The past holds a lot of power over me. When I’m walking through a city, a can’t stop imagining how it was before… decades ago, centuries, millennia when it was lush and covered in trees. What led it to where it is now? I think this is part of what makes ruins so attractive. Who can go to them and not wonder what it looked like when they were still grand, finished structures? When they were lived in?
It’s not just the romantic aspect either. It’s a curiosity about how did we get here? Because I don’t always like “here” and I don’t always think we have oh so much more wisdom “here.”
Cornwall seems especially perfect for this kind of imagining. An Iron Age ring fort sits overlooking all the land and both coasts, a farm rests below, and chimneys from tin mines are within sight, while nearby are dolmens and Roman road markers. Standing in a place like that Iron Age ring fort with all that in view can make it feel like being in a place where all timelines converge.
So when I found one of those little stone bridges (the kind of indeterminate age known as a clapper bridge) I had to stop the car and go cross it. Often, people credit these as prehistoric. I did too—and maybe the one I crossed which was no more than a footbridge across a stream was—most were made in the Middle Ages. My friend and I crossed it, sat on it and looked at the water, tromped around it a bit, and then hopped in the car and drove on towards Land’s End.
It lingers in my imagination. I didn’t follow the path away from it any further, but the spot sticks with me as one of those weird Cornish places where time seems to all collapse on itself and ghosts are a little bit closer. Perhaps they were? When I picture it now, they’re not far off in the misty distance.