WALKS OVER BODMIN MOOR
PUBLISHED: 13:12 16 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:35 30 August 2017
Looking for some peace and quiet as the masses set up camp on the coastline? Join ROBERT HESKETH for an archaeological walk across Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor is a remarkably rich historic landscape and this discovery walk on East Moor has plenty of archaeological interest. Choose a really clear day to enjoy the wide moorland views and to locate the ancient monuments. This quiet quarter of the moor has few clear paths or bold landmarks, so map, compass and orientation skills are called for. GPS is helpful in locating the sites.
Nine Stones is a perfect Bronze Age circle, 49ft (15m) in diameter, making it the smallest, but also one of the most impressive on Bodmin Moor. It consists of eight stones in a circle with one in the centre and was restored in 1889, when only two of the stones were standing.
The circle may well have been associated with the settlements just to the north-east, which we pass en route and are best seen when the bracken is low. However, Professor Alexander Thom’s contention that Nine Stones Circle was built in lunar alignment with the nearby stone row has been questioned as these are held to be medieval boundary stones. This is part of a wider controversy about the validity of otherwise of archaeoastronomy, the study of ancient monuments (especially prehistoric stone circles in Britain), and how they may have served to mark time, and the seasons and the movement of the planets and stars.
Boots on? Let’s go!
1. Start from East Moor Gate (SX222790), reached via a narrow lane two miles south of Altarnun. When parking, please don’t obstruct gateways, passing places or residents’ access. Go through the gate onto the open moor. Start by following the track ahead, and then head due south for ½ mile (1km) to the summit of a low, rounded hill. The most obvious archaeological features here are the ring cairn (SX224777) and the top end of the stone row.
2. Head due east from the summit cairn for 800m, keeping a lookout for a row of boundary markers. The first is at SX232777. Many have fallen, especially at the south-western end, so they are hard to spot. Turn left, north-east, along the row which leads to Nine Stones Circle at SX236781. Clitters Cairn, where flint and stone artefacts and coursed stone slabs were discovered during excavations, lies 500m east at SX242782. After visiting the cairn, head north to return to the line of boundary stones.
3. Otherwise, continue over the top of the ridge, following the line of boundary stones. When the bracken is low, you will see the remains of field walls and buildings, perhaps 3,500 years old. Continue in the same direction downhill. Aim approximately 100m to the left of the walled wood and you will find further remains of a substantial abandoned settlement.
4. While man-made climate change is a modern phenomenon, there have been significant historical fluctuations in climate, with major deteriorations around 1000BC (the late Bronze Age in Britain) and again around 1300AD. During both these periods many farms on the high ground were abandoned. Following the Black Death of 1348-9, when around a third of the British population perished, many of more farms on poor land were abandoned.
5. The clear routes through the bracken vary slightly from year to year, but head for the walled wood, then skirt its left side, down to a wall. Turn left and follow a path with the wall on your right. When the wall ends, continue down a rough track as waymarked.
6. After 250m, bear left on a track above a wood. (This track also serves as a watercourse!). After 40m, turn right over a stile into and through a wood. Emerging from the wood, turn sharp left to a stile, then right along the lane. After 100m, turn left over a stile (broken at the time of writing). Walk straight ahead for 300m as signed on a woodland path, which is often overgrown in summer. Ignore side turnings. Continue through a small glade. Cross a stile (again broken), then a stream. Climb up to Treburland Farm.
7. Just beyond Treburland, a high stile in the wall on the right leads ahead over a field to a lane. Turn left up the lane, which continues as a track to a moor gate. Keep the wall on your right and make your way over tussocky ground to East Moor Gate.
POINTS OF INTEREST
• Nine Stones Circle
• Remains of ancient settlements and field walls
• Stone rows
• Wide moorland views
Distance: 4 ½ miles (7.25km)
Time: 2 ½ hours
Start/parking: East Moor Gate, SX222790
Terrain: Open moorland with return via paths and lanes. Orientation skills, map and compass needed.
Child/dog friendly: Suitable for dogs on leads and older children.
Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer 109; Landranger 201.
Refreshments: None en route. King’s Head Altarnun 1 ½ miles from start.
Public Toilets: None
Public Transport: None
More Walks: Shortish Walks Bodmin Moor, Paul White, Bossiney Books, 2016