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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Walk 154 Lands End to St Just (Cornwall)

Walk 154 Lands End to St Just (Cornwall)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 9 miles or 13 km approx.
Difficulty: Demanding with some easier parts
Terrain: cliff coastal path with some road walking
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Buses from Penzance to Lands End and every hour from St Just to Penzance.

Start by exploring the buildings and features around Lands End. These include Penwith House which was once a temperance hotel and is now a gift shop. The famous sign, where you can have one finger-post pointing to your own town and the distance to it, appears to be under the control of an official photographer. The First and Last Refreshment House is situated on the most south westerly point of England. In Arthurian legend this spot is the halfway point between Lands End and the Isles of Scilly and is where the mythical land of Lyonesse was supposedly swallowed by the ocean.

The fist headland along the coastal path from Lands End is Dr Syntax's Head. It is thought that this may have been named after a 19th century local school master and that the shape was like his chin! At Pedn-men-du is a 19th century coastguard look out built on the craggy rocks. The path drops down a road and then into Sennen Cove which is at the southern end of Whitesand Bay. It is very popular with surfers. It was also home to the first canine lifeguard in the UK, a dog called Bilbo. He was active between 2005-2007 and there have been petitions to bring him back. I noticed a member of the RNLI checking on the safety of surfers on his quadbike. One of the more popular duties I would think.

On the walk to Cape Cornwall there are several warnings of exposed old tin mine shafts. It is strongly advised that you keep to the path unless you want to risk disappearing without trace. The cape (the only one so named in England) is the second most westerly point in the UK and is capped by an old mining tower. The area is owned by the National Trust so all of the cape can be explored. Out at sea, on the south side, are The Brisons. In 1851, the ship,The New Commercial, ended up on these rocks but the captain and his wife remained on board until the crew were rescued. They were both pulled off but, unfortunately, the wife died before reaching the shore.

Follow the walk around past a few old tin mine chimneys then take one of the roads or paths into St Just.

Photos show: Sennen Cove and Whitesand Bay; Cape Cornwall.






Saturday, 19 December 2015

Walk 153 Porthcurno to Lands End (Cornwall)

Walk 153 Porthcurno to Lands End (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 6 miles or 10 km approx.
Difficulty: Moderate, overall
Terrain: cliff coastal path
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Bus 1A runs from Penzance to Porthcurno a few times a day, more regular services from Lands End – check with Traveline as they depend on the season.

After a short walk from Porthcurno you arrive at the unique Minnack Open Air Theatre. It is well worth allowing time here to look around. It owes its existence to a Miss Cade who allowed a group of local actors the chance to perform The Tempest on the rocks adjacent to her home, Minnack Cottage. The first performances in 1932 were on a grassy slope with lighting provided by car headlights, batteries and power brought down from the cottage. It has developed from this time into a fully equipped national theatre with a number of well known actors performing with the sea as a backdrop. Every ten years there is a commemorative performance of The Tempest. A superb sight on a sunny day. If you want to see a live performance book early as it is very popular.

The next feature is the picturesque Porth Chapel, then a bit further along is Porthgwarra. The beach here can be accessed by an attractive narrow archway in the cliff. This was a tunnel dug by tin miners to give farmers horse and cart access to the beach to collect seaweed which was used as fertiliser. The beach is privately owned but members of the public are allowed to enjoy it quietly.

About half a mile along the path is Gwennap Head with its coastguard lookout. In an area close to the path is a very deep hole – not sure whether this was the result of mining or if it is natural. The Chair Ladder along the cliffs is a famous challenge for climbers and has been used by the army for training.

The bright blue of the sea especially around Folly Cove is stunning. The approach to Lands End is distinguished by the jagged granite rocks. A little out to sea is the Longships Lighthouse. It takes its name from the rocks that it sits upon which are said to resemble Viking longships.

The coastal path cuts inland at Lands End and goes past Greeb Farm which is 200 years old. Small animals, various craft workers and a resident artist can be visited.

The entrance to Land End is via the Lands End Experience. I have heard this called 'tacky commercialisation' but leave this judgement to others. Interactive shows, shopping, restaurants and bars are among the attractions.

More about Lands End on the next walk which starts here.

Photos show: The blue sea at Folly Cove; The Minnack open air theatre.














Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Walk 152 Newlyn to Porthcurno (Cornwall)

Walk 152 Newlyn to Porthcurno (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 10 miles or 18km approx
Difficulty: Challenging and demanding in parts
Terrain: road and cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Bus 1A runs without changes a few times a day to and from Penzance. Check with Traveline for times.

Follow the path along the road and on to Mousehole. There is a belief that the village got its name from a cave that resembled a mouse hole.

