Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day 19 - April 10th 2015 - Lands End to St Ives


It's Friday now and Lea was back as support car driver. I was expecting a long tough day so we arrived at Lands End early. After taking a rest day on Thursday my legs were feeling fresh, raring to go, the stiffness I'd felt after Tuesday's exertions now gone. I wasn't expecting to see a shop, cafĂ© or pub next near the path all day so my pack was well stocked with fluids and food making it a bit heavier than usual. The national news was predicting that today would be the warmest of year so far for much of the UK. That seemed unlikely down here, it was overcast, windy and cold. Only 9C when I started walking. The Lands End complex hadn't opened and was still deserted. Very different to Wednesday afternoon when it was buzzing in warm sunshine.

After only a mile of fairly easy cliff-top walking I dropped down to Sennen Cove. It looked pleasant here, but in the grey windswept conditions I don't think I saw it at it's best. There were three hardy surfers bobbing up and down in the sea already, nobody else around. I watched one of the surfers catch a wave just right and ride it expertly to the shore. My camera came out, hoping to snap one of the others do the same. They both kept trying. They both kept failing. I gave up waiting and continued on my way. A short distance on I came to Gwynver Beach. I chose to walk across the sand rather along the official path which is just behind the beach.

Then the going started to get tougher. Gradients got sharper, my clambering skills came into use again on the rockiest sections. I was surprised to see a lady jogging along the path going the other way. Entering a grassy cliff-top field I saw a low circular wall. At first I thought it might be the remains of a roundhouse. However when I saw another two similar walls up close a bit further on I realised they were barriers around open mine shafts, presumably to stop people and animals falling in. By the time I reached Cot Valley there were shafts and the remains of old mine works everywhere. This area must have looked so different in its hey day.

After climbing out of Cot Valley the headland of Cape Cornwall came into view. Before I got there I passed signs just after Gribba Point politely asking walkers to move through quickly where there were nesting Choughs. I did just that as requested but didn't see the rare birds. On the other side of this zone stood a man dressed in green holding binoculars. I assumed he must be a volunteer there protecting the birds. At Cape Cornwall I climbed to the top and stood next to the chimney taking in the views. It feels like a more significant prominence than Lands End, very exposed, no hiding place from the wind. It's easy to see why people thought this was the furthest point west before the era of modern mapping.

I pressed on, determined to cover more than half the days mileage before stopping for lunch. The going was hilly, there was evidence of mining everywhere. At Bottallack there were some fantastic ruins, including two engine houses near the bottom of a cliff. I learned later the shafts here stretched out hundreds of metres under the sea, the miners could hear boulders moving about on the sea bed above them. Brave men. A little further on I passed through Levant mine, it was partly restored and groups of paying tourists were being shown around. The mines kept coming one after another for a while. You couldn't tell where one stopped and the next one started. Below an abandoned arsenic works I saw vivid green and white colours on the cliff face. I wondered if they were real, or if pots of paint had been thrown down to make it all look more realistic to the visitors.

A mile further on I passed Pendeen Lighthouse, then above the beach at Portheras Cove. You are advised not to walk on this beach in bare feet because of sharp metal pieces left behind after a wreck was blown-up in 1963. There was just one person down there today, a lady walking backwards and forwards for no obvious reason, though she did have shoes on. After Portheras the path wound it's way on, dodging boulders strewn along the tops of shallow cliffs. I didn't see any other walkers in this remote area.

As I descended into the valley at Porthmonia Cove I admired Bosigran Cliff in front of me. I couldn't see anybody at first, but I could hear voices. Then I noticed two climbers in a precarious position near the top of the cliff, hundreds of feet above the sea. I watched for a short while, then ate my packed lunch on an old stone bench in this wonderful location.

After lunch the only lived-in building I saw near path the between Bosigran and St Ives was a cottage in a wonderful spot overlooking Treen Cove. The rest of the way it was barren and rugged. There were a couple of delightful stone footbridges to cross. More boulders to clamber over. It got surprisingly boggy in places. I often found myself on stepping stones carefully making my way across marshy ground, trying hard not to fall in. The hills kept coming, though none of them seemed particularly severe. It stayed heavily overcast, cool and windy all day. Not that I was complaining, all three walking days of this visit had been dry, two of them sunny. When I started to see local dog walkers I knew St Ives wouldn't be far. At Clodgy Point the town suddenly came into view. It was an easy though somewhat muddy final mile from here.

Lea was waiting for me in the car park at Porthmeor Beach at the end of a tough yet exhilarating day of walking. My legs felt great and wanted to continue walking the next day, however it was time to return home. I'd had another brilliant three days on the beautiful South West Coast Path and cannot wait to return later in the year. I'll return to St Ives in mid-September when this amazing journey will resume.

Thanks for reading, Gary :)

Distance Walked Today 23.41 miles (37.67km)

Walking Time; 8 hours 38 minutes

Average Walking Speed 2.7 mph

Cumulative Distance Walked 428.82 miles (690.12km)


An early start and I have the Lands End complex to myself



Sennen Cove on a grey morning


Approaching Cape Cornwall




Old mine buildings in a dramatic position at Bottallack



Levant Mine ruins, notice the colours on the cliff
Bosigran Cliff, if you look very closely or zoom-in you'll spot the two climbers just left of centre,
one is wearing a red helmet, the other is stood next to him on a ledge

Stone footbridge near Zennor

Rugged, isolated coastline between Zennor and St Ives

One of many places where the only way to progress is to clamber across huge boulders
St Ives comes into view at Clodgy Point

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