After our first Jamaica Inn themed walk on Bodmin Moor, it was time to take on Brown Willy – the highest point in Cornwall, and visit Rough Tor, where the dramatic ending of the book takes place.
The walk starts and ends in Churchtown near St Breward – Churchtown meaning, unsurprisingly “that settlement in a parish where the church stands” (what did I expect?).
King Arthur’s Hall, Brown Willy
& Rough Tor from Churchtown
|Date||1st Aug 2009|
|Length||~ 11 miles|
|Time Taken||~ 6 hours|
|Max Height||~ 1564 ft|
|Min Height||~ 500 ft|
|Height Gain||~ 2300 ft|
We had only just left Churchtown when we came across our first (and only) proper bog on Bodmin Moor – we followed the footpath that runs alongside the Church and crossed a cow field. The footpath, where it left the cow field, was completely flooded – we managed to carefully pick a route through (mental note – the height of my gaters do NOT equate to the height of my boots!) with the dog happy splashing along beside us!
After following the footpath for a mile of so (now with wet feet), we finally came onto the moor proper and made our way to King Arthur’s Hall.
King Arthur’s Hall
There is something reassuringly old about the Ordnance Survey gothic script used to denote “Non-Roman archaeological and historical information”. King Arthur’s Hall is thought to be a late Neolithic or early Bronze Age ceremonial site. It consists of fifty-six stones which originally stood upright forming the internal face of a steep sided rectangular bank. The interior looks quite boggy, and apparently regularly fills with water.
Noone is really sure what it was for – suggestions about its function range from a Neolithic mortuary house, a Bronze Age ceremonial or ritual monument to a medieval animal pound. The link with King Arthur is that he apparently frequented the site – if this was the case, a ceremonial monument seems more likely. Whatever its use, it is a lovely spot to enjoy a sandwich and to take a moment to feel a connection with our past.
Before beginning the ascent of Garrow Tor, we dropped down towards a small strip of woodland. As we approached, it reminded me of the edge of Fangorn Forest in The Lord of the Rings (actually filmed near Mavora Lakes, New Zealand). As we approached however, this image was dispelled by an extremely picturesque babbling brook flowing alongside the forest (literally cue sun beams, churping birds etc)
The climb up Garrow Tor is fairly easy, and takes you through (and past) the ruins of several dwellings – part of the medieval village of Garrow. It is hard to imagine living in such a harsh environment, which seems to catch a strong wind from the coast. I came across an interesting (and quite lengthy) paper detailing excavations of a dwelling in the village: The Medieval Village at Garrow Tor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall By DOROTHY DUDLEY and E. MARIE MINTER, which is worth a skim through.
From the summit, as well as having an excellent view of our next destinations of Brown Willy and Rough Tor, you can just about make out the distinctive profile of Kilmar Tor in the distance (where we were the day before!)
From Garrow Tor we dropped down into the valley of the De Lank river – it was here we rather alarmingly came across a knife covered in what, at first glance, appeared to be blood (it was rust!) jutting from a wooden post.
At this point there is a very well marked permissive route (a relic from pre-right to roam times presumably) which takes you around a few fields (which is not open-access land) and up to the top of Brown Willy.
Brown Willy comes from the Cornish, “Bron Wennyly” meaning swallows’ hill, and is 420 metres (1,378 ft) high – sitting on the top you get an amazing feeling of isolation and remoteness, with some excellent views across the moor, especially to the East across the dangerous marsh where, in Jamaica Inn, the Vicar of Altarnum and Mary get lost in the mist. Brown Willy is also the cause of a meteorological phenomenon, The Brown Willy Effect, an extreme example of which was the terrible Boscastle flood of 2004.
Rough Tor as absolutely stunning! Granite boulders are strewn about the place everywhere you look. The landscape almost feels mythical – you half expect the boulders to come to life as granite giants. I could have quite easily spent several hours exploring!
ROUGH TOR ON WHICH THIS MEMORIAL IS PLACED HAS BEEN GIVEN TO THE NATION IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES WHILE SERVING IN THE 43RD (WESSEX) DIVISION IN THE NORTH-WEST EUROPEAN CAMPAIGN 1944/45
From Rough Tor we trekked across the moor to Louden Hill – finally coming across the “wild” (they are all owned, but roam free across the moor) moors. From Louden Hill we joined a rather dull tarmac road which we followed back in the direction of Churchtown.
The Old Inn – Churchtown
On arrival back to Churchtown we met up with a few friends (two of whom were supposed to be walking with us, but were put off after listening to tales of bogs and mist from a soldier who had trained in the area!) in The Old Inn.
The Old Inn, as well as apparently being the highest pub in Cornwall, dates back to the 11th Century. We didn’t get a chance to try out their food, which is supposed to be quite good – but we did enjoy a pint or two of “Rough Tor” ale… very appropriate!