I’m just back from a week’s family holiday in Cornwall, staying in a cottage on the edge of Bodmin Moor. So it seemed rude not to at least attempt a walk on the moor…
With my usual gift for just missing the optimal weather, we turned up in Cornwall for a week of lashing rain, and left under a forecast of a few fine days to come. And to make matters worse, summer arrived in the south east while we were away. With an ascent of Brown Willy being on our list for the week, it was disappointing when what good weather there was came at the start of the week, and had to be surrendered to a trip to the beach. Now it was a case of choosing the least bad weather for the walk, and at various points during the week I thought it wasn’t going to happen. So we contented ourselves with the usual visitor attractions – Lanhydrock, the Eden Project, Tintagel, pasty shop, local beers – whilst we waited for an opportunity.
A half chance came on Thursday. With no better ideas for what to do, we hopped in the car and set off on a tour of the moor, deciding to make it up as we went along. We drove up from Blisland through St Breward, heading for a car park to the north west of Rough Tor. And also the most viable access point for an attempt on Cornwall’s highest, Brown Willy.
Navigation in the lanes of Cornwall can be tricky at times, but we struck gold when we found ourselves on National Cycle Route 3 (again, as the route actually goes through Blisland where we were staying), and saw from the OS map that it went practically to where we wanted to get to, and moreover was marked on the moorland roads itself.
We pulled up in the car park and Rough Tor was laid out before us.
We set off up the easy grassy slope and headed in an arc to Little Rough Tor, the subsidiary summit. The kids clambered over the rocks while I took in the view to the main summit and left to Brown Willy, which I hadn’t completely given up on, despite the intermittent rain. The rain intensified as we started off down from Little Rough Tor and Amanda and the kids opted for a return straight to the car. I, however, forged ahead to the main summit, clambered up onto the rocks and tried to stop being knocked over by the wind. Brown Willy was well off the menu now as unsuitable today for a pleasant family walk.
The way down the side didn’t look too bad, but took longer than it looked and the others were back at the car before I caught up with them. I took a direct line across the lower slopes of the tor to take a look at the memorial to Charlotte Dymond, whose murdered body was found on the moor in 1844, and the memorial erected from public funds.
Almost back at the car, I crossed the boggy bit where one of the tributaries of the River Camel flows down off the moor. Like a numpty, as I picked my way across the squelch I trusted a scattering of stones as being suggestive of firmer ground, and went in up to my knee, followed by the other one. This gets me every time, without fail. So before getting back in the car, I went and stood in the stream to remove the worst of the muck. Now I just have to work out how to get my trail shoes from totally submerged to bone dry in a few days.
We didn’t make it to the top of Cornwall, but I mean to go back someday, and did at least get to the second highest point. I’d always written Bodmin Moor off as a bit of an afterthought compared to Dartmoor, but what I saw I liked. Lovely rocky tors and grassy slopes, with extensive views (or at least they would have been) and some interesting possibilities for wild camps. One thing is for sure – if I ever get around to doing LEJOG, the route will definitely pass over Bodmin Moor.