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Did Bronze Age planners have problem with Men-an-Tol?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 15, 2013

By Bert Biscoe

Comments (2)

Last Bank Holiday my wife and I spent some time exploring the centrepiece of the Bronze Age Cornish economy. It sits atop a majestic hill on Penwith moors, above Morvah. It was both strongroom and trading centre, holding stocks and managing the European tin market.

In the Bronze Age, Cornwall was at the core of the European economy. Somebody recently told me that the bronze columns in Solomon's Temple included Cornish tin. In order to command the best price, to control quality and supply, the Cornish built Chun Castle on Carn Kenidjack, a high point from which traders and security men could survey the whole of the surrounding landscape – essential to prevent robberies and to know who was coming to trade. Presumably, there were many voices raised in protest when the Bronze Age Council considered the planning application for Carn Kenidjack Innovation Centre!

Just along the path is Chun Quoit, perhaps the best preserved of the mysterious structures that, with circles, menhirs, ruined settlements, ancient hedges and field systems, and the enigmatic Men an Tol, emphasise that Penwith is a landscape shaped by trade, food production, defence, communities seeking shelter, warmth and places to congregate.

Morvah Church, which has uplifted spirits and guided seamen since early medieval times, stands stumpily above the fields of the farms which built and sustained it. Ding Dong Mine pokes its cathedral-like industrial finger to heaven. These structures have endured centuries.

As I looked down from Chun Castle across the flat lands towards the ocean I saw a handful of wind turbines turning and the words of a farmer friend came to mind. Amidst the uncertainties of disease, weather, market manipulation and debt, all of which not only affect solvency but also self-confidence and motivation (the two key aspects which put the culture into agriculture and which discourage farmers from working to hand over long-term enterprises to their children) the one secure and constant source of income at present is the wind turbine!

This led me to reflect that, while it is important to prevent excesses of intrusion (like, for instance, giant wind farms destroying the setting of Rough Tor), it may well be the case that our landscapes and heritage are being protected and sustained by the very machines which many seem hell-bent on trying to eradicate – especially those single machines which support smallholdings (the lifeblood of Cornish farming).

Farmers manage the landscapes we revere, and wind turbines may be keeping many farmers in business at the moment.

We should be careful to ensure that the agriculture which underpins our way of life and economy is not bullied into faceless corporate conglomeration by a misplaced desire to freeze our landscape in a romantic aspic.

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2 comments

  • Prodigal  |  May 16 2013, 11:27AM

    There are currently about 400 single turbine planning applications pending consideration in Cornwall. A typical application might be for a 400Kw or 500Kw wind turbine. These are respectively 45 metres and 75 metres tall. We can estimate how much CO2 a 500Kw turbine might save when in operation (ignoring for the moment the large amount produced in its manufacture and installation). Electricity production in the UK in 2010 released on average 457grammes of CO2 per KWh (IEA CO2 emission statistics 2012 http://tinyurl.com/6vz25nl ). Once such a turbine has been running for some time to recoup the CO2 produced prior to installation, it would then start saving 600 tonnes of CO2 per annum. The UK emits 572 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum or 1.6% of global emissions (Dept. of Energy and Climate Change 30th April 2013). Thus we can estimate that the turbine might reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 0.0001 % or one ten thousandth of one per cent. Or put another way, if we were to erect 10,000 similar turbines in Cornwall we would manage to reduce UK CO2 emissions by 1% and global emissions by 0.016%. Not saving the planet just ruining the country.

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  • IvorWard  |  May 15 2013, 10:29PM

    How can you protect a landscape by destroying it? What utter rubbish you have written. Wind turbines do not improve the economy, they steal money from the pensioners and from businesses and from schools and hospitals then redistribute it to a few large Power Companies and to a few landowners. Many of these are absentees like Prince Charles, just in it for the money. Who do you think pays for these pointless turbines? Everyone who pays an electricity bill. Do you think we would rather give that money to the local economy, or have it stolen from us by Government dictat to give to foreign power companies who hand out a tiny percentage of their ill gotten gains to rent the 25 meters squared plot from the land lords. It's all about the money. Make the few rich, at the expense of everyone else. There has not been such a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich since the land enclosures of 1760 to 1820, also backed by a Government elite. Clegg's wife, Cameron's father in law, Prince Charles, The earl Spencer, they are all lapping it up and people like you are waffling away about how nice it is for the smallholders. We will be sucking a billion pounds out of the economy to feed the fat cats this year alone. 18 billion a year by 2020 and you think this is going to help smallholders? What would help smallholders is local people being able to afford local produce instead of being forced to go cheap to the supermarkets because they are paying out to subsidise pointless wind turbines. Guess what? We still have to build enough coal, gas and nuclear power stations to supply 100% percent of our electricity whether we have 100 or 100,000 windmills because every time the wind stops on a cold winters day they are just one big expanse of vertical junk, useless and un-necessary. Saving the planet? Ask the Chinese about that. Their year on year increase in emissions is more than our entire output. Saving us from running out of fossil fuels? Quadrilla have found over 1500 YEARS of gas supply at our current usage in one gas field in Lancashire and they have not even started to explore the southeast and south west yet. One gas rig in the corner of a field in Cornwall could well be supplying us with a thousand years of gas by 2020 if the Government gets on with it and stops playing with the lives of our old people. 30,000 extra people died of cold this year, from the governments own figures, and many of them died because they had to choose whether to heat or eat. I hope the next farmer that joins the subsidy bonanza can live with a few extra old people dying around them. Maybe they can use their new found riches to donate a field as a cemetery.

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