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Wild Life at the Land's End Observations of the Habits and Haunts of the Fox, Badger, Otter, Seal, Hare and of Their Pursuers in Cornwall

Wild Life at the Land's End
Observations of the Habits and Haunts of the Fox, Badger, Otter, Seal, Hare and of Their Pursuers in Cornwall
Title: Wild Life at the Land's End Observations of the Habits and Haunts of the Fox, Badger, Otter, Seal, Hare and of Their Pursuers in Cornwall
Release Date: 2018-09-14
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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WILD LIFE AT THE LAND’S END


Andrew Stevens


 

WILD LIFE

AT THE LAND’S END

 

OBSERVATIONS OF THE HABITS AND

HAUNTS OF THE FOX, BADGER, OTTER

SEAL, HARE, AND OF THEIR PURSUERS IN

CORNWALL

 

 

BY J. C. TREGARTHEN

 

 

 

LONDON

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET

1904

 

 


PREFACE

The sports described have led me to some of thewildest and weirdest spots of West Cornwall.There are few tracts in England more ruggedthan the northern part of the peninsula that liesbetween the Land’s End and St Ives. It is possibleto travel across the moors from CrobbenHill to Chapel Cairn Brea without setting foot oncultivated ground. It is a boulder-strewn waste,void of trees, where the grey of the granite minglesin spring and autumn with the gold of the gorsethat, with heather and bracken, clothes the undulatingsurface.

To the lover of nature the wild aspect of thesebreezy uplands is not without its charms; but theglory of the promontory is the ocean in which itis set. The great rampart of cliffs that holds backthe Atlantic is broken here and there by beachesof white sand or minute shells, or by coves intowhich fall the trout-streams that rise in the granitehills above. Along the tangled valleys they water,many an interesting picture arrests the eye; butwhether it be a holy well, an old mill, a grove,a rustic bridge or fishing-hamlet, all is in tenderminiature, like the streams themselves or the modesthills where they bubble to the light.

In these valleys bird-life is rich. On a spitof sand you may chance on the footprints of anotter, whose harbour by day is some rocky holtalong the cliffs; where the blackthorns are densestyou may come across a badger’s earth, and seethe paths he has trodden in going to and fro. Thiscreature is very plentiful—as plentiful indeed as thehare is scarce. Generally he shares the same earthwith the fox. On the north coast the seal showsno sign of decrease; thanks to its tireless vigilance,and the inaccessible caves it frequents.

These surviving mammals add to the attractionsof a coast and countryside over which broods thesilence of a mysterious past. The fascinationwhich these creatures have for me dates from boyhood,when I once caught a glimpse of a badgerstealing over a cairn in the grey of early dawn;and the Earthstopper, wandering with dog andlantern over the moors, presents a picture thathas often appealed to me.

If the descriptions, however crude, serve toawaken old associations in some readers, or toexcite the interest of those who have never visitedthe sunny “land of the three shores”; above all,if the sketch of the Earthstopper helps to preservethe memory of a master of his craft, my hopes willbe fully realised.

Rosmorran, Sidcup.


CONTENTS

CHAP.PAGE
   
I.The Earthstopper under the Stars1
   
II.The Fox-Hunt14
   
III.Fox-Hunting, as it was in the Days of Queen Bess, quoted from Carew’s Survey of Cornwall, 156534
   
IV.The Otter—Tracking the Wily Varmint36
   
V.The Otter, continuedThe Earthstopper’s Vigil48
   
VI.The Otter, continuedThe Otter at the Lake64
   
VII.The Otter, continuedThe Hunt71
   
VIII.The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek—The Earthstopper in Doubt85
   
IX.The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek, continuedThe Earthstopper Angry100
   
X.The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek, continuedThe Badger’s Capture and Escape112
   
