerged close to the almost invisible Berry Castle and cut across some open moorland before descending towards St Neot, hidden in the valley below. A quick detour to the hopelessly Victorian holy well brought us eventually to St Neot’s wonderful church with its incredible windows.

Here we ended the first stage of the Copper Trail. Our gps said we had walked over 12 miles in about 4.75 hours although Google Maps stubbornly suggests nearer 9 miles.

If the later sections of the trail are as full of interest as this section then we are in for a treat.

 

 

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Brown Willy and Rough Tor

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Brown Willy

A brilliantly hot and sunny July day tempted us out to walk to Brown Willy and Rough Tor. We used the excellent iWalk Cornwall advice.

They promised us 5.2 miles of moderate-strenuous walking ‘marshy even in summer’. The ground was bone dry but we could certainly see that  much of the ground could be marshy with frequent appearance of marsh grasses.

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Rough Tor well

It was glorious. Starting from the end of Roughtor road by Charlotte Dymond’s memorial, one is literally tripping over ancient monuments the whole way up the slope to the top.

We headed for the main patch of reeds where some young horses were eating and drinking, and found the ‘holy well’. This was ‘discovered’ in 1970 and then lost again until 1994. One wonders how one loses a well and whether ‘discovered’ is similar to Speke’s ‘discovery’ of the source of the Nile: it was always there and known by local people.

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The Piskie bath

For some reason the Wessex Division has decided to plant a memorial on top of Rough Tor. Our ancient ancestors would have understood the respect for the place but it seemed oddly incongruous and faintly invasive in such a landscape.

Our helpful notes did not mention that there was an excellent Piskie bath by the logan rock at the summit. This even has carefully crafted soap dishes.

Crossing to Showery Tor, we met a group of young lads who were doing their DoE Bronze Award, rather slowly, allowing time for the usual youthful banter. We encountered them again on top of Brown Willy where a cry went up ‘There’s a Pokemon up here’. ‘The government has spent £millions trying to get us to take exercise and all it needed was a fun app like this’, as one of them wisely remarked.

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View towards Hensbarrow and the Alps

Another couple of walkers turned up thinking they were on Rough Tor, with no map or equipment, having arrived from Bolventor. Happy as anything, they set off for Rough Tor. It was just as well that it was not a ‘typical’ moorland day.

The views around us were magnificent, reaching as far as Hensbarrow, St Breock Down, Dartmoor and was that St Agnes Beacon we could espy?

From Brown Willy we re-crossed the bridge back to the foot of Rough Tor and made our way along the base of the tor towards the settlements, enjoying the remoteness of a small farmhouse with its own field system which must have been in occupation for many centuries.

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Fernacre stone circle towards Brown Willy

There was no discernible path here and we could imagine it being pretty boggy in winter.

Fernacre stone circle was a short step away and we paid it a visit. We counted 50 stones either erect or hidden in the grass and walked the obligatory circuit without any ill or beneficial affects.

The way back around the tor was once again littered with meaningful stones which deserve more careful and detailed study: small hut circles, curb stones and alignments. They are probably all Bronze Age.

It had taken us three hours and we had covered 6.4 miles according to our tracker. It had been more moderate than strenuous but that was on a lovely hot day when the ground was rock hard. Boggy or in Winter would be a different matter.