Here Be Dragons

Just over a decade ago life gave me the opportunity to live briefly in a rather wonderful place called Crean Mill.  It was a wildlife haven and I was in my element living there with a plethora of different birds and mammals visiting the land around the Mill.  What it also had in profusion was a vibrant dragonfly and damselfly population.  There was a very specific reason for this.  The previous owner of the Mill was world renowned expert on these fabulous insects, Philip Corbet, and he deliberately designed and landscaped the garden to attract these species.

Mill in Spring 010

I spent a blissful summer studying, identifying and recording all the dragonflies around the ponds and the many breathtakingly beautiful damselflies that gathered around the stream that ran through the woodland nearby.  Fortunately I was lent usage of a camera to photograph many of these gems so I still have stunning photos which remind me of those halcyon days.

What follows now is a Witch’s Dozen of images from that time.

Dragon 1

Dragon 2












All too soon my stay was cut short and I returned to my cottage in the village where I had but a modest little wildlife pond.  Only on two occasions had I spotted a small damselfly in my garden and I resigned myself to not seeing these fabulous creatures except on rare occasions when I visited gardens elsewhere.

However, just recently I had occasion to reconsider the situation.  Following a little research I found that it is entirely possible to adapt and change the plant life around my humble pond to tempt in dragonflies and damselflies.  I found an wonderful website called Puddleplants based in Wales and they gave me excellent help and advice.  Puddleplants

I set to clearing out the pond (no mean feat) and the space nearby ready to receive it’s new plants.

Here’s what the pond looked like before.

Pond (3)

After I had cleared space.

Pond 4 (2)

The finished pond with it’s dragonfly alluring plants.

Pondlife (2)

Pondlife (5)

Pondlife (3)

Now all that’s needed is for a passing dragon or damsel to spot my pond and see it as an ideal place to reproduce itself.  I have a feeling this may take some time.  Maybe a bit of magic is called for…

In the meantime just a few facts about dragons:

They eat their body weight in insects every day – useful if you’re susceptible to gnat and midge bites.

They evolved 300 million years ago predating dinosaurs – so they’re relics and real Old Souls.

The relic dragon had a wing span of over 3 feet – just imagine what that would look like – somewhat alarming methinks!

They are astonishing aerial acrobats with the ability to hover and reverse at high speed if necessary – very handy and versatile skills which makes them voracious hunters.

Contrary to their appearance they do not sting or bite – in fact they are beneficial to humans as they can decimate mosquitos and are an important part of the food web. 


The Blasted Heath

From the window of my cottage as you gaze west there are three undulating hills.  The middle hill is Bartinney Downs.  It houses an Iron Age enclosure around the top, various tumuli and contains prehistoric field systems – and because of this, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.  Bartinney Downs is also a heathland Nature Reserve and supports a large array of rare birds, mammals and insects. 

According to local folklore Bartinney has been a sanctuary due to the belief that ‘no evil spirit can exist within it’s boundaries’.  It has a wild beauty that many local people appreciate when they walk the hills of West Penwith.

Bartinney Downs - Photo credit: Unknown

During the night of 5th April 2021, some depraved or benighted individual(s) set fire to the hillside close to this much loved site.  The fire spread rapidly due to brisk winds until 120 acres of historic heathland was alight.  Fire crews battled through the night and into most of the next day until they eventually extinguished the blaze.  Local farmers witnessed various animals and small creatures ‘fleeing in terror from the flames’.  Not all made it out alive.  It was the worst possible time for a wildfire as it is nesting season for birds and many other creatures who made the Downs their home. 

Yesterday I made my way up to Bartinney Downs to see for myself what had happened to the land.  I knew that I had to brace myself as it would be upsetting.  As I approached I was aware of all the signs of Spring around me in the fields and hedgerows, but when I actually crossed the threshold into the sanctuary it was another matter.  All around me was a terrible wasteland with twisted and blackened skeletons of gorse and bramble rising out of a sea of ash.  There were heart breaking signs of death – singed eggshells and silvered snail shells just to name a few.  No birds sang, no insects buzzing – just the plaintive mewing of buzzards and the raucous caws of corvids high above.

Bartinney Downs (2)

Bartinney Downs (7)

Bartinney Downs (9)

Bartinney Downs (10)

Bartinney Downs (5)

At some points there was a cruel contrast between the blasted heath and the lush springtime which was just yards away. It felt like I was walking between two worlds as I paced the boundary whilst intoning a healing blessing to the Land.

Bartinney Downs (11)

Bartinney Downs (16)

Mercifully for this occupant the fire had been extinguished before they lost their home to the flames. Sadly as I made my way towards the summit it was apparent that many other homes and habitats suffered a very different fate.

Bartinney Downs (20)

Bartinney Downs (35)

Bartinney Downs (22)

Bartinney Downs (30)

Eventually I reached the top where I undertook a full blessing of the Land with appropriate offerings, together with my tears for the wilful sacrilege. I prayed for a speedy restoration of Bartinney’s essence and spirit together with the rejuvenation, which will take years to recover. I dwelt for a while on the irony of the Cornish meaning of Bartinney – bre-tanow or hill of fires…

Then it was time to leave in the hope that the next time I come this way, that some green shoots may be sprouting. After all Nature is resilient and relentless.

