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I have to say I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t hear any ruckus or moving’s about in the castle last night – except for a British bicyclist sharing the bunks who slapped his hands together at 4 am for either me or his bunkmate who was snoring in order to make it stop. I suppose he’s a sensitive sleeper who can’t sleep to snoring (not sure why he’s in a dorm room then …) Castle Horneck is supposedly haunted, but honestly can’t say I felt any presence of anything in the building other than the school kids running around, and older travellers like me. I found out late last night that Michael’s Mount (and most of all National parks in the area) is closed on saturdays as they figure everyone is out shopping about or being leisurely, and not necessarily looking into history … makes no sense to me. But hey, its a bit of a backwards country to what I’m used to – the English drive on the opposite side of the road and have enormous electrical plugs … takes some getting used to. So no need for googling the tidal schedules. Much to my quest’s purpose, clues to charms and blessings were abound. A late night talk with the receptionist at the Castle Horneck desk led me to an adventure I will never forget. I can only assume that through the chat with her upon my revealing that I was a archaeologist and her guessing correctly on my spiritual orientation that she revealed to me the map to Madron’s Holy Well and Wishing Tree. It was only a 2 hour round-trip hike. I figured I’d be back in plenty of time to wander about to Michael’s Mount, hit the tides, and at least walk onto the island to take some pictures followed by some leisurely hanging about on the beach all day. Little did I know that a long journey on foot awaited me. I grabbed breakfast in the cafe where the teachers were rotating the children in groups for breakfast so as to create lesser impact on the other hostellers. I slipped into line, tuned out the grade school chatter, and grabbed a hearty English breakfast of sausage, bacon, eggs, beans, croissant, tea, juice, and yogurt. I barely found a seat with some of the older hostellers to chat about wandering plans as many of the seats were taken up by the school kids.
I hit the trail by 8 am. As per the hand-drawn map, I wandered up into the farmers field to the west of the Castle in search of the Lesigney Round, an old Iron Age fort consisting of a “round” of trees and dense foliage wrapped around an inner earthworks wall with a central grove. There were a couple of comical chairs along the way, I suppose the local farmer’s humor with chairs where he possibly sits on occasion to greet travellers to the round. I’m Not quite sure. I worked my way around the western side of the round for the most accessible entrance into the fortress and was blessed by walking into a beautiful grove that was beaconing a meditation and some tree hugging. The Dryads and sacred spirits of the place radiated immensely a tingling sensation that kindled my heart. Nevermore had I felt an essence of “protective” energy so strong … never before did I feel so ‘safe’. This makes common sense to me since this was a defensive fortress used since the Iron Age or before. There were some very unique trees in the middle of the grove. Light patterns were divine and mixed with some tree chatter in guise of creaks and crackling of the wood in the wind. I heard some rustling in the bush I could only expect were dwarves or wee folk spying on me. I didn’t see them if that was the case – just felt their essence. I felt very deeply that I was being watched and monitored. This didn’t stop the sudden urge to meditate. After a pretty intense meditation, a pair of leaves drifted down into my lap with the omnipotence that it was to be taken to be joined to the Madron wishing tree … so I abided. The Lesigney Round is also referred to as The original Castle Horneck as well as the Timber Castle. It is the earthwork remains of an old iron age hillfort with earthen ditch and walls creating a densely wooded large round or circle.
