Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Owlman of Mawnan & the Fraggle Rock lighthouse - Cornish roadtrip Oct 2015

Back last Autumn, after re-watching an old favourite film... 'The Mothman Prophecies', I discovered some stories of a Cornish Mothman! Reading them gave me shivers down my spine as I had lived for nearly 20 years very close to it's location near Falmouth.

"Mawnan Smith is an old village that lies to the west of Rosemullion Head, just a few miles south of Falmouth in Cornwall. Mawnan Wood is one of the most notable features of the area, and has become famous around the world following reports of a mysterious Owlman – a weird, half-bird half-human creature, reportedly spotted there on several occasions.

one of the earliest reports goes back to 1926, when the Cornish Echo reported that two boys were chased by what was described as a very large, ferocious bird. The lads took cover behind a steel grating, but the bird-like beast furiously continued to try to reach them through the grid.
Fifty years later, in 1976, two witnesses described an abnormally large bird resembling a giant owl flying over the tower of the 13th-century parish church of St Mawnan. Teenagers camping in the wood nearby reportedly heard strange hissing sounds and saw what they described as an owl as big as a man. It had burning red eyes and strange claws, shaped like two blacksmith’s pincers.
There were further sightings two years later, when the witnesses added that the huge bird-like thing was a silvery-grey colour. In 1989, a sighting by two more people described the Owlman as being at least 1.5m (5ft) tall, and the next report, from an American visitor in 1995, described sharp claws emanating from the Owlman’s vast wings.

Taking all the reports together, it would seem that something unusual, vaguely resembling a huge bird, was appearing spasmodically in the vicinity of St Mawnan’s Church, but surely monsters aren’t really on the hunt in our green and pleasant land? The church stands in the centre of a prehistoric earthwork, and some researchers have detected a ley line passing through the site. Sensitive and perceptive visitors have also described Mawnan Wood as being alive with energy. Could that natural earth energy be connected with the reports of the Owlman?
A natural explanation could point in the direction of the giant eagle owl, with a wingspan of close on 2m (6½ft). In the darkness of Mawnan Wood, even the most honest and careful witnesses could estimate such a bird as being bigger than it was. The references to the Owlman’s feet may also indicate a normal giant owl. The witnesses referred to its pincer-like toes, and owls’ feet are zygodactylic – two toes pointing backwards and two pointing forwards – which would give the impression of two pairs of pincers.
The mystery is similar to the Mothman of West Virginia in the USA, which was sighted in 1966. Like the strange Cornish entity, the Mothman was described as a humanoid figure with large wings. But whatever the origins of the Owlman, if you go down to Mawnan Wood today, you may be in for a surprise."

Here is one of the many other accounts online...
Knowing all this, I couldn't resist tagging along with my Husband on his next business trip so that we could investigate! He brought his camera equipment so that we could shoot some footage for short documentary.. just for fun :)
We headed for the Churchyard late afternoon for a wander. It's a beautiful place. So peaceful & surprisingly welcoming. 

"The name Mawnan came from a monk named St.Maunanus who was supposed to have   come to Mawnan in the 6th century.He
used the sanctuary well.The church was dedicated to him it was built of granite in the 13th century on the site of an ancient earthwork.The church is in a beautiful position over-looking the mouth of the   Helford river." 
We took a walk down into Mawnan wood, just behind the churchyard and in the fading Autumn afternoon sunlight it did have a very eerie feel about it.
The path slopes down & winds through the trees to reach the mouth of the Helford river & the sea beyond. As dusk fell we stood in the half light and listened for the Owl calls... or rustling of strange creatures in the trees.
Sadly there was none. So we headed for the supermarket in Falmouth for some food supplies & dinner before returning after dark to begin our vigil.

We slightly surprised a lovely lady who arrived to lock up the church, but she happily chatted to us about the church & it's history & wished us happy hunting :)
We lurked about there for some time, hoping to capture some strange or curious happening... but we ended up sitting on the bench discussing how 'un-scary' it actually was. Could have happily stayed there for a midnight cuppa in the dark, but we headed back to our Wilbury (car) for a coffee & a giggle at our 'ghosthunting' recordings....

It was a peaceful & uneventful night... unless you count being woken by rain pattering on the roof & coming in the slightly open window, and at first light we waved farewell to the Owlman of Mawnan... wherever he was. And headed out for a day on the Roseland Peninsula.

To reach the Roseland from here you need to take the car ferry across the Fal. We'd never been on it before so that was a bit of fun.

"St Mawes is a small town opposite Falmouth, on the Roseland Peninsula. It lies on the east bank of the Carrick Roads, a large waterway created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded as the melt waters caused the sea level to rise dramatically, creating an immense natural harbour, often claimed to be the third largest in the world. It was once a busy fishing port, but the trade declined during the 20th century and it now serves as a popular tourist location."

We were bound for St Mawes Castle... 

"One of the finest of Henry VIII's coastal defenses, built around 1540 to defend Carrick Roads and the Fal estuary from attack by Spain and France. St Mawes Castle was built to a clover leaf design, with a large tower overlooking three circular bastions."

