Thursday, 16 May 2013

South West Coast Path Section 34 Mevagissey to Par

Mevagissey Harbour

After a rough couple of days weather it was a relief to see sunshine once again and I was anxious to go and do a section of previously unwalked path.  I headed over to Par and from there got the bus to Mevagissey.  This was a bit of a long winded journey through St Austell and I think I saw every housing estate that exists in this corner of Cornwall I was most relieved to reach my final destination after an hour or so.

Maintenance Time
I stocked up on refreshments and wandered along to the attractive harbour in Mevagissey.  There were plenty of boats in the harbour but sadly little in the way of fishing activity, which I guess used to be the main activity here.  In fact the only activity on the water was a small boy precariously rowing a small boat around.  I could hardly bear to look as he looked like he would topple into the water at any moment.
Penare Point

As I wandered around the harbour I could see a couple of boats receiving some attention at the far end.  They looked faintly ridiculous out of the water and leaning over on their keels but I guess this is the only way in which they can be painted.  I wandered out on to the harbour arm of the outer harbour, a rather curious arrangement that I suppose was built to reduce the worst effects of the winter storms.


Pentewan
I could have spent a lot longer walking around the harbour but I still had twelve miles of walking in front of me so I headed out through the steep and narrow streets up on to the cliff tops.  The way ahead was a bit of a rollercoaster for awhile, with the path heading uphill and down dale for the next few miles.  I was thankful though for plenty of sunshine, which made a lovely change from all the grey skies I had encountered during the week.  I was surprised at how quickly I left Mevagissey behind and due to the direction that the coast path travels it disappeared from view very quickly.

Point of Well

Ahead the bay at Pentewan soon came into view, with its large expanse of holiday caravans behind the beach.  As a spectacle I am not a great fan of these places, but the location of this one must make it extremely popular during the summer months.  There wasn’t a great deal of activity on the park this early in the season, but there were a few people on the private attached beach.  I passed by an abandoned fishing station, one of many on this stretch. I believe most of them were involved in the pilchard fishing industry.  I am not even sure this exists any longer?

Stonechat

I passed along the back of Pentewan caravan park and headed into the adjacent village.  This was a peaceful and attractive place with the inevitable water sports shop as well as village shop.  What was unusual though was the artificial harbour built in the village.  I am guessing judging by its appearance that it is no longer used but in its day it was used by china clay traffic.  Now, the harbour is completely silted up and cut off from the sea.
Wood Carving at Drennick

The path left the village by a track that passed an old church and some beautiful looking houses that overlooked the bay.  At the back I by-passed some chaps renewing a boundary fence to the properties and thought what a lovely place and day it would be to work.  My way forward now was along the clifftops to Black Head, a promontory some distance ahead.  Along the way the path climbed and fell along an undulating course that was quite tough going.  The views more than compensated though and all along the way I was joined by all sorts of bird life and not just the expected seagulls but blackcaps, robins, blackbirds, sparrows.  I even came across another stoat – the second that I had seen on this trip away.

Black Head Cove
Eventually I came to the final headland of Black Head and the cove at the western end had the most delightful cottage overlooking it.  I am guessing that it must have been occupied by an artist at some point because there were two fantastic looking sculptures in the back garden that had been carved from tree stumps.  The cottage itself was some distance from the nearest road, which must make delivering stuff a bit of a challenge (can’t imagine Tesco sending deliveries there!).  I’m not sure I would want to live there full time, but as a holiday cottage I can’t think of many more idyllic spots.
View to Drennick

As I approached Black Head I passed by a very large and unusually plain looking memorial to the famous Cornish poet A.L.Rowse.  I took the opportunity to walk out to the headland even though it wasn’t on the official route.  I passed by another pilchard station on the way and headed up on to what was once an Iron Age Hill Fort.  These seem to be fairly common in Cornwall, something I hadn’t previously realised.  I guess the metal riches and plentiful fishing opportunities brought many of the Iron Age people down here and these headlands made for easily protected places to live.  Sadly I didn’t gain much from going out to the headland so I didn’t hang around too long.
A L Rowse Monument

As with all headlands though a new view opened up and ahead of me I could now see the china clay hills that I have heard being referred to locally as ‘The Alps’.  They do make for a rather unusual landscape that is unmistakably Cornish.  Across the bay and I could see the candy striped marker at the Gribbin.  As I looked I could see a helicopter buzzing towards me and as ever my immediate thought was that someone might be in trouble out on the water.  It rushed by looking like it was making a longer journey and I felt relieved.
Me at Black Head!

