Tewlwolow Kernow

It was a hot bright day during the 2013 summer heatwave. I approached from below through the gardens recently planted with exotics from even hotter climes. The land was once owned by the monks of St Michael’s Mount, and the Mount shimmered on the horizon behind, at once below me and above keeping watch.

I passed through a circular seating space, an antechamber, through a narrow door into a low and dark space stoppered by light in front and behind, and opened out suddenly into bright height.

The space is an oval chamber, open to the sky. There is a bench running around the edge. I sat down. It forced me to lean back and look upwards.

I’m told there is background illumination, presumably nestling in the ledge above the seating, but the power of sun overwhelmed all human mediated light. It was at first unbearable, a space seering on the eyeballs. Eventually, I put my sunglasses back on.

SkyspaceSt Michael's Mount

Initially I had seen a flattened image of blue and white. The sunglasses brought the image into three dimensions… not the 3D of a white frame superposed on blue, but the 3D of a blue lozenge mounted on the white ceiling, now decreasing to grey as the blue increased. The edge belonged to the sky instead of the opening in the ceiling. The only tell-tale of reality was a thin bright line reflecting the sun; the edge of the opening cannot be infinitely thin.

Here are the truths mediated by dark protective lenses…

The lozenge was coloured light-blue nearer the invisible sun, shading to dark-blue on the opposite side, and becoming darker as my gaze lengthened. It was a jewel, a cameo brooch, a gift.

It was a film projection, across which clouds and birds were flying.

It was a dish of liquid, through which clouds and birds were swimming.

I could stretch out my hand to touch the face of God.

The ellipse was the entire cosmos. I was being shown the universe as Julian was shown “all that is made” lying as a hazelnut in the palm of her hand.

Anti-shadowThe anti-shadow – made by the sun shining through the oval opening – was an alternative universe brighter than our own. But it was misshapen, swollen above the fault line that ran across it. It was the brightness of a Lucifer, or an Icarus that had approached too near the sun and fallen. Its lines were blurred.

One could not come close to the other.


Tewlwolow Kernow is “An underground elliptical domed chamber which James Turrell has designed as a space from which to view the sky, especially at twilight.” It is found in the Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, whch opened in mid-September 2012, located in the golden mile above Penzance. Tewlwolow means half-light, i.e. twilight.


A lane of two halves: one year on

Last year, I did the first half of a walk down the 1800s route of Woodwater Lane. I managed the western half as far as the Retail Park, before giving up due to the rain.

Exactly one year later, I completed the journey. Not quite in the same way; I cycled it instead of walking, and as a result was much less immersed in the journey and took far fewer photos. Call it more of a reconnaisance trip.

What I found was that the Lane continues to be erased, bit by bit.

When I compared old with new maps a year ago, I could see that the route still existed, despite the centre being obliterated by the Rydon Lane ring road and the Retail Park. To the east, the Lane is overlain by Digby Drive, then opposite the Park & Ride takes a right turn into a footpath. The path emerges on to Clyst Halt Avenue, becomes a contraflow on the one-way bridge over the A379 spur, and where the sliproad bends continues to the west of the railway line. All this section may not be along the exact route of the old Lane, but comes very close.

The whole path from the bridge over the A379 to Old Rydon Lane is named on Google Maps asĀ Old Rydon Close, even though the first part is not passible by motor vehicles. Where the footpath widens out, the Google Satellite image shows, on the other side of the railway line, a hedge running parallel to Old Rydon Lane and joining the end of a farm lane. The 1800s route ends at the junction of the farm lane with Old Rydon Lane.*

The hedge appears on the 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map too, but not on Google Maps or Open Street Map. What Open Street Map does show is a faint dotted red line across the railway line, which according to its key means a footway. So I thought it might be possible to cross the railway line, hug the hedge and nip down the farm lane. On the ground, however, I was confronted with a padlocked gate and a slightly cryptic Network Rail sign.


Perhaps they dedicated it to their mums

So I had to keep going down Old Rydon Close to Old Rydon Lane, which goes under the railway, and approach the end of the 1800s route from the other direction. But the farm lane wasn’t welcoming either.

Farm lane


That wasn’t quite that. Parallel to the lane, just the other side of the right-hand hedge, is the back entrance to the Exeter Chieftains’ rugby complex. So I cycled what I could and ogled what I couldn’t. What then of the hedge? Well, surprise surprise, it has been grubbed up, and the fields have been given over to growing turf, presumably for the rugby pitch. The hedge is no more, and Woodwater Lane is no more here, but it still possible to see where it used to run, given away by the different colours of the grass.


Once-was hedge: from the railway crossing by the white-gabled house to join the hedge on the left

Nor is that quite that. It looks as though Exeter is going to get a new IKEA store, which it needs about as much as an alcoholic needs a bottle of gin. According to the “Have your say” (so long as it’s “Yes”) booklet, the site will be by the A379, half store, half housing. The housing will replace the one-way sliproad, which is no longer needed anyway. However, it looks as though the path over the A379 and along the railway will be retained.

Incidentally, IKEA’s aerial shot of the site was taken after the hedge was grubbed up, and in the spring before the field had greened, but the line of the hedge is as clear as the day.

* Update: Oops, no it doesn’t quite. As this fabulous map clearly shows, the 1800s route keeps going a bit further beyond the current farm before it turns right. I should have good a little bit further down Old Rydon Lane.