Gusty winds almost blew us off our feet when we stepped from our cars at the little car park at Tokenbury Corner but that was nothing compared with what was to come. The nearest settlement on this south-eastern fringe of Bodmin Moor is St Cleer which has a stone church dedicated to St Clarus. He was born in Kent and travelled to Cornwall to preach to the inhabitants in the 8th century where he Clarus, founded a small wooden church on the same footprint as the present church. A local lady apparently fell in love with Clarus and pestered him repeatedly forcing him to flee from Cornwall to France. Here Clarus lived in an isolated hermitage where it is said he gained the reputation as quite a skilled healer. The enraged lady meanwhile is said to have had Clarus tracked down and in due course, murdered by decapitation. His name is spelled in various ways… St. Clare, St. Clere, or St. Clair with the surname Sinclair deriving from this saint too.
We couldn’t wait to get going on this windy morning with the hope that the weather would improve as time wore on but those ominous-looking clouds bore hailstones which were soon raining down on us and pinging off our clothing while bouncing off the ground all around. It was only a short sharp shower however and soon the sun came out. And so the morning continued, cold icy rain alternating with hazy sunshine that even cast shadows on the ground from time to time and not forgetting the cold, blustery wind that was our constant companion.
This moor is very exposed and sometimes desolate; a treeless landscape of heath, bare rock, peat bogs and mires with a few stunted bushes. Hardy animals call it home and although we didn’t see a single cow or pony this morning, we did see a few sheep from time to time with this one with its dreadlocks bringing a smile to my face.
A rough track to our left carried us downwards before it emerged into a road at the bottom; near the junction we spotted these bricks in a newish-looking wall in two groups of four. Although the man-made structures we saw today took many forms and shapes, they had one thing in common, most were made from locally sourced granite….however these man-made bricks were created from clay and a feature had been made of
them in the stone wall. As you can see each one bears the name Bealswood, a former brickworks that was once located at Gunnislake in the Tamar Valley.
Next we walked along the road for a bit before our smallish group followed a bridleway that was lined with Cornish hedges, the wildflowers were putting on a stunning display for us on this often wet, dreary morning with its brisk winds. Further on the path led us through Trenouth Farm with its cluster of derelict buildings creating a complete contrast to the flowers we had seen earlier, the road that followed dropped down to the valley where a little stream bubbled along but if we go downwards, everyone knows that a hill will follow as sure as night follows day!
Man has left his mark in the different eras of British history and this entire south-eastern corner of Bodmin Moor is rich with ancient stones and sites plus man-made structures; footpaths and public rights of way link them all together making this a walk full of interest. We had arrived at Trethevy Quoit which means ‘place of the grave’ and dates to Neolithic times over 3,000 B.C. This was a time when Britain’s earliest inhabitants first began farming the land with a primitive tool called an Ard, a kind of plough, as opposed to hunting and gathering. Trethevy Quoit would have been where the people came together to ceremoniously place their dead. But before we could explore the site, a torrential downpour had us sheltering beneath the trees nearby where we stood watching the water running down the road in front of us, but again it was just a brief shower and very quickly everyone made their way across the roundabout and on through a rather new looking kissing gate into a field. Trethevy is considered to be largest and the best preserved quoit in Cornwall and up close we found it to be over eight feet tall. After walking all around the outside we realised it was constructed of four large overlapping slabs of granite at the sides and one at the back. On top of all of these was a massive capstone.
After retracing our steps back down to a road junction, Maggie led us to the left where we began our ascent all the way back to where our cars were parked. First we walked beneath an old railway arch, the remains of a former mineral railway, then up past huge spoil heaps dating from the time when minerals were extracted all over Bodmin Moor. Hazy sunshine accompanied us for much of this time and everyone warmed up; I dared to suggest that the worst might be over but Mother Nature had one last trick up her sleeve. With the car park in our sights, a deluge of cold stinging rain lashed down on us while the wind threatened to blow us off our feet. We hastily unlocked car boots and doors to stow our belongings away whilst attempting to stay upright. This is another walk that will long be remembered!