Tuesday, 19 June 2018

South West Coast Path Section 27 Porthleven to The Lizard

Porthleven Harbour
This was a most unexpected day.  Following my disaster with the fog the day before I had high hopes of a change in the weather today.  Imagine my disappointment when I looked out of the window of my hotel in Tintagel to see fog so thick I could barely see my car in the car park immediately outside.  While the whole of England was basking in beautiful sunshine the Bristol Channel was covered in a fog bank that somehow just managed to reach the very edges of the coastline.  Evidently inland was spared this fog and would enjoy summer temperatures for the rest of the day.  Desperately I cast around for an alternative place to walk and landed on the Lizard peninsula as the only realistic proposition.  I had no idea that it was 2 hours drive away from Tintagel!  I also had to face the fact that I needed to get the bus at the end of the walk; something I really hate doing as I feel the stress of the deadline all day.
Harbour Inn
I parked up in Porthleven and wandered around the town for a bit to get some provisions.  I wanted to get a map as I didn't bring my guidebook, not expecting to come to this section of the walk.  Sadly I didn't find one and so had to wing it.  I guess that having the coast on the right hand side of me all day and regular signage was a sure fire way of not getting lost but I was still a little haunted by the wrong turn in the fog yesterday.  As it happens I only managed to leave the fog behind at Helston, just a couple of miles away from my day's starting point.
Leaving Porthleven
I walked along the harbour wall and past the famous clock tower that seems to take quite a beating from the storm waves that overwhelm the harbour wall from time to time.  I then negotiated my way through the narrow streets to eventually find myself out in the open countryside at last.  Despite the early season (May) it was already building into a warmer summer like day and once I was safely away from town I doused myself in sun cream and made sure my hat was properly fitted.
Diversion Required
 It wasn't too long before I reached a path closed sign and contemplated the rather lengthy diversion that would take me through the Penrose Estate.  It wasn't a great prospect to be honest.  Fortunately for me I ran into a local here and he was bullish about the prospect of bypassing the problem area and basically staying on the same route.  I followed him expecting to have to turn back.  Initially we couldn't see the problem but when we got the headland in the distance we could immediately see that an enormous chunk of cliff had been removed by the sea and the rubble on the wave cut platform was now being rearranged by the sea.  Without a set of wings it would have been impossible to pass but luckily there was enough heathland above that we could skirt around quite safely.
Loe Bar
I was grateful that I did not have to take the two-mile diversion.  No doubt that it was useful time and energy saved for later in the day.  As I rounded the headland I rejoined the path and ahead of me was Loe Bar, a curious feature that I once learned about in Geography.  This sand bar was said to have been formed by a giant called Tregeagle who dropped the sand from a bag he was carrying.  The Bar traps a largish lake called The Loe and is currently being worked on by the Environment Agency (to help with flooding).  Somehow as I crossed the shingle bar (not my favourite surface for walking on) I got the sense that it wasn't anything like I had expected.  I'm not actually sure what I expected - maybe a bit more vegetation?  Of course being a dynamic shingle spit that was probably unrealistic.

Anson Memorial
As I crossed I came upon a couple of ladies who were heading in my direction and with whom I would play cat and mouse for some time.  I allowed them to pass me as I wandered over to the monument just the other side of Loe Bar. This memorial was to the 100 or so people that perished when HMS Anson was beached in a storm in 1807.  The locals were unable to help anyone from the ship at the time and as a result of this incident Henry Trengrouse devised a safety system based on a rocket and line that could be fired from ship or shore to help with future rescues.

Orchid
The next stretch of coast had clearly taken a bit of a pounding as chunks of cliff were missing and I again had to take some diversions to negotiate it.  One section took an inland bridleway and I had to be sharp eyed to notice the route back to the coast path.  The ladies hadn't noticed and were too far ahead for me to call them back.  I wasn't even sure they were going my way so left them to it.  I headed down to the nearby cove and passed by a very well appointed holiday cottage with a surprising flat garden in which a rather serious game of cricket was going on.  Much to my surprise many of the players wished me a good day as I passed by and that rather boosted my spirits.  By now I was already beginning to feel the heat of the day and rather hoped that at Church Cove there might be an ice cream van or something.

Cow Parsley
I climbed up on to Halzephron Cliff and this little stretch of the path was perhaps my favourite of the entire day.  The flowers alongside the path were truly magnificent and the air was pungent with all the spring scents that vie for the attention of bee's noses.  The view back towards Porthleven and across towards Penzance was quite something too.  I took a moment to enjoy the view and refresh myself.  As I did so I got talking to another coast path veteran - a man who had walked it in both directions!  It made my effort seem rather laboured in comparison.

