Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Cheesewring on the Bodmin Moor

by Diane Scott Lewis

A decade or so ago, my husband I traveled to Cornwall to research my first novel. On a misty, foggy day (how appropriate) we walked on the Bodmin Moor. The first sign we encountered was a tiny one that said Cheesewring with an arrow. In those dark-ages days before the internet was so readily available, we scratched our heads, wondering what this could be.

Traipsing the mysterious moor over scrubby grass, glared at by disturbed sheep, I saw a strange rock formation in the distance and insisted my husband take my picture with it.

Only when we arrived home, and I researched in a book I had, did I find that this granite tor had been the Cheesewring.

Located on the southern edge of the Bodmin Moor, the Cheesewring, or in Cornish, Keuswask, is a geological formation on Stowe’s Hill formed by centuries of weathering—harsh winds and rain. The name is derived from the piled slabs that resemble a cheese press.

Author Wilkie Collins described the formation in 1861 in his book, Rambles Beyond Railways: "If a man dreams of a great pile of stones in a nightmare, he would dream of such a pile as the Cheesewring."

Thirty-two feet in height, the tor is top-heavy, the fifth and sixth rocks of immense size and thickness. Four lower rocks support them, all perfectly irregular, the towering formation having no lateral support as it clings to the steep hill. It’s said the formation spewed from the earth, and crystallized as tubular granite.

In local legend, the Cheesewring is the result of a contest between a man and a giant. The giants who dwelled in the Cornish caves were angry when Christianity was first introduced to the British Islands. The Saints had invaded their land, and the largest giant Uther was sent to chase them out. The frail Saint Tue proposed a rock throwing contest. If he won, the giants had to convert to Christianity. If Uther won, the Saints would leave Cornwall.

Uther easily threw a small rock to the top of Stowe’s Hill. Tue prayed for assistance. He picked up a huge slab, and found it miraculously light. They continued throwing, stacking the stones in perfect piles. When the score was twelve each, Uther tossed a thirteenth, but it rolled down the hill. Tue picked up his fallen stone, and as he lifted it an angel appeared to carry the slab to the top of the rock pile. At seeing this, Uther conceded, and most of the giants converted to Christianity.

In a book on Arthurian Legend, it’s said that the slabs turn and twist at certain times of the year. Or when the tor hears a cock crow.

According to the 1903
Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute "In this country of ancient art, such as standing stones, old crosses, druidical circles, and dolmens, the Cheesewring rises pre-eminent as a conspicuous work of nature."

Located adjacent to the Cheesewring Quarry and surrounded by other granite formations, this landmark was threatened with destruction in the late nineteenth century by the proximity of blasting operations, but was saved as a result of local activism.

Cheesewring Quarry


For more on Diane Scott Lewis and her Cornish novels:


  1. What a fascinating picture. I love the idea of the Cheesewring twisting during special circumstances. I've always been intrigued by Arthurian lore and also anything to do with the Standing Stones all over the UK. Thanks for such an interesting post.

  2. I've never heard of it or seen pictures! Fascinating! Love that you included the info on the local legend!


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