Monday, 13 April 2015

Day 18 - April 8th 2015 - Marazion to Lands End

My mum Eileen was driver for the day again. When she dropped me back at Marazion I told her I couldn't believe my luck. We were set for another dry, sunny day. Having enjoyed a completely dry week on my last visit to Cornwall in September I felt very fortunate to have booked my return during what would turn out to be the best weather of 2015 so far.

I set-off with great views of St Michael's Mount to my left and over the golden sands of Mounts Bay in front of me. The walking was easy and I made good pace. I shared the path with local dog walkers and joggers. Soon the railway was on my right. I've walked this section from Marazion to Newlyn before, it was Tuesday 5th October 2010, the penultimate day of my solo end-to-end. Back then there was a heliport close to the path into Penzance from where huge helicopters took passengers to and from the Scilly Isles. Now it was gone, replaced by a large supermarket. A wind-sock on the roof the only reminder of the sites former use.

Due to maintenance Penzance Promenade didn't look at it's best today. For its entire length the part nearest the sea was fenced-off because posts and hand-rails were being replaced. I saw a group of boys on their Easter school break enjoying themselves in a skate park. Soon I was in Newlyn passing the fish market then the busy harbour. I saw a group of tired fishermen sitting in the sun outside a café, it looked like they weren't long back in port.

There was yet more easy walking on a cycle-way, that looks like it was probably built on an old railway bed, between Newlyn and Mousehole. There were fine views back across Mounts Bay. I saw the old Penlee Lifeboat Station and a memorial to the eight man crew lost in the awful Penlee Lifeboat Disaster. I'd never been to Mousehole before, it looked marvellous in the late-morning sun, my favourite of the four towns seen so far today. I took a short break and admired the delightful harbour.

The seven miles covered so far had been completely flat, almost too easy. This was about to change. My legs were reminded that coast walking is usually hilly as I climbed a short sharp hill on my way out of Mousehole. Then I emerged on a rugged cliff-side. The path here zig-zagged around picking it's way between massive boulders and over streams, always going up or down, muddy in places. It felt more like an obstacle course than a footpath and progress became much slower. As I clambered my way around barren Kemyel Point Lamorna Cove came into view. With the sun beating down the scene looked more like the Mediterranean than Cornwall. I was surprised to pass two women with young children heading the same way as me in a place that seemed quite dangerous.

The path leaves Lamorna Cove through a car park cut into the cliff-side. At first there appeared to be no way though, I double-checked my map, this couldn't be right. Then I saw a small sign with the usual acorn pointing a way around the side from the car park. This would be the scariest section of the path I saw today. I used hands and legs to haul my way slowly along the cliff while waves crashed on the rocks far below. I saw a memorial plaque fixed onto a large rock above a sheer drop, a fairly large cross dedicated to someone else attached to a boulder nearby. I wondered what had happened to those poor souls and moved on as carefully as possible.

The beach at St Loy was unexpectedly difficult. Storms have covered it with large boulders that have been smoothed by the sea making them look like gigantic pebbles. A very large, strange-looking metal object had also been washed-up. Part of a ship wreck perhaps? Crossing was awkward. There was no obvious route, you just clamber from rock to rock as best you can. I was glad I'd arrived here on a dry day, it looked like it would be slippery when wet. After managing to negotiate my way across this 'beach' I'll never complain about the pebbles at Brighton or Budleigh Salterton again. The coast path was proving to be a real test by now, and I was loving every minute of it.

The going stayed fairly difficult as I pressed on, though in places the path was spectacularly lined by wild flowers. I read later there were abandoned bulb fields here. A flatter grassy section above the Tater-du Lighthouse gave my legs a bit of a rest. Penbearth Cove was a wonderful unspoilt spot. I rested here and admired the man-powered boat winch, wondering if it still works, and how many men are needed to haul in a boat. Three fishermen were working on their craft, local girls were letting their ponies cool down by splashing around in the stream. Heavenly. As I climbed out of the cove I met a small group going the other way who'd stopped on the path above the cove. Their leader, a lady who seemed to know what she was talking about, was trying to point out basking sharks in the clear blue water to the others. I stopped and stared with them for a couple of minutes but didn't see any.

As I approached Porthcurno I saw people who'd bravely climbed up on top of a rough rocky headland. I imagined the views up there must be superb. Later I read this is where the 80 tonne Logan Rock is sited. In 1824 it was dislodged by a group of sailors who were then forced to have it winched back into place their own expense. I could also see the famous Minack open-air theatre on the cliff ahead of me. Porthcurno Beach itself looked fantastic in the sun, clean white sand, the water deep blue. Perhaps unsurprisingly with the theatre and Lands End nearby it was also quite busy. The path passes around the back of the beach. I saw the Grade II listed cable hut being white-washed. Amazingly at least 15 international submarine telecommunication cables come ashore under this fairly small beach, most of them now disused. The museum here immediately became another place on my 'must come back and visit later' list. The path climbed up to the theatre car park via steep steps cut into the cliff. I was glad I was going up, going down must be much scarier. I looked back and admired the wonderful vista. Porthcurno Bay, from Logan Rock around to Minack Point, is one the most beautiful places I've ever walked through. I didn't feel like paying a £3.50 entry fee for a quick look at the theatre from the inside so I pressed on.

After a walk across the top of more cliffs I dropped down into pretty Porthgwarra. I saw a quaint little café where I decided to buy a pasty and take a break. Like at Porthcurno there were lots of tourists here too (after returning home I learned Porthgwarra was busier than usual because it was a filming location for BBC's Poldark, the most popular drama on television at the time I walked this section). Just above Porthgwarra I saw two colourfully painted navigational aids and the prominent NCI lookout station on Gwennap Head. From here I caught my first glimpse of the Lands End complex. It looked deceptively close but was actually an hour and three miles of lumpy walking away. The coast is barren and rocky here, no trees. I saw many casual walkers out enjoying the Spring sunshine. Not many were on the official coast path, most seemed to be sticking to flatter, straighter, easier paths a bit higher up.

Lands End is often criticised for being over-commercialised, but I like the place and was delighted to return. It still retains a magical atmosphere in my opinion. You really do feel like you're at the furthest extremity of this island. Visitors of many nationalities are clearly happy to be here. End-to-end journeys are often starting, or even better finishing in jubilation. The famous Lands End sign-post attracts plenty of fuss. There's also that magnificent view out to the Longships Lighthouse. In my opinion it's easy to ignore the modern attractions and savour this special place.

My mum was waiting for me at the Lands End sign-post as arranged. When she asked how today's walk had gone I didn't even know where to start, I'd had an absolutely brilliant day.

Distance Walked Today 19.74 miles (31.77km)

Walking Time; 6 hours 50 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.9 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 405.41 miles (652.44km)

GPS Track;

A pleasant stroll around sunny Mounts Bay in the sunshine to start the day


A rugged section at Kemyel Point approaching Lamorna Cove, soon I'll be on the
even tougher cliff-side section on the other side of the cove

Flowers line the path

St Loy beach covered by huge boulders and a large rusting metal object, two walkers
coming the other way give you a sense of scale

The path winds its way towards Penbearth

Unspoilt Penbearth Cove and the man-powered boat winch

No, this isn't the Mediterranean, it's Porthcurno Cove and Logan's Rock Headland

The café where I bought a pasty at Porthgwarra Cove

Rugged coastline and the Longships Lighthouse on the approach to Lands End

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