Thursday, 20 October 2016

On the Rocks

After my walk around Treyarnon Bay, I got into Fiona and headed south-east across central Cornwall. It was mid-afternoon but still quite bright and sunny. I had two destinations in mind, both to do with rocks of one kind or another.

The first wasn't far away, up on St Breock Downs, a spot I hadn't visited since my honeymoon in February 1983. I remember going there with W---, and being a little disappointed at what we found. In fact the chief excitement we had was trailing a naughty sheep who had somehow escaped from her field and was wandering the narrow lanes. Anyway, there was a large standing stone which looked like this:


I remember that the day was raw and icy, and we had driven along difficult, slippery lanes to see this. Well, we came, we saw, we shivered. I snatched a picture, and we headed off without further ado to some warm and welcoming hostelry, or at least whatever could be found in Cornwall in the winter of 1983. (The honeymoon was a series of cold days and bleak destinations, punctuated with welcome meal breaks) I promised myself a return visit sometime, in more clement conditions. It took thirty-three years!

This time, in September 2016, I saw this. It was warm enough to shoot the stone from various angles. It really was a distinctive lump of rock, clearly selected for its quartz banding:


The plaque in the ground had gone however. The Ordnance Survey map called it The Longstone, but there was nothing around to confirm this, nor to explain how long ago it was set up, and what kind of rocks it was composed of. But those points are answered in Wikipedia - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Breock_Downs_Monolith.


It was nice enough as remote standing stones go, but I thought it would look better shot in black and white, and combined with the nearby wind turbines - thus encompassing five thousand years of human development in the one picture.


This done, it was time to see Roche Rock, which is on the south side of the little town of Roche, north-west of St Austell. The Rock is not well signposted, nor easily visible from the road, but I eventually found it. There was a board explaining it to visitors:


There are in fact several rocks, all in a cluster, but the main tourist draw is one rock in particular - by far the biggest - on which a medieval chapel had been built. 


These rocks stood tall up above the general landscape, and clearly did so because they were very hard and resistant to erosion. But they were not made of granite. The board said they were a mixture of quartz and tourmaline. The rocks had an unusual fluted appearance, which I suppose was on account of the tourmaline. I walked closer to them.


How on earth had they built the chapel? There must have once been an easy way up, a stone staircase, but it had vanished. Getting even closer, I saw there was a modern iron ladder. It had a kink in it - it started normally, then flattened a bit halfway up.


I don't like ladders at any time, and I don't like any sort of height. The flats I was wearing had thin soles, rather unsuitable for a ladder. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go. I wanted to see the chapel. And the view would be good. 


Well, the ladder was firm, but the drop on my right side got ever worse as I ascended. I felt determined not to be beaten, and got as far as the spot where the ladder kinked. But then I wimped out. 


Well, what would you have done? I was afraid of making it to the top but being unable to climb down again, or of my feet slipping through the rungs, or of getting cramp in my feet. Secretly relieved to give up and back off, but a bit ashamed for being such a wimp, I slowly and carefully retreated rung by rung until I was at the base of the Rock again. 

Oh dear. I've chickened out of climbing ladders before. Clearly a career in the SAS is forever beyond my capabilities. They climb and abseil all day long, without a tea break. Not for me. 

But the day's pleasures were not yet over. I had an evening meal to look forward to. I'd decided to call in at the St Tudy Inn, the place where I had my 60th birthday meal four years ago, in the company of Angie and S---. This was me then:


How I enjoyed that occasion! I'd followed my step-daughter and her husband down to Cornwall on the off-chance of seeing her and having a one-to-one chat, but the meetup hadn't happened and I was feeling let down and disappointed. But Angie and S--- soon cheered me up. It was good to recall that day. This time I went into the restaurant part of the Inn, which had had a makeover, creating a high-class candlelit look:


I was almost the first one there, but it soon filled up. Eating out is very, very popular in the West Country, and there are now (in some parts anyway) plenty of well-off residents (a lot of them retired incomers from the Home Counties) to provide business for pubs and inns that are aiming high. The staff were attentive and fun, and I had a good meal - a fish starter, and more fish to follow. Posh fish and chips if you like.


I ate almost all of it. I was really hungry after my long day. Then I hit the road. It was dark by the time I got back to Great Torrington.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, memories. Twas a good meal at St Tudy, four years ago, but how the place has changed! It used to be a typical work-a-day pub when I first knew it.

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