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Cornwall and Bodmin Moor, Dramatic Settings — Part I

By Evelyn WeliverCornwall 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.

Our room in Lostwithiel

Penrose B&B, Lostwithiel. Our room is the bay window at the top above the green paint.

B&B view

This is our view.

breakfast room

The breakfast room overlooks a small garden.

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.

Cat drinking

The hosts' black cat drinks from a water dish in the garden.

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.”

Dark sky

A typical scene is thick, black trees against a sky of blue being smothered by storm clouds.

tree tunnel

Soon it is sunny.

tree blowing

It is also windy and you can tell the direction of the prevailing wind.

a little road, grey

We are on a little road, a grey road on the map, and the only access to the "standing stones" we are trying to find.

road sign

Mmm, a road sign. The top right one says Minions, a little village; we want that. Thank goodness for the detailed map loaned to us by our host.

Tree in road

The hedges are tall and recently trimmed. The road becomes a few inches wider and has a line down the middle!

view of moor

The remains of a tin mine engine building on Bodmin Moor. The moor is designated as an "Area of Outstanding Beauty."

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.

Hurlers Stone Circle

The Hurlers Stone Circle, from about 1500 B.C.

Cheesewring

The distant piled granite stones are called The Cheesewring. No one knows if they are naturally piled like this or were placed this way.

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!

tin mining

To the right of the standing stones is another tin mining building. Many of the stones have been disturbed by the mining.

 

Nanook and owner

Nanook and his owner on the track where we walk, Bodmin Moor

Nanook and Del

Nanook is very friendly and lets Del pet him. He also came up to me and protected my legs from the wind.

Nanook

There is so much to do out here; so many scents!

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.

sea view

We walked high enough for this view of the sea.

tea shop

The village of about 20 houses has a place for hot tea on a cold day. The sun has won over the clouds for a few minutes.

Sheep

Beside the little store, sheep and ponies enjoy the sun on their backs.

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.

tall cross

A "wayside cross" marks the Priest's Way across the moor.

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.

cross close up

A detail view of the cross.

 

grey stone house

Driving on we pass this tidy grey stone farm house.

View of fields

The view beside the house.

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.

sleeping goddess

An earthen sculpture, The Sleeping Goddess, is covered in ivy and moss. Her form repeats the shape of distant hills.

sunny fields

A bit of sunshine bathes the fields behind her, against the stormy sky. The ocean is just beyond the hills.

Tropical plants

Tropical plants shelter us from rain.

Ponds

There are ponds among the huge ferns, bamboo and rhododendrons.

Line of trees

Climbing up a steep hill, we see this line of trees against the darkening sky.

Spanish Armada

Beacon for Spanish Armada, 1588

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.

Bower

Ah, flowers arch over the path to end our day and visit to Heligan Gardens.

To be continued.

Photographs copyright Evelyn and Del Weliver

  • GenePH

    Very nice. And that Del continues to be a lucky guy. Lucky he didn’t have two big fish laying across the top of his “full English” breakfast.

  • Evelyn

    Gene, Have you had fish for breakfast in England? I’m glad you like the post. It is always nice to know people are reading these.

  • CathyStripeLester

    Great photos, Evelyn! It certainly brought back memories! The wind-blown trees — the quick changes from sunlight to rain that the wind quickly chases away — the small but immaculate gardens with views out over farmlands! I’ve been through Lostwithiel any number of times on the train, and walked around it. It is a pretty little place, well worth the visit and a good starting place for other points of interest.

    I sometimes had fish for breakfast — kippered herring, to be precise, which is smoked, so it’s the fish equivalent of bacon. Delicious! I didn’t have a full English breakfast very often, but if you have a big, activity-filled day ahead of you, it really keeps you going.

    Both my sons have camped and hiked on Bodmin Moor. Arthur went with a school group and at the end, because of his Boy Scout training, Art was the only one in the group with a dry pair of socks!

    We loved the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The giant ferns are actually tree ferns, a leftover of the carboniferous period — a living fossil. One of my ex’s relatives was an expert on ferns. After we saw Heligan, we phoned her and said, “You’d love it, they have tree ferns!” and she replied, “Oh yes, I was the consultant on that!”

    I’m looking forward to Part II.

    • Evelyn

      Cathy, Wow, that would be great to camp on Bodmin Moor, if I were younger! I’m glad you saw the Lost Gardens. They are very enjoyable. Yes, those green, rolling farms are beautiful. Thank you for sharing just a few of your many experiences.

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