Gunwalloe Church
On my way down to Church Cove I both caught sight of armies of dog walkers coming up towards me from the car park below and also the two ladies I thought I had lost a while back.  They passed me at Church Cove as I took advantage of the much needed refreshment shack at the National Trust car park.  Before moving on from Church Cove I took a look at the small Gunwalloe Church that looks as if it could easily be engulfed by sand at any time.  It rather reminded me of St Piran's earlier in the walk, although this one is clearly still used regularly.

Looking Back to Church Cove
The next stage of the walk took on a new character as effectively I was skipping from cove to cove.  Each of the coves were initially popular bathing beaches (Poldhu and Polurrian) and then a small port (Mullion) and then some pretty remote and wild looking ones until Kynance.  Poldhu was the first and particularly popular.  The road at the back of the cove was completely covered in cars and every inch of verge was taken.  I was astonished at the way some beach visitors had left their cars and wondered whether any traffic warden headed this way?  If they had they would have made a lot of money from parking tickets.  Overlooking the cove was a very handsome looking building which had the resemblance of a hotel (in fact it was marked on the map as such) but actually an old people's home.  Not a bad place to serve out the last few years of your life but if I were there I would be itching to get down on that beach regularly.  Behind the home is an amateur radio club marking the point at which Marconi made the first transatlantic radio message back in 1901 - can it really be that little time ago?

Marconi Monument
I passed the ladies once again having a spot of lunch by another monument, this time to the Marconi transmission.  I had wanted to take a close up picture of the monument but couldn't really do so without including a couple of shirtless teenage boys using it as a seat and deep in conversation.  It was clear they weren't going anywhere soon!  I took the opportunity to pass the ladies and get some distance between us again.  Sadly I surrendered this past Polurrian Cove as I stopped for lunch and refreshment only for the ladies to catch up with me again.  I joked with them that they were following me - not sure the joke was understood as I finally realised that judging from their accent that they were Dutch.  Strangely I lost them completely at Mullion Cove just a little further on - I reckon they found a tea shop there.

Mullion Cove
Mullion Cove was a delight.  The small cove had been turned into a small harbour in Victorian times and this engineering somehow enhanced the place.  Just offshore is the miniscule Mullion Island - one of a number of mini-nature reserves littering this coastline.  Because they are so difficult to reach they have developed into vitally important nesting sites for seabirds and thriving havens for wildflowers.  For me the onward part of the walk was perhaps the wildest and loneliest of the day.

Mullion Island
The walkers from Mullion soon thinned out and I was left with magnificent cliffs on one side and a wide expanse of moorland on the other.  Much of the inland is actually taken up by Predannack Airfield and way off in the distance I could see the radar installations associated with the place.  I guess its presence and the preclusion of development as a result adds to the loneliness of this stretch of coast.  I crossed a couple of rocky valleys and also had to negotiate a couple of boggy areas before I decided that my feet really needed cooling off.  I took the opportunity to dunk them in a stream and how welcome that was!

Wild Coast
Eventually I found my way to Kynance Cliff and the most amazing view down towards The Lizard across Kynance Cove.  The cove itself is justifiably popular - the beach was jammed with people and many had taken the opportunity to head up the cliff and find sitting positions overlooking the view.  I clambered down into the Cove and took advantage of the café there.  I was really quite hot and bothered by now and the cold drink I got there went down a treat.  I made my way through the crowds at the back of the beach negotiating some large rocks as I did so.  It wasn't actually very easy climbing up and away from the beach as despite the fact that it was by now late afternoon I very much seemed to be swimming against the tide - more people were heading down than going up.  Climbing had to be done gingerly too for the dry serpentine rock was extremely slippery.
Kynance Cove
The walk over to Lizard Point was fairly easy going after all the ups and downs of the coves earlier and I managed to enjoy the last hour or so of the walk without feeling the pressure of time.  The Point itself was rather full of people and I didn't linger deciding instead to push on to a viewpoint above Polpeor Cove and the former Lizard Lifeboat Station.  Clearly not used any more I was very surprised to see how long it has been closed - the last launching was in 1961!  The new lifeboat station is on the other side of the Lizard in a more sheltered spot.  It is easy to see why this more exposed location didn't work so well and it was the expense of repairs that did for it.

View From The Lizard
I finally summoned up the energy for one last push to the end of the road at The Lizard and after a brief pause to enjoy the view I decided to head up into the village and my bus back to Porthleven.  This is a bit of a tortuous route as I had to change buses in Helston - don't expect a quick journey if you take this option.  On the whole a hugely satisfying day and my decision to do this was justified despite the late hour that I got back to Tintagel.

Kynance Lifeboat Station

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