Today Ben and I visited Perranarworthal church and her wardens. We discovered that Perranwell (the nearby village) is named after the ancient well of St Piran. Down a narrow, shrouded path deep in drifts of autumn leaves, through what looked like a private garden gate, down steep, moss-covered steps, there is, indeed, an ancient well. It is fed by a natural spring, with water collecting in a stone bath, overshadowed by stone walls and a roof. Funny how I lived here for 18 years a few miles from the well, and had never heard of it before today.
I love the ancient spiritual history of this county. Churches are almost entirely thousands of years old, dating back, most of them, from Norman times, more often than not built on sites which have been used for worship before even that, with buildings of wood, or old monasteries. You can traipse around Carn Brea without noticing the remnants of its bronze age settlement, although you can hardly fail to notice the castle, built in 1379 as a chapel to St Michael. But beneath the bracken there are hundreds of flint arrowheads, remnants of celts from thousands of years past. My sister, Chess, was married in Gwennap, one of the churches I'm working in; it wasn't until last week I discovered the church was built on the site of an ancient celtic abbey, parts of which still stand.
Coming back here, I feel strength flowing from the land into my soul. I have always found myself more at home in Cornwall than anywhere else, and not just because it is familiar and I grew up here; it's home in a much deeper way. My bones feel hewn from Carn Brea granite. To have been born and lived all your life under the shadow of that great monolith, rugged and ominous and beautiful, shapes you. My father still stretches and swells with the land, though it's a long time since he farmed it. In the long winter seasons he sighs and retreats, muttering about the days drawing in and the long nights; with the first light of spring he perks, and the light comes on in his eyes. He moves with the weather, flourishing and retreating as the land does. There is a sense within myself of belonging here, and not with the towns, with the streets and houses I grew up in, but with the sea and the sky and most importantly, with the earth beneath my feet. My forefathers have ploughed and sowed and reaped this soil for centuries, subsisting from the fruits of the earth, hungering when it hardened and died. Standing on Carn Brea, wind hurling itself around me, the land stretched out before me and the sea spreading the horizon, I come alive. I love this place.
|Carn Brea castle (my future home, in all my dreams...)|