Tuesday, 2 October 2018

South West Coast Path Section 27 Lizard Point to Coverack

Lizard Point
This morning turned out to be a bit of a milestone as this section marked the completion of the Cornwall Coast Path for me.  Unlike previous days though this wasn't a walk I could linger over as I had a date to keep in Worthing at 7pm and I needed to be done walking at 1pm if I were to have any chance of getting back on time.  I had booked with Peter once again and he took me the few miles between the car park at Coverack and the lighthouse at Lizard Point.  It wasn't such a great morning weather-wise.  The early morning sunshine had given way to cloud and within minutes of arriving the sky was completely overcast.  Somehow though it didn't look like it would last and so I wasn't too worried.
Lizard Lighthouse

I had a brief look at Polpeor Cove where I had left off last time I was down here in May and caught the last of the sunshine before it disappeared for a few hours.  I knew that I had 4 hours to complete the ten and a half miles to Coverck.  I didn't get the impression that it would be as tough as previous sections but I wanted to get a wriggle on.  Fortunately I started at a high point so I knew that I wouldn't have a climb for some time.  For some time the path was level and I soon passed around to the south of Lizard lighthouse and headed round the first bay of the day - Housel Cove.  This was overlooked by a very good looking hotel - may be one for next time I am in these parts?  As I rounded the next headland I could see the Lloyds Signal Station ahead (quite obvious as it had the name emblazoned in big bold letters on the side).

Lizard Lighthouse
I passed a solitary dog walker on the way over - she was the last person I would see until I got to the village of Cadgwith some 3 miles further on.  Just south-east of the signal station was a rather unremarkable looking hut that actually has the claim to fame of being the oldest functioning radio station anywhere in the world.  This is where Marconi did the longest broadcast that had ever been made at that time (January 1901) - the signal was made between here and Niton, 186 miles away on the Isle of Wight.  By December of the same year he was to make the Atlantic Ocean a lot smaller by repeating the feat between here and Newfoundland.

Lloyds Signal Station
I moved on from this scene of history to another rather more tragic one.  In Kilcobben Cove I came upon the modern RNLI station, which moved here back in the 1960s.  A memorial by the station commemorates the tragedy that unfolded here on the night of December 29th 1962 when the Ardgarry, a refrigerated coaster, sank with all hands.  Despite the bravery of the lifeboatmen who scoured the waves for 16 hours for survivors none were ever found.  This tragedy was one of a number of shipwrecks in this area over the years - a happier tale from 1907 was from the Suevic, a White Star liner on its way to Australia which ran aground on the rocks.  The entire crew and passengers were taken off the ship and remarkably it was later repaired and served until World War II when it was scuttled in Sweden to avoid being taken by the Germans.

Lifeboat Station (noticeboard photo)
The lifeboat station is as remarkable as its history.  The constraints of the site means that it must be accessed via a funicular railway.  Only crew members are lucky enough to ride the rails but the presence of this gives it a James Bond villain's lair quality.  Don't be surprised it it appears in a future film - you read it here first!  The RNLI's work is never done I guess and there was plenty of activity inside the building far below me - there was lots of banging and activity going on (building a secret weapon perhaps?).

Lifeboat Station
A little further on from Kilcobben Cove is Church Cove and the original Lizard lifeboat station can still be seen here despite only operating  for a short time and closing in 1889.  It has been converted into a house and sits among a group of holiday lets.  I imagine this would be an interesting  place for a holiday but living here long term would be quite tough on account of the distance to Helston and the exposed weather conditions you would have to put up with.

Devil's Hole
My onward path to Cadgwith was relatively straightforward along the top of the cliffs.  I was joined at one point by a kestrel who hunted above me.  I wondered about his focus for a while but realised that he was after rather smaller prey than me!  At Devil's Hole the path was diverted inland due to another cliff fall but  luckily I still got to see this remarkable feature as I returned to the rightful path at the middle of the back cliff looking down to the arch below.
I was now in Cadgwith and it was a steep descent into the village.  All was very quiet on this weekday morning.  I did have a look for somewhere to buy refreshments but the shop was shut and there didn't look to be much life about so I pressed on quite quickly.  Cadgwith was every bit as scenic as so many other Cornish villages I have seen but didn't look its best under leaden skies and perhaps that is why there were so few people about.

