Carn Galva etc

The closest thing to a summit here in the far west is probably Carn Galva, a granite outcrop on the Penwith moor, just a bit west of Zennor, a mere 827ft above the Atlantic crashing on the cliffs far below. It is unlikely that books would be written of a ride to the summit of Carn Galva, however in a world shrunken by Covid it does, perhaps, represent a worthy objective for a morning on two wheels.

Starting a new post can be challenging at the best of times, deep into a pandemic fugue on the 358th of March 2020, with an atrophied intellect in which apparently some 50% of my IQ points appear to have gone awol, and in which life is just a thing that happened in another time and place, the task feels monumentally difficult. I’m hopeful however that making the effort will prove therapeutic and a worthwhile contribution to my attempts to snap out of that fugue. It’s necessary to go back to mid-January to find something to write about; in an endless cycle of enduring persistent rain and storm-force winds, riding since then has felt like little more than a cursory activity  – necessary only to avoid not spending all of my time in front of some sort of screen, whether for work or evenings in front of mindless garbage on the telly. On the bright side, grovelling home this morning, cold and wet, after yet another bountiful watering, I heard, and saw, my first skylark of the season.

Legend has it that the rocks here were home to a friendly giant, Holiburn, who, in return for gifts of sheep and oxen, protected the villagers of nearby Morvah and Zennor from the nasty giants of Trecrobben farther to the east.

The kind of big days out in the mountains that are possible in regions farther north are not a thing in the west of Cornwall; no proper wilderness, and an absence of anything much that could be called a summit. Probably the closest such to me is Carn Galva, a granite outcrop on the Penwith moor, just a bit west of Zennor. To describe it as “towering” would be a bit of a stretch for its summit, such as it is, sits a mere 827ft above the Atlantic crashing on the cliffs far below. It is unlikely that books would be written of a ride to the summit of Carn Galva, however in a world shrunken by Covid, with grander objectives farther afield likely off the cards for a while longer, it does still represent a worthy objective for a morning on two wheels.

Ding Dong mine engine house
I like it up here. It’s a few miles of climbing from the coast to reach the mines at Ding Dong. They’re among the oldest in the United Kingdom, and it’s thought that the name may (or may not) have something to do with the fact that the church in the nearby village of Madron has a “Ding Dong Bell” that was rung to mark the end of the last shift of the miners.

At times it seems that there isn’t a square inch of Cornwall that isn’t associated with some legend, folktale, or spiritual belief, and Carn Galva is no different. Legend has it that the rocks here were home to a friendly giant, Holiburn, who, in return for gifts of sheep and oxen, protected the villagers of nearby Morvah and Zennor from the nasty giants of Trecrobben (now Trencrom I think) farther to the east. The story of Holiburn has a sad ending; one day while enjoying the company of his tiny human friends, and during the excitement of a game, he tapped a chap on the head – unintentionally splattering the poor fellow across the grass. Utterly distraught by this, Holiburn pined away and ultimately died of a broken heart. To this day there is a large stone known as The Giant’s Grave near the church in Morvah.

