So, in my last post, I said I would visit one of Cornwall’s hidden gems, somewhere a bit off the tourist trail. In the end, I didn’t pick one of the places I listed last week, but somewhere I’ve been passing by everytime I head towards Helston and keep meaning to explore – Porkellis Moor.
It’s been on my list for a number of reasons: 1. I love bogs, fens, ponds, puddles and mud, and Porkellis Moor is apparently full of them. 2. It is part of the West Cornwall Bryophytes SSSI, so is a haven for some rare liverwort species – very nice if you like boggy places, like me. 3. It’s pretty close to where I live, so it’s high time I went.
The first lesson was, don’t take the car. I did in the end manage to tuck my car away somewhere, but there’s not really anywhere to park at any of the entrances to the reserve. So if my description below tempts you to visit, take the bicycle, or make it part of a longer walk in the area round Stithians and the Reservoir: a good OS map will give you the footpaths.
Entering by a small kissing gate on the south side of the area, a hedgerow-lined path takes you towards the moor but hides it from sight. A fox ran across the path in front of me, stared me out for a few seconds, and then shot fast into the undergrowth. Having had a morning getting fed up doing shopping and other chores, and depressed by the dull day, it was one of those ‘entering another world through the wardrobe’ moments and, despite the drizzle, my spirits lifted. I followed the fox.
I lost sight of my guide, but soon found the moor. It is definitely, decidedly boggy. Take your wellies! It is in fact not only a lovely marshy area – I’m sure in the spring and summer it is going to be humming with butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and lovely boggy plant species – but is also part of the Cornish tin mining heritage, with various remains, including a couple of ‘dumb buddles’. A buddle was a circular pit, fitted with rotating brushes and used to concentrate the tin ore, and a dumb buddle was the manual version. It’s fun to explore round some of these ruins, and at this time of year I suspect you will have the place largely to yourself – I did – apart from locals enjoying a good place for a walk. It would be a fantastic place for dogs to enjoy – lots of lovely puddles to splash in!
I made a half-hearted attempt to look for rare bryophytes, but I’m no expert, and will need to ask for some help from more knowledgeable friends in finding them. If any readers happen to know their liverworts, the species found here are Cephaloziella integerrima, C. massalongi and C. nicholsonii.
But I did find some other more common but still lovely things. Yellow brain fungus for one was in its full yellow splendour after the rain. This inedible golden-coloured fungus of dead and decaying wood – Tremella mesenterica – shrivels up in dry weather, but with wet conditions (of which we’ve had plenty) it swells up and contorts, looking something like a brain, and hence its common name. Not over-large (no more than 10 cm) it’s still a bright sight on a dull day!
And look at this amazing fruticose lichen – an Usnea sp., I think.
Or this beauty, which I think is Parmotrema perlatum.
It just goes to show that even on a mizzly November day, when birds and other beasts are keeping out of sight, there is still plenty that is wonderful to see, if you’re prepared to look at the smaller scale. A hand lens is a great and inexpensive investment to bring a new world to life.
Before leaving, I explored an area of wet willow woodland. Even wearing wellies it was tough going in the muddy conditions, so I stopped instead for a few moments, listening to the sounds of the wood – drippings, rustlings, scurryings – still and quiet and yet also full of noises. The more I listened, the more I tuned in to the vibrant undercurrent of life amongst the willows with their weaving branches. As I turned to go, I caught a flash of red moving through the trees. Goodbye for now, fox – see you next time!