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Legends

The Gwennap Head cliffs can also be an eerie place, as mist creeps in from the sea and it is perhaps not wise to venture onto this lonely place. When there was also the low moaning of the nearby Runnel Stone buoy it added a ghostly prescence to the area. Indeed , the area abounds with tales of ghosts and evil doing, of smugglers and wreckers.

There are many tales associated with Cornwall; witches, magic smugglers and wreckers. Some of these we take with a pinch of salt others we ignore at our peril.

What is known is that even today when a ship goes aground the people of Cornwall are not slow to take the opportunity to avail themselves of the windfall. In February 2002 the ship Kodima foundered of the Cornish coast and its cargo of wooden planks was released to help with the refloating procedure. The Cornish were waiting and over the next few weeks the valuable wood was secreted away in the garages, sheds and houses of Cornwall - there were brand new buildings springing up all over the southwest in 2003.

The following gives a glimpse into this old Cornwall.

A little way beyond Porthcurno lies another fishing hamlet, named Porthgwarra, which one may well suspect of owning a history of more incident yhan arises naturally out of nets and trawls; and a short climb above this cluister of huts brings us out on the summit of TolPedn Penwith. There is no grander sight in Western Cornwall than the sheer dropping of this mighty headland to the sea. Its dark jutting shoulders and the huge buttresses impress the mind today as they did of old when every peak along these coasts had its tale of witches gathering to watch and help the growing storms, or sailing through the air on stalks of ragwort towards Wales, wither they migrated at certain seasons. On the top of Tol Pedn is a rude recess among the cubes of granite, which keeps the name of Madgy Figgy's Chair. Madgy was one of the blackest of all the Penwith witches; and often when the winter storms were rising, and in the great stream of commerce entering the Channel all the skill of seamanship waqs being used to keep the great ships off the rocks, Madgy Figgy was seen swinging to and fro with exultation in her chair screaming out her incantations till the storm rose into ungovernable fury, and the ships drew near and nearer to the reefs. Then when the crash was imminenet, Madgy Figgy would sail off from her chair on a stalk of ragwort, and float shrieking up and down the air, while far below her the wreckers stripped the bodies cast ashore and gathered up the spoil.

A romantic story is told of Sweet William and Fair Nancy.

Nancy was the daughter of a rich farmer who did not consider William, her suitor, was good enough for his daughter. He tried to stop them seeing each other. However the pair continued to meet in secret & promised each other that one day they would marry. In due course William was called back to sea. The months passed by with no word from William. Nancy stayed true to him and spent hours gazing out to sea at Hella Point ( the headland to the west of Porthgwarra's cove). Il became known as`Nancy's garden. As time passed, having no word from him, Nancy began to slowly go mad. One evening she thought she heard her loved one tapping at her window, beckoning her to join him at sea. She rushed to Porthgwarra's cove, later called Sweethearts Cove, and was never seen again.

William appeared to his father that same night, telling him he had come back for his bride and bidding his father farewell. The next day news came of William's death ....... by drowning, thousands of miles away.

Lyonesse

On good days 28 miles across the water from Gwennap Head, the Isles of Scilly can be seen. Some say the Scillies are the high peaks of the land of Lyonesse now submerged beneath the sea.Fantasies of the past surge around our Cornish coast, and the Lost Land of Lyonesse is one of the most intriguing stories of all.

Lyonesse - they say - was comprised of beautiful cities, rich and fertile plains: a land peopled by a noble race, whom 140 church towers summoned to worship. So said Michael Williams in the book on Secret Cornwall.

This is a tale of disaster, and story tellers down the ages have given us a pretty clear picture of the tragedy: Trevilian - or Trevelyan - fleeing from Lyonesse on his white horse, the animal carrying his rider from a terrifying wall of water, the only survivors. The end of Lyonesse though was no sudden, dramatic deluge, for the explanation behind the successful escape of one man and his horse is that the man had shrewdly observed the sea making steady but dangerous inroads. Wisely, he moved his wife and family and livestock inland- to Cornwall- and when eventually disaster struck in the form of a flood burst, the white horse galloped to safety, bringing his rider ashore at Perran.

The interesting link with reality is that the Vyvyans, one of the most famous Cornish families and landowners in Penwith for centuries, still have as their family crest a white horse saddled minus rider: an artistic  reminder of that famous white horse from Lyonesse. It's also said the Vyvyans keep a white horse in their stables at Trelowarren, on the mainland saddled and waiting for any such crisis.

Despite the long tradition of this Lost Land, infuriatingly history records no such disaster.

Did Lyonesse once link Cornwall and Scilly? Some of the old folk declared the Scillies are the high peaks of Lyonnesse and nobody can deny the rock formation around Land's End and that on Scilly are uncannily alike.

Ronal Duncan had this to say: "The Scilly Isles, once called the Fortunate Isles, were settled in about 1700BC by immigrants from Brittany. At that time they were probably 40 or more feet higher than they are today. The considerable subsistance that occured on these islands may account for the legend of Lyonness, the country from which Tristan derived, or perhaps it may account for the legend of Avalon, the mysterious island to which Arthur's body was conveyed by Queens when he was mortally wounded in his last battle.

The Scilly Isles were, it must be assumed, a kind of Laguna Morte for the mainland because there are on the islands so many ancient tombs. It is doubtful whether the islands have ever supported a large population themselves; it is probable that the dead were ferried over from the mainland to be buried there. However another explanation has been given which cannot be proved or disproved. There are many walls on the islands which disappear into the sea, proving there was considerable subsidence. There is a legend that Avalon was joined to the islands, and it disappeared like Atlantis.

Time was when vegetation washed ashore in Mounts Bay was pointed to as evidence of Lyonnesse.There is much written evidence and a photograph from the 1890's telling of sightings of tree stumps in the waters between Mounts Bay and Land's End and of sightings of buildings in the waters. 

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