Tuesday 9th December- Sancreed- Carn Euny, West Penwith
Me n’ Paddy Garcia
A short four miler defined by incredible views. The walk captures the essence of West Penwith: half wild, wet woodland and half windswept, granite headland, all of it more ancient than you can possibly imagine.
Parked the car by Sancreed Church and headed south west out of the village, following signs to the Holy Well. In a patch of woodland, this sort of half-natural cave with a spring in the bottom and ruined chapel is well-used- many a ‘cloutie’ hanging on the tree by the water. You wonder what the churchman who rediscovered the well in 1879 would have made of such paganism.
Then it was off across the fields and green lanes, heading straight towards the Atlantic and into strong winds. Both well wrapped against the elements though (PG looking like a refugee from the second crusade, were waterproof trousers to be invented then), we forged on, enjoying the misty views and occasional glimpses of the sea. Many monumental stone stiles, and circling rooks and seagulls, heavy-coated cows.
At Boswarthen we admired dramatic ruined farm buildings, but by then the weather was set in wet, so we turned downhill to the hamlet of Brane, before heading up a lane to Carn Euny. The distinctive feel of this Iron Age settlement drew us in- easy to imagine the residents hunkering down in their smoky houses, or doing as we did, watching the horizon to keep track of boats coming and going along the coast. Particularly enjoyed the enormous fogou you can still walk down into. PG now looking like captured second crusader in Saracen dungeon. We ate sandwiches and coffee under its shelter and rehearsed the old debate about what its builders used it for.
The weather improved a touch as we left Carn Euny, so we looped north along a green lane and up to Carn Brane hillfort. Truly, truly spectacular views, even on a misty day. Not the highest point, but the perfect point for an amazing 360 panorama: right down across Penzance Bay to St Michael’s Mount, round to Lamorna Cove, past St Buryan’s Church dominating the horizon, right out to St Just, then all the way round to the hills above Zennor on the north coast. Such a fundamental grasp of landscape and territory.
Then we walked down the green lane, meeting the one and only human being we saw during the whole walk, a man clearing undergrowth (what is the right way to approach a man wearing ear defenders and using a petrol strimmer in a confined space from behind?). Then left at the stone cross to retrace our steps back to Sancreed.
We looked around the church of St Creden’s at Sancreed (£400,000 needed to repair the roof, eek). Touched by the memorials to William Stanhope Forbes, killed at the Somme in 1916 aged 23, especially the wooden cross, erected where he was buried in France, and later sent home to Cornwall. Overall, the church felt a little melancholy- the ancient central place of a parish that once supported a school of 75 children, and a methodist chapel that seated 200, as well as St Creden’s itself, it’s hard not to feel the past slipping away, the loss of so many working lives. The Victorian stained glass window with its images of fishermen, tin miners, farmers and gardeners said it all.
A wet drive over to Mousehole for a mill around, a drink in the Ship Inn and the lucky observation of many men in high vis preparing the astonishing Christmas lights. 7000 bulbs. If only we were here to see the full effect, they don’t turn them on until next week.
Back to Bluewaters to sit in the oriel window with a hot water bottle and write it all down. A slightly bleak, wintery walk, but no less enjoyable for that. Felt like a trip into the distant past as much as one into the far west.