Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Granite Tors

My mind has been reminding me of our Cornwall visits, think it is all about nostalgia, but the other day I stumbled across the drawing below of Rillaton Barrow on Bodmin Moor.  Sadly I did not capture the name of the person who had drawn it, but you can see that this large barrow was found and excavated by miners, around 1835.  A dagger and the famous gold Rillaton cup lie on the slab, there were other finds but now lost in time, probably faience beads and some bone or ivory fragments.  The barrow was very large, pockmarked by other diggings, stone robbing.  This area is of course famous for the copper mined in the 19th century, and on top of the barrow there was a small pool of water in a hollow.
Bodmin Moor is a geographical surface of mine workings, water ways and quarries.  This barrow stands but five hundred metres from the famous Cheesewring Tor,   the Cheesewring stones piled haphazardly on top of each other a reminder of glacial happenings from the past.  If you climb this tor, half quarried now you come on the Stowe Pound settlement at the top (Early Bronze Age or Neolithic the settlement has not been excavated), something I haven't explored.  What drew to me this area was the three stone circles called 'The Hurlers' looking towards the Cheesewring Tor, I found the circles rather magical, and peaceful, set amongst the gorse bushes and stones, ponies and cows wandered around in this semi-wild place.

Rillaton Barrow upon its discovery

Three stone circles acknowledging Cheesewring Tor and in between the Tor and circles would have been the burial at Rillaton Barrow of someone important. 
The Hurlers are like so many standing stone circles missing some stones, pushed over by time  or cattle, some stones have little ponds around them, where cattle have used them as rubbing stones and there are reeds all over the moor.

Rillaton Barrow as it is today, Chief's tail and sometimes his whole body appears in most of my photographs.

Cheesewring Tor close up, see how the copper miners have quarried nearly half the hill away, at one time it was one of the biggest copper quarries in Europe.

Nowadays we can explain everything away with science, and commonsense, the Cheeswring is just a natural formation of rocks created by a glacier but in the Stone Age it would have acquired a significance as something special, stones built by a god perhaps?

What photos never capture is the weather of course, the wind that blows constantly, the rain that falls and soaks you.  The difficulty of walking on stony ground, uneven and boggy in places, sheep startling you as you round some stones, their empty stares as they contemplate your presence strange. Then of course darling little foals grazing near the mares, banded white cattle and you realise that life is lived to the full on this great open moor, it is definitely not empty, and that is not counting the people either who walk to see the sites.  You come across people who are part of the myth of the stone circles, flowers in their hair, strange clothes a whole artifice has erupted around megaliths, a pagan way of life.  Don't criticise, this is how magic is maintained through the centuries, an awareness of  'otherness', can be called religiousness, it topples down through the decades, the small posy of flowers laid beneath a stone, a crystal or a coin, we look for 'luck' everywhere for that which has no name, and for a brief time become one with something greater than ourselves.

Two stones deliberately placed on Stowe Pound, a reminder from the stone age past, look as if they are about to fall into the more recent quarry, watching over a changing landscape.  You can almost see why our early ancestors saw there own ancestors trapped in the spirit of the stones.


  1. It is so many years since I visited that part of the country (50) that I had forgotten just how beautiful and remote it is.

  2. Yes it is a rather beautiful part of the country. I have been tasked with finding a place to stay in the Lake district when the weather is warmer, somewhere I have never been.