Onward with my quest, I followed my hostel friend’s directions and map to get to the public footpaths as the Lesigney Round is on private farmland. It is only a permissable un-official path for wanderers like me to come take a peek at this unmarked and technically unprotected historical monument. After footing it through the farmer’s field I came to a road, and questioned whether to go right or left as my sense of directions were all messed up. To make matters worse, the paths were overgrown, and many of the small and already infrequent footpath signs were missing or covered. I could of sworn I heard some pixie chatter to the left beckoning me that direction. Sure enough a Cornish pixie tinkering with my American lack of directional sense being uprooted from Home. As I took a 2 mile meandering loop south-west instead of north-west, I found my way back up to Tremethick Cross. I knew something was wrong as I should have had hit Madron already. Apparently I was travelling in the opposite direction. Tremethick Cross is a crossroads with a stone cross overseeing travellers passing through it. Looking over the map I realized I had already gone a mile or so out of my way. I found what I believed to be the right directions, so headed the opposite direction along the roadway as I couldn’t find the public footpath. Before long I found signs to Madron and the footpaths to cut through the fields up to Madron Church and the unmarked cross stone in the field along the way. I did meet an elderly lady walking her dog and inquired as to where the Well was and she physically walked with me through town chatting away and pointed the right way to the Wishing Well. Madron is a small Parish Church village that is dedicated to the Mother Goddess Mabon. I pitstopped into the local graveyard to embrace the amazing artwork on the graves. Then on through more fields along the public footpath until I found a road sign pointing the way 1/2 mile to the Well. Down a muddy corridor of a footpath, I found an old trough that definitely was not a well but rather intriguing none-the-less. There was Beautiful foxglove flowers all along the journey – a plant I’m forever thankful for as it had saved my daughter’s life when she was born. There was also an incredible amount of Gorse along the roadway.
As I approached the entrance of the well, i was greeted by Heritage Trust signs stating that the area was sacred and protected. Weaving my way down the path, I found a Rowan tree completely plastered with tied “clouties” overshadowing the blessed well of Madron. Many online debate that this is not the actual well, as the true macoy is buried in the bog and brush a few hundred feet away, and lies submerged under the muck. Around the corner a few hundred feet is also a second well – the ruins of a Pagan and/or Christian chape that was built upon another part of the Spring. Regardless of which of these three locations the ‘actual’ well is, historically marked by a stone surround and lying next to a green mound called “St. Maddern’s bed” where pilgrims would sleep upon after blessing in the water to complete their healing rite; they all come from the same magical springhead. Mabon’s Well (Madron Well) is a Cornish Celtic sacred site known the world throughout for its healing properties. Pilgrims to the well attach a piece of cloth (called ‘clouties’) to the nearby bushes as an appeasement to the naiads or water spirits within the well site asking for healing or wishes to be granted. This well was apparently also the only source of fresh water for Madron and Penzance. A Christian chapel was built over this site during the 6th century. With no one around, I sat down by the sacred well and meditated. I felt the faeries calling me. Having no free piece of cloth (cloutie) on me … I decided to tear a piece off the good shirt i was wearing, focus my requests into it, and tieing it to the tree for my own requests. I also tied the fallen branch/leaves that came to me in the Lesigney Round. I gathered up some water from the main well and took a sip. Unsure if the water was safe to drink, I took the risk, as it was magical sacred healing waters. Interesting enough, people used to bend pins and drop them into these wells to enable wishes as well for the legend goes – even if i did not see any pins in the well. I then migrated over to the chapel where I gathered more water into the bottle so that my sacred collection would contain both sources. The Pagan altar stone in the chapel was covered with memorial offerings and tribute to someone named Cherry, whom i could only assume passed away recently, as the tribute suggested as such and that she had loved this sacred spot during her life. I took a moment to bless her passing even though I do not know who she was, a spiritual person moving on and connected to the wellspring of life. As I wandered about, I took another unknown forested path without the care in the world where it would take me. I wasn’t sure where it was leading, the winds up and blowing, awakened the forest with numerous sounds. As I walked through a stand of Ash(?) trees, swaying and crackling in the wind, i couldn’t help but to stop and listen … to feel the awe of their conversations as it appeared they were talking to me. It was quite overwhelming especially as it sounded like hundreds of tree spirits chattering away. With the trees and the Cornish pixies talking to me – they lured me into taking a much longer quest than I had originally intended – so I could see the standing stones and sacred stone circles as I would soon walk from coast to coast across the peninsula of Cornwall. Not really prepared with proper water and food, that didn’t really matter. My intended 2 hour hike quickly turned into an 8 hour journey.
