• Morwenstow

It’s a fair old trek up and over the coastal terrain north of Morwenstow, but even on a dull day the views of the rock formations are as extraordinary as ever.  While the famous church and vicarage (or, rather, the church with a famous vicar) huddles beneath the skyline, the GCHQ radio listening station a couple of miles to the south stands out like a sore thumb.  The dishes are even visible from the moor above my house an hour’s drive away…

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• Botallack

On a three-day trip round West Penwith with Polish friends, we went down to see the engine houses of Botallick’s Crown Mines, the most photographed site in Cornish mining history for its stunning and perpendicular location.

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• Up in the Green Wood

The wood in May, brilliantly green, with other tones too.  And benches!

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• Rising Ground

Recently I’ve been re-reading Philip Marsden’s masterly Rising Ground.  His ability to interweave stories from his walk east-west through Cornwall, the history and significance of topography (although he does not mention Thomas Bond) and his retrieval and renovation of a derelict house upriver from Fowey is brilliant.  I have learned so much from his example as I try to confront the challenges of writing about my French walk that I finished a year ago.  So on this balmy April day I went up into the wood, and to its oldest bench looking over to Sharp Tor, with my copy of Marsden’s book as companion.

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• Amphibian

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• Stupendous Pile

The most impressive cheesewring in these ‘ere parts – to my mind at least – is not the famous one near Minions, magnificent though that is, but one that perches at the western end of Kilmar Tor, a couple of miles away.  The Cornish topographer Thomas Bond (1765-1837) described this cheesewring as a ‘stupendous pile’ and called it the ‘Western Turret’.  It’s also known as ‘The Kilmarth’.  More recently, rock climbers and boulderers have devised half-a-dozen routes up to its summit, one called ‘Western Turret’ and others with five fantastic names to match: ‘Avoidance’, ‘Special Llama’, ‘Light Trip Fandangle’, ‘Two Slaps No Fly’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’.  Only the brave would attempt these routes, especially on a fiercely windy day like today.  I’ve never seen anyone on them.  There is a terrific guide for those who are tempted to do so, or even for a passive reader like me: Barnaby Carver & Sean Hawken, Cheesewring and South East Cornwall: A Climbers’ Guide (St Ives Printing & Publishing Company, 1998, rev. 2012).

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This ‘stupendous pile’ leans both to the north and to the west and its distinctive profile is visible from afar, from the SE clockwise round to the NE.  These two shots – a bit dark, but so was the light – are taken from the east, where a walk along the full spine takes several hours.  What is remarkable, at least to a layman like myself, is how it stays upright.  When you approach more closely, you can see that to the left of the turret (the south side) a whole slew of supporting cheesewrings has sheered off, leaving the rest perilously balanced.  But you can just about work out that the central gravitational line is sufficiently to the right to support the whole turret.  It still looks as if one push might topple it to the left or to the right, but it’s obviously more sturdy than that.  At least, I hope it is.

Sometime I must go up and take a more revealing set of photographs.

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St Michael’s Mount & St Ives

I’m on a little trip west.  It was overcast, to say the least, but St Michael’s Mount looks impressive in any weather and the wind and wet did not seem to deter a surfing class on Portmeor Beach in St Ives.

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