Monday, 9 January 2017

Carn Marth ...further musings

Yesterday was grey: mizzle threatened to shadow the coast so I headed inland to Carn Marth; the highest and best view point in this part of Cornwall. Carn Marth is softer than Carn Brea, her brother carn, and her slopes remain unspoilt by the encroaching industry which ruins the aspect of the North coast. Carn Marth is altogether a softer, more inviting prospect as she can be approached from lanes on all sides and there is no main road to ruin her peace and timelessness.

I decided to park  on the southern side coming in from Lanner hill and driving along toward Carharrack, topping to park on the small road where it says Bridleway on the left just opposite the road down to Trevarth. I took the right hand fork which swept around the skirts of the carn past a small quarry pool and then on toward the bottom of the main granite and quartz track that leads from Carharrack up to the top of the carn. This path came and joined the main path opposite a recently rebuilt farm cottage which has superb views stretching to Carrick Roads and Falmouth. The sky was a palette of grey and silver with hints of rose as it was mid afternoon and would be dusk in a couple of hours. There was a break in the clouds where a shaft of mellow, golden light shone through to illuminate the panorama of Cornwall which lies prone before you at this point with the clay tips of St Austell and Bodmin Moor clearly visible in the far distance to the East.

I continued uphill past the odd, shaggy pony in the field and two farmers out on a Sunday muck spreading. The scene is very rugged here and is scarred by mining and quarrying. The tramroad from Portreath to Devoran passed along the southern slope of Carn Marth and this route along with other pathways and bridleways makes it a mecca for those interested in Cornish Industrial heritage. As you climb to the summit, the view along the North coast stretches out to include Trevose Head in the far distance and St Agnes Beacon and the inlet of Portreath as you continue to scan along. I came up to Carn Marth to watch the solar Eclipse of August 1999 knowing that this was one of the highest points in the county from which to see it. I remember the looming black cloud that ominously hid the sun from view and descended upon us as we stood in awe that day near midday. If you want to see the shape and breadth of the county this is one of those view points.

I reached the top along with two young girls on their ponies out for an afternoon ride. One had a tee shirt on and seemed oblivious to the winter damp. She laughed as she reined her pony into the water of the quarry pool at the summit. There was a family on the far bank fishing and a couple of mountain bikers out for a ride. It is an amazing pool this quarry pool similar to one on Bodmin Moor near the Hurlers; it is probably swimmable and people fish here. The edges are sheer granite and stepped in places so you can crouch near the water. It has a feeling of a magical lake and one could imagine the sword of Arthur appearing from the depths,especially on a still summer afternoon when all you can hear is the hum of bees and the dizzy sound of midges over the shallows.

Now it is clearly the dead time of the year when the land is wrapped in its own pale shawl of copper and bronze leaves. The trees are bone pale and bare their thin arms to the grey skies. The scene is lit by the odd fuse of gorse blossom or the light of the sun on bracken rendering it a rusty orange against the odd patch of blue. The air is calm and the only sounds are the calls of hedgerow birds.

I spend more time looking at the view from the top and then take the main path down again toward the ruin of Wheal Amelia and Figgy Dowdy's Well off to the left which I wrote about in a previous post. I climb the granite steps down to the well now encaged behind iron bars with a solitary red ribbon tied as a wish. The ground near the well is sodden with fallen leaves and a pool of rain water which offers vivid reflections of bare branches and sky. I make my wishes here in this timeless, peaceful place with only birdsong and the sound of pigs rooting in a nearby field for company.

It's starting to get mizzly so I decide not to loiter and take the path down to Wheal Amelia.Then off left along the footpath skirting the carn to the south,past another large granite house with fine views and two green loungers in the front, moorland garden to appreciate the view. The path leads on until it forks into a lane off downhill to the left. I continue heading down and around on the path through a copse of dark pine and fir trees until I reach my car again.

This is only a short one hour stroll but I am satisfied and content that I have managed to escape easily into a sense of timelessness. The past is ever present here and the modern world fades away with the traffic on its way to Falmouth. Mine, quarry, tram road, barrows and boulders, granite gate posts, farm cottages and ponies all harmonise here in this inland space. I am struck by how easy it is to get away from the town into areas like this still and am fascinated by how paths take me out of my everyday routine into the past so readily. All I do is walk the land as and when I have space out of my busy work life. I have walked to Carn Marth so many times at different ages and stages in my life. As a child I would scramble up here from Gwennap Pit and come with jam pots to catch tadpoles or go wading in shorts and vest top in the summer. I would come here as a teenager to escape the parents and sit and write or wander or come biking with my friends with a picnic. Now I regularly come here again for ambles or walking the tramway and finding new routes including the mining villages that skirt this carn: Caharrack, St Day, Lanner, Gwennap and on to Frogpool or Chacewater. It is a rich landscape scarred and yet created by mining. It is not the picture postcard Cornwall of television but the raw, rugged interior pulse that beats and waits to be discovered.

At the moment I am reading an inspiring book by Sharon Blackie called 'If Women Rose Rooted' which traces her own pilgrimage and journey as a woman and feminist from the 'Wasteland' of modern, industrial society on a quest for connection, nourishment and belonging which leads her to the far west of Ireland and North West Isle of Lewis in Scotland. She interweaves Celtic mythology and folklore with her own personal search and talks to various wise women healers, storytellers, crafters, writers and environmentalists on her journey; all of whom have also been on that search for rootedness and a way of life which nurtures and fosters a sense of belonging to the land and community. It is through reading this book that I felt compelled to start writing and recording my walks and ideas,for it is my way of being rooted and grounded. I have walked this Celtic land my whole life and am lucky to feel a sense of belonging in the place that I was born and have worked. I see now the importance of that rootedness for it imbues one with a sense of wellbeing in a fast and destructive world and nurtures a sense of care for the land and a permanent sense of being its guardian and protector. By walking familiar places one can see the changes happening and be awakened into action; whether it be to write  a letter about litter, to be part of a wildlife protection group or simply to ensure a path remains open to walkers and not shut down by greedy landowners. Women who walk can gain strength and power. a sense of self sufficiency and ability to explore beyond. They can teach and share the land and their own sense of belonging with their children and community so that spots like Carn Marth remain sites of special interest and protected for future generations.

Blackie says in her book; ' One of the wounds dealt to us by the coming of the Wastelnad is our severance form the land, the rupturing of the relationship between people and their places. The healing of the Wasteland requires a healing of the wound. Our Return then, requires a place in which we can be grounded, rooted; a place in which we can fully embrace the natural world around us, and our part in it. A place from which we can speak.' pg 280 'If Women Rose Rooted'.

Blessed Be XXX

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