Saturday, 1 August 2015

Marazion to Porthleven

View of St Michael's Mount looking back
After leaving Marazion the path soon chips away from the road as it trails round Mount's Bay at the top of the cliffs, and all the while I am treated to different views of St Michael's Mount as I head around the bay. At Perranuthnoe I take a short detour up to the little church, dedicated to St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall. (St Piran was an Irishman who, having been chucked out of his homeland, washed up at Perranporth  - hence the name - where his first converts were said to be a fox, a badger and a boar. I don't know if you've been to Perranporth but last time I went, all three were in short supply so the place must have changed a bit. You can read more about St Piran here.) Anyway, back to Perranuthnoe - the church seems keen on collecting patron saints - in 1856 it was also dedicated to St Nicholas. He was later apparently dropped in favour of St Michael. Still, its a beautiful little place, with a Norman font and beautiful arched roof. Outside, the clock on the tower was given in memory of  Eliza Trevelyan in 1913; the Trevelyans of Marhamchurch being major benefactors of the church, and like most benefactors, clearly they wanted to be remembered as such.
Font at St Pirans

Nave of St Piran's

Cudden Point
About a mile and a half farther on, the Coast Path makes its way out to the narrow finger of Cudden Point. By now the grey clouds have scudded away and are replaced by warm sunshine and an almost cloudless sky. I walk along to the far end of the point, and take my last view of Mounts Bay before rounding the corner and heading towards the evocative Prussia Cove, home of the (in)famous pirate John Carter, the self-styled 'King of Prussia.'

John Carter and his brothers Harry and Charles, the 'Cove Boys' ran a profitable smuggling business from here at the end of the eighteenth century. Unusually, Harry Carter left a written record of their exploits in the form of a memoir, Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler. 'I think I might have been about 25 when I went into a small sloop…with two men beside myself, asmuggling where I had very great success.' Harry goes on to say he disliked swearing and when he graduated to his own 50 ton cutter with ten men on board, he made a rule that there would be no swearing. Anyone found swearing would be 'poneshed'.

What I found fascinating in his memoir is the matter-of-fact way in which he discusses smuggling; it is clear that tax avoidance was something that was certainly not frowned upon by the local population. And according to legend, and very probably true, there was a level of honesty amongst the Carter gang.  One story tells how John Carter broke into the Penzance Custom HOuse to rescue some confiscated tea. When the customs officials arrived the next day they allegedly said that John Carter had been there, and we know it because he has not taken anything which was not his own!

So if you've ever wondered how the King of Prussia pub in Fowey got it's name - now you know!

Winch at Bessie's Cove

The area known as Prussia Cove in fact encompasses four small coves - Piskies, Bessy's, King's and Coule's - four delightful and secluded little inlets where a handful of holidaymakers are sunbathing on the small beaches or messing about in the clear, turquoise water. Beyond is the wide expanse of Kenneggy Sands. Access to the beach is by way of metal ladders -which explains why the beach was pretty much deserted. The next beach along, Praa sands is much easier to access. By now I am roasting hot and I'm unable to resist changing into my swimsuit and going in for a dip. The water is FREEEZING. Aaargh. But now I've made the effort to get changed (something of a palaver on a crowded beach) so I'm determined to stay in the water for at least twenty minutes to make it worthwhile. Afterwards, and nicely cooled down, it's time for a lovely cup of tea in the beach cafe.

Piskies Cove

Boat at Bessies Cove

Cart tracks in the rocks at King's Cove

Tea on the beach! 

The weather is beautiful and sunny and it is glorious on the path, with banks of heather turning purple and banks of wild flowers - bright yellow birds foot trefoil, pink sea thrift and beautiful violet-blue sheeps bit. There are plenty of butterflies too - especially commas and peacocks - which periodically flutter up from the path in front of me only to land again, right back on the path a yard farther along. They repeat this four or five times before finally getting the message and landing behind me and out of the way of my clunking boots.

Wheal Prosper
Just after Rinsey head is Wheal Prosper, a mine which failed to live up to its optimistic name. Opened in 1860, it operated for just six years producing mainly tin. A little way on, at Trewavas Head are the remains of a rather more successful copper mine, producing 17.5k tons of copper in its working life. Perched on the edge of the cliff, the buildings are an evocative reminder of Cornwall's industrial past, when the region was a world leader in tin and copper production and technology.

Looking at the Lizard 


Trewavas Head - spooky...

Approaching Pothleven there is a reminder of a different local industry - fishing. A granite cross on a white plinth stands on the headland overlooking the churning sea, a memorial to the many mariners and fishermen who lost their lives in the waters near these shores in countless shipwrecks and accidents at sea. One of the most poignant was the loss of the "Energetic. The small fishing boat put to sea on 25 June 1948; on board were six members of the same Porthleven family, the Richards and their friend Roy Mewton who had gone along for a pleasure trip. The boat was caught in thick fog and run over by the huge 7000 ton Chrysanthy Star. Five of the six Richards brothers drowned. Roy Mewton was picked up by the Chrysanthy Star but died on board. Only one brother, Ralph Richards, survived. You can read his account of that fateful night here.

