Today starts with a senior moment which sees me climbing the steep stairs up to the Minnack Theatre once again. At the top I follow the signs across open ground, back to the cliffs and the path leading to Porthgwarra.
Not long after the village comes into view built around a small but perfect cove……
At the foot of the cove’s slipway is a tunnel dug by tin miners from St Just to give farmers horse-and-cart access to the beach to collect seaweed to use as a fertiliser.
At some point after I am faced with the choice of two signposts for the path on which someone has helpfully indicated which of the two I should not take – the annotation reminds me that I need to get my tax return in soon.
As I near the lookout station on Gwennap Head I start to wonder if I’ve stumbled upon a piece of outdoor sculpture. Later research tells me that these two objects are Runnelstone navigation markers to warn ships of the dangers of submerged rocks – the Runnel Stone. The idea is that from the sea the black and white one should always be in sight and that if the red one ever obscures it completely you are literally in deep trouble.
After Gwenapp I walk across the top of the cliffs and come across a couple of twitchers. Usually I avoid talking to them as I imagine any disturbance could be irritating but as I am pretty much alone I decide to find out what they are looking for.
The answer is “choughs” (pronounced “chuff”) and I am indeed chuffed when one of the men beckons me over to look in his telescope at the red billed chough sitting on a rock at the edge of the cliff. These birds can be seen on the Cornish coat of arms but suffered a steady decline in Cornwall from the end of the 18th century til the mid sixties, when there was only one pair left. They then died out completely until a few brave ones decided to make the journey from Ireland in 2001 and the rest is history.
Here is a picture of one I have at home…………………….the picture, not the bird.
From here on I walk past a series of dark caves cut into the cliffs, reminding me of the time Damian and I went on a trip to the small Hebridean island of Staffa. Here we took the time to sit and listen to the sound of the sea rushing in and out of Fingal’s Cave – an inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture.
But I’m not close enough to hear and anyway I am impatient to get to Land’s End. There are however, a few hurdles – large rocks barring the way ……………………………..
……….and photo to be taken of amazing rock formations – this one looks like a giant’s game of building blocks – and how do they remain so perfectly balanced?
As I get closer to Land’s End the scenery becomes less dramatic, almost like the land is crumbling into the sea like a broken biscuit. In the distance I can just about see the group of rocks known as The Longships which form part of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse, referred to in Arthurian literature.
At last, I arrive at Lands End which is crowded and a bit of a disappointment – but a milestone for me! I enlist the help of an obliging Italian tourist and get my photo taken before heading for the nearest tea shop.
On my way I stand and watch groups of people take their turn (for a small fee) to slot in their names on the celebrated signpost before having their photo taken. I play with the idea of putting up Joining the Dots but then decide it might be a bit naff.
Suitably refreshed I leave Land’s End and head up towards Sennen Cove – passing the rusty hulk of half a ship washed up on the rocks.
The path takes me up onto the cliffs again until I start to see the roofs of Sennen Cove. I then follow signs down a very steep slope through the houses but the path is not clearly marked and after a few dead ends I find myself wandering aimlessly round someone’s lawn. Not wanting to linger I am just about to give up and head back up the path when I notice an overgrown, stony “impression” of a path which does lead me down, coming out opposite the harbour.
Here I turn right and head over to the long sandy beach which makes up Whitesand Bay.
Not knowing whether the tide is coming or going or, as my map is not showing it, whether I can get back up onto the cliff path further on, I decide to chance it.
The sand is quite soft and my anticipated easy walk turns into a trudge but I enjoy watching the surfers.
A little further up the beach I stop a couple coming towards me and ask if they know of a way to get back up onto the cliff. The woman catches on very quickly – they always do – but it takes a while for her husband to understand what I’m saying. He then tries to compensate by advising me as to the best way to navigate a high rocky breakwater just a short distance away up the beach. I thank them but as I turn away she grabs my arm and in a whisper points to another part of the breakwater which does look a bit easier to deal with.
It is great fun navigating my way across the rocks, deciding which ones look safe to tread on – I used to love it as a child.
On the other side I follow their directions, past a young man meditating on the rocks and up a loooong steep set of steps. Panting with exertion I spill out on to a road where there are no clear signs of where to go. Fortunately, a passing walker tells me that I have missed the turning and that I need to go back down the steps and turn right! With a sigh I turn round and retrace my steps and sure enough there is the track, winding its way up onto the cliff.
By now it is getting quite late and I can feel the beginnings of a blister but I have at least another two hours to walking to go. To make matters worse both my camera and iPhone are low on battery so I take no photos on the way. I meet very few people on the path up to Cape Cornwall and they are all coming towards me but I take heart from a group of brash American women who have come from the Cape and are able to give me a rough idea of how long it will take to get there. There is just enough battery on my camera to take a photo of this imposing county house which stands on the hill overlooking the Cape. I will investigate tomorrow but for now it’s shower, food and bed.
Distance: 10 miles