Mousehole, pronounced 'Mouzl', is one of Cornwall's best known and ancient fishing villages. For many years it was the centre of the pilchard fishing industry. The town was sacked (plundered and destroyed) by the Spanish in 1595. In 1981 the town was hit by disaster when the Penlee lifeboat and its 8 man crew was lost. The town's Christmas lights are turned off each December 19th in remembrance of those who died. Today the village has quaint streets with a number of small art galleries/shops.

Continue walking to Penzer and Keymel Points. Some of the walking on this stretch involves clambering over rocks and other difficult terrain. Much of this area is owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The granite slopes were once home to conifer trees but these were destroyed in a storm. The conditions now favour plants such as fern and it is has become an important haven for various types of wildlife.

The next landmark is Lamorna Cove, a small sandy beach settlement with an old granite pier which was built for exporting stone quarried from the local cliffs and then used in building lighthouses.

The challenging rocky walk continues along to Tater Du with its low lying white lighthouse. This was the UK's first remote control lighthouse when it was built in 1968 and is operated from Penzance.

Further along, look out for a gate with the notice: “The Derek and Jeannie Tangye Minack Chronicles Nature Reserve. A place for solitude.” This couple gave up their jobs to run a flower farm near here and wrote 19 autobiographical books about their life on the farm. In their will they stated that their land must remain as a nature reserve and it is now run by volunteers.

Follow the path around to Penberth Cove and prepare for a walk across large boulder type rocks – ripe for a twisted ankle if you are not careful. Penberth Cove is a picturesque spot with old fishermen's cottages, an old winch and various nets and pots. Phoencian merchants (from middle east area) landed here to buy tin but local miners would not allow them to leave the beach so they could keep their mining methods secret. In past years the fishing industry has declined but there are still a few fishermen who mainly catch mackerel, crab and sea bass.

The walk ends at Porthcurno, look out for the monument to Marconi before arriving at the cove. The beach here is the terminus of ocean cables that connected Britain to international telephone networks. The first link was to Bombay in 1870. To find out more it is well worth visiting The Telegraph Museum inland at Porthcurno – it includes secret World War 2 tunnels and a cable trail to the beach.

Pictures show: the boulders that form a challenging part of the coastal path; Penberth Cove.













Sunday, 13 December 2015

Walk 151 St Michael's Mount/Marazion to Penzance and Newlyn (Cornwall)

Walk 151 St Michael's Mount/Marazion to Penzance and Newlyn (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: coastal paths and pavements
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Plenty of bus links

The walk is mainly alongside the road until Penzance. When I visited there was a heliport near the road where the sky bus regularly flew to the Scilly Isles – I think this is now closed and the service goes from St Just airfield near Lands End. The west coast mainline train service which terminates at Penzance also runs alongside the road.

Follow the walk along to Longrock and the sands, then on to Penzance. The name Penzance comes from 'pen sans' which means 'holy headland' in Cornish. In 1663, Penzance became a coinage town for Cornwall which meant it was responsible for taxes levied on tin mining. The metal was brought down from the smelters by mule and tested for purity. Penlee Museum is well worth a visit for more background information about the area, it also houses an interesting art collection.

Here are a few things to look out for in Penzance:
The Humphrey Davy statue in the centre of the town. Davy was born here in 1778 and at 16 he was appointed as an apprentice to a local doctor. While there he became interested in chemistry and discovered the pain relieving effects of laughing gas. By 24 he became a professor of chemistry and, of course, is best remembered for his work on the miners' safety lamp.
The Egyptian House is marked up on signs, this strange building dates from around 1830 and was restored in the 1970s.
Off the main street is The 17th century Admiral Benbow pub which features in the opening scene of Treasure Island. It has a fascinating collection of maritime artefacts from numerous local wrecks over the last 400 years. Serves good beer and has been visited by many famous people over the years including the Rolling Stones, Gregory Peck and Suggs of Madness.
Not far from here is the Elizabethan Union Hotel, originally a manor house. It was here when there was an attack by the Spanish in 1595. I didn't go in but the blackened walls from the Spanish attack can (reportedly) be seen in The Nelson Bar. Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar was first announced in this building.
The quaint Captain Cutters House which sells specialist tobaccos and is known around the world.

Walking out of the town along the coast there is a stretch of water on the land-side with the Abbey Warehouse in the background. This was built in 1800 as a storage facility for the docks and has recently been restored. There is reputedly a smugglers tunnel to the Admiral Benbow pub.

Further along, adjacent to the harbour, is Ross Bridge. There was a swing bridge here and evidence of the old railway turntable which was used to operate it can still be seen. The Jubilee Park on the coast side was opened in 1935 at the time of George V's jubilee and was built in a streamlined fashion so it could cope with the frequent storms and high winds. It was successfully restored in recent years by a local architect.