XI.The Hare—Life Story of the Jack of Bartinney130
   
XII.The Hare, continuedDigory Strout and Farmer Pendre145
   
XIII.The Hare, continuedThe Course152
   
XIV.A Midnight Visit to the Seal-Caves167
   
XV.Reminiscences of Boyhood’s Days186
   
XVI.Bass Fishing at the Land’s End206
   
XVII.Ned’s Tale of the Birds221
   
Glossary235

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Andrew the Earthstopper (Photogravure). (From a photograph by Richards, Penzance)Frontispiece
  
Face page 
The Earthstopper on Trengwainton Cairn. (From a photograph by Richards, Penzance)12
  
The Fox. (From a photograph by C. Reid)26
  
Fox-Cubs. (From a photograph by C. Reid)34
  
Tol Pedn Penwith. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)38
  
Lamorna Mill. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)44
  
Lamorna, showing Cairn Dhu Headland. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)52
  
The Otter. (From a photograph by Quatremaine, Stratford-on-Avon)64
  
A Haunt of the Otter. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)82
  
Cairn Kenidzhek. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)88
  
The Badger. (From a photograph by C. Reid)110
  
St Buryan Church. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)130
  
Stone Circle at Boscawen-un. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)138
  
Sancreed Churchtown. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)150
  
Chapel St Uny Well. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)156
  
Zennor Churchtown. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)166
  
A Street at St Ives. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)168
  
Hell’s Bay. (From a photograph by W. Cooper, St Ives)178
  
Nest of Seagull. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)190
  
St Michael’s Mount. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)194
  
Sennen Cove. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)206
  
Porthgwarra. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)210
  
A Haunt of the Razor-Bill. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)220
  
The Home of the Cormorant. (From a photograph by Gibson & Sons, Penzance)226
  
The Land’s End. (From a photograph by R. H. Preston, Penzance)232

WILD LIFE AT THE LAND’S END

CHAPTER I
THE EARTHSTOPPER UNDER THE STARS

It was an hour after midnight when the Earthstopperof the Penwith Hunt left his cottage on theoutskirts of Madron. He carried a lantern and arough terrier followed at his heels. His track led,by lanes in the heather, over a cairn to the furze-claddowns overlooking the lake.

To the West, sombre hills rose against thejewelled vault where the stars in the depths of thefrosty sky kept watch over the slumbering earth.Half-way over the downs, beneath the roots of astunted pine, was a fox-earth. The old man kneltdown and stopped it with faggots of furze. Thelight of the lantern lit up his strong and kindly face,and fell on the heap of sandy soil at the mouth ofthe earth.

Leaving the downs he turned towards Penhale,skirting the marshy ground in the trough of thehills, and climbing a steep rise made for a crag—playgroundof many litters—beneath which lay thenext earth. Furze bushes screened the entranceand hung like a pall on the slope. The windwuthered round the rocks and stirred the rushes inthe fen below; but the Earthstopper gave no heedto these whisperings of the night, and paused butfor an instant, as he bent over his work, to listen tothe bark of a fox in the pitchy darkness beyond.His way now lay across a bleak waste. Rudemonuments of a grey past dot its surface and asolitary cottage overlooks its desolation. No pathled along the line he was taking: cromlech andmonolith in ghostly outline guided his steps.

The Earthstopper’s progress was slow, for thesurface was rough and the bogs treacherous, but yethe was getting nearer and nearer to Cairn Galver,which rose like a cliff from the moor, its crestsilhouetted against the deep sapphire of theheavens.

“Good God, what’s thet?” said he, as a fiendishscream awoke the echoes of the rugged hills.“Don’t sound like et, but et must a’ come fromthet cottage over theere. Iss sure, theere’s a lightin the winder. Semmen to me ’tes uncommon likemurder.”

He had taken but a few stumbling steps alonga track into which he had turned, ere the faint thudof hoofs fell on his ear. More and more distinctthrough the night came the sound, broken at timesby a shout. A rocky hollow lay in front of him;down which rider and horse came at a furious pace,splashing the water as they dashed through thestream below. Breasting the rise at the same franticspeed they were over the brow and almost upon theEarthstopper before he was aware, and

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