Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Going Coastal in Cornwall

We cut across country from Penzance to St. Just and the heart of the Cornish World Heritage Mining site. Ruins of engine houses and smoke stacks testify to the mines that once searched for tin, primarily, but also copper, silver and arsenic. Many of the structures perched precariously over the sea and shafts ran out as far as a mile under the ocean. The road winds in and out among the hills, revealing teasing views of the ocean. Cornish hedges squeeze the pavement, cutting off the scenery and providing little wiggle room when meeting oncoming traffic. Cornish hedges are stone-hearted -- literally. Constructed of stacked, unmortared, granite stones, their crevices provide harbor for seeds that produce vegetation which disguises their unyielding centers. We traveled past Botallack and Pendeen, stopping at Zennor to see the 12th century church of St. Senara with its Mermaid Chair, estimated to be 500 or 600 years old. Local legend tells of a young woman who came to the church and became enamored of a young chorister. A mermaid in disguise, she lured him down to the cove and into the sea and they were never seen again. I personally doubt this story, as I had difficulty getting up the tall granite steps into the church. I can't imagine that it would have been possible with a tail.

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