I set off from Perranuthnoe in brilliant sunshine. My plan for today is to walk through Penzance and Mousehole and to finish my walk in Lamorna Cove. It is a long way. I’m using an Explorer OS Map – more detailed than my usual Landranger Map – and the distance seems huge. I’m nervous already.
But this section of the walk turns out to be surprisingly easy. A flat amble along the shore, with wonderful views of St Michael’s Mount. In the distance I can see Penzance and what appears to be a gloriously golden beach on the far side of the bay.
The sky clouds over and, rather disappointingly, St Michael’s Mount seems to be permanently in the shade. Penzance, meanwhile, glows in sunshine and I find myself dying to get over there.
The ground is still muddy from yesterday’s rain and, as this is a popular section of path, there are frequent reminders of dogs on the ground. My first thought is that I wouldn’t want to walk barefoot here. I try and imagine myself squelching along without my boots, and I decide it sounds quite enticing – as long as you don’t encounter dog poo or broken glass.
[You can read more about local barefooting walks here. And if you do a Google search for ‘barefooting’, numerous sites pop up. It’s more popular than I realised.]
I am walking past a place called Marazion, following the official South West Coast Path. For a section of the walk, I come down some steps and find myself scrambling over rocks. At first I think I must have made a mistake. Have I lost the path? But I realise there is a well-worn route among the rocks. Yes, this is definitely the path.
The cliffs here are crumbly red sandstone, a change from the granite rocks that have dominated much of the Cornish coastline so far. Erosion is everywhere.
I see a building perched precariously on the top of the low cliff. The windows look boarded up and the whole structure seems destined to slide into the sea. But, bizarrely, I see a man up a ladder and he appears to be sanding down the wooden window frame. Is he planning to paint the windows? It seems a lost cause.
At the bottom of the cliff you can see a variety of the techniques by which we try to prevent erosion: the piled up granite riprap, the little sea wall, the tyres built into the side of the cliff – what? Tyres? Yes, definitely. Tyres. That is a new one. I haven’t seen tyres used as sea defences before.
I think back to Happisburgh in Norfolk and the terrible erosion that I saw there. Whatever defences we erect, the sea finds a way, eventually, to demolish them.
The tide is high and the causeway to St Michael’s mount is covered by the sea. I was hoping to walk across, but I don’t really want to spare the time (or the expense) of getting a ferry. I stop and sit on a sea wall and enjoy the view and have a short break – a drink and a snack.
While I am sitting, I look through my binoculars to see if there are any seals in the water. I don’t see seals, but I do see some strange black sea gulls on a rock in the far distance. Black gulls? How weird. And I notice they have strange red beaks. They are too far away to take a photograph. It is only much later that I realise what they are. Cornish Choughs.
[Cornish Choughs disappeared from Cornwall many years ago, but a single breeding pair flew over from Ireland in 2001 and have re-populated the area. You can read more about Cornish Choughs here.]
Between St Michael’s Mount and Penzance is a long stretch of beach – just over 4 miles long on my map. There are people in the water on paddle boards. Looks like fun. Across the bay, behind a rocky island called Great Hogus, I think I can see Mousehole. It’s a long way away.
The beach walking is easy and enjoyable – apart from the fact that I soon come across a wide stream running down the beach.
Not wanting to walk all the way to the top of the beach, I decide to wade through the wide expanse of shallow water. I don’t realise that the water had made the soft sand even softer. My feet sink. The water comes up over the top of my laces. Damn! On this day without rain, I have succeeded in getting my feet well and truly soaked.
It takes an hour and a half to walk into Penzance. As I get nearer, there is a horrible smell – it appears to be coming from an industrial estate on the other side of the sea wall – maybe it’s a chicken farm. It rather spoils the walk.
Nearer still, and I walk along the walking / cycle path, called St Michael’s Way, that runs along the bank beside the railway line. The wild flowers are pretty. I forget the bad smell – which soon fades behind me.
As I get nearer to Penzance, the path passes behind tall walls and the view of the sea is obstructed. This is a shame. I walk past the railway station and emerge into an enormous car park. On the other side of the car park is the harbour. It is very pretty but seems to be missing any kind of pedestrian walk way. I have to weave my way around parked cars as I try to stick close to the water’s edge. Strange. I had expected Penzance to be more picturesque than this.
I meet my husband for lunch and we have some truly excellent (and reasonably priced) sea food.
