King Arthur and the white roads


It’s easy to see how Arthurian legend includes Cornwall as his possible seat of power. Ancient moorland peppered with drovers tracks, palaeolithic burial sites and the ruined remains of the tin industry, lend the landscape a mythic air. I’m visiting on a short break, equipped with my cross bike, a love of open spaces and an eye for a window of opportunity.

St Just is a hybrid place of visitors and workers; workmanlike but appealing. Galleries share the space with the remenants of industry, white vans and camper vans pass through. This was our base for the week; a quiet cottage on a country lane a 3/4 mile walk from the main village, out in the sticks, a stones throw from urban liberation.

When I ride, I far prefer quiet lanes and rolling hills. Moorland (if it can be found), farm tracks and a sense of place from the passage of time. Cornwall offers all of this in abundance. Leaving the cottage and heading inland, I quickly encountered short climbs and cobbles, rutted farm tracks and open moor. The cross bike – equipped with gravel grinder tyres – was the perfect choice.

 

The moor is home to a Celtic burial site, marked by standing stones and a sign that asks for respect. It’s clear that this site has an ongoing relevance, indicated by the request not to dig or leave offerings. Standing high above it, slabs of granite occupy high perches and survey all that goes on. From this high point the sea calls and seduces.

Leave the moor and hit white roads and bridleways with non-existent human or motorised traffic. Very occasionally I passed a dog walker and enjoyed a brief, friendly conversation. An enjoyable aspect of these routes Is the technicality of the bridlepaths. They’re not overly technical, but they do demand full attention. Over-egg the speed on one of the frequent downhill sections and you’ll be sorting out punctures quick smart.

Hitting the coastal bridlepath is a dream. If the sea breeze that cools your body doesn’t raise your spirits and free your soul, you surely can’t be alive. I’ve rarely seen such a moody, attractive landscape (with the exceptions of Skye and Pembrokeshire). The windows of ruined tin worksframe the sea and sky as the path pitches and yaws. I want to stop and gaze as much as I want to ride and explore. These are views that never get tired.

Each of my rides concluded with a short burst of quiet road to return me to the contemplative haven of the cottage. Boil the kettle, indulge in a cream scone and reflect on the ride at leisure. I could get used to this.

I’m very, very keen to explore the area in far more detail. This visit to Cornwall was far too short. A situation that in the very near future will certainly be addressed.

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2 replies »

  1. As my most recent blog entry shows, I live in what passes for the most historic part of the United States, but this post is making me blush. My hundreds of years of history bow to your thousand. However, if you’re ever in Western Massachusetts, I’ll gladly show you ’round some rolling hills and farm tracks that’ll lift your heart.

    • Massachusetts is a fine part of the world – I thoroughly enjoyed my visit back in 2001. The next time I cross the pond, I’ll bring the bike and take you up on that offer 😊.

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