In The West

Cornish lockdown riding diaries; time for reflection & reconnecting with my local area - a spiritual place with a deep connection to the ages.

Strange and unsettling times indeed. Because of my asthma and less than stellar history of chest infections, and with the wellbeing of my family and friends in mind, I started avoiding people over a month ago when it became clear what was going to happen. With no plans to travel further afield for the time being, it has felt like a good time to reconnect with my immediate area. There is much to explore, and away from the tourist hotspots, the far west of Cornwall is a spiritual place with a deep connection to the ages.

It is genuinely a lifeline to be able to continue to exercise outdoors; my bicycle helped me rise above the depths of depression

Since then, and having wound back my ride distances in line with the spirit of the guidance in place for the past week, I’m finding great satisfaction in discovering, and rediscovering some hidden gems. Despite the hundreds of thousands tourists that arrived last week to ‘self isolate’ by the beach, it has not been hard to avoid people completely. Initially I was a little nervous about heading out on two wheels this week, as despite the official guidance, I’d seen quite a bit of hate online towards the idea that people could go out for a run, or a ride for example. The reality has been quite different.. the few people I’ve come across have been super friendly, smiles and waves, even the drivers – of which there are very few. I’ve been pondering that; is it that with all the material bullshit and “them and us” mindsets stripped away by the crisis, people feel vulnerable and as such are remembering their common humanity…? Ironically the roads are safer than ever now, the single most common cause of cycling accidents is cars.

It is genuinely a lifeline to be able to continue to exercise outdoors; my bicycle helped me rise above the depths of depression, and with the future of work looking bleak in the short term, I’m hoping that the privilege can remain in place; people just need to behave responsibly. Sadly there is a body of evidence that suggests that ultimately the suicide death toll from the extreme lockdown measures being deployed across the world could be higher than the toll from the virus itself (references supplied on request); having the freedom to exercise is a very good way to offset the stress of the difficult situation in which many find themselves.

Anyway, the pictures below date from February and March. Probably not going to be much more on here for quite a while.

Stay safe, stay well.

February was wet, so wet…. I hardly bothered to take a camera with me. It was atmospheric at times however; this road wiggles its way west towards Grumbla… in the permarain.
The ruined mine engine house of Carn Galver.
First two-wheeled visit of the year to Gwennap Head in early March. I found a spot out of the wind to enjoy lunch, make a brew, and contemplate life.
Fine views west towards Lands End.
A spur of the moment decision and likely looking trail took me from Morvah up onto the west Penwith moors. Not rideable on a skinny-tyred fixed wheel but I have no issues around hiking with my bike on my shoulder.
Ruined mine workings litter the landscape. They’re everywhere.
The ruined Crown Mine engine houses at Botallack. It’s a well known spot but always fabulous, especially when quiet.
My Brother Cycles AllDay fixed wheel makes an excellent day-tourer.
I live alone, so cut off from friends and family, opportunities for face to face conversation are few and far between. Small talk has never been my forte, however I’m quite happy with a fixed stare and some nostril-blowing. Fine hairstyle, I doubt I will look that good after 3 months without a haircut.
I’ve come to think of this as my “number 42 spot”.. you know, “life, the universe, and everything..”.. Hitchhikers Guide..? oh never mind… Regardless, it’s a good spot, close to home, from which to contemplate the awkward place in which we find ourselves, and that which lies ahead.
The far west is absolutely littered with megalithic remains; standing stones, quoits, stone circles, burial mounds, forts and so on.
This is the Mên Scryfa; it’s thought to date originally from the Bronze Age (somewhere between 2750 and 4100 years ago), but was also used, sometime around the 5th or 6th century AD, as a memorial to the son of a tribal leader of an Iron Age clan. It carries the inscription “RIALOBRANI CVNOVALI FIL” in latinised Cornish which means “Royal Raven, son of the famous leader”. The story of Rialvran tells of a great battle that was fought at this spot. The inscription was in shadow so I didn’t photograph it.. it’s barely visible in truth after centuries exposed to Cornish winters and the slow work of the lichens.
Tracks of the west.
Boskednan Nine Maidens. Dating from the bronze age there are 11 stones remaining in this circle, out of a probable 19; nearby mine workings disrupted the site quite considerably.
.. and signposts for hobbits.
Trencrom Hill, it’s a hike up here but easy enough with a bike on the shoulder. The site is the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, previously a single-walled Neolithic enclosure. It’s still possible to discern a boundary wall and hut circles.
Lanyon Quoit is probably the best known site around here, it is also one of the the most accessible, sitting, as it does, right by the road. It is also one of the least authentic… It originally dates from 3500-2500BCE but in 1815 collapsed in a storm. Some stones were fractured, so that when it was re-erected in 1824 (at right angles to its original position) the capstone was placed on only 3 uprights which were shortened and squared off.

