Thousands of years of Cornish history within a few acres

Words by Rebecca Bentley

The history of Cornwall’s landscape is plain to see, and it tells a long and fascinating story that is still being unravelled today. From the abandoned engine houses and clay country pyramids that proudly dot the once industrial countryside, to prehistoric megaliths and stone circles dating back as far as 20,000 years; this is a history enthusiast’s heaven. That’s without even thinking about the countless historical churches still intact, including one of Britain’s oldest chapels, near Perranporth.

Bodmin Moor is a popular destination for those in search of ancient sites, with The Cheesewring, The Hurlers stone circles and Trevethy Quoit drawing large numbers of tourists to Minions (see the drive on page 132). Carn Brea in West Cornwall attracts a fair number of visitors too with its 360-degree views, historical landmarks and remnants of ancient settlements.

But not far from here in the lesser explored area surrounding the village of Troon, stands the recently resurrected 5,000-year-old Carwynnen Quoit (also referred to as Giant’s Quoit) in the midst of a mining landscape.

The quoit is a portal dolmen which was used for funerary and ceremonial rites during the Neolithic period, and until recently it lay in a heap on Frying Pan Field. Thankfully, the Sustainable Trust purchased the land in 2009 and in June last year 600 people came to bear witness as the quoit was put back together again.

Archaeological digs unearthed a wealth of historical finds including flint blades, the ‘coffin stone’ and prehistoric pottery. The trust has recently been gifted a small croft by the family of leading archaeologist Charles Thomas. Sometimes shown on maps as the British Village, it stands on nearby Copper Hill where two ancient roundhouses were excavated in the 1950s.

There’s so much that can be learned from this area and the richness of its historical worth has led The Sustainable Trust to make it more accessible by developing an app. The Giant Outdoors App, as it is called, delivers archeological, botanical and historical information of the area alongside four circular walks. An interactive map with voice narration guides users with clearly defined routes and pointers to sites of interest that they can see along their walks.

I chose to take the second walk that passes by the quoit and roundhouses, and starts off at St John’s Church that forms part of the commissioned 19th century model hamlet of Treslothan. Head uphill from here and turn right at the well, continuing on through Stennack Woods where you’ll notice the undulating ground formed by tin streaming years ago. Out of Stennack, you’ll come to Frying Pan Hill where the quoits stands – there’s a nice picnicking area near the cromlech and the field is a wonderful place to spot wildflowers in the spring and summer.

On the road passing the quoit, head down the hill to the hamlet of Carwynnen, turn left and fork left past the houses. Turn right at the end of the path and then left, continuing along the path until you reach a farmhouse on the right. Turn left to ascend the hill following the edge of the fields where the remains of the ancient roundhouses were discovered by Charles Thomas in the 1950s. The moorland where remnants lie overlooks the Carwynnen Valley leading down to the sea at Gwithian.

From the field, turn left at the intersection, then right onto a footpath. When you come to a road the steep downhill path will lead you back to Stennack. It’s far easier to follow this route with the App that also comes in Cornish for any walkers who speak the language. The Sustainable Trust’s project manager, Pip Richards, says: “I’ve always loved the Cornish landscape and its mysterious ancient stones. To be given the opportunity to restore such an iconic monument was too good an opportunity to miss.”

She adds: “The local environment is losing its heritage, history and soul with every new planning application. To be able to explore and educate around such a beautiful site in a ancient landscape was a privilege and made all the hours of fundraising worthwhile. Sustrust is grateful to everyone who helped us get the Quoit off the ground.”

The App is currently available via the website – it is currently for desktop use and is also being designed to work on smartphones and tablets in the near future. www.thegiantoutdoors.org
Find out more about the Sustainable Trust’s projects and event online at www.giantsquoit.org and www.sustrust.co.uk
Twitter: @giantsquoit #thegiantoutdoors