Country diary: a rare blue sky colours our waterlogged moorland trek

Virginia Spiers
Photograph: Helen Hotson/Alamy

Out from Jamaica Inn, after an underpass beneath the dual carriageway, a narrow way approaches the open moor. Enclosures around Bolventor involved a “bold venture” in the mid-19th century when a farming settlement was founded amid moorland. Animals would have been driven uphill to summer pastures along this granite-edged track, where foxglove plants thrive among wintergreen ferns, clumps of ling and leafless whortleberry.

Today’s rare blue sky reflects in puddles across the trampled ground of Tolborough Down; backwards, beyond and above lines of glinting traffic, Dozmary Pool shimmers beneath cairn-topped Brown Gelly on the southern horizon. In the freezing winters of the 1880s and 90s, ice was harvested from that little tarn, stored in a stone-lined, turf-covered hollow for use by south coast fishermen sending catches by train to London. In the cold of 1962-63 daredevil lads from distant Quethiock drove cars there to parade and whizz about on the thick ice.

Related: Country diary: this stony grazing is littered with prehistoric remains

Out of sight and sound of the A30, our path coincides with the parish boundary between Altarnun and St Breward, passing Catshole Tor and a Neolithic long cairn, all overlooked by Brown Willy rising above undulating expanses of dun-coloured rough grazing. Belted galloways congregate in a col and later, on the tussocky molinia of High Moor, we see ponies and a foal, while two deer bound effortlessly through rushes around headstreams of the River Fowey. But first, en route to the summit, we negotiate the waterlogged track, a derelict hunting gate and the steep ascent between rocky outcrops. Then, from the sunlit top (420 metres), far-off St Austell Bay gleams likes a mirror; below, on the northern edge of the moor towards St Clether and Davidstow, unseasonally verdant pastures contrast with the browns and greys of Roughtor’s clitter-strewn slopes.

Downhill and before sundown we cross splashy grassland, pass occasional earth-fast boulders encrusted in silvery lichen and emerald moss, avoid the bogs and skirt Leskernick Hill with its ancient settlements and fields. Opposite Codda Downs dark red cattle gaze towards the setting sun and, down in the shade by the fast-flowing Fowey, yellow gorse and bearded lichen remain luminous in the fading light.