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Friday, 29 January 2016

Walk 161 - Newquay to Mawgan Porth (Cornwall)

Walk 161 Newquay to Mawgan Porth (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 200
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Moderate – beach walking is pleasant but can be tiring
Terrain: coastal path and beach
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 56 bus goes to and from Newquay every hour and a half.

Join the path at Fistral Beach and follow it to Towan Head. Look out for the prominent white building on the land side of the head. It is an old lime kiln probably used in the construction of Newquay Harbour. Next to it is an old fish cellar closed in 1832 and turned into a pumping station to help keep the beaches clean. There is another small white building on the top of Towan Head which is a Huers Hut. The Huer would call the fishermen when he spotted a shoal of pilchards.

Further round is Newquay Harbour which has been here since 1439 and expanded greatly in the 18th century. When sail gave way to steam it became uneconomical and it now supports small boats and pleasure craft. Tame Cornish grey seals can often be seen around the harbour.

A little further along, close to Towan Beach, is a most unusual site. A house on an island is joined to the mainland by a suspension type footbridge – the only one to be owned privately in the UK. The house was formerly the residence of the famous scientist Sir Oliver Lodge who invented the spark plug. He was a friend of the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was a regular visitor.

The town of Newquay, which is Cornwall's largest resort, did not seem that attractive to me but this is more than made up for by its coast and sands. All the beaches offer first class surfing and international competitions are held here. Tolcombe Beach on the east side of the town is described on a sign as 'the golden gateway to fun and relaxation'.

Porth Island and Porth Beach are a bit further along. This is a sheltered inlet that was a busy small port in the 18th and 19th centuries. Locally built ships left with mineral ores and returned with coal, lime and other goods.

The path passes alongside Trevelgue Head. This is the site of an Iron Age Castle and Bronze Age burial mounds and is protected as an ancient monument. Lots of finds have been made here including coins and bones.

Next is the lengthy Watergate Beach which was completely deserted when I went. The beach was the scene of a dispute in 1869 when the ship 'Suez' was driven ashore. Some of the rescuers insisted that only a rowing boat from Newquay be used, instead of a steam tug, giving them more chance to plunder the vessel. However, the steam tug was used and the ship pulled to safety.

After walking the length of Watergate Beach you arrive at Mawgan Porth yet another area popular with surfers. Excavations have revealed a settlement of late Saxon times.

Photos show: The island and bridge, Newquay; Trevelgue Head in the direction of Newquay.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Walk 160 Perranporth to Newquay (Cornwall).

Walk 160 Perranporth to Newquay (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 200
Distance: 8 miles or 16km approx.
Difficulty: Moderate – beach walking is pleasant but can be tiring
Terrain: coastal path and beach
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: 87 bus goes hourly between Perranporth and Newquay. Rail links at Newquay.

This walk is best done in the summer when a ferry can be caught from Crantock Beach across The Gannel to Newquay. Otherwise there is a detour of a few miles along the coastal path into Newquay.

Follow the path out of Perranporth and northwards along Perran Beach. I found it easier to walk along the sands rather than the dunes which were hard work and difficult to navigate. Much of the duned area is fenced off by the military.

After a mile or so you can cut across to St Pirian's Oratory, a chapel, on a marked path. There are disused mine shafts in the area so do not be tempted to plot your own route among the dunes. The Oratory was rediscovered following a storm in 1835.

Continue round to Ligger Point where lead was once mined. Penhale Camp is nearby and there are warning notices about keeping to the path and away from the areas of infantry practice. The camp was established in 1939 as an emergency military training centre. There is a strange collection of circle type aerial constructions near to the path – probably of some military purpose.

The path cuts into Holywell and back on to the dunes above Holywell Beach. At low tide there are a series of natural rock basins to which pilgrims came from all parts of Cornwall to obtain water which was said to have miraculous healing properties – hence the name Holywell. The beach is now owned by the National Trust and is popular with surfers.

At the far end of the beach the walk continues around The Kelseys which includes Kelsey Head. This is an area of Special Scientific Interest providing habitats for several species of sea-bird. An Iron Age hill fort was also found here.

After Kelsey Head is Porth or Polly Joke which is a popular sandy beach. I have been unable to find why it is called a joke. Funny that.

The walk winds its way around Pentire Point West then Crantock Beach. There are good views of the The Gannel which is a marshy tidal arm of the sea. Until the 19th century there was a sizeable port here but it seized up. The village of Crantock dates back to 460 AD when a group of Irish monks established a small chapel. From here get the ferry over to Pentire.

Follow the path around to Fistral Beach, a haven for surfers. Fistral comes from the Cornish meaning 'cove of the foul water', probably referring to the waves which make it an unsuitable landing site for ships. Follow one of the roads into Newquay.

Pictures show: one of the disused mine-shafts; Holywell Beach.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Walk 159 Portreath to Perranporth (Cornwall)

Walk 159 Portreath to Perranporth (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 203 and L/R 200
Distance: 14 miles or 24 km.
Difficulty: Moderate
Terrain: mainly coastal cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Buses run from Redruth to both places. However, travelling this way does eat into the time you have for walking especially as the trip back from Perranporth involves a change of buses. On the other hand buses go early in the morning and run until mid evening. Check with Traveline for precise details before travelling.

