Tregonning Hill is no lofty pile. Not Great Gable, crouched hungrily above a once bare Ennerdale valley. And certainly no terror mountain, say the Grand Dru, towering over a steep alpine valley, patiently waiting to kill its next victim.
For sure, our hill was once bigger, molten rock forced out of the earth 250 million years ago, then ground down bit by bit until all that’s left is a small stump of old volcanic rock sitting back, gently, about a mile behind the coast. Our hill was first occupied around 2,500 years ago by iron age men, who used the denuded lump as a shop front.
From their fort at its top, look west towards Land’s End and out to the invisible Americas. Then again, south to France. Nothing but deep blue sea on the horizon.
Then 250 years ago William Cookworthy, came to see. While here, he did what chemists do, wandering around the hillside, picking up bits of rock. Some hard granite crystals. Others more crumbly – chalky almost. He put these softer bits of rock into his pocket and went home, ground them up , making stiff paste and kiln blasting the pot he’d formed.
Later, Cookworthy (friend of Captain James Cook) started digging and quarrying, pleased with his “China” plate and wanting more.
John Wesley passed by and preached to his lambs lying down under the shady trees growing below.
Napolean floats into view, and flags are hoisted high so he might be scared away.
Then the digging and the dynamite and noise from the quarrying goes eastwards, and the barren hillside is leftover again for the butterflies, the birds and the fox.
Follow the path from the ridge downhill, skirting Cookworthy’s straggling quarries to where a lane begins and hooks left. The ocean zooms back into sight. You see this same spot from the bottom of the Moor Lane, just by a rough field where the barn owl hunts.
This is the spot that Ivor fancied most. As Cookworthy’s quarrymen had hacked out new claypits higher up the hillside, so they barrowed the spoil downwards. Filling the old holes up again.
Stand in front of the gate where the lane turns left again. Three tall pines rise behind you in a paddock where animals graze. Behind the gate a field rises past a cowshed and at the top?
At the top, facing us, stands Ivan.
To his right another path cuts across all that remains of the quarry top, leading to more field.
A proper Cornish farmer, coat tied together with twine.