The walk continues seamlessly into Newlyn, a traditional harbour with a fishing fleet. The town was home to William Lovett one of the leaders of the Chartist Movement in the 19th century. Members were dedicated to bringing about electoral reform in England. The Newlyn riots took place in 1896 when local fishermen, who strongly supported the Sabbath as a day of rest, took exception to crews from the north of England working on a Sunday. In the 1890s a group of artists, later to be known as The Newlyn School, flourished in the area and often used the surroundings and local people in their work.

Before finishing the walk look out for the 15 foot granite column dedicated to Louisa McGrigor who died in the service of the Red Cross during World War 1. There is also the sculpture of a fisherman which is a memorial of Cornish fishermen lost at sea.

Photos show: The Egyptian House, Penzance; The Red Cross Statue, Newlyn.









Monday, 7 December 2015

Walk 150 Praa Sands to Marazion and St Michael's Mount

Walk 150 Praa Sands to Marazion and St Michael's Mount (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 8 miles or 13 km approx
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: coastal paths (maybe the causeway to St Michael's Mount as well)
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Main line rail link at Praa sands. No 2 bus runs every two hours between Marazion and Praa Sands.

The first landmark after leaving Praa Sands is Kennegy Sands. This is a 'secret beach' only accessible via the coastal path and chain ladders which can be descended to go on to the beach.

The walk continues around the craggy, picturesque Prussia Cove which is infact made up of four separate coves. The area was home to the notorious 18th century ship-wrecker and smuggler John Carter who was also known as the King of Prussia (allegedly the name came from a game he used to play as a child). He worked under cover as the landlord of a local inn. There are bricked up caves in the coves that were reportedly used for storing contraband. In 1947 a large battleship was grounded here while being towed to a breaker's yard.

Near Perran Sands is the village of Perranuthnoe. This is a very old settlement mentioned in the Domesday Book and with evidence of bronze age settlements. Copper and tin mining was prevalent here in the 19th century.

A couple of miles further along is Marazion. The path passes alongside a cemetery before leading into the town. Its is the oldest chartered town in Britain having been granted this by Henry 111 in 1257. The streets were very busy with tourists and it has a thriving artistic community with galleries selling paintings and pottery.

Opposite Marazion beach there is a stunning view of the island of St Michael's Mount. At low tide it can be reached by a causeway, at other times by boat. Look out for Chapel Rock off the beach, this is said to be the site of a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary; pilgrims passed to worship here before ascending the Mount.

The 363 ft high St Michael's Mount is now owned by The National Trust and is open to visitors. The island's harbour was probably used as early as the Bronze Age by the Phoenicians (Lebanon/Syria) to trade in tin and cloth. The mount became famous after a visitation by St Michael in the 5th century. Edward the Confessor founded a Benedictine chapel and the castle was added 300 years later. From 1659 it was the home of the St Aubyn family. Well worth a visit.  

Photos show: Bessy's Cove part of Prussia Cove; St Michael's Mount and causeway.




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Walk 149 Mullion to Praa Sands (Cornwall)

Walk 149 Mullion to Praa Sands (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 203
Distance: about 14 miles or 22km approx
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and a small amount of road walking
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 37 bus runs from Helston to Mullion and No 2 bus runs between Praa Sands to Helston. Also main line rail link at Praa sands.

This a full days walk so allow good time to complete it.

Rejoin the coastal path at Mullion Cove and walk along past Polurrian Cove. Soon you will see the Marconi monument which commemorates the man's work at Poldhu Wireless Station. This is the spot where Marconi arranged the first message across the Atlantic in 1901. He had gone across to Newfoundland in order to pick up the pre arranged signal – three 's'. Work continued here until 1933. The Marconi family gave the land to the National Trust.

Soon the path cuts inland to the attractive Poldhu Cove. A short distance after this cove is Church Cove. St Winwaloe Church is very close to the sand dunes. The name derives from a 6th century Breton saint whose mother is reputed to have grown a third breast when she had triplets (handy). It is one of the oldest churches in Cornwall and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Most of the current church dates from the 13th century or later. Near to this cove a Portuguese treasure ship was wrecked and in 1788 a vessel carrying more than two tons of gold coins also came to grief.

Gunwalloe Cove is a further mile along and interestingly there are notices here warning divers not to interfere with an historic wreck – this usually applies to wrecks where there could be some gain.

On the land side of Porthleven Sands are the picturesque stretches of water - Carminowe Creek and The Loe. Local legend has it that this is the lake where King Arthur threw his sword Excalibur. Look out for the memorial overlooking the sands, it records the tragedy that befell HMS Anson wrecked in 1807 on Loe Bar with the loss of about 100 lives. Henry Trengrouse of Helston was so disturbed by this tragedy that he invented the life saving rocket apparatus where a line is shot across to a shipwreck and survivors taken off in a cradle attached to the line.

