Friday, 4 March 2011

Cornwall's Giant Bolster

“There were giants in the Earth in those days”, says the Book of Genesis when talking about those distant days before Noah’s flood.

Modern scientists may scoff, but the people of Cornwall are in no doubt. If they are to be believed then the county was once home to more giants than any other place in England. As for the Devil, he is held to have been very active in Cornwall in days gone by. Outsiders might suggest that Cornwall was a favourite destination of his due to the wickedness of the local people. Cornish residents would no doubt counter that the Devil had to come to the county so often for precisely the opposite reason - he had to work doubly hard in order to tempt the good Cornish folk away from the paths of righteousness.

Either way both giants and devils have been frequent visitors to Cornwall.

Take for instance the strange earthworks of Bolster Bank just outside St Agnes on the north coast. The bank is a long ditch with the spoil thrown up to one side. On the hill behind it are three large stone cairns. According to local legend, this area was once owned by a giant named Bolster. When St Agnes brought Christianity to the area and asked Bolster for land on which to build a church, she was met by a grumpy reply. The giant told her that she could have as much land as she could clear of stones and boulders in three journeys.

St Agnes went to work, using her apron to hold the stones as she picked them up. Miraculously her apron expanded to hold a huge amount of debris. Three times she emptied her apron on top of the hill, on each occasion dumping enough rocks to create one of the cairns. She thus cleared enough land for a church and for a holy community of Christians.

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