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Walking Bodmin Moor: A Wild Wonderland

26 October 2018
An ancient landscape of varied terrain, steeped in mystery and abundant with wildlife… nothing beats a hearty stroll around Bodmin Moor.

There’s something magical about Bodmin Moor that’s hard to put your finger on. Perhaps it’s that feeling of wide-open space; of the natural rugged beauty of the ancient land; the rich and varied landscape, from flat heathland and rising tors, occasionally dissected by flowing rivers and lush woodland. Humans have been captivated by this enchanting region for millennia, as highlighted by the many ancient monuments left behind. There are scores of stone circles, crosses, ceremonial sites and burial grounds to be found in and around the moor, including the Hurlers near the village of Minions and nearby Trethevy Quoit. The land is steep ed in legend, from tales of King Arthur, the Lady of the Lake and the sword Excalibur – allegedly taking place at Doz mary Pool – to the mythical ‘Beast of Bodmin’, a supposed big cat occasionally sighted prowling the moor.

With a section previously known as Fowey Moor, having only acquired the title Bodmin Moor relatively recently (the earliest known reference being in 1812), the moor occupies around 80 square miles of land in north central Cornwall. It’s easily accessible from both our sites, at Southern Halt and Stonerush Lakes. The moor is also home to the ancient coaching inn, The Jamaica Inn, famously immortalised in Daphne Du Murier’s novel of the same name, featuring a band of smugglers and with much of the action taking place in this wild landscape.

The moor is replete with wonderfully named sites and geographical features, including the highest point in Cornwall, Brown Willy, and the slightly smaller though equally impressive Rough Tor. Another fascinating feature is the ‘Cheesewring’, a mighty, top-heavy, naturally forming stack of granite slabs ominously piled on top of each other in a precarious balance, like a giant’s game of Jenga. Indeed, local legend claims the formation is in fact the result of an ancient rock throwing contest between a giant and a man. Just below the ‘Cheesewring’ is a cave, occupied by one Daniel Gumb in the 18th century to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, granite from the nearby Cheesewring Quarry was used to clad the iconic Tower Bridge in London.

Parts of the moor fall within a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has also been designated an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International, owing to its 260 or so breeding pairs of European stonechats and 10,000 Eurasian golden plovers which can be found over the winter months. Indeed, as well as its huge range of livestock – including around 10,000 beef cows and 55,000 sheep – the moor is a haven for wildlife, from semi- wild ponies by the roadside to birds of prey.

For both the avid walker and simply those who delight in a gentle stroll in the countryside, there is plenty to enjoy. There are many circular walks to be taken in and around the moor, catering for all abilities, from easy to moderate riverside ambles, to more adventurous treks and climbs, scaling the mighty tors. For full and up- to- date details on a range of walks, it’s always best to consult a good recent guide book or online guide, with specific marker points to guide you along your journey. A s always, with any walk, it’s important to plan your route ahead, and check the latest information on specific routes, as there is occasional rerouting due to weather damage or temporary closures. Likewise, it’s essential to ensure you have a good pair of boots, clothing for all eventualities and plenty of supplies – a picnic, well- stocked with local Cornish delicacies, is an absolute must!

Bear in mind that, while stunning in its beauty, parts of the moor can be very exposed to the elements and the weather can change quickly, so having a wind and waterproof coat to hand is always a good idea, even on a seemingly bright day. At the same time, while it may sound obvious, you don’t want to find yourselves stranded, so if embarking on a circular route ensure its practical to complete in the time you have, once you’re committed – unsurprisingly, p hone signal isn’t always fantastic out on the moor! Walking on the moor is perfect with the dog too, although always be aware not to disturb wildlife and livestock. There are some simple rules to follow when walking in the countryside, to ensure it’s left as you found it, and it may be advisable to keep your dog on a lead in certain areas. But, don’t let these small caveats put you off, and with just a little p re- planning, there’s nothing better than a hike through the glorious Cornish countryside.

Each visit to Bodmin Moor rewards with new discoveries as the landscape shifts with the seasons, and you’ll never tire of new routes to ex p lore. Don’t forget your camera too, to capture those special moments and fabulous views, and if you have them, binoculars, for wildlife spotting – though watch out for that Beast of Bodmin! Wherever you choose to start your next adventure, you’re never too far from a traditional country pub. So make sure you find a nice spot to mark your half way point, or celebrate the end of the walk with a hearty lunch and a glass of something cold and refreshing.

Photo: Rough Tor Minions - CREDIT Visit Cornwall, Matt Jessop

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