The irresistible name of Ding Dong lured me from St. Ives in Cornwall one summer morning despite the rather foreboding clouds which were gathering in the distance. My companion and I got a lift the eight miles or so along the St. Just coast road to the start of our walk at Rosemergy, where we toppled out of the car like grotesque snails, weighed down by our rucksacks.We had plenty of supplies - fleeces, Elastoplast, Gortexes, gaiters and chocolate -but did we really need the portable C. D. player and the mobile phone? City habits die hard.
West Penwith is at the tip of Cornwall, a little granite foot arching out cheekily into the Atlantic. Our walk was to take us over one of its moors, the Ding Dong, a magical place scattered with ancient tombs, menhirs , stone circles and the great half-ruined engine houses of Victorian tin mines. At the Carn Galver mine at Rosemergy we crossed to the south side of the coast road and took a path marked by three boulders. It climbs gently between steep banks of bracken and late foxgloves, through National Trust land. The granite "hedge" on the right was thick with bush vetch, cornflowers and, on the top, an unfortunate crop of barbed wire.Up and beyond this is the Bronze Age round barrow of Watch Croft. On the left hand side is a hill said to have been once occupied by the giant Holiburn and now marked by the granite remains of the Carn Galver mine.
After nearly a mile we reached a little crossroads, where skylarks hovered around us. A fine rain blew horizontally and delicately as we glimpsed the ruins of the Ding Dong mine in the distance. The paths diverge here, following the boundaries of the four parishes Zennor, Madron, Morvah and Guval. We took the right hand fork, passing by the side of a metal gate onto a walled lane, part of the Tinners' Way, an ancient trade route which follows high ground between St. Ives and St. Just. This area of Cornwall, rich in tin and copper (used to make bronze), has attracted miners and traders for thousands of years.
On the immediate right of the lane is a small triangular field of fragile blue-grey flax. We climbed a stone stile and walked up a narrow path to the Men Scryfa sticking up in the middle of the field. This 6 foot stone, probably a Bronze Age menhir, is carved with a 5th or 6th century inscription. The words RIALOBRAN CUNOVAL FIL lie under thick patterned encrustations of lichen, referring to a Celtic hero, "the royal raven".
After climbing back into the lane we followed it for three hundred yards and turned left over a stone stile onto a marked track to the Men-an-tol. There are various opinions as to the curative powers of these mysterious stones - two standing stones and a pierced circular stone. To activate its powers one must crawl through it naked nine times. I am happy to say that I am now completely scrofula and ricket free.
Feeling a little chilly I walked on with my companion, using the Ding Dong chimney ahead as a marker. The path led through thick bracken, bell-heather, young brambles, gorse, (get out the gaiters!) and tiny yellow tormentil. The surrounding land, divided into old, small field patterns by drystone walls (Cornish "hedges"), is teeming with birdlife. I was particularly impressed by a squeaky yo-yo bird bouncing happily in front of us which I was later told was a pipit.
Red triangular BEWARE OF MINE SHAFT signs started looming up alarmingly in front of us out of the increasingly thick drifts of sea-mist. Luckily a couple of minutes later we reached the massive granite walls and brick-finished chimney of the Ding Dong. The mist disappeared, and we followed the next left-hand path up to the Nine Maidens, two of whom were leaning drunkenly to one side. This stone circle was erected by the Beaker people (c.2000 B.C.), small inventive folk who wore buttoned clothes, practised brain surgery and had little beakers in their graves.
We bore left onto the Tinners' Way again, past the Four Parrish stone and then turned right down the track towards our starting point at Carn Galver. We hitched our way back along the coast road to the village of Zennor, home of the famous mermaid - young men beware! We called in at The Tinners'Arms, the local of D.H. Lawrence and his German wife Frieda who lived at nearby Tregerthen, until they were forced to leave having been suspected of signalling to U-boats. It was 1917, Frieda was a cousin of the "Red Baron" von Richthofen and Lawrence had a suspicious beard.
Refreshed by gallons of lemonade and beer we heaved our enormous rucksacks onto our backs and staggered off in the direction of St. Ives.
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