At Pothleven I walk down the hill into the centre of town and head inland in search of a campsite marked on my map. sure enough I had not gone far when I came to the entrance - and an added bonus! - there is a Freehouse on the Campsite run by the famous brewpub in Helston, The Blue Anchor. So I treat myself to a pint of Spingo Flora Daze. A second bonus is that the walls of the pub are covered with fascinating black and white photographs of Porthleven, of ships which have come to grief here, mighty storms and local families - including photographs of the Richards family. It feels strange staring at the images of the Richards brothers as boys - oblivious of the fateful event to come. The photographs are part of a permanent exhibition which opened this month - highly recommended!

After setting up my little tent I head back down to the harbour and settle myself in the garden of the Ship Inn, a fine pub, where I enjoy a pint of Rebel Gold from Cornish Brewery Rebel Brewing. As I was in Porthleven I felt duty bound to also quaff a pint of Porthleven from Skinner's Brewery  - not too much of a hardship as it is a fine pint -before turning in for the night.


The Ship Inn

Distance walked 11 miles.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Penzance to Marazion

Well it's been a long time coming. The next section of the South West Coast Path I mean. It's been two years since I reached Penzance on the South West Coast Path. Somehow the last 24 months have slipped by what with walking round Japan and moving to Edinburgh (and back) and wot-not.

But here I am on a Friday evening heading down to Penzance by train. I'm at the station at Lostwithiel and the train is late. Very late. Checking my new smartfone I learn that tragically a man had been killed that afternoon at Collumption. Suddenly I don't feel like moaning that the train is late, after all, at least I'm still here. I sit patiently and eventually it arrives, packed out and standing room only and it is gone half-seven in the evening when I leave Penzance station and set off along the coast towards Marazion.
Leaving Penzance on the Coath Path

This section of the coast path is not that interesting unless you are a trainspotter, as it trundles between sea and railway line. But as I walk around the curve of the bay, the vista opens out and I'm suddenly glad I didn't skip this section and get the bus.

St Michael's Mount

Approaching Marazion the dramatic isle of St Michael's Mount, with its castle perched atop the rock, draws the eye. The tide was in, no sign of the causeway to the island, and the sea is still. Between the shore and the island a group of brightly coloured canoes paddle in the shallows, bright lines of red, orange and yellow gently bobbing about in the calm blue sea. The shadows are lengthening as I join the road into the village. To my left was Marazion Marsh and I take the chance to duck through a gate and walk along the springy grass of the path through the reserve rather than the unforgiving tarmac of the road. It's that time in the evening when creatures come out to play and the path is strewn with rabbits frolicking. It amuses me how some bolt for cover straightaway while others stand their ground until the very last minute before disappearing into the bushes. I'm reminded of Watership Down - which one is Hazel and which is Fiver? I wonder. Anyway, like most creatures, they are not stupid enough to hang around when an Upright is on the loose.

Marazion Marsh
Rabbits on the path

Anyway, no idea where I'm going to sleep but then I pass a field with a few tents in. And I espy a portaloo. This looks promising. So I wander in and ask a family what the set up is. She explains that there is a sailing competition in Marazion and a local farmer has kindly allowed competitors to camp in his field. I ask whether she thinks he would mind if I camped too and she doesn't know but kindly looks up his number. The farmer has no problem with this so I set up camp. An hour later he turns up, collects six quid and we have a chat about the coast path etc. Both sides are happy with the transaction. Later I walk along to the village, drink a pricey pint of Proper Job in the King's Arms before heading back to my little tent for the night.

The next morning rain is hammering on the tent. Quandary. Do I get up and pack up in the rain or stay in bed awhile? Not much of a quandary actually. I pick up my book, snuggle deeper into my sleeping bag and start to read. Sure enough an hour later the rain has stopped and the sun is trying to put in a feeble appearance over in the east. Now it's time to get up and pack up. It's still only nine o'clock by the time I leave the field and buy a coffee in the tea-hut in the carpark opposite.

Causeway to St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount does not open on Saturdays but it makes for a pleasing view while I drink my coffee on the bench opposite. The causeway is just beginning to be revealed by the morning's receding tide and on the way through the village I wander partway along it's length. The island is the family seat of the St Aubyn family who live in the house on the island. They are descended from a Norman family who, as we all know, invaded England in the eleventh century. In the nineteenth century John St Aubyn was made Lord Levan for political services to the Liberal Party.The island was given to the National Trust in the nineteen-fifties, although the family retained a 999 year lease to remain living on the Island. It is apparently at their request that the Mount is closed on Saturdays. I shall have to come back another day.

Marazion is a pretty little village which straggles up the hill from the shore. A small square forms the hub, where aside from the King's Arms there is a chemist, a newsagent and a baker which between them seem to sell pretty much anything you could possibly require for a walk along the Cornish Coast Path. I purchase batteries for my headlight, a comb, some wet wipes (chemist), a lightweight rain cape for covering my backpack and a bar of chocolate (newsagent) and an enormous cheese and onion pasty (baker). It is still a bit mizzly and it doesn't occur to me to buy suntan lotion which later turns out to have been something of an oversight. After stuffing my wares into the top of my rucksack I haul it onto my back and plod up the narrow road lined with squat whitewashed stone cottages, which climbs out of Marazion towards the west.

Not all traffic in Marazion is horseless carriage

A Very Useful Item - raincover, mat, pillow, and good for changing under on crowded beaches
Miles walked: 4