The path out of Portreath soon passes alongside fenced off MOD land with occasional notices telling you to keep out. It is marked on the map as a disused airfield. On the coast side of the path are, what appear to be, remnants of World War 2 defences.

A couple of miles further along is Porthtowan. This was once a booming copper mining town which became a seaside resort in Victorian and Edwardian times. When the tide is out the whitish sand stretches for one and a half miles.

After about a mile the path skirts around the back of the beach at Chapel Porth. I understand the tide can rush in here and there is a danger of getting cut off if you venture out on to the sands.

At Tubby's Head there are some excellent views of the bright blue sea contrasting with the white sand of the beaches. Near to Agnes Head Iron age barrows (burial mounds) have been discovered.

Looking back inland towards the town of St Agnes are old mining buildings with their distinctive chimneys. Huge steam engines pumped water out of the mines and drove the machinery. Copper, tin and arsenic were mined here until the 1920s and three harbours were built over the years. Sadly, the last one was washed away in 1934.

In the middle of the 19th century two thirds of the world's copper was produced in Cornwall and combined with other mining, especially tin, 50,000 men were employed. However, competition from abroad meant that production fell drastically and thousands of Cornish miners were forced to emigrate to countries such as Australia and South Africa.

Look out for the The Motor Cycling Club gates near Trevallas Porth. It was formed in 1901. Car and motorbike trials started in 1908 and still attract crowds of people. In 2013, 140 old motor cycles and 250 cars took part in rallies over the Easter period. This area was known as the Blue Hills because of the bluish slate which was mined.

Enjoy the views as the path winds its way around the last few miles to Perranporth.

Perranporth is named after St Piran who is the patron saint of 'tinners'. He is supposed to have floated over from Ireland on a millstone. Look out for the millennium sculpture on the cliffs at Perranporth, it looks part mini Stonehenge structure and part concrete bollards with a nautical structure in the middle. Author Winston Graham lived in the village where he wrote and set his famous Poldark novels. The beach is very popular with surfers.

Photos show: Tin mine on path near Portreath; the cycling club gate on the Blue Hills; a view and blue sea on the walk to Perranporth.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Walk 158 Hayle to Portreath (Cornwall)

Walk 158 Hayle to Portreath (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 13 miles or 22km.
Difficulty: Moderate with a few challenging bits
Terrain: mainly coastal cliff paths
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Two possibilities, both involving changes. Train from Hayle to Redruth and change to a bus or bus to Camborne and change to another bus to Portreath – (and vice-versa).Takes about an hour all in. Check with Traveline to see the best option for time of leaving.

Leaving Hayle follow the path northwards out towards The Towans. The walk out through Blackcliff can be along the dunes or across the sands. The flat walk goes on for two or three miles until Godrevy Towans. Here there is an old mining chimney and The Sandsurfer Restaurant.

About a half mile north of here is the picturesque Godrevy Island and lighthouse which look splendid from Godrevy point. The 1857 built lighthouse was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's novel, 'To The Lighthouse'. She spent some time in Cornwall but set the book location on the Scottish Coast. Supposedly, it was on the rocks here that the ship carrying the personal possessions of Charles 1st was wrecked while trying to reach the continent. The island is now owned by The National Trust.

After rounding Navax Point the path continues to Fishing Cove and Hell's Mouth. This is a popular viewing point with scary rumours of paranormal activity. Suicidal screams and a ghostly man falling in the water have been reported. For those who prefer a scary challenge in a bottle there is a powerful Cornish chilli sauce called Hells Mouth!

The walk to Portreath is fairly easy compared to many others on this coast and has some spectacular views. A National Trust notice near to the path asks if you would like to become a pony checker (monitoring their well being in the wild etc.)

The sandy Portreath (means sandy cove) beach is very popular with surfers. Copper and tin mining have taken place nearby in the last 500 years and the village was used as a port for these metals. Evidence for this activity exists in the 18th century quays and capped mine shafts on the hills.

The legendary Cornish giant Wrath supposedly lived in a huge seashore cavern near Portreath. He would lie in wait for passing ships, rope them to his girdle and eat them one by one! Look out for (and maybe go in) the Portreath Arms. The anchor outside is from a coal carrying ship called The Escuriat which sank off nearby Gull Rock in 1895. Eight lives were lost but this would have been many more without the bravery of the villagers.

Photos show: Godrevy Island; a view on the walk near Portreath.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Walk 157 St Ives to Hayle (Cornwall)

Walk 157 St Ives to Hayle (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 8 miles or 12km.
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: coastal paths, some sandy parts and some road
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Trains every hour, change at St Erth

Start at the north end of St Ives near the lifeboat station on the coastal path.

St Ives derives its name from Saint Ia who is said to have arrived here from Ireland in the 5th or 6th century. The town is a pleasant place to explore with its narrow streets and sandy beaches (including the main beach – Porthminster). Pilchard fishing provided the town with its original prosperity but this has been superseded by tourism. There is plenty to look at for one or two days if you have the time. In the late nineteenth century it was 'discovered by artists' who were attracted by the quality of the light. It has now become a major centre for art; especially notable are the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth's collection of sculptures.

