Country diary: The water levels are low below this quiet hillside

St Cleer, Bodmin Moor: To the west is an undulating range of china clay country once known as the Cornish Alps

The splashy land of Craddock Moor straddles the watershed between the rivers Fowey and Lynher. On turfy hillocks of early streamworks for tin, the redness of haws, the yellow gorse flowers and pink heather brighten the summit, with its fading bracken and rushy grasses. Adjacent are the remains of an ancient stone circle, dominated by a chimney stack attached to a ruined engine house.

From this vantage point, the sea off Rame Head is a mirror, and traversed by the Brittany ferry from Plymouth. Westward, an undulating range of china clay country, which no longer features the many conical white spoil tips that inspired the name of Cornish Alps.

The boulder-strewn edge of moorland, around Tregarrick Tor, looms over Siblyback Lake – a reservoir that captures three little streams that once flowed directly into a tributary of the Fowey. On top of the granite tor, natural rock basins brim with water – these were once described as devil’s punchbowls, or as virgins’ bidets in France. Here, the broken remains of massive capstones lie about, levered off in the past, worked and split into blocks, then manoeuvred downhill for use as building stone.

An overgrown droveway leads off this quiet hillside towards the reservoir’s busy carpark – a destination for sightseers and regular local visitors. A few walk around the lake on a graded path, overlooked by sheep scattered across green pastures, and with distant tors peeping over nearer hills.

Near the concrete dam, a pair of cormorants perch on the rocks and dry their wings, while another dives for fish close to a gang of floating gulls. The feeder streams to the dam are low and in need of significant rainfall. Near the main inflow, pools reflect the blue sky and scudding clouds; a beach extends around the shallow edges of the lake; and no water flows over the dam’s spillway.

In the brambly verges, the declining autumn sun draws attention to the spoiled blackberries, woven with glistening webs where spiders entrap and bundle up flies.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary


Virginia Spiers

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Country diary: water is everywhere in this rainforest-like ravine
Hareshaw Linn, Northumberland: Part of a dam wall is the only trace of the 19th-century ironworks that was once here

Susie White

08, Nov, 2019 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: This moonlight reflects nature’s glory
Sandy, Bedfordshire: We have lost our connection with the moon’s illuminating presence so, in a candle-snuffing breeze, I head out into the fields

Derek Niemann

10, Nov, 2021 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: I think it’s an earthquake – but it’s not coming from below
Slingsby Bank, North Yorkshire: Some walks you enjoy and forget. Some walks stay with you forever

Amy-Jane Beer

27, Nov, 2021 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: lockdown brings a wild quiet to populated places
Wharfedale, Yorkshire: There are moments of beauty, but the silence can also be eerie and strange, or mask an underlying hostility

Carey Davies

29, Apr, 2020 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: In this buffeting wind, we are light as lichen spores
Chapel fell, Weardale: Giddy from the gales, we lean against a stone wall. Something here is in its element

Phil Gates

19, Jan, 2022 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: fascinated by the falsehood of things
Wenlock Edge, Shropshire: A sunbeam bends into a rainbow over the trees, fields and lanes, against the dark-light of cloud

Paul Evans

03, Dec, 2020 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: trolling for butterflies under a bridge
Caistor St Edmund, Norfolk: I enter a secret world, hidden and immersed in darkness, with just the trickle of the stream, and find 10 curious creatures

Kate Blincoe

07, Dec, 2020 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: limestone is abundant with nature's gifts
Bosherston, Pembrokeshire: Its spring and early summer flowers in their profusion are a magnet for devotees of nature in Wales

Jim Perrin

08, Jun, 2019 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: mystery built into drystone walls
Abney, Derbyshire: It must have been the devil to work in all those narrow apertures – you’d need a good reason, surely

Ed Douglas

03, Sep, 2020 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: This humble slab is as old as sedimentary rock gets
The Long Mynd, Shropshire: Under an immense view sits a pale mattress of stone that seems to float in space and time

Paul Evans

28, Oct, 2021 @4:30 AM