A Mysterious Four-Thousand-Year-Old Circle

P1020777

This is Cornwall’s smallest stone circle, captured here on a dreary December afternoon in the village of Duloe. It dates from around 2,000 B.C.  a relic of the British Bronze Age.

P1020774

In fact the 8 large stones that comprise the monument are set out in more of an ovoid than a circle, the diameter varying between 10 and 11 metres. But they are also roughly aligned with the compass points, which instantly has everyone thinking all sorts of things about the possible purpose of the structure.

The first historical, if indirect, reference to the circle, occurred in 1329 A.D. in a record that mentions the farm of Stonetown on whose land the stones stand. Its official antiquarian discovery, however, was in 1801, at which time the stones were prone, and the circle bisected by a hedge.

During restoration work in 1861, and the removal of the hedge, workmen stumbled on a Bronze Age funerary urn in the centre of the circle. Unfortunately the urn and the cremated human contents have since been lost, but it thus seems likely, given its small size, that the monument was intended only as an elaborate grave, rather than constructed for any other ritual purposes.

All the same, the enterprise involved some considerable labour. It’s been estimated that thirty or more people would have been needed to move stones up to 12 tons in weight. They are quartzite-rich with elements of ankerite, and the nearest source of such rock is at least a mile from the site.

100_8310

And so there it stands, a domestic-scale stone circle complete with neighbouring cottages, sheep and power lines. Families out with dogs and infants wander briefly round the stones before continuing their walk. They look bemused, as if expecting more. But the stones give nothing away. They have no stories to impart. They simply are.

P1020778

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

 

Circle

 

The Cotehele Christmas Garland

P1020954

Even on the dreariest, dankest of days Cotehele is a magical place. For nearly 600 years this medieval-Tudor house was the home of the Edgecumbe family who aquired it through marriage in 1353. In 1947 it passed into the ownership of the National Trust in lieu of death duties.  Naturally, December is not the best time to visit, not if you wish to see the main house, or wander in the gardens. But from mid-November to 31st December Cotehele does have one very special attraction that makes it well worth the trip up winding, narrow lanes and into the mysterious Tamar River hinterland.

Every year in the Great Hall, and with a log fire flickering in the grate below, an epic swag of dried flowers is hung from the rafters to brighten the festive season.

The garland comprises one hundred feet of rope dressed with 46,000 dried flowers, all of which are grown on the Cotehele estate.  When you step into the Hall there is the faintest scent of summer hay, all of which puts one in mind of old English Hardy-esque midsummer relevry, and brings on a fit of nostalgia for the rustic yesteryear that probably never was.

But it does not matter. As invented traditions go (and the notion for it began in 1956), the garland is beautiful, and a darn sight more picturesque than that other English invention of similar vintage – the Ploughman’s Lunch that is still found lingering dolefully on most pub menus.

The garland takes staff and volunteers two weeks to construct. The base is made up of cuttings from 60 evergreen pittosporum trees. Added to these are statice, grasses, helichrysum, pink pokers, xerochrysum, acrolineum and helipterum. The whole creation lifts the spirits, and in the darkest days of the year, what more could one ask for, that and a delicious bowl of homemade soup in the National Trust tea room?

100_8667

100_8661

100_8686

Cotehele Great Hall

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

On Sunday we went to Eden and this is what it looks like…

100_8377

At least this is what the Eden biomes look like in December twilight, and courtesy of some dodgy photography. I think the effect suits it – this bold and inspirational project to wake us up to the knowledge of our total dependence on plant life. For one thing – without trees we couldn’t breathe very well. It’s interesting that we’ve become so divorced from natural-world-reality that we do not  instantly remember this, and from time to time (or even continuously) need it pointed out to us.

There’s more about the project in an earlier post: Making Eden: new patterns for living? And at the Eden Story you can see how a disused Cornish china clay pit was transformed into this world-famous educational visitor attraction that teaches us how to regenerate and nurture the Eden we have on earth. More power to their purpose.

100_8349

White Horses All Of A Lather at Port Wrinkle

P1020925

Talk about elemental energy. This morning the sea was in such a boil at Port Wrinkle that the beach was filled with spume. It was blowing across the rocks like thistle down, then settling in shivering masses – as if a prelude to some alien hatching. What it might turn into who can tell, but all that whipped up air filled us to the brim. We all but galloped up and down the beach. Yee-HAAA!

100_8448

100_8466

100_8460

Three cheers for the brave RNLI crews

P1020590

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, “the charity that saves lives at sea” has rescued over 140,000 souls since 1824. On Christmas Day we saw the Looe team turn out for a practice run in stormy seas. Here they are being launched from the sea tractor. Hats off to them is all I can say. Oh yes, and a very big THANK YOU.

P1020627

P1020642

And safely back to base…

P1020652

P1020653

Now

Making Eden: new patterns for living?

003.jpg

Is this how you picture the Garden of Paradise: that mythic, perfect place from which shame caused humankind to be forever banished? Probably not.

Personally, I do not have time for dogma founded on guilt, but I do have time for the Eden Project, one of Britain’s most ambitious Millennium schemes that in the year 2000 saw an abandoned Cornish china clay quarry transformed into a world-famous visitor attraction and charity. 

The photo above, raided once more from the Team Leader’s files, was taken that year inside the Rainforest Biome. This extraordinary Sci-Fi structure is  apparently twice as high as Big Ben, and planted with more than 1,000 species. In this  audacious new world, pests and diseases are managed with an array of biological controls, including bugs that eat other bugs, birds and lizards. It is an on-going experiment in life management.

The man behind Eden in all senses is Tim Smit, Netherlands-born, British entrepreneur. He conceived the idea while working on the restoration of the Lost Gardens of Heligan also in Cornwall. Both these enterprises have not only enthused and informed millions of visitors from all over the planet, but injected millions of pounds into Cornwall’s struggling economy. Like an infinity of interlinked hexagons, it has been having a multiplier effect.

File:Tim Smit (6509919409).jpg

Eden’s creator, Tim Smit. Photo: Creative Commons (source Tim Smit)

*

And what is Eden Project saying to us?


plants give us our food, fuel, materials and medicines”

“plants are part of a wider ecosystem that provides our water and air”

“the natural world can be beautiful, relaxing and inspiring”

001.jpg*

AND THAT:

“In a changing world, we need imagination and enterprise; we need to foster our skills and talents; we need communities to get engaged in inventing new, more sustainable ways of living together.”

*

As a belief system to live by, I can accept all of these propositions. Now see the video of some Eden’s ideals in action: