First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
On Bodmin Moor stand sixty or so stout lads, all turned to stone for daring to play at hurling on a Sunday. As for an impious pair of music-makers who blew their bagpipes on the sacred day – why, there they are alongside, struck to stone for ever more.
Cornwall is full of Neolithic monuments and hoary legends, but the three conjoined stone circles of The Hurlers and their attendant pair of Pipers are tremendously impressive in their flattish moorland setting at the edge of the old tin mining and granite quarrying village of Minions.
From the Hurlers we made north across the moor to scramble among a clitter of boulders to the top of Stowe’s Hill, an abrupt bump in this wild landscape. Up at the summit, the winds and frosts of millennia have weathered the coarse granite into tors or piles of slabs, tremendously undercut, so smoothed and shaped that they seem more like artistic installations than natural features.
Most photogenic of all is The Cheesewring, a stack of wedges piled up as the result of a boulder-chucking contest between St Tuc and Giant Uther – so some say.
We skeltered down the hillside through a quarry of black cliffs where jackdaws glided in and out of the cracks that held their nests. From the quarry mouth a wriggle of former tramways led away. We followed one past a pair of ominous pit shafts, dark bushy holes chuting straight down and away from the upper world.
Below lay the site of the Phoenix mine, out of which six hundred Victorian workers dug tin, copper and manganese. Ruined sheds lay around the feet of a tremendous black stone engine house, from which a great red chimney pointed like a finger in the sky.
We dropped down into the valley and up a scrubby hillside to join the broad, firm track-bed of another old industrial railway. It was a three-mile walk back to Minions, trudging a circle round the waist of Caradon Hill past massive mine ruins, deep quarry canyons with rain-sculpted flanks, and unexpected corners of green leaves and trickling streams.
You could spend all your time walking the delectable coasts of Cornwall, and never even dream that these extraordinary and historic landscapes lie just inland – the other side of the county’s coin.
How hard is it? 6½ miles; moderate moorland walk; a little rock scrambling at The Cheesewring.
Start: Hurlers car park, Minions, Liskeard PL14 5LE (OS ref SX 260711)
Getting there: Bus 74 (Liskeard)
Road – Minions is signed off B3254, Liskeard (A38) – Launceston (A30)
Walk: From car park follow track to The Pipers twin stones (257713), then The Hurlers stone circles (258714). Head north to climb Stowe’s Hill to The Cheesewring granite tor (258724). Descent right (east) side to track through quarry (259723) and on. Pass two fenced mine shafts (260722); in 50m, left down to old tramway (262722). Right; in ¼ mile, fork left at granite marker post (264719) to cross road (265717). Stiles, yellow arrows (YA) to road (267716). Left; in 100m, right (gate) down to cross stream (268715). Don’t turn left (YA), but climb slope to disused railway (269712); left. In 1¼ miles, just past spoil heap (279701), bear left on track to Tokenbury Corner car park (280697). Right on old railway. In ¾ mile pass engine house and chimney; through arch (269698). In ½ mile, just past reservoir in a dip on right, fork left (264701) into dip. At ‘Private’ gate, left across granite stile (263703); right on green track to Minions.
Lunch/Accommodation: Cheesewring Hotel, Minions (01579-362321, cheesewringhotel.co.uk)
Info: Liskeard TIC (01579-349148)