Views of Carn Galva from Ding Dong. The trails across the moor, via the Boskednan Nine Maidens stone circle are unrideably boggy at the moment. I’m very much looking forward to some drier times.
I always go and say hello to the Mên Scryfa if I’m passing.
Here’s a pic from another day when the low contrast lighting was such that you can make out the inscription on the north face. “RIALOBRANI CVNOVALI FIL”, “Royal Raven, son of the famous leader”. I’ve written about it before somewhere so won’t bother rambling on about it again..
Onwards.. it hadn’t actually rained for a few days when I rode up here so the track was somewhat drier than normal, although still well under water in places. I’m a fan of long Sealskinz waterproof socks for wading around here on my bike in the winter.
Singletrack on the final approach…
.. before a short scramble, with bike on back, up to a rocky saddle where the bike has to be abandoned for the final summit push… of about 15 metres…
Very fine views west. You might be able to make out the white speck of Pendeen Watch lighthouse just poking above the flanks of the hill to the west. The weather on this day was very different to my previous visit to the summit in December – a force 9 gale with heavy rain and ice pellets. Equally fun (this was before winter started to feel old).
Views east are OK too – a patchwork of ancient stone-walled fields; some of the walls around here are 4000 years old.
Descending to the coast road near Bosigran.
It’s a trail that alternates between rocky and extremely boggy.
That’s it for Carn Galva. I stopped carrying a camera after that; finding no inspiration in the rain and wind as the fugue settled. There was a brief interlude however, while the rest of the country enjoyed a blanket of snow, down here it was merely very cold – but dry. The strong easterly winds, always a dry direction, dried things out somewhat, and what mud remained (plenty) largely stayed frozen. The light was lovely.
The beach at Godrevy has been consistently busy all winter, with some eleventy billion lockdown dogwalkers visiting every day, and leaving behind similar numbers of turds, both plastic wrapped and otherwise. The cold seemed to have been a bit much for them so I felt happy to stop for a while and enjoy a spot of solitude.. and a packet of Jaffa cakes.
Dummy farm-gate shopping still…
In an attempt to lift myself out of the recent rut I headed over towards Loe Bar this week. I hadn’t visited since November, I think… I just forgot it was there. I was watered of course…. the sky was nice however so it was OK.
In other news, orders for Puffin Burrows continue to trickle in. I’m happy with a trickle, it takes about 5hrs to make one (probably means they’re too cheap too), and I couldn’t cope with more on top of normal work. Feedback from buyers has overwhelmingly positive which is nice.

 

Right, I hope you’re all weathering lockdown OK. Having done my bit of something slightly constructive for the day I’m off to sort myself out with a mug of whisky and watch some mindless garbage on the telly.

8 thoughts on “Carn Galva etc

  • It’s nice to have you back Mike!

    Over here on the East Coast we recently had a week of sub-zero temperatures and deep snow on top of the absolute mudbath of a winter – I’ve never known the water table to be so high for so long. This weekend we snapped out of that into spring-like conditions so hopefully the ground will start to dry up a bit and allow us to leave the busy “locked down” (not) roads and get back on the seawalls and trails.

    • thanks! it has been a mudbath. so much water, everywhere feels dank and swampy. As for the roads, hah, yes and I’ve been subjected to some truly appalling driver behaviour.. not pleasant out at all. The trails that are usable haven’t always been much fun either seem to be more out of control dogs than normal… and abundant dogshit everywhere. It’s as if large numbers of folk have gone “ah f**k it” when it comes to socially responsible behaviour.

  • ¡252m! ¡Sin la ayuda de oxígeno! :-) Bonitas vistas, anyway. Por aquí seguimos igual… pero cada día (y más con la llegada del buen tiempo) con más ganas de salir de viaje, aunque sea solo unos días con la bici… Un abrazo

    • ¡sísi, sin oxígeno! bueno, ¿eh? Me encantaría hacer un pequeño viaje también, pero parece que tendré que esperar hasta mayo o junio. ¡Espero que puedas escapar pronto!

  • Your posts are a breath of fresh air. Do you sell your saddle bags or know where I can find one? I am looking at gravel bikes at the moment. You seem to prefer the leather saddle. Any thoughts on what I should consider? Whyte seem to be a well-built bike. I ride our daughter’s bike when we visit them in Abu Dhabi.

    • Hey John, that’s very kind of you to say, thanks! Re the saddlebags, I just make them on request – mostly folk messaging me via instagram (https://www.instagram.com/choughstuffcc/) or dropping me an email (there’s a link in the footer). I couldn’t cope with any kind of volume – it’s an evening and weekend project around regular work.
      I do like lather saddles, they last a long time if looked aftr, but mostly it’s do with that they generally hav loops for attaching saddlebags – having loops makes for a more stable arrangement when used with a bag designed for them. It’s why the bags I make do need a saddle with loops. I have a mix of Brooks saddles (the synthetic Cambium and leather B17 & Swift). Saddle choice is such an enormously personal thing though, I couldn’t recommend one explicitly but the Cambium (I use the c17 width) I would say is one of the best saddles I’ve ever used.
      Whyte do make well regarded bikes. I have no personal experienc but a coupl of friends have Whyte machines. Hope that’s helpful!

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