A Thousand Miles of History XXVIII: The head of the dragon…


We have lost count of the number of hillforts we have seen, climbed and contemplated… but Carn Lês Boel would be our first true promontory fort.  These Cornish ‘fortifications’ or ‘cliff castles’ seem to be nothing of the sort, though, and the fortifications, such as they are, seem to defend something other than a settlement.

The narrow, rocky promontory juts out into the sea, surrounded on three sides by sheer and dangerous cliffs.  On the landward side, it is bounded by a bank and ditch which, even accounting for the effects of erosion by centuries of weather, still seems a meagre defence, more symbolic than practical. It extends in a wide arc around the entrance to the headland and would take a lot of men to defend it against aggressors.

The natural defence of the headland is the land itself. Just a few men could hold the narrow neck of land that joins Carn Lês Boel, the ‘bleak cairn’, to the mainland and few could attack it at any one time. Not that there is any evidence of aggression or of defensive action there. In fact, there is no sign of anything to defend at all… no hut circles, burial sites or any trace of a settlement at all. So, what on earth was going on?

The area enclosed by the cliffs is inhospitable. There is nowhere on its rocky, boulder-strewn surface where you could build a home, even if you were foolhardy enough to brave the wind and storms that drive in from the sea.  Another Cornish promontory fort gives the clue; Treryn Dinas, a similar site, was comprehensively excavated and found to be a Bronze Age site with ceremonial and ritual significance that played a central part in the life of the local people. Perhaps Carn Lês Boel fulfilled a similar role?

The entrance to the ‘fort’ is flanked by a pair of standing stones, one of which has now fallen. The remaining stone is very obviously deliberately placed and chocked into position. It was on this stone that the little bird was waiting. The cliffs were wreathed in the thick sea-mist that had dogged our footsteps throughout our time in Cornwall… which was a shame as we should have been able to see Land’s End from here.

We stepped between the stones and walked out onto the headland. “Come on, guys,” I raised my eyes to heaven. “Give us a break!” And, right on cue, They did. The mists parted, lingering just above the distant cliffs. For just long enough to explore, we had immaculate blue skies and the most incredible colours and vistas.

The timing was just too perfect to ignore. Even the birds were in on the act, it seemed, as a wide-winged hawk sailed into one of the shots that should have contained only the soaring gulls and dark cormorants. Feeling uncomfortably like some unlikely weather-mage, I wondered whether the weather was not giving us another clue to the ancient purpose of the ‘fort’. Was this what the Bronze Age ancestors were attempting to do here? Temper the weather that governed the sea routes that bore the early tin-traders across the water?

The working of ore, the alchemy of turning stone to metal, was a new thing. The advent of metal for tools and weapons instead of stone heralded great change in the way we lived. The old legends paint the smiths and metalworkers as magical, often godlike beings… surely a folk memory of the respect and esteem in which those who forged the precious bronze were once held. For a people in tune with the natural world, and dependant upon fair weather to sail both for trade and to fish, it would make sense that they might seek to influence the weather. To call in the mists…or dismiss them.

One main reason for visiting Carn Lês Boel, though, was that it marks the place where the Michael Line… the dragon-line that runs right across England… makes its most westerly landfall. Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst had dowsed and mapped the lay of the ley in their book, ‘The Sun and the Serpent’ and we had brought a copy with us for reference, so that we could visit some of the sites that fall on the Michael Line.

Within that book is an iconic picture of Hamish Miller seated on the rocks of Carn Lês Boel… and, in homage to his work and vision, we wanted to recreate the image in essence, if not in detail. The rock was not hard to find, being the one distinctive feature of the headland.

As we left, the mists closed in once more. We felt we had been gifted with a brief glimpse into another world…or the Otherworld. And we still had to take the long misty pathway back to the car. But the place was not yet done with us, it seems. Doing the research as I wrote tonight, I caught sight of a picture of the beach below Carn Lês Boel… Nanjizal Cove.

The image stopped me in my tracks and left me staring open mouthed at the screen. I have searched for years, wondering if it were a real place or some confused but magical memory of the Durdle Door or some northern beach.   Yet, it is a place I know well… I know its pools and textures, the sound of its waterfall and the waves through the portal called the Zawn Pyg, the ‘Song of the Sea’, yet I have been there only in a recurring dream that has been with me as long as I can remember.

File:Zawn Pyg chasm and rock arch at Nanjizal beach August 2013.JPG

Song of the Sea. Image: Jim Champion

I will not tell all of that dream, for some things, I think, may be broken when held up to too much light. Suffice it to say that within it I met the people of the sea and they showed my how to dance with the waves, how to scale them like mountains and laugh as I fell, one with the water as it crashed on the shore. I may never swim in those waters in reality, but one day, I think I need to visit that hidden cove…

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in adventure, albion, Ancestors, Ancient sites, Books, Don and Wen, mystery, Photography, Sacred sites, Stuart France and Sue Vincent and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to A Thousand Miles of History XXVIII: The head of the dragon…

  1. I love your writing Sue, you get my mind working. A fascinating coastline and the mist adds to the mystery you speak of, again a beautiful post and I’m excited because we’re Cornwall bound very soon 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. buffalopound says:

    I’m seeing Cornwall through different eyes through your writing Sue. You must live a mystical life 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lady Nightwave Brenda Marie says:

    This is so amazing, thank-you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jenanita01 says:

    I too, would love to explore that cove… I also need to visit Cornwall again and soon as the Land of Mists is calling me back…


  5. Patty says:

    Reblogged this on Campbells World.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jennie says:

    Finding a place that has been in your dreams must be emotionally overwhelming. This is wonderful. I love the old photo in the book alongside your photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh wow, oh wow! Oh my, Sue what an incredible gift to be shown that door in the dream and then in person. Pure magic! I love this!!! ❤ p.s. I also love the re-enactment of Stuart on the rocks. Perfect 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Not Tomatoes and commented:
    A very magical post by Sue Vincent ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Smith says:

    This gave me goosebumps.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Widdershins says:

    I think you do too. 🙂


  11. Reblogged on Google, Facebook and Twitter.


  12. willowdot21 says:

    As I have said before Cornwall is a mistical , magical place. A place of dreams, and you take us by the hand and guide us through , thank you Sue. 🌹🌹


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.