The County of Cornwall, home of Dookes H.Q., nestles at the extreme South West Corner of the United Kingdom and juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The name “Cornwall” is believed by some to come from the Anglo-Saxon “Corn-Wallis,” meaning Land of the Welsh. This stems from the time when invading Saxons pushed the indigenous Celts out of England into what we now know as Wales, Scotland, Cornwall and Ireland. In the old Cornish language, the County is known as “Kernow,” though strictly speaking Cornwall is not a County, it’s really a Duchy, but that’s for another day! Confused? Welcome to the club!
Cornwall is also known as “The Land of The Saints.” It has an incredibly high number of saints associated with it, over fifty to my knowledge. There are numerous villages and places named after various of them; St Neot, St Minver and St Teath are just three that spring to mind.
All that aside, Cornwall is arguably most famously associated with King Arthur, the legendary King of the Britons.
The big trouble with Arthur though, is that the real man and the legend have become totally separated. It’s not just Hollywood films to blame for that either, the Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth was “bigging up” Arthur way back in the 12th Century!
There are two main sites in Cornwall that are indelibly linked with the Arthurian Legends. The dramatic, yet forbidding Tintagel Castle and the remote, hauntingly beautiful, Dozmary Pool.
Tintagel is reputedly the place where Arthur was conceived, though some people also believe it to be the site of his famous court of Camelot. The truth, not surprisingly, is a little different! Located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island and standing high above the Atlantic surf, there is evidence of habitation going back to the Dark Ages, well before the Romano-British period over 2000 years ago. It is believed that the regional Kings of Dumnonia may have built a summer residence here as well.
The real Castle that we know today, however, dates from the 13th Century when Richard Duke of Cornwall began construction and it is the romantic ruins of this castle that people from all over the world are drawn to visit.Leaving the legend for one moment, the place is stunning and no wonder that it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors. . . who I must admit mostly come to look for King Arthur! Looking due north from Tintagel Castle is Barras Head a strangely shaped headland that some say is a slumbering dragon, have a look at the photograph and you might be able to see what they mean.
Situated high up on Bodmin Moor, this is one of the few natural inland bodies of fresh water in Cornwall. Way back in 1951 it was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its biology, ecology and wildlife. Evidence of human activity around the lake stretches back to prehistoric times, that’s over ten thousand years ago. More than 2,500 pieces of worked flint have been found including many implements, tools and arrow heads. Interestingly the nearest source of flint to Dozmary is nearly twenty miles away whilst some examples appear to have originated over one hundred miles further east. Clearly our ancestors were not afraid of a good walk!
According to legend Dozmary Pool is where Arthur rowed out to the Lady of the Lake to receive the sword Excalibur. The Pool is also where Sir Bedivere returned the sword, as Arthur lay dying.
Legend says that the sword was received by a female hand, Tennyson wrote;
“Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful, that caught him by the hilt and brandished him three times, and drew him under in the mere.”
On a sunny day it is certainly very pleasant, but when the mists roll across the moor it’s waters take on a forbidding leaden hue and it is best left alone with its ghosts. Could this really be Avalon?
Of course there is another Legend seen around these parts too. . .
Another day I’ll tell you about more Cornish Legends, like Knockers, Spriggans and the Beast of Bodmin Moor; gotta dash, gotta ride!
“. . . and your destination, you don’t know it, Avalon.”
Catch you soon.