The onward route to Charlestown started out quite easy with some very pleasant cliff top walking.  I got distracted by the wild flowers growing along the side of the path though and shortly after passing a rare walker I took a wrong turn and started heading downhill towards Ropehaven.  I didn’t realise my mistake until I was almost at the shoreline and cursed as I had to retrace my steps up the steep path back to where I should have headed.  The bright sunshine that I had enjoyed for a while also gave way to cloud and I prepared myself for a rain shower, which thankfully didn’t come.
Silvermine Point

The onward path soon got a lot trickier with a couple of steep ascents and descents in quick succession including a pretty mammoth one at Silvermine Point.  I passed a couple of old codgers here and tried to not to show myself up by crawling up the hill they were taking slowly and steadily.
Porth Pean 

Eventually I came to Porth Pean, a beautiful secluded little beach that had attracted a few visitors on this rather unsettled looking day.  My guidebook suggested that I might need to head inland along a detour here, but to my relief the official path had now been re-opened.  I climbed some steep steps and found a lookout tower at the top which I couldn’t pass without a closer look.  A little further on and I could see the erosion that had precipitated the earlier closure and the fact that some of an adjacent garden had had to be commandeered in order to fashion a new stretch of path.

Earl of Pembroke at Charlestown
I stopped by at Crinnis Cliff Battery but by now the threatened shower had finally arrived and so I hurried down into Charlestown and took the opportunity to hunker down inside the shipwreck museum to ride out the rain.  It was a curious little place with a little on the history of the historic port of Charlestown.  This rather historic port has been largely by-passed but was once a hub for local china clay quarries and shipping out of the mined product.  It is now preserved in time and the image was complete with the visit of the Earl of Pembroke, a very attractive looking tall ship moored in the harbour.  Although there was some information about the harbour, the museum soon became a rather jumbled and confusing mish-mash of all things nautical including shipwrecks, rescue services and disasters at sea, some of which weren’t really associated with Cornwall. Perhaps the most interesting part for me was seeing the various wrecks around the Cornish coast, for some of them I had seen or heard about on my walks around the coast path.

Charlestown Shipwreck & Maritime Museum
After about half an hour of the museum I was ready to carry on.  I thought about having a cuppa in the adjacent restaurant but it didn’t really look the kind of place to just have a cuppa so I carried on.  The onward path from Charlestownwasn’t initially very interesting as I headed through the suburbs of St Austell, but I soon came upon a rather curious looking place on the area under the cliffs.  It was clearly going to be redeveloped but I couldn’t decide what it was.  It sort of looked factory like and yet it didn’t.  I later discovered that this was once an entertainment centre where large acts would once come and perform.  It had a successful life until a similar venue was built in Plymouthand no-one much fancied heading out into the wilds of Cornwall any more!
Approaching Par

My last stretch of coastal walking for the day was alongside a golf course.  A few hardy souls were out but I couldn’t imagine that playing golf on such a windy day would be much fun.  The wind though did bring up some wonderful sea and skyscapes for the next couple of miles until I came to Par.  At the china clay works the path headed abruptly inland and I had to negotiate around the edges of what now looked like a closed and derelict works.  Indeed when I checked later I saw that the bulk of the operation had been closed since 2007 and I am guessing that there will be quite a challenging time ahead for the local planners trying to find an alternative use for the extensive site.
View from Par Golf Course

For me though my journey was done and the weather had closed in once again.  Although perhaps not the most memorable sections of the coast path I really enjoyed my visit to Mevagissey and Charlestownwas memorable too.  The best of the coast line was between these two places and especially around Black Head.  If time I would recommend the museum at Charlestown – despite the chaotic nature of some of the exhibits it is worth a tour around for an hour or so.

2 comments:

  1. The situation at Carlyon Bay makes me cross. The large building there is the former Cornwall Coliseum and Gossips night club which closed in 2003. This building was on the west part of the beach but the rest is undeveloped currently. However a developer wants to build 511 "luxury apartments" on the beach as well as shops lesirue facilities and a sea wall. I suspect they want to make this beach a private beach for the exclusive use of residents. This will take over the back of the beach along it's entire length, not just the part previously built on. I think this is complete madness, a beach is not suitable for permenant homes. I can imagine big storms and spring tides in the winter causing flooding etc with this many buildings on the beach. Then there is the risk of cliff falls (there have already been others along this part of the coast). Not to mention how solid a foundation you can get builing on a beach and it also sets a dangerous precident that beaches are now candiates for development as well. I certainly don't want to see beaches built on to this scale.

    So far the developers have built an ugly metal sea wall, which they did not have planning permission for and they have been ordered to remove it, but haven't done so. They've closed the public car park at the beach and continually tried to block access for the public getting to the beach by erecting fencing and locking the only gate in the fence. There is a long running dispute where Cornwall County Council confirmed a right of way exists down to the beach and cannot be blocked. The developer now claims that this only goes to the beach and not the shoreline and continue to block access to the shore and the rest of the beach when they want (including locking the gate that provides the only access to the beach without warning when people are still on the beach). After hearing evidence from the public Cornwall County Council extended the right of way to the shore line but (as expected), this is now being appealed by the developer. A sad story.

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  2. Thanks Jon,
    I didn't know the story before I walked along here but I knew something strange was up when I saw the fences and the charm offensive that seems to be being mounted by the developer. There were also posters of protest nearby too, so I looked up the place up later. I think you have summarised the story perfectly and as you say a very sad story.

    A little further on and the China Clay works looks derelict. Not sure what will happen there, but it does seem a more sensible location for the kind of development that is being proposed

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