116 Porthleven to Praa Sands

The BBC weather forecast today is ‘wet’. The BBC rarely lets us down.

But it is still dry when I start walking along the side of Porthleven Harbour. I stop to take photographs and to allow a group of walkers go on ahead of me. There are around 10 of them and they seem to have an official leader. I rather hoped they would be heading the other way, but no, they were walking the same way as me. I prefer walking alone, so I hang back to get some distance between us.

Porthleven, Ruth's coastal walk, Cornwall

The path ahead is gloomy. Low clouds shroud the headland and the sea is grey. (In the photographs, it looks more cheerful than it actually was!) It begins to rain. Not too badly. Just a steady drizzle. No problem. I can cope with this.

dismal view ahead, Ruth coast walking in drizzle

The group of walkers stop at a memorial cross and I decide to pass them. They are discussing whether to continue. I hear the words ‘dangerous’ and ‘not worth it’. But I am brave – an intrepid walker who fears nothing – so I carry on.

I stop to take photographs during a brief lull in the drizzle and a voice behind says ‘excuse me’. I nearly jump off the path. It is the darned walkers. Unfortunately, they, too, have decided to carry on. Perhaps it was the sight of me striding ahead that gave them to confidence to continue. Now they overtake me.

walkers overtake me, on South West Coast Path, Porthleven

I wait to let them get well ahead. Call me fussy, but I don’t want to be trailing in their wake. It spoils the illusion of a brave walk, on my own, battling the elements. While I wait, I take more photographs. The view behind me is dismal. I rather hoped to be able to catch the golden sweep of Porthleven Sands – but it doesn’t look particularly golden under today’s gloomy skies.

view back to Porthleven Sands, Ruths coast walking

Now the rain pelts down. I am walking along an exposed section of cliff with low hedges but no trees – not even a reasonably sized bush to shelter under. Within a couple of minutes my trousers are soaking wet. My arms are still dry under my jacket and my rucksack is protected by its new waterproof cover. So I am not unduly concerned. But I have the horrible feeling that the water is going to start pouring down my legs and into my boots.

Never mind. I decide to ’embrace the wet’. This sounds like a good mantra. I start reciting it as I march along in my cloudy, wet world. ‘Embrace the wet.’ The path is overgrown. Wet branches lash against my legs. Through gritted teeth I chant, ‘Embrace the wet.’

I reach a high point where the path flattens out. Ahead I can see the chimneys of old  mines. This is Wheal Trewavas.

walking towards Tin mines, Ruth's coast walk

The rain stops and find some flat rocks overlooking the sea. I manage a self-portrait.

self portrait on Trewavas Head, Ruth on the SWCP

Nearing the old mines, I walk along a path surrounded by gorse, the flowers faded to orange and draped in a strange fronds of some other plant, a bright coral-pink. It is really weird and looks like someone has stretched knitting wool across the bushes.

closer to tin mines, Ruth walking the coast

I stop by one of the mines and take photographs.

tin mine, Ruth on coastal walktin mine, interior, Ruth on SWCP, CornwallOne of the joys of the Cornish coast is coming across these old structures. This one has a deep shaft and a warning sign telling me to keep out.

I try to imagine the miners working away in the pit and hauling rocks from deep underground.

Later I learn the Wheal Trewavas mines were copper mines (not tin mines as I first thought). The shafts stretched under the sea and the miners lived with the constant fear of the sea breaking through and flooding the passages. [You can read more about the mines on the Helston History site]

I make the most of the break in the rain and walk onwards, stopping to look back and take photographs of the ruined mines with Porthleven in the distance.

tin mine, Ruth walking the South West Coast Path

In front of me is a small bay known as Rinsey or Porthcew Beach. I gather you can swim here and sand is exposed at low tide. But the tide is high today and the sea looks most uninviting. The land around belongs to the National Trust and includes a preserved copper and tin mine known as Wheal Prosper. The ruined structure has been ‘renovated’ and is in better shape than the Wheal Trewavas buildings, but as a result is less evocative and exciting to look at.

Rinsey Head is a high promontory with a large building perched on its slopes. This used to be an office building for the mines but, as I get nearer, I realise it is now a private house  and later find it is available for holiday lets. What a stunning place to stay.

House on Rinsey Head, Ruth's coast walk

It begins to pour with rain again.

Rinsey Head sign, spotted by Ruth LivingstoneI walk down the other side of Rinsey Head, towards Praa Sands.