6 thoughts on “In The West

  • I have missed – and will continue to miss for sometime it seems – your updates. I too hope we are not banished from daily exercise but I fear it may come. On my regular crack-of-dawn off-raod cycle around the seawall on Friday morning I passed 8 (mostly dog) walkers on one short section where normally the average would be between 0 and 1.

    Stay safe (expression of the year 2020).

    • H Mike, yes I have seen some ‘clumping’ of people in particular spots also… a lack of imagination and/or timing maybe? I rode home via the path between Penzance and Marazion and didn’t see a soul. Also, re ‘missed’, that’s very kind of you to say so! I was thinking about it last night; I was concerned that continuing to post pictures of outdoor things could be perceived as ‘bad taste’.. after all not everyone has access to the outdoors at this time, and a proportion, albeit a small one thankfully, of the population do appear to have assigned themselves the role of policing the behaviour of others regardless of whether that behaviour is reasonable or not. I do intend to continue heading out on my bike in the local area for as long as I am permitted, so perhaps I will continue to post; a closer ‘examination’ of my immediate area. I could try and keep it interesting, there’s quite a lot here.

      • I think we have more people about because we live in a one-way-in-one-way-out town (Brightlingsea, Essex) where if people follow the rules and walk from home they will head to the promenade, seawall, river banks etc. Now it’s the only thing to do more people are doing it. Everyone is giving everyone else respectful distance.

        I would have thought that the people who read your blog are unlikely to be the same as those who are into shaming (sometimes correctly) on social media platforms (no products mentioned).

        Some of us are a lot luckier than others as you say, we can walk out of the back of your house onto open ground or cycle to bridleways etc. – I can’t imagine being holed up in a flat in a town at a time like this (well, ever actually…). You obviously have a lot more options (and history) then we do from your doorstep. I’m always intrigued to read about what is really there away from the tourist hotspots even though my visits to Cornwall have always been as either a tourist or a sailor. There is immense satisfaction in going to places which most people don’t know or care about or can’t be bothered to make the effort to get to – we do this by water around here, up myriads of little tidal creeks where most yachts never dare to venture, just us and the wildlife. Sadly with the boat buried at the back of a boatyard which will be closed for the foreseeable future it is unlikely we will be getting afloat this summer, so the next best thing is to read about someone else’s exploits.

        • oh fair point on both counts. Yes I’d ‘struggle’ to live in a city.
          That’s a shame about the boat. I do wonder how long restrictions will be necessary, I suspect at least until June, maybe longer. The prospect of a summertime Cornwall without visitors would be strange (and unfortunately terrifying for those who depend on the tourist trade).

  • Lucky you, that you are allowed to go out! Here in Spain, we are confined into our homes 24/7, not outdoors exercise allowed… In our case this situation came right after two months cycling and camping in Oman, so it has been a bit of a shock…, but no complains, as we are healthy. Cuídate!

    • hey, I know we’re lucky… I fear a Spain-style total lock-in greatly, the mental health consequences would be huge. I’m happy to hear that you are well. Oman looked great!
      ¡Espero que puedas pedalear pronto!

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