Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Sunday, 3 November 2013

South West Coast Path - Lands End to Mousehole

Enys Dodnan

An arduous but rewarding 13 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Lands End and Mousehole

This is an arduous section of the coast path but is nonetheless worthwhile for its spectacular scenery and rugged landscape. There is little in the way of civilisation throughout the entire route but the views and amazing with the natural wonders of the Longships rocks, Gwennap Head, Logans Rock and so much more.

Lands End to Mousehole Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Lands EndView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
MouseholeView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
13 miles
Walk difficulty
Challenging - steep climbs and navigation around rocky outcrops
Terrain
Footpaths throughout
Obstacles
There are some steep steps down from the Minack Theatre. Caution should be take descending these.

Accommodation:

Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, PorthlevenView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, Mill lane, Porthleven, Cornwall TR13 9LQ

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
1 - First Group 1/1A service linking Penzance and Lands End
Timetable
First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
2 - First Group 2 service linking Penzance, Helston, Falmouth and Truro
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2013-06-25
Walk Time
09:30 to 17:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm summers day. A little haziness but good walking weather

Walk Notes

Route logistics

On certain stages of the South West Coast Path it is pertinent to choose the direction of the walk wisely. This should take into account the vagaries and limitations of public transport and the length of the walk and the arduousness of its course. This particular section demonstrates such thinking. There are buses returning from Lands End to Penzance as late as 18:42 and under normal circumstances this would leave ample time to complete the 13 miles from Mousehole or the 17 miles from Penzance. However the frequency of the service from Lands End would mean up to a two hour wait if ones arrival was not in synch with the bus timetable and if any major obstacle, diversion or misfortune is encountered on route then it is a long walk back!. Taking the early bus to Lands End and walking in the opposite direction will connect with the half hourly bus service from Mousehole to Penzance which also connects with the service through to Helston where there are late evening buses. Walking in this direction thus removes any concern about schedules and allows a more relaxed and pleasurable amble.

Although this walk terminates at Mousehole it can be easily extended through to Penzance as detailed in South West Coast Path - Mousehole to Marazion. The route follows the coast through the urbanized areas of Newlin and Penzance and as such is very easy going although this is a little of a let down after the spectacular natural wonders between Lands End and Mousehole.

A Popular Section of the Coast Path

Maybe it was the significance of the name of Lands End. Maybe It was the sheer charisma of the outstanding views and scenery. It most certainly isn't because this section of Coast Path is an easy undertaking. Whatever the reason, the path throughout this distance proved to be hugely popular. From start to end numerous other walkers and hikers were encountered. Young hikers in modern walking gear with a challange to meet. Couples out strolling, probably just for a short section, taking in the scenery. Even pensioners were encountered clambering over some of the toughest of terrains without undue concern or complaint. Although solitude is a blessing on such a wild coastline, it is good to meet other cheery folk and offer pleasantries in passing.

Probably the most memorable walker we encountered was a burly chap with long dreadlocks and wearing sandals and shorts with a small pack on his back. He was accompanied by a small white terrier dog that independently ran along with him, sometimes scampering off ahead, other times holding back then chasing after him. It's tiny legs moved with manic locomotion as it kept up with his masters keen stride. And this chap was not holding back on his pace either. He would pass us and head off into the distance. Occasionally we would catch a glimpse as he headed up on the opposite side of a cove or around a headland, his dog ever faithfully keeping with him. Then he would be gone in the distance, only for us to come upon him once again as he rested at a key vantage point. A cliff top outcrop. The edge of a headland. Atop a boulder sitting in sage-like manner gazing across this magnificent scenery. We would amble past this solemn figure only to have him catch us back and pass us once again with a simple hello or a thank you as we pulled over to allow him past.

This happened several times between Porthgwarra and St Loy at which point the path narrowed through a wet and marshy area, full of muddy puddles and boggy areas where stones and sticks were strategically placed to hop across the obstacle. We negotiated this section with well placed steps and judged leaps and bounds. Despite this both of us still managed to end up with muddy boots. The dreadlocked sage calmly followed us through the mire as there was no place to allow him to pass. We were dodging the mud. He walked through with measured pace without concern for what was underfoot. His dog scampered ahead of him, then ahead of us instinctively finding a route forward that was suitable for its little legs. I couldn't help but notice that his dog remained clean of mire and grime. Looking back at the sage behind it was also noticeable that despite wearing sandles, there was no sign of mud or mire on his legs or feet. I glanced at the leather on my feet and it was caked in mud.