The footpath is passing through private property (belonging to the house above) and I am impressed by the well maintained path and by the politeness of the signs. I am used to curt commands: ‘Keep to the path. Private land.’ Here the sign says: ‘You are welcome to walk on the paths indicated.’ Other landowners could learn from this!

12 Lesceave CliffNow I walk along a sloping section of cliff that has been donated to the National Trust, Lesceave Cliff says the sign, but my map calls it Rinsey West Cliff.

It is raining heavily now. I come down off the cliff and onto Praa Sands – a mile of sandy beach. There is no shelter and the rain lashes in from the sea. I am the only person walking on the sands. Head down, I plod along and am soon soaked through to my underwear.

Suddenly a buggy appears at the far end of the beach and roars down towards me. I recognise the uniform of a local lifeguard. How embarrassing, I think. He is coming to rescue me! Would I accept a lift if he offers me one? But my dilemma is resolved when he doesn’t stop, just whizzes by and carries on to the end of the beach, turns round and hurtles back. He is just doing a regular check of the beach to see if anyone is in trouble.

At the west end of Praa beach is Sydney Cove. Here there are some buildings and a cafe. I meet my husband who has parked a few miles further on at Perranuthnoe and has walked to meet me. Rather irritatingly, he is not as wet as I am.

We have a cup of tea and cake for lunch. I think we are the only customers.

tea dear, Praa Sands, Ruth walking the coastyes please, Ruths coastal walk, Praa Sands

Before we have time to dry out completely, we set off again.  ‘Embrace the wet.’

I am sure this would be a spectacular walk on a fine day. Pirates and smugglers used to haunt the area. The coast is dotted with numerous tiny coves, each one edged by sharp rocks. Bringing a ship safely in must have been very tricky. Prussia Cove, Piskies Cove, Cudden Point. Romantic names.

pirate coves and The Enys, Ruth on SWCP

We come across a sign explaining that the area is being used by the University of Exeter who are studying wild cabbages.

Exeter Uni cabbage study site, Ruth coast walking, Cornwall

A wild cabbage project sounds interesting.

CabbageGirl, on Ruth's coast walkFor further details we could contact ‘Cabbage Girl’ and a blog address is given on the sign.

[Although the URL is incorrect, I did track down a site that belonged to a ‘Cabbage Girl’ and I left her a message. No response. Whether the cabbage project is still ongoing remains unclear.]

My husband has been telling me of his adventures on the way to meet me. He said he hadn’t realised how dangerous coastal walking was.

Dangerous? Yes. One part of the path ahead, he tells me, involves a mad scramble over wave-lashed rocks. I wasn’t looking forward to this at all.

Luckily, when we come to the ‘dangerous’ rocks we realise he must have simply missed the proper path which turns out to be a very safe amble along the top of a low cliff above the  beach. My husband doesn’t believe in map reading. Amateur!

He shows me the path that he took and it does appear to lead down to the rocky beach. I have to admit it seems very misleading.

my husband's short cut, walking the SWCP, Cornwall

I am relieved when we reach Perran Sands and the walk is over. I did my best to ’embrace the wet’ – but it was hard work.

Miles walked = 8.5
Total from start = 1,155
High points = the copper mines.
Low points = getting soaked on Praa Beach.


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 116 Porthleven to Praa Sands

  1. Well done for braving through the rain!

    I’m sure that stretch is lovely in bright sunshine. I know for a fact that it’s exciting and mysterious in thick fog, with the chimneys of Wheal Trawavas looming unexpectedly out of the mist…

  2. Andrea says:

    Really enjoyed reading this – sounds like a great day really and the photos are excellent. Makes my feet itch…………………started a blog of my walk (which is likely to stretch out over the months and years ahead) – http://footstepsbythesea.blogspot.co.uk/

  3. mariekeates says:

    Wet walks are my bug bear. I did get some waterproof trousers but they make me so hot and sweaty I feel like I’ve got wet anyway. No win situation. The Tim mines look really interesting.

  4. afishy says:

    Always enjoy reading about your walks. Many thanks for sharing them.

  5. John says:

    Hi Ruth, your pink plant on the gorse is gorse dodder a parasite of gorse.
    Cheers J.P.

  6. Andrew JS says:

    Great to see you back walking again, Ruth. I hope you don’t have to wait too long before continuing the journey.

  7. Pingback: Walk 46: Gunwalloe to Perranunthoe – 13th April 2017 | B & N's ridiculous journey

  8. Karen White says:

    That holiday let on the clifftop at Rinsey Head looks fabulous, thanks for the link.

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