The Wizard on the Lizard

An interview with Bartholomew Patrick O’Farrell

Driving down towards St Keverne on Cornwall’s isolated Lizard peninsula feels like drifting back in time.  With the Autumnal fog rolling in from the sea and covering the Goonhilly Downs the whole scene can suddenly become rather otherworldly. Quite an appropriate place to meet a wizard.

Bartholomew Patrick O’Farrell, or Bart as he likes to be known, is a small man with shoulder length grey hair and a white beard.  Today he is dressed exuberantly from head to toe in bright red, in his gentle lilting Welsh accent he explains, “It’s like the poem When I get old, I shall wear purple, do you know it?  Well, have you noticed that all old men just wear grey and brown and seem to fade in to the background, now that’s why I chose to wear red”.

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Bart is most certainly not a man to fade away, just a few minutes with him and the room feels warmer as he happily regales you with stories about a life full of incident and adventure.  In his 75 years he has been a copy-writer, typewriter salesman, teacher, picture restorer, artist, oral poet and a palmist.

The latest phase of what he calls his “diamond” of a life has seen him discover or perhaps rediscover his abilities as a dowser. Continue reading

Those Ruined Places: Westmoor

Bodmin Moor feels like a place with secrets and stories to tell.  Perhaps it’s the wildness, the wide open spaces and the distance that makes the visitor feel that this is a place that you will never really know completely or quite understand.  I do know that it is under my skin.  If I didn’t live so far away I would be out on that moor as often as possible.

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It is a characteristic of every moorland that there are hidden features, places that are often lost in the landscape. Places that can only be seen from a particular hilltop or when you walk a particular path.

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The ancient enclosure on Westmoor near Leskernick hill is one such place.  The tumbling walls are only visible from a particular point as the path traverses the old tin streaming works near the base of the hill.  The first time I saw it, it was the tree that caught my eye, it is just about the only tree for as far as the eye can see.  I just had to walk over and pay a visit.

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That time and every time I have visited there since the wild moorland ponies are already there or have arrived to graze.  The grass within the old walls is much finer and greener than the rest of the moor, presumably due to human activity and I assume they come to take advantage of this sweeter meal.

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It is also a very sheltered spot, calm and out of the wind.  Close by there is a steam flowing and a spring bubbling up from the damp ground.  I am almost certain that there was once a building there too.  In on corner of the enclosure there are smaller walls and what looks like paving slabs.  There are also larger pieces of granite there that may have been doorposts or part of a fireplace in another life.

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Whatever the weather it is such a peaceful place, I have never met anyone else there apart from the ponies and sheep.  And that twisted old tree festooned in lichen and moss provides a lovely bit of company and shelter from the sun or the rain.

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This part of the moor is perhaps the most isolated that I have ever visited, it doesn’t have the sites like Rough Tor or Brown Willy, there is no Cheesewring or Hurlers to draw visitors.  But I will come here again and again if only to listen to the constant chorus of the Skylarks as they rise and dip and dive above the windblown grasses.

For more moor tales try: Those Ruined Places: Garrow Tor’s Lost Village or The Singular Mr Daniel Gumb & his house of rocks

For more hidden places try my page dedicated to Forgotten Places