|south eastern "entrance"|
|looking north west - the creep entrance on left|
|continuing north west through fogou|
I've been hankering after a visit to the Iron Age souterrain called Boleigh Fogou for sometime now. Earlier visits to the more accessible Cornish fogous at Carn Euny and Chysauster - along with the thrilling ramblings of Julian Cope in The Modern Antiquarian (1998) - mean't that this visit was long overdue. These man made caves and passageways still hold a mystery as to their original purposes - with grain storage, defence or ritual all being suggested (perhaps a combination of all?).
Boleigh Fogou lies in the wooded - private garden of Rosemerrynwood - as such a visit to this site is by appointment only. However, a swift exchange of phone calls mid-week secured both a Friday viewing and a warm welcome from the host. We were left free to explore the site alone, and were given no time pressure in which to do this.
As you enter the subterranean building from the south eastern "entrance" it is only a short way through, before you find a door on the left hand side. This door leads into a further passage - both lower in height and more intimate than the first. This second passage is known as a "Creep". Any ambient light from the doorway is lost almost completely as you edge forward into this new passage.
Turning the head torch on I jumped as a seated figure hove starkly into close view. This anthropomorphic stone is presumably not an original feature of the Iron Age archaeology - instead carved and placed by modern hands - to represent mother and child - a product of modern ritual use of the site?
Beyond the "mother" stone the creep turns left at what feels like a right-angle. Underground the alignment of the creep, to the wider passage from which you first enter is a little disorientating? McNeil Cooke (1996) has a schematic drawing which shows the creep running away from the main passage at an approx. 45deg angle - when I was inside it felt almost as if the creep was in parallel with the wider passage and sharing a wall along it's length? A timely reminder not to take up the sport of caving perhaps, for how could I ever find my way out of a complex cave system, when a simple two passage underground building confuses my senses?
As you turn and exit the creep - a second humanoid object can be seen. A tiny clay figure - standing dark against a small pale spherical rock. A further reminder that this Iron Age site retains ritual significance into the modern era.
A mooch around the Historic Cornwall website provides a wider insight into the frequency and occurrence of these enigmatic Iron Age features, and a discussion of their possible uses.
Both Julian Cope's Modern Antiquarian (1998) and Ian McNeil Cookes Mermaid to MerryMaid Journey to The Stones (1996) have been fully referenced elsewhere in this current series of Cornwall blogs