Hazards Of Being A Curious Explorer

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

It would be a mistake to imagine you might be able to veiw Cornwall properly from the window of a passing car. If traveling near our home, you’d see the wide open spaces of course and the immediate beauty of Bodmin Moor, but the tucked away places require a bit more effort to reach … and maybe a pair wellies if you want to keep your feet dry.

Last Saturday, John and I set out on a path we’d been on a few times before. We parked on a patch of moorland grass, slipped on our wellies and started walking towards King Arthur’s Hall.

Bodmin Moor, King Arthur's Hall, Brown Willy, Rough Tor

King Arthur’s Hall with Brown Willy and Rough Tor in the distance.

It had been a while since we had walked to the unusual rectangular shaped area on the moor  that is surrounded by 56 stones like the one in the photo above. There are a lot of suggestions as to its age and original use, but like the Arthurian legend, no one can say for sure. You can read more about the monument here. (Do have a look at the links as the details are interesting)

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

You never know what kind of livestock you may come upon or how they will behave. Cows are always interested in you until you get close enough for them to see that you are not bringing anything for them to eat. These were part of a larger group that alternated between following us and running away. What looks like a pile of rocks behind them is Rough Tor. You can see me standing on top of it in my header at the top of this post.

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

Remember when I mentioned that you would miss a great deal if you only saw Cornwall by car … this stream of water is the first sign of the unexpected for those thinking moorland is just an open grassy space. Crossing over this footbridge takes you into what I think of as, ‘The Dark Wood.’ There are gorgeous bits of light that break through the tightly planted rows of trees at times, but not on this day.Bodmin Moor, Winter Trees

I shot this after walking through the narrow swath of trees. It was so green that I modified the color a bit making it look a bit more wintry than it actually did on Saturday.

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

There are loads of circular stones once you are through the woods and they line the hillside reminding you that neolithic communities and medieval villages once stood here. The wind is always blowing when we’ve walked through here and I can’t imagine how the people who lived in these stone and likely wooden structures (I think) ever felt truly warm.

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

Rounding the hill and in the distance sits an old stone cottage that appears as if it has changed little over the years. The windows are not original, but with no electricity, or running water, it is still very primitive. I think the single pane of glass in the windows looks as if there is no glass there at all adding to the abandoned feeling that makes one want to hurry past … unless your name is John Winchurch.

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but John likes to make his own set of rules sometimes and while he gives off this easy-going vibe and is certainly a gentle soul, he is not often deterred when I say, ‘ I’m not sure we’re allowed to do that ‘ as was the case on this day. While much of the moor is accessible to walkers, this cottage is not abandoned nor have I ever been as close to it as I have now. I generally like to keep a respectful distance, but when John walked up to have a quick look I couldn’t help following behind.

Bodmin Moor, Garrow Tor, John Winchurch

Even though I felt a bit guilty for peeking in the window, I was so intrigued by what looked like a place forgotten by time that I couldn’t help taking this image of a smaller window on one side of a primitive kitchen setup through a larger window on the front of the house. As much I wanted to photograph more of what I saw, I wanted to be a bit respectful so I took two quick photos of the window before following John up the hill behind the house as we took a different path back to the woods and on to the car.

I wondered aloud to John as we walked, talking about the history of the house and what it might be used for now. It was clear from our hasty look that someone was using the house from time to time and John suggested it might be used as temporary shelter for farm workers or a primitive holiday cottage for someone with a city life.

Fast forward a few hours to evening when we meet up with friends for dinner. We had no idea when we accepted the invitation to their home that there would be more than the four of us and were pleasantly surprised to see we were part of a party about twelve, many of whom we’d not met before.

Conversation was lively and the food excellent and just to keep us on our toes, the Universe sent us an answer to our  earlier questions about the house when we realized that the man we were seated next to at dinner … owned it.

That’s right, the one time I go past the gate for a sneaky look and a photo, I end up face to face with one of the owners.

He was very pleasant and shared the most interesting details about the land and area around the house. That said, I don’t think I ever actually mentioned that I took a photo of kitchen window, but given that we discussed my blog, photography, and how to find me, there’s a good chance he’ll know now.

I wonder if some artistic interior shots might make amends, not that I have them yet … because I’m not that nosy!

But with a proper invitation, I could do some lovely things.

23 thoughts on “Hazards Of Being A Curious Explorer

  1. Do you know that with all the photos and blogs that you now have of Cornwall and your surrounding area, you could very easily produce a book, I think you should do it too.
    Well done, I love reading your blogs and your photos are excellent, say hi to John.
    Tony and Jacquie Sanders.

