Cornwall’s very own Nessie’s
Scotland has the Loch Ness Monster, North America has the Big Foot and Scandinavia has the Lindworm… For many years tourists to Cornwall were lured into buying gifts displaying pixies (or piskys), dressed in bright green and red with pointy hats, believing they would bring them good luck. Cornish folklore is full of stories about pixies, mermaids and the spriggans who lived deep underground alongside the miners, but in recent years, other mythical creatures have come to the fore…
There’s Morgawr, a sea serpent (it means sea giant in Cornish) that supposedly lives in the sea in and around Falmouth Bay. Earliest mentions of it come from the mid 1970s when a large creature was allegedly spotted off of Pendennis Point. It was described as having a long neck and dark skin, shiny like a sea lions, three humps on its back and webbed feet, some people have even claimed it has horns above its eyes.
Local fishermen started blaming it when fishing was poor, and then in 1976 two fishermen claimed to spot it off of Lizard Point. A local author was accused of inventing the hoax when he sent photos of the creature to the local newspaper. He said he had taken them at Mawnan, on the mouth of the Helford whilst Morgawr was in shallow water. Another writer was to claim to see the creature off the Roseland in 1985, and sightings have continued over the years, especially around Rosemullion Head, an area known locally as Morgawr’s Mile.
Recently a badly decomposed sea creature was found washed up on a beach near St Austell and claimed to be Morgwar. At eight foot in length, chances are it was a dolphin or a porpoise, but that didn’t put the Metro newspaper from reporting it.
The earliest sightings of the Beast of Bodmin Moor also date from the 1970s, when farmers started reporting sheep being found dead on the open moor after being attacked. At around the same time the UK government introduced the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which meant lots of new legislation to do with keeping animals at home, something that had been popular during the late 60s and early 70s.
It is claimed that people not wanting to conform to these laws or have their pets caged up, let them free in the countryside. There is also a story of three pumas being released into the wild after Plymouth Zoo closed down in 1978.
Over the years since, several photographs and videos have been published, claiming to be of a large cat roaming Bodmin Moor. Many people have reported seeing or hearing an animal, but as yet no firm proof has come to light.
The nearest we came to having evidence was when a skull of a large cat was discovered in the upper reaches of the Fowey River in the mid 1990’s by a young boy. It was sent to the National History Museum in London who confirmed it was a Leopard, but on further investigation found the eggcase of a tropical cockroach in a cavity inside the skull. This proved the skull was from a cat that had died abroad and was probably from a rug or a wall mounted hunting trophy.
Since then an official investigation in 1995 found that there was "no verifiable evidence for the presence of a 'big cat' on Bodmin Moor” and “no significant threat to livestock”. Despite this landowners still find attacked livestock and anybody walking in the wilder parts of the moor will find it easy to understand that a large cat could survive up there, hiding away beneath the rocks and undergrowth.
Perhaps the strangest ‘creature’ to supposedly lurk deep in darkest Cornwall is the Owl Man. In 2012 Cornish playwright Carl Grose premiered his play ‘Horse P*** for Blood’, which told the tale of a dysfunctional family living near RAF Portreath on the north coast.
For a short while in the mid-1950s, RAF Portreath allegedly became a base for stockpiling the UK's Chemical weapons, and although mothballed by the end of the 50s, was maintained through the 1960s and 1970s in a state whereby production of chemical weapons could take place if required.
In the late 1990s local people suggested that toxic materials had been dumped in nearby mineshafts and that a large man like owl creature had been seen flying out of tunnels in the cliffs below the airbase, it was this story that was used as one of the main plots in the play.
It wasn’t the first time tales of Owlmen had been heard in Cornwall. In the mid-70s there had supposedly been sightings south of Falmouth. Like Morgwar, these have concentrated around the village of Mawnan Smith, a coincidence? Perhaps…
In the hot summer of 76, two teenage girls were camping near the village when, just as they were preparing to go to sleep they heard a strange sound and looking outside the tent saw an owl as big as a man with pointy ears and big red eyes. The creature rose into the air revealing claw like feet before settling in the branches of a nearby tree. Further sightings were reported through the late 70s and into the 1980s, all of them made to the same person, the author who had claimed to see Morgawr at around the same time.
So, do large owls exist in Cornwall? is there a relative of Nessie living in the waters off of Falmouth? And will you see a wild cat if you go walking on Bodmin Moor? Well, if you do we would love to hear from you.