 First, a pit stop for a cup of tea & some breakfast...

Then into one of my favourite castles to date. From the outside it is just so pretty! Not at all like a military fortress. It's ornate decoration and unusual shape really sets it apart from most.

English Heritage provide audio guides to listen to on your way around their properties. We have found these to be well worth using as they give interesting insights into the history of a place.
Using actors to re-enact events or eras in the castle history it created a brilliant connection to the people who once lived and worked here.
The waxwork dummies accompany the sound of cannon fire & shouts alerting the sight of the Spanish Armarda on the horizon.

St Mawes castle was a really enjoyable outing. Probably one of my favourites.
And best of all we got to drive a short distance around the headland to St Anthony's Lighthouse... 
A bit of a pilgramage for me as it was used in the filming of a cult kids tv show that I LOVED when I was growing up.
Fraggle Rock :)

"St. Anthony's lighthouse was featured in the UK version of Fraggle Rock, as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse" in external scenes. Nearby St. Mawes also featured in some scenes from the programme."

"Dance your cares away... worries for another day.
Let the music play.... down in Fraggle Rock!"

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Avebury stone circle and the White Horses of Wiltshire

"Avebury henge and stone circles are one of the greatest marvels of prehistoric Britain. Built and much altered during the Neolithic period, roughly between 2850 BC and 2200 BC, the henge survives as a huge circular bank and ditch, encircling an area that includes part of Avebury village. Within the henge is the largest stone circle in Britain - originally of about 100 stones - which in turn encloses two smaller stone circles.
Avebury is part of an extraordinary set of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial sites that seemingly formed a vast sacred landscape. They include West Kennet Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, The Sanctuary, Windmill Hill, and the mysterious Silbury Hill. Many can be reached on foot from the village. The Alexander Keiller Museum also displays many notable finds from the Avebury monuments. Together with Stonehenge, Avebury and its surroundings are a World Heritage Site. "

May 2015 was our Wiltshire roadtrip. Since we visited Stonehenge a few weeks back I have had a longing to return to Avebury again. So this is a good time to write up our previous memories.
The circle itself is enormous & encompasses the village & thankfully it's still a very welcoming place to walk among the stones.
The drive up is breathtaking... the stones are large and imposing, but in a beautiful way.

"Around 4,500 years ago, when the site of England's capital was a thinly inhabited marshland, the area around Avebury almost certainly formed the Neolithic equivalent of a city. By coincidence this waterway has become a link between the two largest cultural centres of their day to have ever existed in the British Isles. As London now contains most of England's largest buildings Avebury is the location of the mightiest megalithic complex to have ever been constructed in Britain. This henge with its enormous ditch, bank, stones and avenues survives in a much depleted state but the nearby Silbury Hill which is the largest man-made mound in pre-industrial Europe still dominates the surrounding landscape. The two largest surviving British long barrows of West Kennet and East Kennet are also prominent a short distance away and in recent years the remains of two massive palisaded enclosures have also been found. The quote that antiquarian John Aubrey made of Avebury......"it does as much exceed in greatness the so renowned Stonehenge as a Cathedral doeth a parish church" recognises the true importance of what has now been largely absorbed into the modern landscape of Wiltshire. If we could return to the time when the Romans occupied the British Isles it is a sobering thought that we would have to go back as far again to find an Avebury that was already several centuries old.

The history of the modern village is inevitably linked to the prehistoric monuments that surround it. Abandoned for several thousand years the land around the stones became occupied oncemore when people of the Saxon period began to settle in the area. Their arrival and subsequent development of the present village was to have a dramatic effect on the history of the stones. The relationship between the local inhabitants and the monuments has now added an unfortunate dimension to the Avebury story that helps make it one of the most fascinating historical sites to be found in the British Isles if not the world.
It remains a magical place as so many who have been there will agree. A visit to Avebury is a very personal event. It still seems to retain, somehow, the spirits of all those who laboured in its creation or whatever it was that led them to create it. If you have never been there a visit will not be an empty experience. You will come away with a head full of questions and probably a realisation that somewhere over the years modern society has lost something important."

In true roadtrip fashion we had our picnic & continued on to discover the White Horses of Wiltshire.... 

"“As from the Dorset shore I travell’d home, I saw the charger of the Wiltshire wold; A far-seen figure, stately to behold, Whose groom the shepherd is, the hoe his comb.”
Wiltshire is without doubt the county of counties when it comes to white horses, with no less than nine laying within its boundaries, although only seven of these are now visible. The vast expanse of chalk downs, with their smooth, steep sides provide a number of ideal sites to exercise the art of turf cutting.
Five of the horses lay close to one another within a five mile radius ofAvebury which lies in the very centre of the Wiltshire Downs; three further horses lie a short distance further away. All may be visited by road or via track-ways, the old lines of communication in this area."

We ticked off one white horse after another, including the White horse at Uffington in Oxfordshire on the way home.

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