The walk continues to Porthleven. As you walk into the town look out for the Wreckers Studio with its collection of objects from the sea. Soon the 70 foot tower of the Bickford Smith Institute, once a centre for science and literature, comes into view. This was built by local man George Smith and named after him and his grandfather. It is now a snooker club and council offices and featured as police offices in the TV series Wycliffe. Porthleven harbour was built in 1811 to import mining machinery and export tin. It remained in tin mining hands until 1961.

A few miles further along is Praa Sands which is supposed to be pronounced 'pray' and means hags or witches caves! The village is the site of Pengersick Castle supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the UK.

Although not on the coastal walk, I have to mention The Blue Anchor in Helston for real ale lovers. It is the oldest brewery in Cornwall with several varieties of Spingo on sale in a totally unspoilt bar.  

Photos show: Poldhu Cove; Praa Sands.



Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Walk 148 Lizard to Mullion (Cornwall)

Walk 148 Lizard to Mullion (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 203
Distance: about 13 miles or 20km approx
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and a small amount of road walking
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 37 bus runs between Lizard and Mullion and also stops at Helston

Follow the road from Lizard eastwards along to Church Cove to join the coastal path.

On the walk around westwards to Housel Bay look out for the Lloyds signal station on top of the cliff. Here, in 1901, signals were received by Marconi from the Isle of Wight. In World War 2 it was used as offices and has now been restored with replicas of the original radio/signalling equipment used. You should also come across the Lizard Wireless Station which is formed of 2 joined black huts. These were also used by Marconi for some of his pioneering wireless experiments in the early 1900s. These buildings form the oldest surviving purpose built wireless station in the world.

The lighthouse at Housel Bay is well worth a visit. Its interesting visitors' centre includes a magneto electric machine designed by Michael Faraday and used in the lighthouse until 1885. The lighthouse was built in 1752 when its warning light consisted of two coal fires. Prior to this, the story goes that a lighthouse was built by a pirate who was also a landowner, he hoped that ships would be directed to rocks near to his land so that he could have rights to any wreckage. Look out for the signpost which shows the distance to other famous lighthouses including The Longstone off the coast of Northumberland. The interesting building next to the lighthouse was originally built for an artist. The Lizard lighthouse complex of buildings is the largest in the world. It is now pristine white but was camouflaged in World War 2.

Make your way down on to Lizard Point – the most southerly point of the UK. There is a cafe there if you fancy refreshment. From here the dangerous array of rocks are very clear. Many vessels have come to grief, including in 1720, the military transport carrier Royal Anne -200 people died and were buried in a mass grave nearby. In 1907 the RNLI carried out one of its greatest rescue operations. It took a day and a half for 4 boats to lift all 524 people from the White Star liner 'Suevic' which had become stranded on the rocks in foggy conditions. The Point and surrounding area are now owned by The National Trust.

It is only a short walk to Polpeor Cove the most southerly beach in the UK.

Follow the path, with its picturesque views, around to Kynance Cove. This is a secluded but very popular spot as evidenced by the large, busy car park. It is noted for its rocky outcrops and caves – all of which seem to have have evocative names e.g. Asparagus Island, The Devil's Bellow, Man of War Rock, The Parlour, The Drawing Room.

About half a mile further along is The Rill, a headland where the Spanish Armada was first sighted in 1588.

The path to Mullion Cove continues past points such as Pigeon Ogo, Gew-graze and The Chair. The harbour at Mullion was built in 1895 to support the pilchard fishing industry, now it has a small fleet landing mainly shellfish. The area is reputed to have a history of smuggling and nearby are the remains of a copper mine which operated until 1919. The village of Mullion is about a mile walk inland.

Photos show: Lizard signalling station; Kynance Cove; Mullion Cove/harbour 






Thursday, 12 November 2015

Walk 147 St Keverne to Lizard (Cornwall)

Walk 147 St Keverne to Lizard (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 204 and L/R 203
Distance: about 14 miles or 22km
Difficulty: Moderate with challenging sections
Terrain: coastal paths and small amount of road walking
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: The best place to stay for this walk is Helston as there are bus links with both places.

This walk can be very hazardous if there has been a spell of wet weather (as I found out). I was advised not to complete a section by a National Trust warden. The week after a young lad slipped down this path, fell off the cliff and was killed.

Follow the road out of St Keverne to Rosenithon and join the coastal path to Godrevy Cove. The path here was well under water when I went and it was more a case of wading rather than walking. Looking back from here are the rocks at Manacle Point which have wrecked hundreds of ships. For example, in 1809 two ships foundered simultaneously and 200 lives were lost. The churchyard at St Keverne has more than 400 shipwreck victims.

Continue the walk over Dean Point and on to Lowland Point and through Dean Quarry. The path here was not clearly marked although it might have improved by now, if not, take the lower path not the gate. Gabbro, a hard durable rock, has been quarried here since the 1890s and used mainly for roads and coastal defences. Until 2005 conveyor belts took the rocks to the nearby jetty where they were loaded on to ships. People have lived or worked here for over 2500 years with evidence of old field systems and a salt works. The area is now managed by the National Trust.

