Sunday, 24 May 2015

Culbone Church

It's a bank holiday weekend here in the UK which means that half the country headed to the South West - me included!

With a typical bank holiday weather forecast ( ie wet) we didn't want to go too far so headed with the crowds to Porlock Weir.

After a very slow trip it was lunchtime when we finally got there so we grabbed a quick coffee and sandwich in the cafe, had a little look in the Exmoor Glass shop and came out with a skull tea light holder ( a somewhat unexpected little gem that shop!) and then took the footpath up through the woods in the direction of Culbone Church.

Uphill of course. As usual.

Still the views were worth it - the forecast rain failed to materialise and the sun filtered through the trees to give the effect in the picture. I was also pleased to note that all the effort I've put into learning our native plants is paying off and I was able to identify the vast majority of the plants in the wood.

The church can only be reached by foot from the coastal path but it is incredibly picturesque, nestling as it does in a valley.

It is dedicated to St Beuno, a Welsh Celtic saint and is said to be the smallest parish church in England. It's said to date back to Saxon times and yes there is a big yew tree in the graveyard and as expected it is also said to have pagan origins.

Nice font

Inside the church does look Saxon. It is very small and 30 people would fill it easily.

Leaving the churchyard  we happened upon some more skulls - actually the seed heads of the wild snapdragon!

 Leaving the church we headed up the valley in search of a neolithic stone row.   It was a very pretty walk but very steep! Leading up through a farm we rescued a lamb that had managed to get itself trapped in a wire fence ( it panicked when it saw us and tried to dive through the fence, unfortunately its baby horns then acted as barbs and it was stuck) and eventually found our objective, However they were very small stones and surrounded by woodland so I'm afraid no pictures.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunning with the Devil

Exmoor this week - it ALWAYS rains on me on Exmoor  but not this time!

These are Tarr Steps. The longest clapper bridge in the UK at 180ft. Local legend has it that they were placed by the Devil so that he could sunbathe comfortably. Whatever the origins, the bridge is said to date back to 1000BCE or 1400CE depending on who you talk to. It has certainly been washed away and repaired during that time frame - the last time being in 2012

So lunch at the pub first is always a civilised way to start a walk and as this is actually quite a long drive it seemed like a good idea. The plan was to cross the bridge and walk up the River Barle onto Exmoor and tray and find the Caratacus Stone on Winsford Hill.

Being a nice sunny Saturday the bridge was popular with visitors but as is always the way, once you get a couple of hundred yards from the car park, the crowds seem to vanish and within half a mile or so we had the valley to ourselves.

 Well apart from the odd pony or two of course. I think this one needs his fringe cut!

Several uphill miles later ( or at least what felt like it) we found the stone. It's had a nice little house built for it to protect what is left of the inscription from the elements.

The inscription is now very faint but it is possible to make out some of it. It reads" CARAACI NEPVS" or possible CARATACI NEPVS" which translates as "grandson or immediate descendant of Caratacus".

The stone was first mentioned in 1219 and it's little shelter added in 1906.


Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Mernaid of Zennor

Zennor - famous for two things. The Tinner's Arms ( good food) and  of course the legend of the Mermaid.

It's a well known story but what is a mermaid carving doing inside the church?

After a good lunch in the Tinner's we thought we'd go and find her. Fortunately the two buildings are virtually side by side so although we had to brave the rain we didn't get wet.

It's a nice old church. There's been one on the site for 1400 years but the current one is part Norman but with later additions in the 13 and 15  centuries CE. As is so frequently the case it's built on Bronze and Iron Age settlement foundations.

And here she is  - the Mermaid on the side of the chair. She is easy to find being in one of the side chapels. The carving is believed to be some 600 years old so did the legend inspire the carving? Or the carving the legend? I guess we will never know.

As to what she is doing in a church - according to the notice beside the chair, she reminds us that St Senara came from across the water 1400 years ago to bring his/her message and found the church.So that is all right then! ( I'm sure the parallels with the Greek myth of Danaƫ and Perseus are purely coincidental...)

This has nothing to do with the mermaid but as we turned to leave, my eye was caught by the stained glass window. I've done a bit of digging around on the Internet but I have yet to discover why there is a rather cute green dragon sitting in the chalice!

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