Cornwall and Bodmin Moor in the middle of February this year was an adventure, not what we had planned when we booked our trip in the fall. Who knew then that the United States would have wave after wave of snow and wind and that those storms would go directly over Cornwall with gale force winds swinging and dumping buckets of rain!
Seven miles of railroad track were washed out on the Devon coast. All the normal rainfall for February arrived in the two days we were in Cornwall. We did have a few bursts of sunshine — we did make the best of it and enjoy our lovely bed and breakfast at off-season rates in the little town of Lostwithiel (lostwith ee l). We just called it Lost Whistle. On previous March visits we had found lots of sunshine, many lovely walks along the ocean, charming little towns, twisty roads, frolicking lambs, and the ruins of Tintagel where King Arthur may have been born. Cornwall, is the charming southwest peninsula of England, home to tin miners and pasties, smugglers, wild ponies on the moors and many flowers.
“Lost Whistle” was a 300-mile road trip from our daughter’s place near Cambridge. Most of the way was on a four- to six-lane highway. The traffic was thick, but it went pretty quickly and we pulled into the narrow, rock-walled road of our B&B before dark.
Del orders a “full English” breakfast with 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 rashers of bacon, coffee, and juice. We make our own toast of good whole wheat bread. There is yogurt, fruit, and cereal, too. Oh, and homemade marmalade. You can see the glass containers on the tables.
Cornwall is a dramatic place: the seacoast can be rocky or sandy, stormy or calm; the landscape is bucolic fields or craggy rocks. Everything can change in 15 minutes. The weather forecast is better on our first day so we decide to do a bit of walking on Bodmin Moor, about 30 minutes northeast. Our longest drive on this visit is 30 minutes from “Lost Whistle.”
By some miracle we actually find a sign for “The Hurlers Stone Circle.” As we pull into the gravel parking lot, dodging water-filled potholes, it begins to pour. “Let’s wait a few minutes,” says Del. We do, the rain passes, the sun comes out and so do we. It is very windy. We pull up our raincoat hoods, put on our gloves and start up the wet, gravely track. The air smells wonderfully clean and fresh after the rain.
A hill with a granite top is called a tor. There are many walks that can be taken on the moors (Dartmoor is not far away). They may go to the remains of Neolithic and Bronze Age structures, sites associated with King Arthur, various battles or simply scenic trails. You need to be careful, though, the weather can change quickly. We climbed a high tor on Dartmoor one time. This was a cone shaped hill. It was clear when we started and completely fogged in by the time we got to the top half an hour later. I noticed five paths leading down and quickly fixed in my mind which one we needed!
We have an interesting conversation with Nanook’s owner. He tells us that he is retired from the Navy. We tell him that we are from Michigan. Then he tells us about the Hurlers. Legend is that men were playing hurling on a Sunday and were turned to stone. Two stones off to the side were pipers. A few years ago archaeologists found a road leading from the circle to a burial mound close by. The thought is that a ceremony took place in the circle before burial. More information.
After he leaves we walk along the track until clouds roll in. Turning back toward the car we meet a woman with two dogs. She is in blue rain gear, a few tendrils of red curls escape her hood. With sparkling blue eyes and laughter she says, “I know who you are! You are from Michigan. News travels fast in a village.” Sleet is pelting us so we chat for only a few minutes before we hurry to our car.
Another thing we learned from the man on the moor is that certain farmers have the right to graze their sheep, cattle or horses on the moor. This is passed on through generations. Bodmin Moor is one of the places with “Common Rights” to the wasteland of the old manors. More information.
It is beside the road near Minions. Many of these were erected in the Middle Ages to show boundaries, or paths to churches, holy wells, or monasteries.
We enjoy our drive west to The Lost Gardens of Heligan, a country estate built in the mid-1700s. The gardens had run wild, or were lost between 1914-1990, and are now restored. First a nourishing, hot steak pasty at 3 p.m. in the cafe. Is that rain pelting the roof? Yes, and the wind has come up, too. Oh well, we are here, so out we trudge into the woods looking for spring bulbs. The daffodils are up, but not blooming. There are other surprises, though.
Then we come to this mound. See the green path winding around the hill? A plaque says this was likely a beacon to signal that the Spanish Armada was approaching in 1588.
To be continued.
Photographs copyright Evelyn and Del Weliver