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At one point, while camping near the pretty peak of Lanín in Argentina I think it was, I harboured vague aspirations to climb up high stuff. Since then I have had three hip surgeries, and live with the  lingering pain of hip impingement syndrome, so it’s a very good thing for me that the peaks of West Penwith are measured in hundreds rather than thousands of metres – and take on average 10 minutes to climb. Ideal for those with motivation impingement syndrome too!

Herewith, documentation of my first 2012 peak of Penwith: the Iron Age fortification of Chun Castle, atop a bloody great hill near Pendeen. It’s a bit rubbly now, as you might fairly expect after 2,400 years, but the circular hillfort and its granite gates are still perfectly clear and impressive. No longer needed for spying approaching enemies perhaps but for me a useful vantage point from which to decide on my favourite remote Penwith property…

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Lest anyone think I only portray the sunny side of Cornwall, here are some photos of what a cold, damp Sunday in the dead of January looks like in West Penwith.

Stopping at a random spot on the St Ives-St Just road, we made a stab for the nearby coast, with visibility at about 10 metres. Porthmoina is what we found at the end of the path, a properly stirring spot, with the remains of a water mill that formed part of the Carn Galva mining operation. It had something of a Machu Picchu about it in the mist… Look, like I said, it is January.

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men an tol penwith cornwallmen an tol cornwall penwith

Sunday was a surreally calm and sunny winter’s day in west Cornwall, so ideal for my first outing to Men-an-Tol – the iconic stone monument half a mile off the drop-dead-gorgeous Madron to Morvah road.

In the presqu’île of West Penwith, we tend to all get a bit blase about prehistoric sites – they are everywhere, in the shape of quoits, remains of Iron Age villages, standing stones and stone circles. Save for a few – like Chycauster village, which is National Heritage – they form a natural, integral part of the landscape. There’s no entrance fee or brochure or fence and sometimes not even a sign, which is just the way I like them!

Among these granite antiquities, Men an Tol is unique for its polo-like circular form with a hole in the middle (beloved of many an artist, including Barbara Hepworth, as James Fox was telling us in his recent docu).

Historians don’t seem to have an especially firm grip Read the rest of this entry »

winter penwith moors cornwall

When weighing up the move to Cornwall a few years ago, I was quite preoccupied with the idea of getting through the winters. In my first week in Penzance, at the start of winter, I noted with deep concern that every light on the street was out by 10pm, and thought my worst fears had been realised. No signs of life!

But it’s funny how wrong you can be because I love winter down here. There are the obvious bonuses like being able to find a parking space, quiet roads and empty beaches, but also the Penwith landscape wears the dark tones of foul weather well.

Here are a few late afternoon shots taken from a beacon near Sancreed (randomly chosen from the OS map – coordinates on a postcard plse!) shortly before the sleet started, at which point we repaired to the Sportsman’s Arms in Heamoor for pints of Trade Winds.

winter penwith cornwallwinter penwith

coastal footpath cornwall

pasties & cream will be away for a few days walking a portion of the Cornish coastal footpath and camping en route – possibly in the rain. Wish me luck.

If I haven’t dropped my phone in a muddy ditch or reached some sort of zen-like ditch-the-screens state of mind, I may attempt some tweeting or a mobile blog post but failing that expect a bombardment of pictures on my return.

p&c january header: artist’s studio Newlyn

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