    • Thanks as always for your kind comments, Tony. I’m working on a book, but it’s not about Cornwall. I was doing research for it in Tenby, Wales earlier today before John and I were in a car accident.

    • I should post the before of the photo, Viktoria. I try not to play with my images too much and even though I bumped up the contrast a little, it’s basically about the same as when it came out of the camera. It was an odd bit of synchronicity wasn’t it. All of a sudden I had answers to my questions.

  2. I so enjoy your discoveries thru Cornwall, especially the curiousity of primitive dwellings,my love and passion. Last week, I engineered a peek inside a William Bernoudy(apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright) house in Huntleigh Woods, Missouri. As I viewed each spectacular room and tried to understand the architects layout, I kept comparing it to stone houses in Devon, Cornwall and Wales. Isn’t it amazing to see how architecture has developed through the ages as art and individual expressions are incorporated into buildings and landscapes. It beguiles my mind to see an old moorish stone dwelling that serves basic needs, to an artsy 1950’s landscape sensitive dwelling, both ageless and beautiful. I accessed the Bernoudy house under the pretense of attending an estate sale. Although the sale started on Saturday at 10am, the 1st person in line came at 12:40am and more followed at 3am for numbers to be distributed at 7am. I couldn’t imagine what these folks wanted so badly to be there 10 hrs before the doors opened. I attended on Sunday afternoon but unfortunately sans my camera.

    • Oh, I would have loved to see that house with you, Armella! Pictures might have proved a reasonable substitute, but now that you made me curious about it I’m going to be forced to do my own research. At least I can’t peek into any windows from here. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth – what a story, and a moral dilemma!
    Just yesterday I was discussing with a fellow aspiring photographer the issue of taking photos of or on private property. As usually happens with these kinds of conversations, there was no consensus.

    I hope you follow up with your new friend and get a chance to take more photos of his place and post them – it looks wonderful.

    Kathryn Eszeki (Silver Spring, MD)

    • Hi Kathryn, for bringing up the moral question. I’m kind of torn still myself, but I would never have gone to the window if there’d been people about. I’m still not completely cool with my window shot, but it looked so lovely that it was like being a sailor wooed by a mermaid singing on the rock. The chance to capture a photograph that makes me feel something special can sometimes override my judgement. * heavy sigh *

  4. Its very kind of you to share your experiences of Cornish life, the photos are so evocative of a land rich in depth and texture and history. I love hefers expressions, they tell you so much about the land they live in with their lovely half curly coats and general good health from gathering the soils nutrients.
    That wonderful sad looking house does bring about ones curiousity which could not be denied! It was really fun to hear that you got to meet the owners of said forlorn cottage. Maybe more stories about the house will be revealed, lets hope !
    It looks like a cottage Sir A. J. Munnings might have rented to paint in…I hope you do some more exploring with wellies and camera. Many Thanks!

  5. Recognized as probably the greatest animal painter, especially horses. Was a member of the Newlyn School but lived mostly in Norfolk.

  6. What beautiful photos. It looks to be such an idyllic setting. I love the one of the window looking through to the smaller window. I’m glad that the owner didn’t pop up and surprise you. Did you “come clean” when you met him later?

  7. Have been wanting to ‘find’ this farmhouse for some time since having the opportunity to walk the ancient lovely majestic environs of Emblance Downs etc. and especially across that little stream and woods (have been taking other treks/vision-quest things around there, different and intuition-led with a little not always helpful help from the OS map) for the past 3 years or so..alone and on a particularly empty moor day I was magnetised closer and closer too, sensing whether anyone was within or around and feeling they weren’t..absolutely fell in love with it, took such similar photos to you! and explored a little around the mediaeval buildings/longhouse remains nearby too before trying to skirt Brown Willy, realising there was not enough time to get back to base, so just climbed to the top of Garrow where I was ‘gifted’ with an iridescent black feather stuck into the ground by the highest tor (I returned the gift with some of the varied cones from the sun-slotted pine wood). I was also enchanted by the nearby barn with hole-in-a-board loo which must have the two best po views possibly in Britain if not the world through its little window and Rough Tor-facing open door. I alas have not managed to spend an evening suddenly sitting by the owner! but would dearly love to know whether he may consider renting out the property to a sympathetic soul..would you have any idea if so, and/or how?

    • Thanks for your delightful description of your walk, Janet. It sounds as if you live nearby. We should probably chat through a more private medium. My email address is on my ‘About Me’ page if you’d like to send me an email, I could put you in touch with my friend who had the dinner party where I met the owner. I did not get the feeling that they rented the bothy out to folks, but you never know. 🙂

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