Tales from the Sea Garden
Tales from The Sea Garden
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Saturday 7 December 2019
Every so often a day comes along that feels like it has been given as a special gift, and Friday 29th November was one such day.
I had made a return visit to The Egyptian House in Penzance (see blog post 16th Feb 2019), and this time I took Mum along too. Earlier in the week the weather had been rather dull and a little wet, but Friday dawned warm, golden and still, Autumn at its best. After sitting outside(!) eating fish and chips at The Tinner's Arms in Zennor (where the day before we had been huddled around a very welcome log fire to take away the damp chill), we decided to head up onto the moors above Madron to see the Men-an-Tol.
From the lay-by at the side of the road a small farm track meanders uphill alongside a tiny stream.
An abandoned farm came into view, and we wondered who had once eked out a living here from the moorland.
Then over a stile and looking towards the ruined engine house of Ding Dong Mine on the horizon, we catch our first glimpse of the ancient stones of Men-an-Tol.
Believed to date from the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age (3500 years ago) there is mystery as to whether this enigmatic stone with the hole was originally at the centre of a stone circle with the other upright stones around it, or whether these stones once formed part of a burial tomb. (Incidentally there is only one other holed stone in existence in Britain and that is also in Cornwall). What is known is that the stones as you see them today are not in their original positions, seemingly aligned to pinpoint the rising sun in the east and the setting sun in the west. It is believed they were moved sometime in the early 19th Century.
For centuries people believed that the Men-an-Tol held special healing properties; by crawling through the hole three times, or seven times, or nine times, one could be cured of back pain, or children of rickets, or a woman wishing to become pregnant would gain fertility.
It must be 30 years since Mum and I did this walk up to Men-an-Tol, and to experience it together again on such a beautiful afternoon as the sun was slowly sinking in the west, with the stones casting long shadows on the grass and all around was stillness and silence: not a breath of wind, so rare up on the moors, was simply magical.