The walk from here to Coverack was very wet and very muddy (a euphemism for cow poo/sand mixture). Coverack is an attractive old village with a RNLI station for reasons made clear above. It has been a tradition here to have a Christmas Day swim in aid of cancer research. The walk out of Coverack was very overgrown and slippery. About a mile further on I came across a team of National Trust volunteers working on a path. It was here that I was advised not to continue along the coastal path for the next couple of miles because of flooding and dangerous terrain. The warden kindly gave me a lift in his van squashed in with six volunteers and hemmed in by a dog! They took me to Kuggar where I rejoined the path to Cadgwith.

Cadgwith is an attractive fishing village. Lobsters and crabs are the main catch now, in the past it was pilchards but over-fishing resulted in this trade diminishing. The main street in Cadgwith originated in medieval times as a collection of fish cellars.

Just outside Cadgwith is the Devil's Frying Pan which is an attractive tunnel like formation caused by the collapse of a cave.

Take the walk at Church Cove near the lifeboat station into Lizard Village. This is a straggling settlement noted for its small workshops where Serpentine Stone (named because of its snakeskin like markings) is polished and made into ornaments. It became fashionable after it was chosen by Queen Victoria for the interior of Osborne House, her retreat on the Isle of Wight. Ice cream, Cornish pasties and real Cornish ale all available here and all recommended. The Top House Inn is the most southerly pub on mainland UK and worth a visit for this reason alone. The name Lizard comes from 'Lis' for high and 'ard' for place.

Photos show: The Devil's Frying Pan; Dean Quarry.







Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Walk 146 Helford Passage to St Keverne (Cornwall)

Walk 146 Helford Passage to St Keverne (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 204
Distance: about 11 miles or 18km
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and public footpaths (includes road walking).
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: A 35 bus goes to and from Falmouth to Helford Passage every hour during weekdays. I suggest getting an early one to ensure the 36 bus from St Keverne can be caught. This goes at 4:35 and involves a change at Sainsbury's Helston to get to Falmouth (takes over 2 hours, but is possible). Check to see if this is still the case.

THIS WALK CAN ONLY TAKE PLACE BETWEEN APRIL AND OCTOBER AS THIS IS WHEN THE FERRY IS RUNNING FROM HELFORD PASSAGE. BAD WEATHER CAN ALSO RESULT IN THE FERRY BEING CANCELLED.

Start by getting the ferry from Helford Passage to Helford on the opposite side of the Helford River. It runs 'on demand' during the months mentioned above. The ferry service has been operating since the 16th century.

Frenchman's Creek, the famous novel by Daphne Du Maurier set in the time of Charles 11, is about a mile to the west of Helford. However, continue walking eastwards to St Anthony's at Meneage, the site of a medieval church.

Dennis Head, the site of a Celtic fortress, presented me with a bit of a problem. I carefully followed the signs but kept going around in circles instead of getting on the path at the south of the head and making my way to Carne. I met some locals who told me to walk across a farmer's field where there was no marked path. A fear of angry cattle and/or an irate farmer increased my walking speed and heart rate but I did join the path at the bottom of the slope.

Soon the path comes to a road and there is a fair amount of road walking until Gillan. After this, Nare Head and Nare Cove are attractive places with pleasant views. Continue southwards to Porthallow. (After Porthallow access to the coast is difficult for a few miles apart from the cove at Pourthoustock).

Look out for the plaque called 'Fading Voices' which gives a hotch-potch of facts about Porthallow. I went into The Five Pilchards Pub – evidence of the once thriving pilchard industry. Despite being a 'grockle' I was given some helpful advice on how to get to St Keverne far quicker than following the official coastal path. Basically, follow the road up to Trenoweth and take the public footpath on the left which takes you into the back of St Keverne.

The village is noted for being the site of the start of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497. The Cornish people were angry with Henry V11 who wanted to raise taxes from them to finance a war in Scotland. This went against agreements with previous kings. They formed a rebel army and marched to London. Unfortunately for them, they were defeated at the Battle of Deptford Bridge and many of those who weren't killed were executed. Severe monetary penalties were enforced against the Cornish people leading many families into destitution.

The village of St Keverne gets its name from the monastery of St Akeveranus which was sited here. Look out for the cannon at the gate of the church which was retrieved from a shipwreck at nearby Manacle Point.

Photos: View from Nare Head; Porthallow beach




Sunday, 1 November 2015

Walk 145 Falmouth to Helford Passage (Cornwall)

Walk 145 Falmouth to Helford Passage (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 204
Distance: about 11 miles or 18km
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: coastal paths and pavement
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Rail and bus links in Falmouth. A bus (No 35) goes to and from Falmouth to Helford Passage every hour during weekdays.

The walk starts in Falmouth where the coastal path winds its way round, initially through the docks, to Pendennis Point.

