The Lands End

We make expeditions, it seems to me, more for the sake of the going & the coming & the delicious meal in the open air, than because there is any special sight of beauty to be found in the spot where we pitch our resting place. I have found, on my walks here a dozen places as I think to which one might fitly go on pilgrimages, but they are sudden, unexpected, secret; no one, perhaps, will step that way for weeks, or will see precisely what I saw for months, or even years. Those are the sights which surprise the solitary walker & linger in the memory. So, as these little visions are not to be evoked at will by any combination of steam & horse, it is safer to fix upon certain recognised spots & to make them the goal of any expedition you choose to undertake.

Such a goal is the Lands End, where the imagination at any rate is infallibly impressed, & one is tolerably sure to find more substantial beauties for the eye. Unfortunately, the pitch of green turf, with the craggy rocks on it, the cliffs, & the romantic line of coast are the property nowadays of a hundred eyes; every ten minutes or so a lumbering brake or a dusty motor car deposits its load of sight seers upon this [ ] little stretch of land.

But though the spot itself is thus made hideous, the land all round is still lonely & very beautiful. On the rim of the horizon the eye may see some rock shaped shadow to which, as the sun sank & made it golden, we gave the name of the Fortunate Isles. When Cornwall was chill in the shade, there was bright daylight over there — perhaps perpetual afternoon.

St Buryans is the landmark for miles, a perfectly unornamented square church tower rising with some suddenness from a stretch of singularly bare country. There was a Cornish cross, somewhat mutilated in the graveyard, but when we tried to enter the church we found the door locked, & no one to give us the key; the only creature about the place was a stone mason, who could be heard chipping a fresh name at the base of an old tombstone.

Today, Sept 14th, we were forced to take our lunch on our backs, & set off at midday to Castle Dinas some five or six miles distant. Lovely are these autumn days on the heath; the gorse is still as smooth as silk, & the air fragrant. I had almost said, regretful, as though there were some tinge of melancholy in its sweetness. All the months are crude experiments out of which the perfect September is made.

It is not unpleasant to leave the sea, & strike inland. The eye tires of the unstable waters. There is a certain austere dignity among these hills although they are not actually beautiful. We were almost at the top of the Castle hill when we bethought us that we needed water. We knocked at a farm door; it was locked, the windows were shut; we could hear no one. The next farm was deserted too, save that some kittens were playing on the flags.

There was nothing for it but to descend the hill once more to a distant farm where a man was working on a corn stack. We entered the little cobble paved garden & found the farmer washing potatoes in a saucepan; a large boned benevolent man, more kindly than shrewd. He would gladly give us water; & his wife came out of the farmhouse on hearing speech. She was the dour one of the two, pale, with dark eyes, which looked at us doubtfully at first. We were invited to sit in the house while water was fetched from the well.These little visits to the country people in their lonely farms are always a pleasant part of our expedition. I like to get into talk with the old people, & to see the surroundings which they have made for themselves. The kitchen, in these farms, is always a large low room, dark with its thick rafters, & all the family possessions are displayed on the mantel-piece or on the walls. Above the great fire place hung 'my grandfathers sword', it was a hundred years old & an old curiosity dealer had offered to buy it some days before. A. took it down and flourished it, like the dragoon who had wielded it once, & the farmer stood in the door and chuckled. An old blue pot was brought out from its safe recess for our inspection; which was called a "puzzle jar" because though full of holes, there was yet a tube up the handle which would carry the water to your lips safely. Meanwhile the woman stood watching us, not unfriendly, but still with some doubtful hesitation in her gaze. And yet nothing could be more hospitable & courteous than their treatment of these four strangers; they brought the water, lifted down cups from the shelf & packed them in a basket, & let us go out as though they had but fulfilled the simplest of duties. So perhaps they had; but it is refreshing to find people who are still sensitive to such commands. That is the great charm of the country people here; perhaps from their contact with wholesome earth or air these natural instincts toward their kind are perfectly frank & trustful; all they say & do seems marked with a certain sincerity.

Castle Dinas itself, though our best castle, is but a fragment; a ruined gateway, perhaps, which has served as a stall for cattle. The hill on which it stands is scarred in the usual way with ditches & ramparts, upon which the turf is smoother & greener than elsewhere.

There are the usual blocks of stone tumbled & half buried in the earth, which once stood high in the air; & from the ruins you behold the same sea & the same hills which this vanished castle tower once looked down upon & which maybe it once held in sway. Far away we could see the glittering line of the Atlantic as it nears the Lands End.