Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bodmin Moor

Our visit to Cornwall in June included several days on Bodmin Moor. When I hear the word "moor" I envision Heathcliff and Cathy running wild among desolate rocky outcrops, their hair streaming back in the wind. Or the hound of the Baskervilles lurking in the mist, waiting for its next victim. Much of the moor is indeed wide open spaces, rock-strewn hilltops and stubby, wind-ravaged vegetation. There are long, sweeping views with few signs of humans and their influence.
The residents here are long-maned white and black Cornish ponies, sharp-horned, colorful sheep and shaggy wild-looking cattle.
This is a place of mist and haze and sunny days are rare. And yet the very openness of the landscape makes it feel exhilarating rather than oppressive.
Ferns unfurl among the rocks and the vegetation is vivid green even if it is low and close to the ground. Everywhere, runlets of water trace patterns in the land. It was fairly dry when we were there, but it's obvious that this is a place that is wet and boggy much of the year. 
Tucked away in a deep valley of the moor was an ancient farmstead that again reminded me of Wuthering Heights (although the book is set in Yorkshire rather than Cornwall). 
Parts of the Mennabroom Farmhouse B & B (where we stayed two nights) dates to the 1300's, including this ancient hearth. I can almost imagine the surly Earnshaw servant, Joseph, reading his bible nearby and muttering curses about evil Heathcliff and Cathy and how they're going to hell for their sinful ways. 

Mennabroom is surrounded by gardens and vegetation that capture the bucolic charm of a rural England that has existed for centuries.  

A highlight of our trip to the moor was a hike up Rough Tor (pronounced "roo tor"). A tor is a prominent heap of rocks, especially on a hill. The climb took me back to my childhood memory of scrambling up the rock formations of southeast Wyoming.  
Although the "tors" of Wyoming are surrounded by golden prairie and sagebrush, and stubby pines and mountains often loom in the background. Rough Tor is a different sort of landscape, older and far more worn away by geologic time and years of mist and rain.
At the top of the tor is a marker dedicated to the Wessex soldiers who gave their lives in World War II. It features a gryphon, another reminder you are in a place steeped in centuries and centuries of mythology
All of Cornwall felt like enthralling and fascinating visit to the world of my long-ago ancestors. But the moor aroused my most intense hereditary memories. I could imagine my forbears in this wild landscape, which still seems only partially tamed today. (My great-grandfather Ernest Logan claimed that the Logan name came from a "loggin" or rocking stone off the coast of Cornwall.) I’m reminded why I write historical novels. Because the past often seems more real and compelling to me that modern high-tech world I normally inhabit.