Caught by the River

Shadows and Reflections

15th December 2021

It’s time once again for the annual end-of-year musings we like to call Shadows and Reflections. Today Matthew Shaw looks back over the past 12 months.

The landscape of West Penwith has captured my imagination and filled my dreams since I was a young child. The Stones can have a strong pull on a person and this year I was magnetically pulled towards the granite, the Elvan, the Kernowite of Cornwall.

Thin places, where it is possible to walk in two separate worlds at the same time, grow greatly in number in certain areas. West Penwith, and Cornwall generally, contain a huge concentration of such places, where megaliths, saints, stone crosses, ancient wells, tin mines, Kaolin pits, and agriculture can exist within the same few square metres. For example at the church of Mabe, near Penryn, we have a neolithic standing stone close to the south entrance of the church, and opposite this an ancient Christian stone cross. Was this a stone circle? Was it connected to the valley below as part of Glasney college, Cornwall’s most important centre of learning for nearly 300 years, promoting Cornish language and culture? Whatever the history the fact remains that this is a site that has been used by people for generations. Those people, their lives and stories all leaves traces for those that wish to find them. 

Inspired by this I spent much of this year photographing the ancient stones of Kernow: the stone circles, solitary standing stones, Celtic crosses and suchlike. Brenda Wooton provided much of the soundtrack to these trips, and if you’ve never heard her then you really should listen. I made a playlist of some of my favourites if you would like to give her a chance. I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy here.

The obsession with all things megalithic has now manifested in a new club for likeminded souls; Stone Club was formed in the past few weeks by me and Lally MacBeth. Next year you will be able to join us for days out, with friends around the country set up to lead walks for us. We promise a great deal of folklore, fun, picnics and a way of looking at the world that examines the past while making all people welcome always.