bunn (bunn) wrote,

Greenscoombe Wood : in Quest of a Hillfort

Having discovered that there was a hill fort in Greenscoombe wood just up the Tamar valley from where I live, I decided to go and find it.  This proved to be not entirely simple.

  I like to think (though probably I am lying to myself) that I would have walked over there if I had not been leading a small army of ancient dogs, including one who really cannot cope with walking far on tarmac.  As it was, we drove to Luckett, the second-next village up the valley and walked from there.

Although technically this is a terrible photo, all dark and blurry, I rather like the composition: man and dog peering out over the valley as though wondering what on earth they are doing there. I might even try painting it sometime.

The first thing we found was a mineshaft.  I didn't know there was a mine over here, but the whole valley is riddled with them. It's like living on an Emmenthal cheese.

Somewhere inside the ivy, there is a mine chimney.

Then we found a wall that had been almost completely eaten by a very hungry tree. 

After a fair bit of wandering around, we found ourselves next to a field which seemed to have a sort of lump in it. It definitely looked kind of Old and Round.  I took a couple of photos of it, but it's hard to take photos of a large gentle lump.  We voted this to be probably what we were looking for and retreated.

Alas, checking the details when I got home, I found that the thing we were looking for was not in a field.  It was in the wood.  Clearly we had found the Wrong Lump.

So, the next day I returned and had another wander round.   I found many very mossy buildings.  I assumed at the time these were more mine buildings, but the Internet thinks they are from market gardening.  

The market gardens came after the mines. In the nineteenth century the valley was something of a blackened industrial wasteland, filled with miners and chimneys. 

Then the copper, tin and arsenic started to run out, and the mines began to close.  But there was still all the transport in place - railway lines, canals, a navigable river - so people began to fill the steep-sided sheltered valleys with gardens growing strawberries, cherries, apples and pears, and they sent the fruit away down the river to be shipped along the coast to London.  

I'm not sure quite why the market gardens died - maybe they didn't make enough money to keep the river boats running? Everyone remembers the mines, because they left such scars on the landscape (you can still see some of the particularly contaminated spoilheaps, because even in a sodden climate where moss grows on almost anything, nothing grows there).  But the market gardens seem to have just quietly vanished without anyone really noticing.

The gardens have left remnants too : old unpruned trees in hedges and corners of fields, and apparently there are still strawberries growing wild in Greenscoombe wood, though I didn't notice any of them this time.  Now there are great plantations of conifers where the gardens used to be, but those seem to be passing into history too - there are no replantings going on, and I think the wood is being moved over gradually to being a butterfly sanctuary. 

Some of the trees had moved into this building.  I kept well clear lest they be hungry like the tree I met yesterday.

At the top of the hill, I found what looked suspiciously like a hill fort.  Or, at least, a lump.  Here is a bee, or possibly a hoverfly, poised to attack the fort. You can see one of the conifer plantations on the left there.

However, once I got close, I realised that the hillfortish lump was surrounded by rather-too-modern-looking walls and the remnants of more crumbling buildings.  Well, modern-ish, anyway.  Possibly there's a hillfort underneath them somewhere?

Leaving the lump, we found ourselves descending somewhat precipitously.  Despite the fact we'd been walking for well over an hour by this time and all dogs present were over eleven, we tackled the descent with some style, I thought.

On the way back down, I noticed this brilliant granite pillar.  It looks like it's watching the ford.

Some of us had a drink at the ford.  Others played with sticks.  Mollydog focussed on ensuring that I had captured her most flattering angle and HUGE DARK eyes.

Tags: history, photos, walks
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