VISITING SPIRITUAL CORNWALL PART II
It was early in the month of February 2015 when my wife Mary and I set out from our hotel near Newquay in Cornwall to visit the village of Trebetherick. I knew of this place only through the poetry of Sir John Betjeman who wrote an evocative poem about his youth there where he would spend his summer holidays. As with many of Betjeman’s poems ‘Trebetherick’ is rich with place names identifying the area, which made it absolutely ideal for me as I conducted a psychic search for the spiritual essence of Betjeman’s Cornwall.
‘TREBETHERICK’ by John Betjeman: ‘We used to picnic where the thrift/Grew deep and tufted to the edge/We saw the yellow foam flakes drift/In trembling sponges on the ledge/Below us, till the wind would lift/Them up the hill and o’er the hedge./Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea/Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet/Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea/Fleas around the tamarisk, an early cigarette.’ That is the first verse of the poem and the place is there just as Betjeman described it, the salt sea air, the sand, the foam flakes in the breeze. As I stood by Mary’s side watching the waves washing over the stones where once John Betjeman ran his heedless way I sensed a little of what it must have been like for him and his trusty young friends. For the area is unspoilt, almost untouched by the eighty or more years that have passed since: ‘Ropes around our mackintoshes, waders warm and dry/we waited for the wreckage to come swirling into reach/Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and I’/ Then roller into roller curled/And thundered down the rocky bay/And we were in a water world/Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray/and one against the other hurled/We struggled round to Greenaway/Blessed be St. Enodoc, blessed be the wave/Blessed be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee/Ask for our children all the happy days you gave/To Ralph, Vasey, Alistair, Biddy, John and me.’ For a brief moment, as the sunlight danced on the incoming tide I was there with John and his young friends and they always will be thanks to Betjeman’s poem.
From the beach Mary guided me over the springy turf across what is now a golf course to the 12th century church of St. Enodoc mentioned in his poem. Pausing at the gateway I looked into the graveyard where, to the immediate right I saw a black marble headstone with one name carved elaborately JOHN BETJEMAN 1906 1984. I had with me a copy of his ‘Collected Poems’ and with some help from Mary managed to take a seat on the ground by the side of the grave where I read aloud his poem ‘TREBETHERICK’ as I did so a group of people visiting the church came over to listen. There was a certain magic in the air by Betjeman’s grave that mystical afternoon as I read his words. At the end of the reading many came to me saying they had been pleasantly surprised and delighted to hear the poem and some said they found it a spiritual experience. I know I felt something special was happening and though I would not claim that the spirit of John Betjeman was with me as I spoke, I did experience a sense of inner tranquillity.
The following day as the sun continued to shine we decided to journey inland to the town of Bodmin. I had studied the maps and saw that to the east there was remote moorland that I instinctively knew was charged with a form of paranormal power. Strangely, despite being certain of the direction to Bodmin Moor I managed to get us well and truly lost. Our SatNav had decided that it was having a day off and would not function so in the middle of nowhere there we were. My dear wife Mary is quite accustomed to me losing my way so, having advised me what a plonka I was, she closed her eyes and took a nap. Meanwhile I managed to drive down a long and increasingly narrow winding road that took us to a steep hill. All around I saw gloomy grey stone walls in disrepair with dark shaped cottages overhung by bushes and broken old trees. This was a seriously silent land, no birds were singing, no sounds at all, it was unearthly. The atmosphere became almost electrically charged mesmerising me. As I drove up a very steep incline I heard a terrible scream ‘Stop the car you maniac!’ Mary shouted shocking me back to reality. Somehow I had managed to go off the road slightly and our car was on the edge of a rubble stone scattered track leading towards a huge rock outcrop. Just looking at this pile of ancient stones, obviously placed there countless ages ago, I began to feel uneasy.
Having stopped the car where it was I took the map and attempted to orientate myself. To the south east I could see a lake and beyond a road, the map told me I was near the top of a hill and it showed me the name as Hawk’s Tor. Standing by the car I slightly shuddered though the day was warm and the sun shone right there near to top of Hawk’s Tor there was a chill that I recognised as belonging to another dimension. Staring at the stone formations I saw for a fragment of a second images of a time long past, there were many people all in rough clothing of animal skins, yet they were not there. I looked again to confirm this and saw Mary staring at me camera in hand. She said I had been stationary for some minutes and had looked to be in a trance. Yet to me it had seemed only seconds. Hawk’s Tor is one powerful paranormally charged site that deeply disturbed my emotional equilibrium.
On our way out of that mysterious moorland Mary told me that she too had experienced something unusual. As she had stood looking at me in my semi-trance state a discarnate voice had spoken to her and said one word that she said sounded like ‘rockash’. I later researched this and found that there was an old Cornish language phrase that included a similar word: Ud roacashaas. The meaning roughly translates to ‘gloomy place’.