Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Carn Euny - a muddy walk in West Penwith
This is a fogou (see below) - it seems amazing to think that Viv and I did this walk when it was warm and sunny - aah those days...
A friend of mine sadly died last year and asked that his ashes be scattered at Chapel Carn Brea, adding, “but if it's raining, don't get out of the car.”
Carn Euny is well known for its large underground passageway or fogou (Cornish for cave) which was possibly used for storage, living or ritual. Just below the sign to the fogou is a dark little lane leading off to the right: we walked round the back of a cottage on our left and continued until we reached a fork where a barn was being rebuilt. We turned right here, then immediately left, where we met a bunch of serious walkers clutching maps. “It's extremely muddy,” they said, looking at my sandals and Viv's trainers.
“We don't mind,” I said cheerfully, eyeing their sensible walking boots, caked in mud. Minutes later, wading through ankle deep mire, I began to wish I'd worn my boots. Behind me, Viv squelched and skidded along the narrow lane, muttering. The nettles were vicious too – I'd never been stung through jeans before.
Looming ahead was Carn Euny Well – there are two, apparently, though we only found one, and slightly eerie it was. Hung from the trees nearby were festooned all kinds of 'cloutie' – strips of rag, a key, a scarf, the letter Z and a teddy bear. Legend has it that if you wish to be healed by St. Euny's Well, “you must come and wash upon the three first Wednesdays in May”. Another method of healing is to tie something that had been in contact with the affected part to a tree: as the rag rots, the illness should pass away.
“Look here's a candle,” said Viv. “Oh – it's black. Do you think my fingers will drop off?” To be on the safe side, she decided to wash her evil fingers, but “it's Monday – it's probably bad luck,” I said. “And you might fall in.”
Disturbed by her new-found superstition, Viv heaved herself out of the well and we followed the footpath round to the left towards Tredinney Common. “I have to say, this walk is very interesting, but very inadvisable,” Viv said. “I can't believe how un-muddy you are. Were you a goat in a former life?”
Soon we reached the end of the track, crossed a road and turned right then immediately left where we walked through a car park to see Chapel Carn Brea which is the most westerly hill in Britain and where a beacon is lit every Midsummer's eve. The hill is 657 feet above sea level and looking out to the horizon we counted three layers of blue, where it met the skyline.
Climbing a dry path to the summit we gasped, looking out at distant waves breaking off Longships, then further round to Stone's Reef. St Just lay to the north, Sennen and Lands End to the west, and Mounts Bay to the southeast. Land's End Aerodrome was nearby, distinguished by a red wind sock and tiny planes that buzzed above us like friendly bees.
We were going to be adventurous and try a different route back but Viv wanted to be back before dusk, so we retraced our steps. All too soon, it seemed, we arrived back at Carn Euny and looked back, over the moorland and fields.
You can almost feel how very ancient the land is here: rugged and largely untouched by human hands. The only buildings visible were farmhouses, barns and a church tower on the skyline, their exposed granite walls weathered from endless Cornish winters. So many of us spend our lives rushing around, while here the world stays still. Here, you can think and breathe.