Padstow - a beautiful, ancient harbour town in Cornwall

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This is an article by Simon Mitchell on the ancient pathways of Cornwall.

The Saint's Way in Cornwall is a story written into the land. This ancient route existed long before it was used by saints, taking advantage of the unique shape of Cornwall and its rivers. Evidence (especially Pictish Art forms) suggest that Phoenicians, Egyptians and Greeks journeyed to west coasts of Britain and Ireland even before the Iron Age, in search of Celtic wisdom and trade. They would hit Cornwall and Southern Ireland first.

Gold travelled from Ireland through Cornwall and down to the Mediterranean via sea or overland through Brittany to the early centres of civilisation. Before the River Camel and the River Fowey in East Cornwall became silted through tin streaming they were navigable much further inland. Prior to tin mining there would have been only a four mile gap overland between the north coast River Camel (at Padstow) and the South Coast River Fowey. This is a serious short-cut to the alternative of travelling right round the peninsula of Cornwall with its dangers of rocks, ridiculous weather and hungry pirates.

Later copper followed the same route and the Romans 'followed the supply' back to Britain. The strong links between Ireland, Wales and Cornwall are still to be found, for example in similar labyrinth carvings found in Ireland and North Cornwall. In terms of an 'English' history, Cornwall doesn't really exist until the end of the Dark ages in 900AD or so, when the English started invading, but there are still many clues built into the land. Cornwall is a Celtic land that has its own history. It was one of the earliest civilised trading nations, more linked by sea with Ireland, Wales and Brittany than by long and hazardous overland journeys to England.

'Restormel' the Castle of The Black Prince, overlooks the once highest navigable point of the river Fowey, an ancient site. Like Castle D'or , used as a title for one of Daphne DuMaurier's books, it is likely to be pre-iron age. When you look at a map a whole line of at least Roman age encampments follows the river route across land, with one site perched next to the once highest navigable point of the Camel - in Dunmere woods. This suggests that this route was an important one to protect - because it was a main artery for precious metals.

The existing Saints Way follows the river route across East Cornwall, which was established long before the Saints as a convenient short-cut between Ireland and Wales and the south coast of Cornwall - and on. The way is rich in springs and many holy wells are still to be found. The Church at Lanlivery, a visible route sign from many miles away, sits high on the horizon, a beacon for travellers. It lines up with the saint's pathway to ancient standing stones at Helman Tor an evident meeting place from Stone Age times. The Church at Lanivet beckons the traveller on to where the route meets the river Camel at Ruthernbridge and then continues North to Padstow.

Like the songs of Aborigines, the peoples who once travelled these lands would learn the route through stories of the wayplaces they would meet. And sometimes, when it is quiet, the land still whispers these secrets to willing ears.

About the author: THE LILY by Simon Mitchell (fiction) THE LILY is the first episode of a magical new Cornish adventure novel. Trapped in time for 2000 years, the spirit of a healer finally tells his story. A giant conspiracy is unveiled and our hero sets out to mend the land. Order this story by visiting: http://www.simon thescribe.co.uk/Lily.html

© 2003-2013 Small Green Tree Ltd. Last modified October 4, 2013
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