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
AT THE LAND’S END
OBSERVATIONS OF THE HABITS AND
HAUNTS OF THE FOX, BADGER, OTTER
SEAL, HARE, AND OF THEIR PURSUERS IN
BY J. C. TREGARTHEN
JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET
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.
|I.||The Earthstopper under the Stars||1|
|III.||Fox-Hunting, as it was in the Days of Queen Bess, quoted from Carew’s Survey of Cornwall, 1565||34|
|IV.||The Otter—Tracking the Wily Varmint||36|
|V.||The Otter, continued—The Earthstopper’s Vigil||48|
|VI.||The Otter, continued—The Otter at the Lake||64|
|VII.||The Otter, continued—The Hunt||71|
|VIII.||The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek—The Earthstopper in Doubt||85|
|IX.||The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek, continued—The Earthstopper Angry||100|
|X.||The White Badger of Cairn Kenidzhek, continued—The Badger’s Capture and Escape||112|
|XI.||The Hare—Life Story of the Jack of Bartinney||130|
|XII.||The Hare, continued—Digory Strout and Farmer Pendre||145|
|XIII.||The Hare, continued—The Course||152|
|XIV.||A Midnight Visit to the Seal-Caves||167|
|XV.||Reminiscences of Boyhood’s Days||186|
|XVI.||Bass Fishing at the Land’s End||206|
|XVII.||Ned’s Tale of the Birds||221|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
|Andrew the Earthstopper (Photogravure). (From a photograph by Richards, Penzance)||Frontispiece|
|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
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