Falmouth is a pleasant enough place to look around and to enjoy including some rather expensive fish and chips at one of Rick Stein's outlets. The town was opened up as a holiday resort with the arrival of the railway in 1863. Near the modern harbour-side is a pyramid called the Killigrew Monument. The Killigrew family were a local wealthy family in the 18th century who decided they wanted to provide a beautiful embellishment to the harbour.

In the town, look out for the attractive facade of St George's Arcade which was built in 1912 and was once one of the largest cinemas in the UK. Another impressive building is The Passmore Edwards Free Library which was built by the said man, a newspaper owner and philanthropist, in the early 20th century. It is one of the 24 libraries built as a result of his bequests. A number of round the world yachting attempts have started or ended in Falmouth including those of Sir Francis Chichester and Dame Ellen McArthur. Further back in time, news of the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson were brought ashore here.

Just before Pendennis Point is a castle built by Henry V111 and strengthened by Elizabeth 1. It saw action in the civil war, ironically, from the landward side. 900 men were besieged in the castle for 6 months who then forced to give it up to the Roundheads. It is now a museum and discovery centre owned by English Heritage.

The Pendennis Castle Road has its own claim to fame. Motorcycle races were staged here between 1931 and 1937 and were the first to be held on public roads in mainland Britain.

Continue the walk around Pendennis Point and on to Gyllyngvase Beach and then to Swanpool Beach. Behind the latter beach is a small lake with high salt content that gives the place its name. It is one of a few places that a type of moss animal, the Trembling Sea Mat, is able to survive. A mineral mine once extended under the lagoon.

After another mile or so there is another attractive beach at Maenporth. Although it is sandy the name means 'rocky cove' or 'stone cove'. There was once a chemical works at Maenporth.

The walk around Rosemullion Head was very windy even though it was much calmer a little bit further inland. The spring is a good time to walk here when bluebells, gorse and purple orchids are growing. Look out for a notice on the path which warns visitors to watch out for oil beetles and not step on them as they are part of a conservation project. They are called oil beetles because they release poisonous oily deposits when disturbed – these can cause blistering and painful swelling. So don't pick them up and be careful where you sit especially if wearing shorts!

Along the south facing coast is Durgan Beach, an attractive place known for its boating. It was the home port of Captain Vancouver who explored North America in the 1790s. The area is owned by the National Trust and this includes the old school which is adjacent to the beach. This building can be rented from the trust and looks an idyllic place to stay.

A bit further along is the frontage of Trebah Gardens and its small beach. These gardens created by James Fox are open to the public.

Continue to Helford Passage with its many boats, including the ferry which feature on the next walk.

Photos show: Durgan Beach with the old school building; Rosemullion Point; Oil beetles notice.





Saturday, 17 October 2015

Walk 144 Portloe to Falmouth (Cornwall)

Walk 144 Portloe to Falmouth

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End

Map: L/R 204
Distance: about 13 miles or 22 km
Difficulty: Some steep climbs between Portloe and Porstcatho, fairly easy after that.
Terrain: coastal cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 51 bus serves Portloe from Truro. Rail and bus links to surrounding areas from Falmouth.

THIS WALK CAN ONLY BE UNDERTAKEN IN THE SUMMER AS A FERRY IS REQUIRED TO CROSS FROM ST ANTHONY TO ST MAWES AND THIS RUNS ONLY DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS. A SEPARATE FERRY IS THEN NEEDED TO GO FROM ST MAWES TO FALMOUTH.

Also allow for a fairly early start to ensure the walk can be completed without getting stranded.

Follow the path out of Portloe and around Jacka Point. Along this stretch and out at sea to the south is Gull Rock. This is a popular nesting place for kittiwakes and guillemots and was used as a location in the 1950's film version of Treasure Island.

Continue along to Nare Head which is owned by The National Trust and back inland towards Carne Beach. About a mile inland from here is Carne Beacon one of the largest burial mounds in Britain. According to legend, the saintly King Geriant, King of Cornwall, is buried here with his golden ship (6th century AD).

The walk from Nare Head to St Mawes is around the Roseland Peninsula. There are places to stop and eat/drink on Pendower/Carne beach which seemed to be popular with families when I went.

A few miles further along is Portscatho, an attractive fishing village. It's east facing cove gives shelter from the south westerly winds so it was an ideal base for the 18th/19th century pilchard fleets. Fishing still takes place but on a smaller scale. The village is moreless joined with the village of Gerrans which is a little bit inland.

On the way out of Portscatho there are two things to look out for. Firstly, The Wreck Post which was erected by the Coastguard. The post simulated a ship's mast in training exercises, A rocket with a line was fired at the post and tied to the post's top. A breeches buoy (a pair of breeches which a person sits in and is hauled up along the rope) was attached to the line to practice the rescue of shipwreck victims. Secondly, a memorial near to a seat which overlooks the bay is dedicated to the 26,380 forces men killed in the Burma War of World War 2. This is evidently a unique memorial but I am unable to discover why it was placed here.

