Saturday, 24 January 2009

Holy Bay

I asked F to decide between sea, woods or hills. I wanted him to choose woods so I could hunt for a branch for my bell branch but he chose sea because he wanted to go somewhere with some life. I got to choose what sea though and it has to be said living relatively near the end of a peninsula, there is a lot of sea to go to. I wanted to go somewhere new so I got my map to remind me and before long I had it all picked out and off we went with F none the wiser.

The sky was blue with little white clouds, rimmed in an angrier shade of grey, as if threathening rain they couldn't quite deliver. The radio was playing some lovely upbeat music such as this lovely, lovely song by Sigur Ros and this plays as a soundtrack in my head throughout the afternoon. F didn't guess where we were going until I turned off the main road and by that time it was obvious. The road didn't go many other places.

I took him to Holywell Bay. This is an unusual place. It would be a valley that opens out into a bay except that a stream and some sand dunes got in the way. Two streams meet and snake around through a wetland area before passing to the south of the dunes by the cliffs of the southern headland. The streams have in effect kept an entrance to the bay clear and once you walk through, the bay opens up to the north where the far headland lies, backed by sand dunes all the way.

We get there and head up on the path of the southern headland first and we enjoy the view across the bay. The coastal path skirts military land here an dthe headland is home to some serious kit and it is not possible to do anything but skirt the edge. This is a shame because on this headland there is an iron age fort and apparently the bounary wall still exists. Built within the fort is some electrical gadgetry, possibly radar. The view from the headland, is however, amazing, even though we only went a little way.

This is a holy place. Holywell really does have a holy well. I haven't been there but I have seen pictures. I intend to go one day. In fact this place has two wells, the second is in a sea cave that can only be reached at low tide. The waters from these parts are know for their curative properties. I think there is also a large barrow near here as well.

The other side of the southern headland of Penhale is Perran Bay. It is here that the patron saint of Cornwall St Piran landed following his travels from Ireland on a millstone (don't ask me). He founded his oratory in the dunes and bought Christianity to Cornwall. This earliest church made of wattle and daub was lost to the sands and another was built of stone. This too was lost as was the one that followed it. Possibly the earliest site of christianity in Great Britain outside of Ireland, lost to the sands. legend has it that an entire city lies beneath those same sands.

In those long ago days the sands were loose and untamed by anything but water. They threatened nearby homes as well as the church. One family lived here who it is believed were friends with Sir Walter Raliegh himself. Knowing of their plight, when he came across Marram Grass on his travels, he endeavoured to take them some. The grass took hold and from here it was introduced to dunes elsewhere. Mines and military history sit on these dunes. Personal history too as F and I on our first date wanted to talk so we left the bright lights of Truro to walk on the beach here, alone, at night, in the cold of February.

Although I have spent much time in Perran Bay and walking it's sand dunes, I had never been to it's neighbour Holywell Bay which lay glinting in the spring sun beneath me. We sit and eat sandwiches on the edge of the cliff only metres above the stream as it heads for the sea. The sea and the stream have carved a gorge through rock and the tide hisses through and churns on the rocks. As we sit we watch people on the beach below come and go, casting long shadows. Dogs jump in the water and a horse skitters at the sea. Gulls soar in the updrafts. The sun shines. Empty shells lie on the grass, left by birds or the sea.

We head down onto the beach and F decides that struggling up to the top of the sand dune would do me more good than following the stream round. Again the view is fantastic. The sea is whipped white near the coast and a tidemark of seaweed has been left. As we descend onto the beach I start to add to my collection of shells. A piece of sea glass, some string. Some more string and yet more string. I gathered a lot and there was even more there. Pieces of net or rigging, cut loose and bought in by the sea and the wind. Not just from one vessel but from many. Blues, Greens, Orange, Black, White. I collect. F collects to, several beautiful mussel shells worked by the sea so they have lost their blackness and now have an array of vivid blues and purples.

We walk to the sea and run from the waves. We walk back towards the stream and stand by the gorge. The tide is coming in and sometimes makes it to the pool in front of the gorge. The sea water races over the stream as a little tidal bore. Sometimes the sea meets itself as it pours over the sand, making an island. F can't resist climbing up onto this almost island, opposite our picnic spot. Another man can not resist the urge to conquer and his dog runs after but gets caught by the flowing water.

This stream feels special to me. It drains from the holy well as well as the dunes of St Piran's Oratory to the south. I don't think I shall return to this beach too often. I should like to keep it as a special treat. In the Summer it will teem with tourists soaking up the sun but for now it is a wild and windy place. The whole bay feels special.

We slowly head back, knowing the weather is changing. Grey clouds are coming in from the south and there is the smell of rain on the wind. It will rain tonight, but not for now. Now is perfect.


I am not the only person to be affected so by this bay. Have at look at this beautiful piece about the well in the sea cave.

1 comment:

  1. *sigh*...soooooo beautiful... the Mother's own birth waters....A lovely piece in the link too *grin* religion 'usurping' the old..tee hee..:0