As the path led out to drier conditions there came a chance to allow the man to pass. Once again he offered a plain thank you but this time it was the introduction to a little conversation, asking about our days walking. Where from. Where to. He paid attention and appeared impressed. Well impressed is probably not the right choice of word, it was almost as if he was proud to have East Anglian people walking the coast path. On asking of his journeys he related that he lived in Newquay and had just popped down to walk from Lands End to Penzance. The South West Coast Path was his domain. This was his delight. It had been some years since he had last walked this section so he was rectifying that. The Coast Path was in his blood. And his dog always went with him. He bid a farewell and off he sauntered at his own pace. This time he was gone for good, and we did not see him again. Maybe another time. Maybe another section of the Coast Path we may come across this distinctive individual.

It was an amazing sight to see the man's dog keeping up with him. This did spark playful thoughts about the state of the dog by journeys end at Penzance. A minds eye picture of a knackered pooch, rolled on its back, its little legs limply hanging in the air with steam issuing in great profusions from the worn pads of its feet. Maybe not. In all likeliness this dog probably would be ready for another lengthy walk the following day. Its only us flatlander East Anglians who are not used to the hills and rocky terrain and who complete the day with our feet in the air, steam issuing in profuse bursts from the ankled gaps at the top of our boots.

Challenges

This section of the South West coast Path is quite a challenge. It has its accustomed descents and climbs across crevices, creeks and coves which are to be expected all along the coast path but even more so on this section. There is also a pebbled beach at St Loy which has to be negotiated. This is no ordinary pebbled beach but a beach of huge boulder proportioned pebbles that even my long legs needed to stretch to get across. This beach is often mentioned in guide books and travelogues but it is a sight to be believed. An awesome sight. It makes one feel as if they have shrunk in size as each step is carefully placed to get across this short stretch of coastline.

More stamina is needed to get around the craggy sections either side of Lamorna where the path meanders through craggy rocks that litter the cliffside and which need to be climbed and clambered over as the path twists and turns to negotiate the best route across this terrain. In places recent rock falls had caused a fresh reroute of the path which meant forging a way across the virgin rock. This took time and care but was always passable and provided a sense of achievement in getting through. Mid-way along this craggy terrain is a cove with the village of Lamorna nestled in it. The actual village lies a little way up the valley but the cove has a few facilities including a cafe which provided an opportunity to stop for a deserved rest and refreshments. We bought some cold drinks, sat outside on the benches overlooking the cove and watched the world go by. A young couple whom we had passed on the rocky terrain ambled by on the path between the benches and the cafe. They looked to be novices at the Coast Path dressed in what looked like new walking gear. The impression was that they had gone to an outdoors shop, chosen the latest fashions and were out to test it all out. When we had passed them along the crags they appeared to be rather flustered by the ruggedness of the challenging landscape and now they looked somewhat relieved that this was over. We watched as they continued around the cove and onto the path out towards Mousehole.

We soon followed their steps. There was only a few miles left and at first this was easy going. The path then turned away from the cove and once again a craggy cliff face was encountered with more clambering and climbing. It was not long before we once again encountered the young couple. This time they were heading back towards Lamorna and from the overheard conversation and the tell-tale expression on the girls face they were not happy with this walk. I think they expected a walk in the park and instead had been given a footpath on a cliff-face. They were heading back to Lamorna to search for a more sedentary route.

I have to admit that challenging terrain such as this is not easy, particularly for walkers like us East Anglians who are not used to hills, crags and rocky landscapes. Nonetheless with care, time and perseverance it can all be completed. The official path is well way marked and despite its rugged route, can be accomplished by folk of all ages and abilities. We met pensioners walking along this route that were not phased by the terrain. One just needs to get in the right frame of mind and push on. It can be done. There are some steep drops in places. There are some places where more effort needs to be applied. But it is all doable. I suffer terribly from vertigo. Standing on the edge of a steep kerb stone can send shivers down my back but I have to say that the more one walks the Coast Path the more one gets used to the occasional steep drops. Care and common sense is the order of the day. And who would not dare to venture along these challenging routes when there are such spectacular scenes around each and every corner.

