Albion, ancient sites, Don and Wen, TOLL, travel

A Thousand Miles of History: Seeking the circle

“It’s somebody’s drive.” The neat rows of montbretia made that very clear. Yet, this was at least one of the ways we could, according to the map, get to our first site of the day. We had already driven up and down the road, done a couple of ‘U’ turns and consulted the very detailed map we had purchased the evening before, but maps only tell you where you need to go… not what is in your way on the ground. Like private property.

“But the map says…” So, we turned into the farmers drive, pretty soon realising that the unmade track was never intended as a public thoroughfare. We pulled over at a safe spot and consulted the map yet again, somewhat uneasy at what felt like trespassing, even though the map assured us we had a right of way. It was at this point that the farmer himself came up the drive. Half expecting to get our ears chewed, we flagged him down and asked him the way to the stone circle. He assured us that although we could get to it this way, the easiest way by far was from the layby on the main road. Apparently, there was a path. What was curious was the look in his eye and the way he bade us enjoy our visit. It might have been simple good-humour. It could have been a long habit of dealing with tourists. But we both picked up on the knowing twinkle that seemed to say he knew something about the place that we, as yet, did not. We were about to find out…if we ever found the dratted layby.

The layby in question, for anyone seeking the stone circle of Boscawen Un, is not a layby. There are neither road markings nor a proper road surface to suggest that this is anything other than yet another passing place on the narrow road. The vaunted sign post is, in fact, just a fence post with the name of the site carved into it and almost hidden by the grass and wildflowers. The only reason we finally found the spot is because we had tried everywhere else, doing yet another ‘U’ turn in our desperation to find the place. We took one look at the track that led from the gate and headed for the boot of the car. ‘Flaming June’ or not, this was a job for the wellies. Duly booted we crossed the threshold between road and field and set off down the narrow path in search of our quarry.

The morning was heavy with sea-mist. Were it anywhere else but Cornwall, I would have called it a thick fog, but there really is something about this country at the foot of the land that exudes magic and mystery. There are few other places where the legends of the Fae and the Little Folk seem quite as reasonable, where speaking of mist as the dragon’s breath seems an accurate description, or where, when strange things begin to happen, you simply accept them as the way things ought to be. Cornwall has never forgotten the magic in its soul.

The mist closed around us and we left the world behind. The tall grass, bent and bowed by the weight of water held on every stem, covered the path before us and closed it behind us as we passed. Dew-drenched webs shimmered in the shifting, uncertain light and wildflowers glowed like scattered jewels against the soft green of our world. Great stones rose beside us, caught in the ancient walls of the field, or showed their faces beneath our feet. Damp-winged moths fluttered as we disturbed the grass and the water made us one with the morning, saturating everything it touched. The sweeping green of my skirts were soaked and heavy within the first five yards. Within ten, there were puddles in my boots… I was walking on water and with every step, water carried me forward. Looking back on that morning, we should have been cold, uncomfortable and unhappy with our lot. Instead, we laughed and forged ahead, regardless of forks in the path or the distance we walked.

There was something in the air… but, as often happens, we didn’t even begin to notice until the wisdom of hindsight set in. At the time there was just the excitement of anticipation. At each choice of path, we instinctively chose what proved to be the right way forward until we found ourselves in a path between high hedgerows that curved around to the left. We followed it onwards, until it came to ‘T’ junction. To the left there was nothing but mists, swallowing the path, to our right was a gate… and right in front of us was a noticeboard upon which sat a robin; these little birds always turn up at important places. His bright eyes were fixed upon us and his red breast glowed like a stop sign, just to make sure we didn’t miss what he was showing us. We turned and looked through the gate onto a vista of the Otherworld…

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