Continue the walk westwards to Towan Beach then Porthmellin Head. I noted how blue the water looked along here.

The most southerly point of the Roseland Peninsula is at Zone Point on St Anthony's Head. The lighthouse here is very nearly at sea level. It was built in 1834 and is now automatic. Prior to the lighthouse being built ships were guided by a coal fired beacon. If you watch children's TV you may recognise it as the one used in Fraggle Rock.

For centuries there have been artillery batteries on St Anthony's headland as part of the protection for Falmouth Harbour. The National Trust now owns the buildings you can see here and there are plenty of information boards about its history.

The path winds around to St Anthony's and Place Manor. Do not miss the church, a grade 2 listed building, which is usually open to look inside. Although much was restored in Victorian times, it retains some medieval parts including a coffin which can be seen outside.

From St Anthony's you get the ferry over to St Mawes. It is seasonal, but when I went the boat had broken down. Fortunately, a man with a motorised inflatable dinghy took us over. A bit scary for a non-swimmer like me but better than the massive walking detour to Falmouth which is the alternative.

It is worth spending a short while on St Mawes before completing the ferry journey to Falmouth. Once a fishing village, it has become an exclusive town attracting many retired people. The Clover Leaf Castle further along the coast near St Mawes was built in 1542 to protect Falmouth from pirates and possible invaders.

Catch the ferry to Falmouth.

Inside St Anthony's Church; Portscatho Beach







Thursday, 1 October 2015

Walk 143 Gorran Haven to Portloe (Cornwall)

Walk 143 Gorran Haven to Portloe (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 11 miles or 18 km approx
Difficulty: demanding in parts
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses every half hour (no 24) from St Austell to Gorran. 51 bus serves Portloe every couple of hours and goes to Truro. These services seem to change and on one occasion did not turn up causing me to get an expensive taxi. Double check with Traveline before going and take taxi numbers as the mobile signal is dodgy.

Continue the walk out of Gorran Haven westwards to Bow or Vault Beach and on to Dodman Point, also known as The Dodman. The name may derive from a Cornish term for bank or dyke especially as there is evidence of Iron Age ramparts. However, a local man I met up here assured me it meant 'dead man' because of the number of lives lost in shipwrecks. The Spanish Armada are said to have had a council of war when anchored near here in 1588 and formed battle lines to attack Drake's fleet. More recently, in 1966, a pleasure cruiser sank off the coast with the loss of 31 lives. At the end of the point there is an impressive stone cross overlooking the sea. It was erected in 1896 by a Rev. G. Martin as a navigational aid and a spiritual reminder.

The walk back along the point provides some attractive views including that of Hemmick Beach – deserted when I visited.

A couple of miles further along is Porthluney Cove with the Grade 1 listed Caerhays Castle and gardens. The background of wooded land is unusual for this part of the coast. The castle was designed in 1808 by John Nash (Buckingham Palace and Brighton Pavilion). It is built on the site of a 13th century manor house and designed to appear like a Norman castle. The cost of the construction and landscaping ruined the owners and the fact that Nash used papier mache in the roof didn't help. A descendant of the original owners had his money so soaked up in maintaining the building that he shot the eyes out of the paintings of his ancestors hanging on the walls! If you have time to visit, and it is Spring, the gardens here have the largest national collection of magnolias.

Soon after Porthluney are signs stating that Portloe is 2 miles away – it felt much more than that. I asked a local if there was such a thing as a Cornish mile – 'course there is' was the reply – mmmm, I did not trust the twinkling eye and half grin.

Photos: Porthluney Cove with Caerhays Castle; Portloe.



The walk finishes at Portloe which is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Two fishing boats work out of here catching crab and lobster. The BBC 1 series 'Wild West' starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as a gay couple running the village shop was filmed here and shown between 2002-2004. I don't recall it being repeated but quite enjoyed it at the time. If you fancy a drink to finish your walk go up the hill to The Ship Inn, known locally as The Drinking Kitchen.





Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Walk 142 St Austell, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven (Cornwall)

Walk 142 St Austell, Mevagissey, Gorran Haven (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 12 miles or 20 km approx
Difficulty: demanding
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends – park in Charlestown to the south of St Austell.
Public transport: Buses every half hour (no 24) from St Austell to Gorran Haven but latest back from Gorran Haven just before 17:00. If using the bus you may want to go the other way round i.e. start at Gorran Haven. Check with Traveline for bus times. As before, there are buses back from Charlestown into St Austell and the station.

The coastal path from Charlestown takes a rather tedious route along the roads through Duporth before dropping down to Porthpean, a pleasant, small cove. There appears to be a shorter route via sections of a path along the cliff tops but having experienced some overgrown and sometimes dangerous paths in the past I stuck to the SW Coastal Path (there must be a good reason that the inland route has been chosen).