A head for heights does help on the Coast Path at times, but as stated, with care, caution and common sense walk the path can be achieved. However, there was one point on this section of Coast Path that did put a inkling of terror in me. This was at the Minack Theatre. The official route is way marked down the side of the entrance to the theatre. This descends a few steps, then disappears near vertically down the cliff face by way of a flight of very steep steps. At the bottom of these is a small balcony and no obvious route beyond. To all intents and purposes it appears the steps are merely down to this balcony and nothing else.

At this point, we had been following a couple of middle-aged chaps who had left the Porthgwarra cafe shortly before us. Their attire was certainly not like the typical modern hiker. Jeans. Khaki jackets. Old canvas rucksacks. Longish hair made scruffy by the breezes. They had caught our attention in the cafe garden because they were smokers and one does not encounter many smokers walking the coast path. Throughout the miles to the Minack Theatre they had slowly got ahead of us, though never long out of sight on the hills ahead. We caught them back up at the Theatre where they were taking some time out for a cigarette and a chance to briefly look around this popular landmark.

I had noticed the Coast Path way marker pointing down the steps. I nervously peered down these and thought that this could not possibly be the route. As I pondered this fact the two smokers arrived at the same point. They peered down he steps. Their passed a few words between themselves. They then returned back to the road looking for an alternative way marker. Minutes later they were back at the steps. They once again stared down into the abyss. Then one stepped forward, soon followed by the other. Within seconds they had disappeared from view. Not to be seen again. I waited. Thee was no return.

This had to be the route. But even after witnessing this, I still walked back to the road to double check the way marker. The usual acorn and a definitive arrow towards the steps into the abyss. There was no arguing. This had to be the way. I returned. Below the steps headed down. a group of kids could just be seen below on the balcony. I gingerly started the descent. There was no way I could just walk down this one. My head for heights had no where near enough metal to undertake such a feat. So I got down onto my bottom and edged down the steps. One at a time. I am certain the teenagers must have had a good laugh at my expense watching this nervous idiot bumbling down the steps on his arse. It wasn't long until the balcony was reached. From here I could see that the path led off to the left down the remaining height of the cliff along a little path along the grassy cliff. Steep but a whole lot easier and much more of the normal cliff path I was accustomed to. A relief. A word back to Kat and she followed. I could not help but notice a sign which detailed what to do in an emergency in case of a fall. This was the first time such a sign had been encountered on the coast path from Poole. It did show that this was a potentially dangerous section. Even so. Care. Common Sense. No rushing. We got through it.

Referencing the OS map a little later, it was found that there is an alternative footpath that meets the official coast path in the cove beyond the theatre. This still navigates down a steep grassed incline but for those who do not have a head for heights then this should be a lot easier. However, undertaking a challenge such as this is something worth doing. Overcoming fears. Going beyond ones limits.

Wot no pubs

There are no pubs on this section of the coast path unless one cares to go off route. Mousehole has pubs including The Ship on the quayside but on this occasion a bus had just arrived and we decided to return back to Porthleven where we could have a shower, get changed and go out for a meal and some of the truly drinkable Sknners Porthleven ale.

Carn-du looking back towards Lamorna Cove
Carn-du looking back towards Lamorna Cove

Directions

The South West Coast Path is well defined by the distinctive acorn logo waymarkers.

The bus stop is at the LAnds End theme park. Walk through this to the coast and follow the path out to the left. There are a couple of paths that lead out across the htop of the cliffs but these meets up and the usual way markers are then encountered. The path is then obvious throughout the rest of the route. There have been several diversions in the last year due to cliff falls. These are marked out and where applciable the route has been permanently moved. Always heed any diversion notice and keep to the waymarked route throughout.

Steps lead down the cliff face at MinackLooking back to Trevilley Cliff
On the left Steps lead down the cliff face at Minack; On the right Looking back to Trevilley Cliff

Pubs

The Ship, Mousehole View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Ship, Mousehole
Website

A St Austells pub overlooking the harbour at Mousehole. Alcoved bar offers the usual St Austell ales and a variety of food. Accommodation available.

The pub celebrates Tom Bawcocks Eve which occurs shortly before Christmas and commemorates a terrific storm which bettered the village. A huge fish pie is baked and consumed by the patrons of the Inn. This event encapsulates the entire village party and attracts many visitors from both near and far.