I pass a huge open-air swimming pool. Three hardy ladies are swimming up and down. It may be the beginning of July, but it is cold and the water looks freezing. The next stretch of my walk runs along a wide esplanade towards Newlyn. This is more like it. A proper promenade – albeit a bit soulless.
The weather forecast for the next few days is sunny. I endured a horrible wet day of walking yesterday and we only have another day (tomorrow) before we are supposed to head home. I decide I can’t bear to leave Cornwall when the weather is about to cheer up. I pop into a small hotel on the sea front and ask if they have a single room available. They do. I book four nights. My husband will just have to go home without me.
I walk past the bowling green where a match is going on. The players wear uniform colours. Purple tops versus all white.
Newlyn has a lovely feel to it. It seems like a proper small town. I see local mums pushing their toddlers back from a play park. And it all looks particularly nice because at this point the sun decides to come out.
There is a plaque explaining that this is a memorial to fishermen lost at sea. Local people raised the funds to commission the piece and the memorial was only unveiled in 2007.
It is a wonderful sculpture, cast in bronze. The artist is Tom Leaper and you can read more about the statue here.
I look back towards Penzance. The sun is finally shining on the town and on the white wall of the outdoor Lido pool. I can’t resist taking another photo, looking back across the bay.
Newlyn is an amazing place. The harbour is crowded with fishing boats and some don’t look in a very fit state. The quay is clearly a working environment. Curious visitors are not encouraged. The road that leads through the town is crowded with fish shops. This is a great place to buy sea food.
Walking past the harbour, along a raised road, I find myself looking down on the roof of a shed.
At first I don’t see the baby seagulls. They are cunningly camouflaged against the grey and white panels of the roof. They are everywhere. Here is a photo of three fledglings – but there were about twenty or thirty on this roof alone.
As I pass by one of the fish shops, I look through the open door at the wonderful display on the counter. But there – right in the middle of the display – is a huge herring gull, chomping his way through the fish.
I move towards the door, to shoo it away. It sees me and flies straight towards me. I duck and it zooms over my head. Just then, the fish monger lady comes out of the back of the shop. She has seen the gull flying out of the door.
“Why didn’t you shoo it away,” she asks, sounding quite aggressive.
“I was on my way to do that when it saw me coming and flew off,” I say.
“He’s always in here, ” she says, glaring at me as if it is somehow my fault.
As well as a gull problem, they seem to have a problem with that awful invader – Japanese Knotweed – as well. It gets everywhere.
Further along the road, I see the slope below is terraced and every spare piece of land is being used. Allotments. They are full of produce and flowers and one artistically minded gardener has created an impressive array of scarecrows to keep the birds away.
Mousehole has pretty houses and narrow streets and is built around a little harbour. The sun is still shining. Unlike Newlyn and Penzance, Mousehole has tourists. They sit on every available seat and crowd the tiny beach. I am sure it gets even busier in high season. I was planning to stop here for a cup of tea, but it is past four already and don’t think I have time to stop. I have to hurry onwards.
The next section of coastline is beautiful – rugged and scenic and deserted. Unfortunately, rugged means the path winds up and down. It is steep and rocky and difficult. I am too tired to really appreciate the beauty of the place and it takes me longer than expect to make progress.
I begin to worry. I am supposed to be meeting my husband at 5pm in Lamorna Cove. I want to text him to let him know I will be late but I can’t get a mobile signal.
I reach Kemyel Point. This is a nature reserve and I walk through woodland – which makes a welcome change from the granite rocks. There are some glorious pines here and broadleaf trees.
I only meet two other people between Mousehole and Lamorna. I meet a man with a ruck sack coming down a steep rocky scramble. And, a few minutes later, another man comes up behind me and overtakes me. He is dressed in shorts and t-shirt and doesn’t appear to be equipped for walking. Neither is he carrying anything – no rucksack. No phone? No wallet? I wonder where he has come from and where he is heading.
I round a corner and am relieved to see Lamorna Cove in front of me. The path heads along the cliff, rising and falling steeply at times. It is narrow in places. The light grows dimmer. I feel it may rain at any moment and I really hope it stays dry. I am walking quickly and the rocks underfoot would soon become slippery.
I see a few buildings and the car park ahead – and there is my husband, patiently waiting for me. There is nothing much at Lamorna itself. Even the pub (we pass it later on the road) is shut. But the drive up the valley is wonderful. A beautiful place.
Miles walked= 11 miles
Total miles since the start = 1,166