hill of swallows lino cut march 2017 webThe Rock people of Sharp tor.   N50° 32.222' W4° 27.411'

Trolls are misunderstood. hvélsveg himins –   swallower of the wheel of heaven [the sun]

Sharp tor, the southern rim of Berah tor valley. A shattered tor with a narrow ridge summit that runs almost East- West that has commanding views in all directions. To the west, Kilmar edge and Brown Willy, to the south Stowe pound, to the south west craddock moor’s landscape memory etched to the east, forming the horizon Kit hill and Dart moor

A favourite for sun rise moments. I remember a summer solstice, mist spirits scudding below us. Sharp tor is a ship. The south westerly wind split at the western bow, flowing north and south-sides, causing eddies and currents that send gossamer mist strands fishing into the wind stream at the end of the ridge. Glowing with the growing light from the South-East. In this place, like most high places, you inhabit a world apart, step outside the bubble world. Be outside. Up here we are young, confident about ourselves.

It was on an early morning visit to the summit that I first noticed the many rocks that looked like faces. Not human faces really, caricatures. Silhouettes, portraits, small and large. Some at peace, some apparently staring back. The more I looked the more I found.

I returned with my camera on many occasions, different times of day and season. I spent time with individuals, silent contemplation, a shared space. Sometimes I traced the contours of the faces with my fingers or hands or a stared deeply into their eyes for as long as I could without blinking. Mexican stand-off. One day I won.trolls profile

The rock people of the area surrounding sharp tor are a shy, retiring bunch. This lifestyle is made considerably easier to maintain by their ability to morph into rock formations. This isn’t always under their full control, and has caused many problems with the extensive quarrying in the area.

Quarrying and earlier, less industrialised uses of moorland Granite have had an impact on their culture and distribution. Populations of the rock people now live in places where Granite was used. It was not until the more understanding humans started to recognise the need to restrict the excavation and remove of moor land rock (and rock people by association). If you look carefully, you can still see the Dutchy plumb mark cut into rocks to mark the outer extent of granite removal.

Rock morphing is related to the relationship that the rock people have with the earth, and their belief that the western hill, known as “Brown Willy” to most of us but known as “ Swallower of the heaven wheel” to the rock people, “swallows” the sun each night and passes it out in the East each morning.

The name “Brown Willie” generally gives rise to a snigger and disbelief in most people. What a Carry on. Let me explain further Brown willie is said to be a corruption of the Cornish/Celtic name Bronn Wennili which means “Hill of swallows”. Bronn Wennili is a significant hill, it is the highest point in cornwall at 1,378 ft. It is a series of summit ridges with evidence of a processional route along the ridge (Bender, Hamilton & Tilley)

The blink of an eye was just the start of a long trust exercise. Subsequent visits would often reveal nothing at all. Movement in peripheral vision. Sub audible hummed surf beats, gentle sniggers, the patter of skitting feet on rock.

Early one evening, I sat in a small col amphitheatre on the North side of Sharp tor, looking south towards the valley floor. Suddenly, silent as a ghost, something stepped out of the cliff wall. The light was low. The cliff in shadow. The shape walked, upright towards me. Almost casual. It said in a deep and friendly voice

“Behold. The swallowing of the wheel of heaven”


sunset over bronn wennili

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