The Place of the Monks in Monkish Land

Monday, 6th July 2015


Our walk today begins at Manaccan, a pretty little village mentioned in the Charter of King Eadgar from 967.  Here Manaccan is called Lesmanoc – Place of the Monks.  The village is in the Parish of Manaccan, which, together with St Anthony and others, forms part of the Lizard Peninsula known as Meneage – Monkish Land.

We’ve walked this route before, starting in Helford(read about it here).  Today we avoided the parking charges there  by beginning in Manaccan.  The directions and map came from  Information about the parish and church of Manaccan is taken from an excellent little booklet produced by the church called ‘The Parish Church of Manaccan – Our History’ and available from the church itself for a mere £2.


Ricketyrambler xx

Manaccan circular via Helford and St Anthony-in-Meneague (6.5 miles)

Having deciphered the instructions sufficiently to start partway through them we head out of Manaccan and down through woods towards Helford.  The path looks similar to one of those holloways we walked near Cardinham Woods (read more here) with its steep sides and overhanging trees.

Through the woods to Helford
Through the woods to Helford

It’s difficult to believe looking at the beautiful unspoilt Helford village now, but at one time it was apparently an important port, with trading ships bringing tobacco, rum and lace from the continent.  It makes sense then that there must have been footpaths and bridleways from the inland villages to this port.

We can hear Jays up above us as we make our way through the woodland and we stop to try and catch sight of them.  The Jay spends most of its time in trees, hunting for eggs and nestlings and we eventually catch a glimpse of a pair, squabbling in the canopy.

We also see more of that bracket fungus – this one I believe is Oak Tree Bracket Fungus otherwise known as ‘Chicken-of- the-Woods’.

Oak Tree Bracket Fungus or Chicken in the Woods
Oak Tree Bracket Fungus or Chicken-of- the-Woods

I have a book on the shelf called ‘The Secret Life of an Oakwood’ which informs me that this ‘sulphur polypore’ can be eaten when young and is considered a delicacy in France and North America.  Please don’t take my word for it though – don’t eat it without further investigation!!

This wood has a wide variety of deciduous trees including beech and oak.  There are also lots of these:

Rowan trees
Rowan trees

Rowan’s alternative name is the Mountain Ash because it grows higher up mountain sides than any other native tree.  It’s berries are rich in Vitamin C and used to be made into a drink to ward off scurvy.

Rowan trees have been connected with witchcraft since ancient times and its name is believed to  be derived from the Norse word ‘runa’ meaning ‘a charm’.  It was often planted outside houses and churches to ward off witches.

Emerging from the woods we descend the steep track into Helford village and walk alongside the creek and uphill to reach the coast path alongside the Helford River.  The water is quiet today and although it’s cloudy the views across are still stunning:

Helford River
Helford River

We’re walking on the edge of the Bosahan Estate here, a 19th century garden designed and planted by Arthur Pendarves-Vivian who took over the estate from the Gryll’s family in 1885.  The garden has its own micro-climate allowing exotic and tender plants to flourish and is apparently currently being restored.  Some of the plants are visible alongside the path we’re walking, but mostly we’re in woodland again amongst the oak trees and foxgloves.

There are some wildflowers we haven’t seen before though:

Woody Nightshade or Bittersweet
Woody Nightshade or Bittersweet

The Woody Nightshade is also known as Bittersweet as its dried stems, used in medicine, are bitter but sweeten with age.  It’s the most common of the wild nightshades with these distinctive clusters of purple flowers and trails itself in and out of other plants for support.  The fruit of this plant are poisonous berries which turn from green to red when ripe and can cause sickness if eaten.

Enchanter's Nightshade
Enchanter’s Nightshade

Another member of the nightshade family was identified by Mathias De l’Obel, a Flemish botanist, as the magical plant which the early Greek physician Dioscordes named after the mythical sorceress Circe.

This pale plant grows in colonies in woods and other shady places and is unusual in that it’s fruit is not dispersed by the wind as in other nightshades.  Instead it has small hooks on the fruit which catch on the fur or feathers of animals and is carried, often long distances, before being shaken loose.  How do they know this I wonder – does someone follow the small animal around and watch as it shakes the fruit off?

We eventually leave the woodland behind and climb up towards Dennis Head through fields of cows (safely fenced) and newly planted sweetcorn before turning downhill towards St Anthony-in-Meneague as summer rain starts to fall.

Around the Helford - mixed media on canvas
Around the Helford – mixed media on canvas

Its a quick shower which is over by the time we reach the church in St Anthony, sadly locked (only the second locked church on our recent travels).

Our route takes us along the side of Gillan Creek now, on the roadway currently undergoing extensive repairs due to a collapse on the waterside.  Although the signs say there’s no pedestrian route through, we carry on along, reluctant to walk uphill to the road which would take us all the way back to Manaccan.  The workmen are kind and stop work temporarily whilst we pass and we soon leave them behind and make our way along the Creek, spotting swans and black-headed gulls on the way.

Black-headed gull
Black-headed gull on Gillan Creek

We can soon turn off the road and onto another wooded path, across a stream and over some ancient and tricky stiles, on the way uphill towards Manaccan.DSCN1185

The footpath leads through Manaccan churchyard and we take the opportunity to have a look at the church itself.  The excellent booklet available in the church tells us that the dedication of the church – to St Manacca – is almost certainly invented.  However, it says, in the Cornish language ‘Managh’ means ‘monk’ and ‘an’ means ‘the’ – so Manaccan may simply mean ‘the monk’.

The church as it stands now was begun in the 12th century by Norman builders and continued to be added to over the following centuries until reformation violence and neglect did irreparable damage and extensive restoration became necessary in the 19th century.

Part of the restoration included the roof ‘bosses’ which were carefully copied and some of which have been beautifully painted.

Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses
Roof bosses

Apparently there’s also a mermaid – but I missed this!

Many of the kneelers have been intricately embroidered with wild flowers, each one different:

A selection of the kneelers from the Lady Chapel - embroidered with wild flowers
A selection of the kneelers from the Lady Chapel – embroidered with wild flowers

and there’s an interesting memorial to the Reverand W Gregor, who was known as ‘the scientific parson’.  He discovered some black sand while walking nearby and found that the grains were composed of oxides of iron, later also found in Hungary and named ‘titanic earth’ – modern name Titanium.  The booklet states that it may be fortunate for Manaccan that local deposits of this mineral were not rich enough to prove economically viable. That may be true, but the village is very quiet now and even the local shop and post office are no more.  It makes us wonder how long these beautiful, serene villages can continue to thrive.

Total miles walked this year: 458

Jerseys on the Headland
Jerseys on the Headland

Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR:

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