The Chattering Trees
- John Norden: “Speculi Britanniæ pars: a topographical and historical description of Cornwall” (17th century) ~
“Maderne, called also St Maderne, a parish situate under the craggie hills north of Penzance, nere which is a well called Maderne Well, whose fame in former ages was greate; for the supposed vertue of healinge, which St Maderne had hitherinto infused: And manie votaries made annale pilgrimages unto it, as they doe even at this daye unto the well of St Winifride, beyounde Chester, in Denbigheshire, wherunto thowsands doe yearly make resorte: But of late St Maderne hath denied his or hers (I know not whether) pristine ayde; and as he is coye of his Cures, so now are men coye of cominge to his conjured Well; yet soom a daye resorte.”
Onward down the footpaths and across many farmer fields, up and over the boundary wall steps, I finally approached the sacred site of Lanyon Quoit. It was a little difficult to spy from the roadside, but taking the footpaths, I spied it on the horizon. A very powerful megalith, I sat beneath it for some contemplation and receiving of visions of what my life path is soon to take. From there I continued along the roadway until I saw the footpath head back into the fields – following the path it ended up into someone’s private drive and yard with ‘no trespassing’ signs all about. Not finding where the public footpath linked back up, I went back down to the road. I hear local landowners who are upset with the national footpaths rule will change around the footpaths, signs, and passages worse than the most mischievious of faerie. Along the roadways I came through Lanyon Farm. In hope for a cup of tea, i quickly found disappointment as i spied that it was not open until 2 pm – and it was only noon. :: sigh :: I knocked on the door of the tea house anyhow, in hopes that i was mistaken – and i think to the irritation of the owner who queried me “did you not see the 2 pm sign down on the road”? She still graciously gave me directions to Men at Tol. Such are the haphazard wanderings of Sir Thomas Rhymer Oisin Leaf. Knowing I had a long journey onwards to the other megaliths as well as the sea – I was glad I packed some MRE rations in my pocket for lunch as there was nothing other than this closed place for food along this footpath coast to coast across the Penwith peninsula. At the old school church, now converted to a art studio, was a little parking area leading up to Men at Tol. I followed the two-track up the hill through the fields past the Burnt Downs, which were laden with “no trespassing” and “private property” signs. Then loomed ahead was the National Trust Sign marking the monument. Up the footpath to one of England’s notorious megalith sites was Men-an-Tol. It was overwhelmingly very powerful. I sat by the holey stone to feel the energy, meditate, and to communicate with the old ones. For good blessing I crawled through the hole. I was surprised i fit! This is one of the best known megalithic structures in Britain as the infamous “holed stone”. With two upright stones surrounding the holed stone between them and a fallen stone at the foot of the western upright, no one knows for sure the meaning and purpose of this monument. Some belief its a gateway to the otherworld either to enter it or to view into it. Some claim that a faerie or pixie guardian dwells here who makes the miraculous cures. Lore tells us that a changeling baby was put through the stone in order for the mother to get back the real child. Some say if a woman at full moon passes through the holed stone seven times backwards, she will become pregnant. Some believe it marks a tomb. Others believe its a healing passage to pass the sick through especially for rickets or back problems. Others claim to pass through the hole will take you on a journey to another world or grant you good luck. Breaking away from the awe, I slowly made my way up the footpath to the historic “Ding Dong Mine” and then on to the “Nine Maidens Stone Circle” and the medieval inscribed “Men Scryfa” standing stone.