It is quite hard going to Mevagissey but there are some good views. At Black Head look out for the memorial dedicated to A L Rowse (1903-1997) a well known British historian and Cornish poet. He published over 100 books and had the reputation of being irascible, for example he hated modern life and said: “The filthy twentieth century I hate its guts”.

Continuing around there is a garden with some strange sculptures of human and angel like figures. The next major landmark is the attractive beach, ex harbour and settlement of Pentewan. The harbour and jetty built here in 1744 were soon silted up by the constant stream of waste washed down from clay-pits and other works such as tin mining upstream. Reservoirs specially built to resolve the problem had little effect and ships were even trapped in the harbour by fast forming sandbanks.

The coastal path follows the main road out of the village. I was held up here for some time by some disobedient cows on their way to milking.

Mevagissey, with its attractive harbour, is a popular place for tourists. The fishing village with its narrow streets got very congested in the days when pilchard fishing was at its height. Some loads had to be carried on poles resting on the shoulders of two men walking behind each other. In the 19th century the streets were said to reek of fish. The Royal Navy was a major market for the pilchards and they were known by the sailors as Mevagissey duck. Overfishing meant that the number of pilchards caught by the 1950s was much lower, although there are still pilchard boats operating today. A small park in the town is known as Hitler's Wall – it got its name in the 1930s from a council official who had a rather officious way of checking the boats in the harbour. The well known West country group The Wurzels wrote a song called Mevagissey.

About half a mile south of Mevagissey is Portmellon which has a long history of boat building. The beach gets completely covered at low tide.

The walk continues to Chapel Point which provides a high up view of the remote Colona Beach. Near to hear is Turbot Point and Bordugan's Leap. Sir Richard Edcumbe supported Henry V11 at the Battle of Bosworth and as a reward was offered the Brodugan estate. He was supposed to have chased Sir Henry Trenowth, a member of the Brodugan family and a supporter of the doomed Richard 111, off the edge of the cliff. Legend has it that he clambered aboard a boat and escaped to France.

The walk ends at Gorran Haven an old fishing settlement with a pleasant beach.

Photos show: Mevagissey Harbour; Pentewan; Porthpean.





Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Walk 141 Fowey to St Austell (Cornwall)

Walk 141 Fowey St Austell (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 11 miles or 17 km approx
Difficulty: moderate, demanding in parts
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Regular buses between the two towns and good rail links at St Austell.

On the quayside in Fowey is The King of Prussia Inn which was built in 1570 and was the home of John Rashleigh who sailed with Raleigh and Drake in his own ship. Follow the walk alongside the river estuary out of Fowey. Look out for the plaque marking the fact that the US naval advanced amphibious force was based here during 1943 and 1944. The area has a historic reputation for pirates and privateers (privately owned ships commissioned by the government) who indulged in smuggling on the side. In more recent times the area has been popular with such showbiz people as Dawn French, Lenny Henry, Gloria Hunniford, Richard Madeley and Julie Finnegan.

Just outside of Fowey is Readymoney Cove. I have not been able to find out why it has this unusual name . The remains of the 16th century St Catherine's Castle built by Henry V111 and cared for by English Heritage is here. The author Daphne Du Maurier lived in a coach house above the beach for a few years.

A mile further on is Polridmouth, an attractive cove. The stone cottage with its lawn and artificial lake is said to be the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca – 'Last night I went to Manderley again.....'.

Continue around to Gribbin Head. The 25 metre red and white beacon 'Dayark' was built in 1832 to aid ships entering Fowey and was built by Trinity House. From the walk northwards from here, there are panoramic views of the undulating coastline.

The next point to stop is Polkerris Beach – the Cornish version of the name means 'fortified pool'. There are cannons on the beach wall dating form Napoleonic times. Fishing thrived here in the 17th century but collapsed in the late 19th century due to overfishing. If you fancy refreshment there is a cafe in the old lifeboat station (which closed in 1922) and The Rashleigh Arms for something stronger - a setting for the 1972 film Doomwatch.

The path crosses Par sands and then continues along the road. There was once a thriving clay china industry here. On the walk near Carolyn Bay there are views to St Austell with the pyramid structures of the Eden Project visible in the distance.

The last coastal stop before the walk into St Austell is Charlestown, a picturesque place used as a filming location for the TV series, The Onedin line. The port was built in 1791 – boats loaded clay on one side of the harbour whilst on the other they unloaded coal. It was said that you could tell which side of the port men worked by the colour of their faces! John Smeaton designed the harbour which was carved from solid rock.

Continue the walk into St Austell – or catch a bus from near Charlestown.

Photos show: view from walk between Fowey and Gribbin Head; Polkerris Beach; Charlestown.