I wake up early to the noise of roaring traffic. What are all those cars going at this time in the morning? Then I realise – the sound I’m hearing is the crashing of waves beneath my window.
Getting to the start point of today’s walk is easy. I walk out of the Paris Hotel and I am on the South West Coast Path, heading southwards towards Chynhalis Point. The only place in Coverack closer to the sea is a house, ahead, perched by the water.
Today there are gales predicted and rain forecast at 3:30 pm – but at the moment the sun is shining. I meander around Chynhalis Point and enjoy the view back to Coverack – although photography is spoiled by the hazy morning light.
Coming off Chynhalis, I find the path ahead is closed. It would have been nice to know this before I got to the bottom of the slope and found myself at a dead-end.
I turn round and have a steep climb up the cliff I’ve just come down. The detour takes me even higher, around behind the back of a hotel, along a path through trees and into an open field. Here I can enjoy the view back down to Chynhalis point – but I am surprised to see several pieces of sculpture sitting among the grass.
Later I discover this is Terence Carpenter‘s sculpture park.
What I love about the display is how all the pieces sit naturally within their surroundings. There is a polite notice asking me not to climb on the sculptures, but otherwise I am free to wander around – no set paths, no barriers, no fences.
I like this arrogant cormorant – and his partner on the other side of the plinth (not shown) and the wheeling sea gulls.
I can see another field of sculptures on the other side of my path – I am not sure how extensive the sculpture park is – but by now it is nearly 11:00 am and I decide I can’t stay any longer. I must press on with my walk.
Coverack disappears behind me as I approach Black Head. Here there is a lonely lookout station with a National Trust sign. It looks very shut today and I am not sure if it is ever used.
From Black Head, I have a good view to the south-west and the line of coast ahead – dull blue in the haze. That must be the Lizard peninsula.
Crikey. It looks a long way away. Am I really going to get there today? I wonder if I have been too ambitious and I get out my maps and string to check my distances. Yes, I should be able to get to Lizard by late afternoon. I may not beat the rain.
The next section of walk is lovely and, with no sizeable village for miles around, the coast is unspoilt – wild and remote.
I meet a couple of single male walkers coming towards me – I really am walking the ‘wrong’ way along the South West Coast Path. The first man is young, tall, fit (in every sense) and American. The second is an older Brit and I meet him struggling up a steep slope.
I am looking down into a steep-sided valley – the Downas Valley according to my map. Below I can see people with equipment. I wonder if they are setting up camp, but then I realise they are repairing the path.
There are several groups of people and I interrupt their work as I make my cautious way down the slope. I am glad of my poles to help me keep my balance. At the bottom of the valley is a stream and workers are also repairing the bridge that crosses it. They seem a mixed bunch – different ages and some women among them. I wonder if they are volunteers?
The climb up the other side of the valley is steep, but I make good progress without too many rest-stops. I must be fitter than normal, with all the walking I’ve been doing.
The next hour of walking is wonderful. The path is fairly straight, running along the top of the cliff, but with enough twists, turns and dips to make it interesting and scenic. Ahead I see the distant shore of the far side of the bay is getting nearer.
The scenery is beautiful. There are wild flowers along the path, although I notice the gorse is no longer in flower and I miss that coconut smell.
I come to a point with the strange name of Carrick Luz. There is the remains of a fort here, according to the map, but I am mindful of the deteriorating weather and I don’t leave the path to explore further.
Stopping among some rocks, high up on the cliffs, I have a snack and take photos of the view ahead. Unfortunately the light is poor and the haze prevents good photography. Below me are a couple of connected coves with beaches – together making up Kennack Sands. After miles of rocky cliffs, it is good to see a proper beach again – the first sand since I left Coverack.
I follow the path down and start walking along the sand of the first beach. The tide is low and it looks as if I can walk across the rocky area that separates the two coves.
A few people are on the beach, walking dogs and strolling by the waves. They must have come from the tiny village of Kuggar, where a road comes down to Kennack Sands. My OS map shows a pub in Kuggar. Good. It’s half past one and I am hungry.
I am right: you can walk from one cove to the other through the rocks that separate them.
Where the road comes down to the beach I can see a couple of cafes and I decide to eat here. I choose the cafe with the blue railings – because it advertises Cornish pasties and the seating is sheltered from the chilly wind off the sea. Unfortunately, they are not serving pasties because there are not enough people around. I have a truly awful beef burger instead – not much beef, mainly gristle. With a cup of tea.
The South West Coast Path follows the road for a short distance and then a footpath strikes off towards Cadgwith. At one point the path crosses a mini golf course. A line of static caravans sit on the crest of the hill, peering down at me as I walk along.
