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.
There are several rock formations on top of Stowe’s Hill, but the most remarkable has to be ‘The Cheesewring’. Its unusual name seems to have come from the cheese in cider-making. In this instance cheese has nothing to do with the dairy product, but the process in which apples are crushed to squeeze out the juice and then topped with a layer of straw and repeated several times over. Each layer is called a cheese, and it’s not difficult to see the similarities.
The Cheesewring has seven slabs of granite, with the small ones at the bottom and the larger ones at the top. What makes this tor seem even more impossible is that it lies half way down a slope and appears to be on the verge of toppling over the edge into the quarry below. Nature can be quite remarkable, even if local folklore insists that it was the result of a rock-throwing contest by giants.
It seems a shame that this landscape was spoilt by quarrying, but in 1839 when permission was granted to quarry here, I don’t suppose the environment was looked at in the same way as it is now, and not only that, stone was a vital building material and granite was in high demand.
Not only was the stone used locally, it was transported to places much further away. Well known London landmarks such as Tower Bridge, Tate Britain and the Albert Memorial all used granite from the Cheesewring Quarry in their construction: It was even transported as far afield as India and Singapore.
As with most other industries in Britain, cheaper alternatives were found elsewhere and eventually it closed in 1934.
Today, the scarred rock face is sometimes used by rock climbers, but generally speaking it’s a peaceful place to come and maybe take a closer look at the make-up of this tough, hard volcanic rock.
Granite was used as a building material long before the quarry opened. There’s plenty of the stuff still just lying around, and what may appear as a wall of loosely piled rocks on top of Stowe’s Hill, is in fact a Neolithic boundary wall known as Stowe’s Pound, built around 5,000 years ago.
Our ancient ancestors put some of this granite to good use and in my next article on the area around Minions I will discuss some of the things that it was used for.
Before leaving Stowe’s Hill though, there’s one last thing I should mention. If for no other reason, it’s worth coming up here just for the views alone. Bodmin Moor isn’t large, and Stowe’s Hill isn’t that high, but this is as good as it gets for an appreciation of what the moor is all about. It’s easy enough to get to, but moorland is notoriously unpredictable, so make sure that you wear proper walking shoes, expect a change in the weather, and watch out for old mine workings and granite boulders that lie around just waiting to spoil your day.