Serpentine Works
About a mile further on I came upon a small bridge across a stream.  Tucked away behind here was the remnants of some industrial buildings.  All derelict now but this area has housed pilchard works as well as Serpentine Works, which are the buildings I could see.  The whole area is now owned by the National Trust.  I got talking to some American walkers here.  They were walking in the same direction as me and were eventually heading for Par where they would be catching the train back to London.  I have found a lot of people from overseas doing week long sections - not a great surprise because although the scenery is stunning, at least six weeks walking is quite a commitment in one holiday as I know all too well!

Kennack Sands
It was about now that the cloud started to lift once again and there were hints of sunshine as I passed by a large caravan park at Poltesco.  The path kept a safe distance from the holidaymakers and dropped down into Kennack Sands via a short stretch of road.  At the bottom was just what I was looking for at Cadgwith - a refreshment kiosk.  Thank heavens for popular beaches!  I stocked up and headed on my way to the other end of the beach crossing a marsh and reed area at the back.  Then it was a slow climb to the top of the cliffs.  The guidebook warned me of a some stiff climbs after Cadgwith and now I had done two I hoped there wouldn't be many more.  When I got to the top it was level for quite some time and this lulled me into a false sense of security.  The walking across the top of the cliff was lovely and Kennack Sands soon disappeared into the distance behind me.  It was on this section that I bumped into the German woman I had seen talking outside the pub the previous day.  Sadly she wasn't in a chatty mood today - a quick hello as she breezed past.  Given that I was two thirds of the way through my walk I am guessing that she had had a late start.

Downas Cove
After a couple of miles of mostly level walking the notion that this was going to be easy was dispelled by a deep valley that I had to negotiate.  It was straight down and straight up at Downas Cove and this clearly brought me back closer to the scheduled finish even though I had been racing ahead to that point.  I now also came upon quite a few walkers - a large family group enjoying the walk along a section that I half expected not to meet a soul. There were even more walkers a little further on at Beagles Hole.  Why must I see people when I am at my reddest and sweatiest?  After this little down and up it was level for some distance again.  I had some more cows to negotiate but this herd seemed pretty disinterested in me which was a relief.

Progress So Far
Coverack then came into view and I was still slightly ahead of schedule.  While I don't normally like working to a timetable every so often the discipline of it seems to do me some good in terms of energy.  Drifting along taking in the view and the wildlife is lovely but I seem to get tired more quickly.  Going at some pace I guess is fuelled by adrenaline.  Before reaching the village I had the last ever diversion I would encounter in Cornwall as the path avoided yet another large cliff fall at  Perprean Cove.  It meant that I would enter Coverack using a different path and for that I was grateful for it was down a beautiful steep terrace of whitewashed cottages.  I am guessing a few are holiday lets but some were clearly lived in by locals judging by the lines of laundry and well tended gardens that I passed.

Entering Coverack
Top priority in Coverack was an ice cream to celebrate completion of Cornwall's Coast Path.  It has taken 8 years since completing the first section, ironically not far from here at Porthleven on the other side of the Lizard Peninsula.  I have enjoyed every moment of the Cornish section of the path and can see why people are drawn from all over the world to take on the challenge of the coast and marvel at its spectacular scenery.  I allowed myself a few moments to reflect on this while I scoffed my ice cream.  Then I had a date in Worthing and made it with 10 minutes to spare for my daughter's end of term orchestra recital.  Happy days!



  1. A good read Paul. Do you have much of the South West Coast Path left to walk?

    1. Only two days left to write up but all finished at the end of July. Had to get a wriggle on this year due to changing circumstances