Review

Not visited on this occasion

The large pebbles at St Loy's Cove
The large pebbles at St Loy's Cove

Features

Longships LighthouseView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Just over a mile west of Lands End, protruding from the sea and visible from the mainland are a group of rocky islets collectively known as The Longships. Three of these are usually visible and are known as Tal-y-Maen, Carn Bras, and Meinek and others lie submerged. This have historically been a danger to shipping with many a vessel being caught out by their presence or driven onto the granite crags by storms. To assist navigation, in 1791 Trinity House gave a lease to Lieutenant Henry Smith to erect a lighthouse on Carn Bras, the largest of the Longship rocks. This three storied circular construction stood 24 metres above the sea, and held 18 parabolic metal reflectors. Even at this height high seas would obscure its beacon, so in 1869 Trinity House constructed a replacement granite tower which was finally completed in 1873.

This 35 metre tall building is still standing today providing one long five-second flash every ten seconds that can be seen for 15 natuial miles. The flashes are white when seen from seaward, but red sectors show if a vessel strays too close to either Cape Cornwall to the north or Gwennap Head to the south-southeast. The lighthouse was automated in 1988.

References

Gwennap HeadView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This headland, known as Tol Pedn up until 1977 although local folk still refer to its original name is the most southerly headland on the south coast of the Penwith peninsula. The original name of Tol Pedn comes from the Cornish for 'the holed headland', referring to the vertical blowhole on the clifftop down to a sea cave. The headland was once the location of a cliff castle although little remains of it these days.

In 1910 a coastguard station was built here which lasted until 1994 when it was taken over by the National Coastguard Institution. This employs a pair of cone-shaped navigation markers set up in line with the Runnelstone buoy to warn shipping of the hazard of the Runnel Stone. The cone to the seaward side is painted red and the inland one is black and white. When at sea the black and white one should always be kept in sight in order to avoid the submerged rocks nearer the shore. If the black and white cone is completely obscured by the red cone then the vessel would be directly on top of the Runnel Stone.

The cliff face around Gwennap Head includes a feature called Chair Ladder. This granite column is topped with a chair like rock which is locally known as Madgy Figgys Chair. Madgy Figgy was one of a number of witches that lived in St Levan and Burian and she was by far the most renowned. IT is said that she would seat herself in the chair where she would chant out incantations to call up the spirits of the storm in order to put in peril the rich merchant ships that would pass by this coastline. Locals profess to seeing her writhing to and fro in the chair as she wildly summoned up the portents of doom and the storm would lash its torment drawing an unsuspecting vessel onto the hazardous reefs below. Once the ship had foundered and started to break up she would take to the air on a stick of ragwort whilst her cohorts carried away the washed up merchandise.

References

Minack TheatreView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The Minack Theatre is located on the rocky clifface near Porthcurno. This open-air theatre was created in 1931 by Rowena Cade, older sister of the feminist Katharine Burdekin, who financed the project up until she died in 1983. The theatre is currently operated as a charitable trust presenting a variety of drama, musicals and opera between May and September each year. The site also includes sub-tropical gardens.

References

Logan RockView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This eighty ton granite boulder is located between Minack and Penberth and sits on the edge of the cliffs. It used to easily rock back and forth if pressure was applied at the correct place. However in 1824, in order to demonstrate naval prowess and courage, Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmitha number of his crew of the cutter HMS Nimble dislodged the rock with the aid of bars and levers. This upset the local residents who demanded that the British Admiralty strip Lieutenant Goldsmith of his Royal Navy commission unless he restored the boulder to its previous position at his own expense. It took nearly seven months fopr the sailors to restore it to its original position. The bills for the work and drawings of the procedure can be seen in the Logan Rock Inn in Treen.

References
Logan Rock
Logan Rock

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-05

  1 comment:

  1. Good post, informative and useful. Check this link https://www.mapmyways.com/portfolio-items/south-west-coastal-path-2/ for more info.

    ReplyDelete

Featured Walk

A Walk through the Garden of Suffolk

A 14 mile walk between Saxmundham and Darsham along the East Suffolk Line Walk. It is Yoxford that gives us the name of this walk which is p...

Popular Walks

Griffmonster's Facebook