Thursday, 29 October 2009

On meeting the beast of Tregonning Hill, twice in one day...

48: October/November 2006

I once saw a one of those big cats that everyone keeps going on about.

I was up on Tregonning Hill, on the Wheal Vor side, one autumn evening, looking for the air filter box that had fallen off my scrambler motor bike the previous day.
We used to ride our bashed up, off road bikes up on the hill; I don’t think you’d be allowed to do this kind of thing today. I was looking along the track when I saw something dart out from behind a gorse bush.

It was a large black cat. It wasn’t the size that made my hair stand on end, but the way it prowled and stalked as it moved across the hill. After a few minutes watching, I moved nearer. The cat became aware of my presence and froze, glaring at me for intruding its space. Then it was gone, bounding off quickly down the hill and leaping over a granite hedge.

I walked down to see if there were any paw prints when, from behind a bush, a big, red-haired man leapt out at me.

“Yew, Pengelly,” he said. “See that cat, did ‘ee?”

It was a friend called Simon, who was better known locally as Lurch.
Lurch was a formidable biker and also a keen historian - his father was an expert on Cornish antiquities. After my heart stopped pounding from seeing two different beasts of Tregonning Hill, he took me on an impromptu tour.

His knowledge of the hill was fascinating. He showed me the remains of a prehistoric fort, a standing stone that now formed part of a hedge, and a breathtakingly large quarry with a tunnel that ran out to the sea two miles away. Lurch said a man once fell into the quarry and they found his body washed up in the sea at Mount’s Bay, two months later.

We walked on to a burial mound, and then looked at some strange indentations in a large granite monolith that Lurch believed was where our ancestors smelted tin and made tools. He was a great guide and made me look at the old hill, a hill that I used as a racetrack, in a new way.

“I got be off now, Pengelly,” he suddenly said. “Getting dark and you don’t be up here in the dark, might end up like matey who fell in the quarry that time.”
Then Lurch, all six and half foot of him, with his shoulder length red mane, swaggered off, ambling his way towards Carleen. I watched him leave until I could just make out the word Triumph, painted on the back of his leather jacket, through the mist.

Uncovering the history of Cornwall is like meeting up with an old friend; it leaves such a warm feeling. By uncovering this history one can learn so much from the land where they live and about their ancestors.

It’s never to late to delve into the fascinating past of Cornwall and learn about the culture and customs that are very much alive today.

So maybe take a walk and discover more of Cornwall and its people; just watch out for the big cats.

Nigel Pengelly


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