Bartinney Downs (36)

Bartinney Downs (33)

Bartinney Downs (23)

Local residents are shocked by this incident and are rightly incensed when they learnt that it was started deliberately. I personally don’t understand what motivates people to destroy wildlife and their habitation in such a violent manner, but I sincerely hope that they get exactly what they deserve for their actions, and may they know no rest in the meantime.

Dark Gathering 2019 – Part Two

At last I have finished the Dark Gathering blog for the year! 🙂

The Dark Gathering

So to the second half of the Dark Gathering – the arrival of the Mari Lwyds and the Honouring of the Ancestors.  Following a quick and much needed mulled cider it was time to line-up the drummers ready to send the signal to the Procession to commence.  This is a part of the proceedings where the general public, if they have the ability, can join in with the tribal drumming.

Also this was the time for Penkevyll to emerge from her stable with her Teazers to call the Mari Lwyds to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic.  As anticipated the Teazers led by Laetitia Latham-Jones danced and wove their magic upon the crowd and Penkevyll to the sound of trance-like tribal drumming.

Shortly after 6 pm the Lantern Procession headed off for the Museum led ably by Laura Marshall from Beltane accompanied by many differing characters including the famous Mari…

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Dark Gathering 2019 – Part One

The Dark Gathering

There is an ancient Chinese curse which goes: “May you live in interesting times.”  There have been times this past year when I have wondered whether I had unknowingly offended someone of oriental persuasion when it came to the Dark Gathering!  There has also been the odd occasion when I wondered whether it was actually going to happen or not, especially when it came to wrangling with the dead hand of bureaucracy.  Indeed as the date of this year’s Dark Gathering approached there was a last minute flurry of obstacles, cancellations and complications – not to mention wet weather that seemed to take on biblical proportions!

Undaunted we soldiered on…

On the day, we had to put out a disclaimer on the website and social media that there was a police warning of a yellow flood alert on some of the roads approaching Boscastle and for folks to be aware…

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Countdown to the Dark Gathering 2019

Important Update to Dark Gathering 2019.

The Dark Gathering

To say that the past year as the organiser of the Dark Gathering has been challenging would be the understatement of the year!  Sometimes an event can prove to be so popular it can become the victim of it’s own success, and now that the Gathering regularly attracts many hundreds of people it has also brought upon itself the scrutiny of the red tape brigade.  I personally have been on a very steep learning curve including learning new jargon, PLI, RA, TEN not to mention H&S!  Thankfully I have had the help of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s Events Manager who has diligently steered me through the minefield of licenses, permissions and insurances required by various departments and organisations.  He has been a godsend.  🙂

What this preamble is leading to is to inform you that there may well be a few changes to the way we run things…

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Parking information at the Dark Gathering

For whom it may concern. 🙂

The Dark Gathering

There have been some significant changes in parking regulations at Boscastle due to local council decisions.  Henceforth there will no longer be a facility for overnight parking in the main car park.    Any folk who decide to flout this ruling face the very real risk of a parking fine.

So, the small village of camper vans that used to emerge on the Friday night of the Dark Gathering, only to slowly disappear on the Sunday, alas is now a thing of the past in this particular car park.

There will be a field set aside for Performers and Crew but there will be no facilities available.  I will be informing people of where this site is as soon as it is confirmed by the local farmer.  Unfortunately this option is not available to members of the public – however as a result of no overnight camping there will be…

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Change to Dark Gathering Line Up

There is only one thing that you can guarantee in life – and that is that all things will change!

The Dark Gathering

We live in interesting times and the Dark Gathering has not been immune to these fluctuating events.  Sadly I have to announce that our Guest Side, Wild Hunt Bedlam Morris have reluctantly had to cancel their appearance this year due to unforeseen circumstances.  We were very disappointed by this and we hope that Wild Hunt will be able to appear at a Gathering at some point in the future.

Needless to say this caused some avid searching around for a replacement side and we found and decided upon an intriguing act – Huginn and Muninn.

They have been described as ‘Ragnarock ‘n Roll’ and are advertised as ‘a contemporary surrealist two person Border Morris side.  They dance tales of Huginn and Muninn’s adventures from the pantheon of Norse myths, ably kept in check by the music of Odin himself.’  We are hoping that everyone will be well entertained by such…

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New Page to All Hallows Dark Gathering Website

The Dark Gathering

This is a quick post to let folks know that we have a new page to our Dark Gathering Website.  In pursuit of funding initiatives we have created a Merchandise page which we will add to as and when.  We aim to create high quality items at an affordable cost,  whilst at the same time adding to our funds.

Once again we give thanks to our in-house graphic designer, Chris White.  🙂

Merchandise Page

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Line Up for Dark Gathering 2019

After a lot of ducking and diving, I’ve eventually got my line-up of performers for the Dark Gathering 2019. Read all about them here:

The Dark Gathering

The sixth annual Dark Gathering has yet again an exciting line-up with something, hopefully, for everyone.  So it’s time to give a bit more detail and introduce the performers to you.

The day will kick off with spooky tales from  Lisa Schneidau who is an experienced storyteller and environmentalist from Dartmoor.  She will bring together her love of nature and the Land with a magical flair that I’m sure will enchant all who attend the session.

Lisa Schneidau

Here are the details:

Wise Women and Witches
Stories from the Isles of Britain

The venue will be the library at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.  Given the rarity of some of the books, there is an absolute ban on any food and drink being brought into the library with no browsing of books permitted on this occasion.

There will be two shows, 10am and 11am (running time 50 minutes).  Suitable…

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