Saturday, 23 April 2011


For most of the few days we spent perched on a cliff overlooking St. Ives this week, this massive bulldozer was at work at low tide, shoving hundreds of tons of sand toward the shore-line, cordoning off the beach a section at a time. A few hours later, the high spring tide would come in and take it all away as if it had never been there. It was a mighty bulldozer, but not as mighty as nature. I think they must have to do this once a year, because the steps leading down from the cafes disappeared into about 8 feet of sand, leaving about 6 inches of handrail exposed just above the surface.

When we were driving back on wednesday afternoon, I got a phone call from the owner of the house telling me that they would not be arriving until the following week, so we could stay on if we wanted. I didn't fancy the idea of turning the car around and driving for another three and a half hours back to Cornwall, so we just carried on into Bath. Now that the Bank Holiday weekend has turned out to be scorchingly hot, I am glad we did - it would have been murder trying to find a clear-spot on that beach now.

The work of the Devil?

No, just the remnants of a game of bowls as played by giants a few years ago. This rock is huge - about 8 or 9 feet high - and sits incongruously beside a little stream which is close to a road leading to town. I suppose it is a glacial rock, but it is the only rounded one around for miles, so I don't know how it ended up here, where it has obviously been revered and cherished since pre-history. Maybe a giant picked it up to use for a game of bowls with his mates, and maybe it rolled down Trencrom Hill and ended up next to the stream where the local humans found it?

The Cornish have been deliberately trying to confuse outsiders for countless generations. Sometimes this was for a reason, and other times it was/is just for the hell of it.

A London antiquary would turn up in the 17th century and ask the locals what they knew about strange objects such as these, then they would just make up a story on the spot to see if the townie would be fooled by it. The notion that cunning outwits intelligence was probably invented by the Cornish rustics who - lacking the education of their oppressors - took great delight in showing them up as fools and laughing at them behind their backs.

There were many occasions when - on a moonlit night - local smugglers would be caught by government Excise men, fishing about in ponds to recover weighted kegs of brandy which had been hidden in them a few nights before. When asked what they were up to, they would point to the reflection of the full moon in the water's surface, and explain to the officers that they had spotted a large cheese floating there, and were trying to drag it to the edge so they could eat it. I expect they would put on as stupid a voice as they could muster as they waited for the officers to leave, thinking they were deranged. This is where the 'Moon-Rakers' came from - so they say!

On the way home last wednesday, I ended up going round the same roundabout on the A30 three times, because a local wag had turned all the road signs about by 90 degrees. They're still up to their old tricks.


  1. I wonder if anyone has dug down to see how big the stone really is. It does seem that it's only the exposed bit which is 'rounded'.

  2. The bulldozer idea is good when the tide carries all that sand away. On the shores of Lake Michigan are sand dunes that cover 7 houses over years because there is no method to remove it. It is now starting to cover an 8th.

    As for the lore of sounds like a fun place full of whimsy and good stories! Bet you really enjoyed it!

  3. The cheese wags sound like the excuses our old school fishermen offered up to Fisheries Officers.

    Once upon a time the FO used to ride bicycles around so they could creep up at night unawares. Old Salt Sr set nets one night in an illegal fishery and watched as the fisheries officer, who had pedalled about fifteen miles, waded out into the sludge and picked up a hundred yards of corkline. No net. Just corkline. Bwah!

    Re the round stones. They are every where on the south coast of Australia. I didn't quite get your last post about those stone being 'special' as the devil's bowling alley because those round, granite stones sit all over mountain ranges and beaches here. Comes from being in an old, old continent, burnished by weather and fire and evolution.

    Sometimes they are embellished by ancient art, which as you the mason could imagine, is an arduous exercise.

  4. And the bulldozing of sand? Perhaps those residents should just get over themselves when they are thinking about investing in 'waterfront'.

    The sea will always prevail over the exertions of mere humans, thank goodness.

    Read Attwood's novel 'The Year of the Flood' for realistic images of those Gold Coast and Florida skyscraper developments three kilometres out to sea.

    I'm buying a boat, not waterfront real estate!

  5. And you can find hundreds of boats three kilometres inland on the North Japanese coast, Sarah...