Unexpectedly, the path dips down into a wooded valley. Ruined buildings are visible among the trees. People are wandering about, taking photos. This is Carleon Cove, Poltesco, and the ruins are the remains of buildings that once serviced a thriving pilchard processing and serpentine stone industry.
Serpentine stone is ancient rock that exists in the earth’s mantle and is usually buried deep under ground – and by deep I mean tens of kilometers below the surface. The Lizard is the only place in England where serpentine rocks are found – thrust to the surface due to tectonic activity millions of years ago.
A new bridge has been built to cross the stream that runs through the bottom of the valley. It has a lovely boat shape and its upright supports are surmounted by stones – serpentine rocks I assume. There are still a few workshops left on the Lizard that make decorative objects from serpentine stone.
The sky grows darker and the wind becomes stronger. I worry about rain – due in one hour, according to the BBC forecast – and I walk faster.
The stretch of coast between Poltesco and Lizard Point is all owned by the National Trust. There are ‘wild’ ponies grazing on Enys Head. They seem remarkably tame and, although I do nothing to encourage them, they follow me along the paths. Every time I turn round, they put their heads down and pretend they are just grazing.
Cadgwith is a lovely fishing port. I pass a pub – tempting – but I need to finish my walk while the weather holds.
I climb up the other side of the valley out of Cadgwith, walking along the edge of the cliff. Two young women have been walking the same route as me – they overtook me on Enys Head, but now I come across them sitting on a bench.
I suddenly realise why they are sitting in this particular place. They are admiring the view over a remarkable rock formation – a wide and deep basin in the land, with a hidden cove at its base, linked to the sea by an archway.
On my map, just at this point, are marked the words ‘Devil’s Frying Pan’. I was wondering what the phrase might mean. Well, this must be it.
I imagine at high tide the wild waves come frothing and boiling through the narrow archway.
After taking a few photos, I walk on. It is beginning to rain. I check my watch. 3:29 exactly. Right on time. I stow my camera and iPhone away, put on my waterproofs and put the rain cover over my rucksack.
The next section of the walk is spectacular as I approach the Lizard – the most southerly point of mainland Britain. This represents such a milestone in my coastal walking that I desperately want to enjoy it. But the rain continues to fall and the wind has become very fierce, whipping the rain sideways across the path.
Ahead I see the Lizard Lifeboat Station. The rain stops for a few brief minutes and I take a photo. It seems very close – only a few minutes walk away. But this is a trick of perspective because I don’t appreciate how large the structure actually is – and it take me another 40 minutes to reach the cliffs above the station.
At this point, I nearly abandon the coast path and head overland into the village of Lizard. I am soaking wet and the wind is really blowing at gale force. The path ahead looks very narrow and very wet. But I have my heart set on getting to Lizard Point today. Wondering if I am mad, I decide to continue.
A few hundred yards behind me I see the two young women I passed earlier, beginning to follow me along the same route. I feel a pang of responsibility. I hope this path is safe.
The next structure I come to is the Bass Point lookout station. This is manned by volunteers and there is a box asking for donations. Normally I would contribute to this important service – but it is too wet to risk unzipping my rucksack to find my purse, so I keep walking.
Beyond the lookout station is Lloyds signal station – where a plaque informs me that this is the oldest working wireless station in the world. The rain stops for long enough for me to take a photo of the signal station.
The wind is blowing me sideways, trying to knock me off the path. I continue walking. The two young women behind me have disappeared – I hope they haven’t been blown away. I reach Housel Bay, where there is a hotel, and I find a convenient seat next to the path. It is sheltered by some bushes and I sit down to rest. The strong wind is very energy-sapping.
Across Housel Bay I can see the path going across the top of the cliffs and the distant white shape of the Lighthouse. I know I have another mile to go before I reach Lizard Point. Coming down the path, towards Housel Bay, are some walkers – they are laughing because they are being blown along by the wind behind them. Oh dear, I will be struggling against a ferocious head wind as I leave the Bay.
It begins to rain again – hard, sideways rain. That settles it. I’m heading inland to find my B&B. I will leave Lizard Point for another day when, with better weather, I can really appreciate arriving at this landmark and standing on the most southerly point of mainland Britain.
When I reach my B&B and start chatting with other guests, I discover the pub in Kuggar has closed. My fellow guests are moving on to the holiday park in Kuggar where they have rented a mobile home directly overlooking the sea, one of the row I walked past earlier.
Miles walked today= 11 miles
Miles walked in total= 1,129