Anyone who enjoys ancient history will enjoy coming to Minions. If you’ve come here by car, and most people do, then the Hurlers car park gives easy access to the well-known ‘Hurlers’ stone circle.
The Hurlers are a circle of standing stones dating back about 3,000 years to the Bronze Age. In actual fact there are three circles and a couple of ‘Pipers’. One of the circles isn’t that easy to identify, but even so, the experts tell us that they are all in alignment, which instead of providing us with answers about what they were used for, poses even more questions – but that’s ancient history for you.
Even if we don’t know why the Hurlers are here, then there’s an explanation as to how they got their name.
Not to be confused with the Irish game of hurling, Cornish hurling is a game which is a bit more like rugby, only with a small silver ball. Cornish legend tells us that the game was being played here one Sunday when the players, and a couple of Pipers who were supplying the music, were turned to stone in punishment for not observing the Sabbath.
As I mentioned in my article about Minions, the village was built for the industrial activities that occurred here during the 19th century – namely copper mining and quarrying, both of which were transported down to the port of Looe via the Liskeard and Caradon Railway.
Both of these activities can be seen on a walk from the village to Stowe’s Hill along the old railway track, but my preferred route is a circular one which also includes some ancient archaeology too.
I’m not going to describe a detailed walk here, but instead I just want to discuss the landscape which provided the reason for all this ancient and industrial activity, and even if you have no interest in any of these things, I’m confident that you will enjoy the stark beauty of this corner of Bodmin Moor.
Walking from Minions in the opposite direction to Caradon Hill is Stowe’s Hill. It’s quite unmistakeable because it’s topped with granite tors, much like those of Dartmoor. These tors are the most obvious signs of granite weathering which has been taking place for tens of thousands of years.
I suspect that some people may wonder if there’s any connection between the 2015 film of the same name and this small village on the south-eastern edge of Bodmin Moor, but as far as I’m aware it’s just purely co-coincidental. Mind you, those pesky little yellow creatures have existed since the beginning of time, and strangely enough the village has many ancient features on its doorstep, so who knows?
I don’t suppose it’s any co-incidence though that the area boasts so many ancient features, as at 300 metres, Minions is the highest village in Cornwall.
Rising above the village even further is Caradon Hill which is topped by a transmitting station with a 237 metre high mast, so the village isn’t difficult to find.
The hill also gives its name to the Caradon Mining District which is part of the Cornish World Heritage site.
During the 19th century around 650,000 tons of copper were mined in the area, and there is plenty of evidence in the form of engine houses that still dot the landscape. One of them is used as the Minions Heritage Centre where you can find out more about the landscape in general as well as the locality’s industrial heritage.
Visitors to Exeter city centre will probably want to see the Cathedral, do a bit of shopping, and maybe take a look around the Museum, but like anywhere, it would be easy to overlook some of the less obvious points of interest.
With this in mind I thought it might be worth taking a closer look at some of the things that might go unnoticed while wandering around the High St.
A word of warning though first. High Street is a pedestrianised area, except that it isn’t. By that I mean that buses use it – and there are plenty of them, so be sure to keep your wits about you when using the road.
The street runs in a north-easterly direction from the top of Fore Street, and if you follow it from this point the first thing you’re likely to miss is Parliament Street.
After crossing over the North St/South St junction the first street on the left is Parliament St, and the reason you’re likely to miss it is because it’s one of the narrowest streets in the world (the award for the narrowest goes to the town of Reutlingen in Germany). It links High St with Waterbeer St and ranges in width between 25 and 48 inches (0.64m and 1.22 m). It may not look that old, but it’s been here since the 14th century, believe it or not.