Thursday, October 13, 2016

On Bodmin Moor: Hurlers, Engines, Quarry, and a Stone Hut

was beginning to catch up with us. Both of us were tired after leaving Boscastle. I wanted to go to Tintagel, but Larry was worn out and just wanted to go find our b&b and have a long evening to rest. He'd been doing all the driving, and it had to be wearing on him.

So we set off to find Minions, up on Bodmin Moor. All Doc Martin fans are familiar with this place and the term "going dodmin" which means going a little crazy, apparently because the constant winds on the moor can do that to a person. The Urban Dictionary online defines it as

 "going bodmin:
(Brit) Someone who is going wandering around the moors (originally bodmin moors of Cornwall), ghost like 
Ancient divination describes bodmin as gothic symbol for murder and madness. 
Commonly mistaken for Barmy 
Someone who is going Bodmin is someone who is highly anti social but very disciplined."

In 1815 a mental institution was built on Bodmin Moor so going bodmin or gone bodmin could refer to a person being sent to that institution.You can read some of the fascinating history of the hospital here.

I hoped that the following day we would be able to find The Hurlers, a group of 3 stone circles up on the moor and apparently not far from our b&b.

Again, an indescribable drive, surrounded by natural beauty wherever we looked.


And then we saw this place at the side of gthe road. What was it? We looked around and saw several over crumbling stone structures. Was it a house? It was oddly built if so. We saw a parking area and pulled in to investigate.





An engine house! Really? But for what?

Inside the building the visitors' center displays explained what we were seeing. These were working tin mines (thinking of the BBC series Poldark?) on Bodmin, as well as cooper, coal, and even silver and gold.The displays have detailed information on the pre-history and history of the moors. But what were those engines houses for? How did they work, because obviously these were built before electricity and other modern technology was available.

I searched online when I got home to discover the answer. I found some interesting information on this site but not an explanation of the engine houses. But when I found the name of the engine that was used, I also had my search term--the atmospheric steam engine, and once again Wikipedia provided the answer to my perplexing problem.

The problem with mining in Britain, until the advent of the atmospheric steam engine by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, was that the mines could not be very deep because they would fill with water. These coal-powered, steam-driven engines provided the power needed to pump the water from the mines, making it profitable to dig deeper than ever before. Mining blossomed in Cornwall after the pumps came into common use in the mid 1700's. However, eventually James Watt designed a steam engine with improved efficiency and power, and by the late 1700's the Newcomen engine had seen its heyday. There are some remains in Midlothian, Virginia, however, that seem to indicated a Newcomen engine was in use there in an early coal mine. Watts engine went on to become the foundation of the industrial revolution, and he designed a steampowered boat which would be the precursor of the steamboats built in America that greatly influenced the opening of the West. But that is another story.

Back to Bodmin. How odd it was to find this sophisticated display area inside what we assumed was a ruin!



When we read the panels, we realized that we had stumbled on the very place we planned to visit the next day: the site of The Hurlers stone circles. It was just a short walk to the stones. I was worried Larry was too tired, but he was as eager as I was to find them so off we went. And soon, there they were in front of us.

I cannot say why I find these stone monuments so compelling. They are after all, just rocks like the hundreds of others lying about. But someone, far back before we can even imagine, set these multi-ton stones in place, and for some purpose we can only guess at.



They are called the Hurlers after a type of ball game played in Britain and Ireland, and legend has it that these stones were once groups of players who were turned to stone for playing on a Sunday.

Beyond the stone circles was the Cheesewring, an old quarry with an iconic cairn on top. (Again, Doc Martin fans will recognize this!). It was a steep climb and we were tired but up we went.


We didn't make it to the top--the way looked too treacherous and Larry wasn't wearig his walking shoes. But we were content with the view from where we stopped. The valley stretched for miles beyond us.



We were so close to the top, but I am glad we didn't attempt the rest of the climb. The grass was damp and slippery, my vertigo was beginning to bother me, so we made our way back down the hill.



I loved this place, and felt so at home here, as I did everywhere we went in Cornwall.


Larry often offers to take my photo, and usually I say no, but this time I agreed. I think these are some of my favorite photos of me :)


Looking back down at the Hurlers.




The holes, I learned are the remains of prehistoric mining efforts. I wonder what they were digging for? Gold? Silver? Coal?

Sheep and ponies were everywhere on this open access land, so we had to watch our step.


Finally, we found our way down this narrow, rutted lane...



to our home for the night, the tiny stone building on the far right in this photo.


No one was home at the hosts' house, but a note on the door told us what to do and soon we were settled in.


Small but cozy: our bed,

 a fridge and hot pot, tea and coffee makings,


and a big screen TV. Bathroom was 100 feet down the hill in a different building. All the comforts!


We got unpacked an headed out to "the highest pub in Cornwall" for supper.


And then to sleep!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

3 comments:

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

I am enjoying this series of your posts so much! I am so happy you are sharing your trip and discoveries and B&B's too.
Joy

jcm said...

Great pictures! I really enjoy them. Makes me want to do a bit of travelling too :-)

Deb Del said...

The pictures are truly beautiful and every one of them makes me want to be there to see the beautiful countryside in person!

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