Stumbling around the Ding Dong Mine I somehow lost the official footpaths as I was exploring the old abandoned mine shafts, and then found myself lost in the moor. As I went tromping around in the bog I found myself in some crazy predicaments such as some points being up to my waist in gorze (i thought it was heather, but someone told me later it was gorze). Very prickly and abrasive thorny plant life all over the Moor. I decided to turn around and for about 30 minutes lost my way from solid ground where a path could be found. It was sinking feet into wet plants and mush. It was quite confusing and unsettling. As I hear later though that this was quite stupid. As I normally wouldn’t tromp around like this elsewhere in the world, I just assumed that because Ireland doesn’t have any snakes that England wouldn’t either. Very wrong logic because apparently Britain does have snakes – such as the poisonous adder – that I could have run into to. Silly me. I finally found a footpath that took me to the Nine Maidens Stone Circle where nine to nineteen dancing maidens were presumed to have turned to stone for dancing on the sabbat. I did a tarot reading at Nine Maidens to look into my futures. There was another little stone circle a stone’s toss from 9 Maidens that intrigued me. I sat in its center and had lunch before wandering onwards to the coast. I could see the sea just over the horizon. I ran into a farmer whom i stopped to talk with and ask for directions and advice. I wasn’t sure if this walking coast-to-coast was that smart as I didn’t know if there were return transportation as it would be dark by the time i would have to head back. He pursuaded me not to continue the shorter path to the sea but that I needed to see Chun Castle and gave me directions which would tack on another 2 miles of footpaths and roadway. He told me a bit about the Men Scryfa standing stone giving me directions to there as well. The Men Scryfa or “Inscribed Stone” is a 2 meter high megalith that is Bronze Age but inscribed with a 5th/6th CE commemoration of a royal warrior’s death. It states ‘RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI’ which in Cornish means ‘Royal Raven son of the Glorious Prince’. A sacred stone dedicated to Bran, the ancient warrior king and keeper of the cauldron of immortality and the warrior prince Rialobrani who was a protector of the Penzance harbour. I felt honored to stand in his presence if he indeed lyeth beneath my feet.
It was a bit of a hike up to the infamous Chûn Castle from Nine Maidens. A 2,500 year old Iron Age hillfort on the summit of Chun Downs was this massive complex of a stronghold. There is not much remaining of the fort – however the impressive stone walls each with an external ditch still stand. The gateway to the sea was definitely very nice. Going through the gateway onwards towards the presumed Neolithic chamber tomb known as Chûn Quoit which was much more impressive to me than the castle. It was like a faerie hut. I chatted with a couple of British chaps about footpaths down to the sea. They were as confused as I was. Onwards down through farmer fields looking for footpaths, I pretty much made a beeline to the ocean. This was a bit tricky, but i finally stumbled into the village of Pendeen – my legs aching. I’m guessing I hiked between 10-12 miles. No bus in sight I had patience. I found the roadways through the villages were quite haphazardous for hikers as there was very little room on the side of the road for passage. At times it got tense with dozens of cars whirling by. I Finally found a bus stop and grabbed the first bus that came by even though it was taking the long way around to Penzance. I figured I would get in the sights around the coast and stop off and visit the beaches by Land’s End. Scenic beaches as I made my way around the coast back to Penzance … We passed through Botallack and St. Just, Sennen Cove, Land’s End, and back around to Penzance via Skewjack – Boskenna, past the Merry Maidens Stone Circle, and finally Sheffield to Penzance; a drop-in to the Pirate’s Inn in Penzance for a hearty supper then back to the hostel to rest and recover to a bit of wifi n’ chai. Big day tomorrow … Good night!
Path to Lesigney Round:
Inside the Round:
Path from Tremethick Cross to Madron
Madron, Cornwall, UK:
Path from Madron to Madron Well:
Madron Well and Wishing Tree:
Me offering a cloth to the wishing tree:
Madron Well Chapel and Pagan Altar
Chattering Trees by Madron Well:
Path to Lanyon Quoit:
Lanyon Farm, Cornwall, UK:
Ding Dong Mine and the Bogs:
Nine Maidens Stone Circle:
Men Scryfa Standing Stone:
Botallack – St. Just Area of Cornwall:
Skewjack – Polgiggan – Treen – St. Buryan – Boskenna:
Merry Maiden Stone Circle
Sheffield – Newlyn – Penzance:
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