SHOWERY TO ROUGHTOR
Cloud shadows sweep across the lower grassy slopes of the tor and the adjoining stretched moorland. Skylarks sing in constant chatter above the ancient open, expanse of grazed land. Drifts of early flowering grasses, sedge and rushes mix with granite outcrops, iron-age settlement remains and soon-to- flower swathes of turf sprinkled liberally with tormentil, flowering clover and the delicate, hardy alpines clinging within the cracks on the exposed granite.
Roughtor crowns the highest point of a long ridge which runs northwards, almost to the edges of Davidstow Moor and the spires and towers of the Davidstow Creamery. A reminder that we are never too far away from our consumer-led society. If you follow the ridgeline in this direction you come first to the stand-alone outcrop of Little Roughtor and the visible remains of an iron-age settlement, and beyond, again, lays Showery Tor, capped by a prominent cheesewring formation of balanced, piled rocks. From the summit of Showery Tor the eye-line spreads for miles and miles; to Pentire Head, standing guard at the mouth of the Camel Estuary on the North Cornish coast and west to the white ‘Cornish Alps’ rising over the rolling Roseland landscape of St Austell and on towards the vegetation clad spoil heaps of china clay at Stanton. Beyond the moor’s margins, sunlight cracks through distant clouds and highlight the cliffs of Dizzard Point and Crackington. Reflected light bounces off the Davidstow steel spires. But it’s the twin peaks of Brown Willy and the route Jane and I are on now, following the sloped razor-backed spine to Rough Tor’s pinnacle, that dominates this beautiful and remote part of the moor. The ridges and cheesewrings looming ahead like a vast toy jenga set. Looking down the sloping drop towards the Charlotte Dymond memorial, standing stones slump inwards on themselves, towards the boggy, waterlogged floor of cotton grass and sphagnum. It’s uncertain whether this ancient man-made formation originated as a Prehistoric ceremonial or ritualistic space, or is an early medieval livestock pound, but it is more than as likely a Bronze Age or Iron Age hut circle, making this one of the oldest constantly lived and worked landscapes in the British Isles.
Today, a herd of Highland Cattle graze around this stunning site and eye us both inquisitively as we pass them by. A small calf, no bigger than a fully grown hairy Rottweiler, takes the sheltered eastern flank of its mother’s, shiny and shaggy copper tinged coat. In the near distance a small group of ponies and 3 Foals nibble and tug at the short moorland grasses. The cows, ponies and a scattering of sheep populate this land, free to roam over unbounded moorland and the visible ghost-lines of ancient fields. The stream running along the foot of the grass-covered slopes cuts through many centuries of peat, and is bridged by lengths of granite protrusions, where, in the wetter margins and marshy hollows, foxgloves will sway rhythmically in the welcoming breeze on a warm summers day. Upslope the nooks and jagged teeth of the granite blocks and forgotten, part-carved millstones, abound with pollen-rich grasses, sorrel, and in the open, yellow vetch. On the skyline the ponies have moved effortlessly from the lower grassy slopes and now mingle with walkers, who, unlike us, are now making their way back to their car. We on the other hand ‘have promises to keep’ so we stride out further onto the welcoming moor – our flasks of coffee and flapjacks safe in our backpack, for now anyway…
Sam Josh Thomas
The Moot Point – Ockment Press