Philanthropist, clergyman, writer, eccentric, Cornishman – Robert Stephen Hawker has left his indelible mark on this northern outpost of the TDs area.
Most famous for his ‘Song of the Western Men’ (or Trelawney as it is better known), the Revd. Hawker was a complex, intelligent and generous man. His marriages - first to a woman twice his age and then to one 40 years his younger are a microcosm of his successful, but unpredictable way of life - undertaken at a time when stepping out of line was severely frowned upon.
We started our tour at Coombe, the village where the young Robert spent his holidays and where he later had a cottage built, with the fenestration of his study in the form of a cross of light. We dowsed for the original alignment of the track leading into the village and admired the lovingly-restored buildings, including the water wheel, now in the care of the Landmark Trust.
A walk around the area in the summer sunshine eventually took us to his rectory, where we were given a personal guided tour by the current owner. Each of the four chimneys of this building is designed to represent the tower of a church where Hawker preached. The energy in the Rectory was light and clean. We then traced the late vicar’s footsteps up the slope to the church of Morwenstow itself, where Robert was the incumbent for 41 years.
Inside the church we had a long debate about the nature of an ‘energy’ line which crossed the north western corner and may be the remanence of a ‘spirit path’. The marvellous Anglo-Saxon font had been moved at some stage and we were able to sense the essence of its original position. Some sensed Hawker himself too.
We took the track along the coast to ‘Hawker’s Hut’, a wooden structure, tucked into the crest of the cliff, where the literary legend wrote some of his prodigious output. Despite the garden-shed appearance, the energy here felt calm and clear - more like a meditation room than a tourist viewpoint, but perhaps functioning as both.
We then ventured to investigate St. Morwenna’s Well - a bona fide holy well, nestling in a forgotten corner of the Rectory orchard. Rarely have I found an orchard so resplendent with water lines - and consequently the healthy apple trees lean this way and that as they are drawn across them.
Our last port of call was the very excellent Rectory Tea Rooms, where pots of tea and slices of delicious home-made cake were enthusiastically devoured, even by those who claimed not to eat such stuff.
Many thanks, as ever, to Alan Neal for organising an intriguing - and very different - day’s dowsing.