SOUTH WEST COAST PATH NATIONAL TRAIL
Stage 37: Pendeen Watch to St Ives
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
After picking up some supplies at the village store in Pendeen Village, I wandered off up the lane back to the Pendeen Watch Lighthouse (picture 1). From the carpark behind the lighthouse the Coast Path heads down an unsealed track that descends Pendeen Cliff with views ahead along the coast as far as Gurnard's Head (picture 2). Just before reaching some fishermen's buildings at the bottom of the track. the path turns right onto a narrower path that heads around the gorse-covered clifftop above Portheras Cove.
On the far side of the cove the path dips down to cross a footbridge over a dry streambed before zigzagging steeply up onto Chypraze Cliff, which has the best view of the cove (picture 3). The next part of the path runs through several fields alongside a roughly-built stone wall a short distance back from the cliff edge, eventually reaching the ruins of a fairly large stone building on Morvah Cliff (picture 4).
A very rocky and uneven path continues across Trevowhan Cliff and climbs up behind a granite spur on Trevean Cliff (picture 5). Here I stopped for ten minutes to chat to an elderly gentleman who was walking the Coast Path for a second time in a couple of years. On his first walk he had failed to find the correct route down to the Geevor Mine from the coastguard cottages near the lighthouse and was quite pleased that I was able to tell him where the correct turn was.
Setting off again, I followed the path through more fields of waist-high gorse, still well back from the cliffs, to reach a combe above Porthmona Cove, with the almost vertical face of Bosigran Cliff opposite (picture 6). The path heads down into the combe, passing the one remaining wall of a ruined cottage then crossing a stone slab over another dry stream to enter the National Trust's Bosigran property.
The path climbs steeply up through the gorse on the shoulder of Bosigran Cliff (picture 7), where I could hear but not see a group of climbers scaling the cliff face below me. The path briefly turns inland along the line of a low stone field boundary with the peak of Carn Galver and a couple of engine houses in the distance (picture 8).
These field boundaries are quite common in this part of Cornwall and typically divide the land into fairly small fields. They were built by simply moving the many stones found in the field to the edges and some of these field systems are thought to date back between 3,000 and 4,000 years.
The Coast Path turns left across the rock-strewn hillside of Carn Veslan Cliff and soon comes up above little Porthmeor Cove, where the sandy beach was almost entirely submerged by the high tide (picture 9). A narrow footpath snakes across the hillside above the cove, crossing a stone slab laid across another small stream.
After climbing over Porthmeor Point the path crosses the level top of Treen Cliff overlooking the narrow finger of land of Gurnard's Head (picture 10). A path leads out onto the headland, but the Coast Path ignores it and continues ahead, circling around the twin beaches of Treen Cove (picture 11) and passing by the ruins of a stone tower above the point that separates the two beaches (picture 12).
A narrow path heads around the grassy Bowednack Cliff to the tiny Porthglaze Cove (picture 13), crossing a sturdy wooden footbridge in the combe above before climbing fairly steeply amongst a group of granite stacks on the western side of Carnelloe Cliff (picture 14).
Around the end of the headland, another pair of small coves comes into view, this time Veor Cove and Pendour Cove, and beyond them is the substantial promontory of Zennor Head (picture 15). The path skirts high above the two coves before crossing a footbridge and climbing a long and steep flight of steps up to a path junction on Zennor Head (picture 16).
A right turn leads inland to the village of Zennor, which has a couple of small museums and well-regarded pub; definitely somewhere I want to return to. A left turn takes the Coast Path around Zennor Head (picture 17) and onto Zennor Cliff, with a series of sloping cliffs lined up ahead (picture 18). The path crosses Tremedda Cliff fairly high up the hillside but gradually works its way lower, almost all the way down to the rocky shoreline by the time it rounds the small point of Tregerthen Cliff.
Here the path disappears up amongst a boulder-covered slope with no obvious route ahead and no signpost. I had to pause for a while here to make sure that I was still on the correct route. A strenuous scramble up over the large boulders eventually revealed the right path, which climbs precariously up Tregerthen Cliff and then around Wicca Pool (picture 19) and up onto the Mussel Point (picture 20).
The only stretch of the day's walk that wasn't over a rocky and uneven surface takes the Coast Path around Mussel Point, above the curiously-named Economy Cove and into the National Trust's Treveal property. Here the path runs below a rocky tor on the next point (picture 21) and around River Cove (picture 22).
As I followed the path around River Cove and Carn Nuan Point beyond, I was overtaken by a rain storm sweeping in from the west (picture 23). The path winds its way through the low gorse on Trevalgan Cliff, passing a trig pillar a short distance before using a boardwalk to cross a boggy patch next to a picnic area (picture 24).
The Coast Path cuts across Pen Enys Point, soon passing by a big boulder with an attached National Trust sign where the path enters Trust land on Hellesveor Cliff (picture 25). After a kilometre or so of fairly slow progress along the rocky path, I eventually rounded Clodgy Point, where the artists' town of St Ives finally came into view, with St Ives Head (also known as The Island) sticking out into St Ives Bay (picture 26).
The path gets easier as it runs along the low cliffs to the edge of town and joins a footpath by the road above Porthmeor Sands, where I had planned to finish the walk at the Tate St Ives art gallery, which overlooks the beach. After a refreshment break the cloud had cleared out however (picture 27), so I decided to keep following the Coast Path the long way around the town to the railway station rather than saving that for the next day.
About half way along the beach the road curves away behind houses. The route of the Coast Path soon turns left along the narrow Black Road West for about 150 metres then turns left again onto Porthmeor Road in front of the Penwith Gallery.
The road bends back to the right before a path between buildings leads down to the beach. A path on the right heads out along the grassy western edge of The Island above a rocky shore, with views back across Porthmeor Sands (picture 28) and up to the stone chapel of St Nicholas on the hilltop above.
The Island is not an island at all, but is thought to have been cut off from the mainland at high tide in prehistoric times.
After turning along the northern edge of The Island, the path climbs up to a stone building behind a Coastwatch lookout on the north-eastern corner of the headland (picture 29). The building was originally built in 1860 as living quarters for gunners manning a battery positioned here to defend against the threat of a French invasion.
The Coast Path now follows a tarmac footpath down to a carpark behind Porthgwidden Beach, which nestles in a sheltered little cove on the southern side of The Island (picture 30). The route crosses the carpark to join a lane down to the beach, but just before reaching the inviting sand, the route bears right to skirt around the edge of a second carpark and then up some steps to the front of the St Ives Museum.
A short distance ahead the Coast Path turns right on Back Road then left on Fish Street to reach Quay Street on the edge of St Ives Harbour where a miniature lighthouse stands on the end of the harbour arm (picture 31). The cobbled street is followed around the edge of the harbour, passing shops, pubs and several art galleries with the aromas of Cornish pasties and fish and chips filling the air.
Eventually the path reaches the RNLI lifeboat station before continuing ahead in the shadow of the elevated Church of St Ia, a female 5th-century Irish missionary for whom St Ives is named. The Pendola Walk runs atop the sea wall for a short distance until the path is forced to go down a narrow street to the right of the St Ives Arts Club, emerging a hundred metres later on a narrow lane that runs around the back of Porthminster Beach (picture 32) below the high stone wall of St Ives Station. About a third of the way around the beach I found some steps up to the station, leaving the Coast Path for the day with 22.7 kilometres completed.
Aside from the last three kilometres around St Ives and its trio of popular beaches, this had been one of the more challenging stages of the Coast Path so far, not so much for the ups and downs but rather due to the almost constantly rocky and uneven surface; a serious test for the ankle that I had injured quite badly a couple of months earlier.