Near the pier, designed by John Smeaton in 1770 (Eddystone lighthouse is one of his other notable buildings), is a plaque commemorating the record breaking passage made by a St Ives lugger in 1902 to Scarborough – 600 miles in 50 hours. Impressive. Another plaque records the thanks of the Royal Marine Commandos for the local people's hospitality when they were stationed here between 1943 and 1950. The nearby lighthouse was added in 1890. St Leonard's Chapel dates back to medieval times. It was restored in 1971 and opened as a museum and a memorial to the fishermen of St Ives.

Follow the coastal path out of the town alongside Carbis Bay. Look out for The Baulking House – it was a Huer's lookout. His job was to create a hue and cry when shoals of pilchards were spotted in the bay and then direct the fishing boats to them using hand signals.

The light yellow of Porth Kidney Sands stretches up to the estuary of The River Hayle. A number of Celtic saints are said to have established chapels here in the past. Great care needs to be taken if swimming because of the swift dangerous currents.

The path turns inland alongside the River Hayle. Much of this area is a nature reserve which is especially attractive to migrating birds, over 270 species have been recorded. It is the warmest estuary in the country and rarely freezes. On the way to Lelant Saltings you pass near the railway line which provides the trains with great views on the way to St Ives or Hayle. Lelant was once an important town and seaport. 'Heyl' means estuary in Cornish.

On the way into Hayle is a most impressive rail viaduct built in 1852 from a Brunel design and later updated with brick arches. It is worth taking a stroll into Hayle to look at the canal and other buildings. It is mainly a Victorian town which prospered from making machinery for tin mining and copper smelting. An old shell of a water mill has a floral display marking the town's status as a World Heritage Site. Look out for the tidal gate on the canal in the Copperhouse area also the Copperhouse Pub and St Elwyns Church. The latter is named after a fifth century saint and is a Grade 2 listed building. However, Pevsner, in his History of Architecture, described it as loud outside and dull inside! (Didn't get to go inside to offer an opinion).

Photos show: St Leonard's Chapel in St Ives; Porth Kidney Sands; the old mill and floral display, Hayle.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Walk 155/156 St Just to Zennor/ Zennor to St Ives

Walk 155/156 St Just to Zennor then Zennor to St Ives (Cornwall)

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

Map: L/R 203
Distance: Walk 155: 12 miles or 18 km; Walk 156: 8 miles or 14km.
Difficulty: Demanding
Terrain: cliff coastal paths sometimes rocky and muddy underfoot -care needed
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: A few buses run along the main road between St Just and St Ives and then a walk into Zennor Check with Traveline.

Two walks are included here as there is not very much to write about the second. I would not advise trying to combine the walks unless you are super fit and can start very early - there are several demanding sections which are often rocky and can be muddy as well.

Walk 155

Follow the road from Tregeseal near St Just to join the coastal path to the north of Cape Cornwall. This stretch has disused mine shafts so no venturing off the path. There are chimneys and old mine works with a restored one open to visitors near Pendeen. It can be accessed easily from the path. Geevor tin mine includes a museum and underground tours along some of the 85 miles of tunnels. Outside there is a restored 19th century waterwheel. The demanding conditions of tin mining in the past are brought to life. If you have time it is well worth a visit.

Continue along the path to Pendeen Watch. The lighthouse to the seaward side of the path is 100 years old and was automated in 1995. The fog horns can be clearly seen.

The path winds its way along a number of coves including the large but remote Porthmeor Cove. After a few miles, the path passes Gurnard's Head. This is reputed to have got its name from being shaped like a Gurnard fish.

Approaching Zennor Head there is some tricky rocky terrain. There is a link from the path into Zennor. The village is said to get its name from Senara who was a local saint. The church is also named after the saint and dates back to Norman times. At the end of of one of the benches in the church is a picture of a mermaid. This derives from a local legend about a mermaid who was supposed to have enticed a parish singer to a watery grave in the fifteenth century. John Wesley, the 18th century founder of Methodism, also has connections with the village. D H Lawrence once lived here with his German wife but the pair had an unhappy time and left after being suspected of spying and signalling to a German submarine. The Wayside Folk Museum with its working water wheel is a good place to learn about the area.

Walk 156

Walk out of Zennor to the coastal path. This is a pleasant enough section with sea views. The next major landmarks are Clodgy Point and Porthmeor Beach to the west of St Ives. Inland, back from the beach is Tate St Ives which opened in 1993. Well worth a visit if you like art.

Continue around St Ives Head or The Island. In the middle ages there was a fortress on top of here and later fortifications were built to guard against a possible invasion by Napoleon. There is also an old chapel which is still used. In the 1960s the whole area was nearly turned into a car park and was only saved by a campaign which resulted in the issuing of an injunction against the local council.

Over the head is a small beach and further around are the remains of Wheel Dream tin mine. A road at the rear is called Wheel Dream where there is a museum.

More about St Ives on the next walk.

Photos show: the coastal path near Geevor Tin Mine; the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch; the water wheel at Zennor Museum.