Category Archives: High spots

Castle an Dinas

Castle an Dinas seen from St Dennis church, with Goss Moor in the valley below

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.

Castle an Dinas rampart

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.

Spot the magpie

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.




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.