‘Pigs, witches & boats’ – a folklore walk in Boscastle

Yesterday, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic took part in Boscastle Walking Week - an annual event that attracts walkers from all over the country.

Steve begins the walk outside the Museum

It was a gloriously hot April day, and the group of eleven was led by folklorist and writer Steve Patterson.  Steve started by introducing the Museum's founder, Cecil Williamson, his reasons for settling in Boscastle - 'pigs, witches and boats'! - and his work with the British Secret Services as occult researcher extraordinaire.

After a brief look at the geology and maritime history of the harbour - including the work of local cunning-folk who 'sold the wind' to the sailors - we headed up to the Blowhole which was in good form (there being a lowish tide), and then up to Blackpit (with its nesting fulmars) and the Iron Age promotory 'fort' of Willapark. 

Steve suggested that the site itself was an unusual place to defend; perhaps it could instead be called a ritual site, its use and significance as yet unknown.  There seems to be a natural ridge augmented by an Iron Age earthwork rampart - a defensive or protective wall definitely was built....but why?

There were lots of tales of salty sea-dogs and privateers; and from Willapark we could see Morwenstowe, home of the great folklorist and eccentric, the Rev. Robert Stephen Hawker.  (His visit to Boscastle in the nineteenth century was legendary:  he and a friend loosed all the village pigs).

The phallic carving at Willapark

After the mysterious phallic carving, we headed past one inquisitive and four unimpressed ponies and then up to Forrabury Common with its impressive 'Stitches' - 42 'stitchmeal' plots of farmland, favoured by egalitarian medieval folk; the system itself probably goes back to Celtic times.

Forrabury Church- and indeed the coastline of Cornwall- has wonderful folklore of bells attached to it, and the carving of a monkey doing his business in the beautiful church was a favourite.

Forrabury Church

We turned back towards Boscastle and headed towards Bottreaux Castle, built in the 1100s and the focal point for the upper and earliest part of the village.  The harbour was settled properly later, from the 16th century onwards.  Nothing remains of the castle apart from its grand setting, and it is easy to see why a castle would be built here - it commands views in all directions and the Jordanvalley.

The site of Bottreaux Castle

We then headed back to the Museum where the group visited the museum to see Williamson's collection first-hand.  It was a great day, and a fantastic way of connecting old tales of folklore and magic to the landscape which inspired them.  Watch this space for further walks and events!


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