37. Zennor to Cape Cornwall

July 2010

Once again I am travelling down from the Blue Hills campsite near St Agnes. The logisitics of this walk proved somewhat difficult to organise. I decided that Lands End was too far to aim for, as this part of the coast path is known to be quite hard. So I decided on Cape Cornwall, as my finish and Zennor as my start, but this proves tricky, as there are few buses to Zennor and none at all to Cape Cornwall. However there are buses from St Just which looks to be a little over a mile from Cape Cornwall so I decided that I will drive to Cape Cornwall, where a car park is shown, walk from there to St Just and then take the bus to Zennor. This means I can finish right on the cliffs rather than face the mile walk along roads at the end of the day.

I set off for Cape Cornwall and find it quite easily from St Just, as St Just is on an A-road and you just keep going west from there. I pass a golf course and reach the car park at the end. This has a hut in the corner, but it is closed and there are no other signs. I assume it is probably a “Pay on Entry” car park, but it is early and there is no one here to pay and no signs. I am half expecting another angry run in, as I had a similar problem the previous day at Lelant Saltings but since there are no signs saying it’s pay and no way to pay I assume it will be OK. I guess the National Trust assumes no one wants to arrive anywhere before 9am!

Cape Cornwall was once thought to me the most south westerly point on the mainland. It was later found to be what is now Lands End. However Lands End has been turned into something of a theme park so I think Cape Cornwall feels more as I think the far South West of the mainland to be – somewhere wild, remote and unspoilt. Time to head to St Just, so I take the road back up the hill, past the golf course, the road twisting and turning around the fields. Soon I reach the first houses of St Just and keep more or less straight ahead to reach the pleasant main square of the town. I think more British towns should have a square, it gives a nice focal point to the town centre.

It takes me a couple of minutes to find the bus station, which is next to the main car park in the village (and calling it a bus station is stretching things a bit!). The bus journey is rather complicated, as I have to change buses at the Gurnards Head Hotel. The first bus arrives and I ask the driver if he can issue a through ticket to Zennor and thankfully he can and advises me I need to change at the Gurnards Head Hotel. As we near the hotel the driver very helpfully radios through to the driver of the other bus to check if he is on time and to tell him he has 2 passengers changing onto his bus at Gurnards Head – certainly a good service! The driver then lets me and the other passenger know the other bus is coming, but running around 10 minutes late. It is good to have the confrmation, since it’s a remote place to end up stranded. I suspect the hotel must like it though, providing accommodation or drinks to bus passengers that have missed their connection! As promised the other bus arrives at Gurnards Head Hotel for the journey onto Zennor and the driver is very apologetic for the delay which was caused by a van parked on a narrow road that had not left enough room for the bus to get buy. Apparantly the driver had had to call the number on the side to get the workers to come and move it, who were working a couple of minutes walk away. Van drivers do seem to have a habit of parking where they like with no concern for anyone else. Another lady on the bus comments that “they didn’t seem to care at all”. Anyway we soon arrive at Zennor and this time I know to get off the bus at the road junction, since it does not go into the village itself. I had remembered to buy a sandwich in St Just, since there is no shop in Zennor. I had also remembered the route out to the coast path from last time, so followed the path back to the coast.

I soon reach the National Trust sign at the cliff top which says it is 7 miles to Pendeen Watch. This was a great view last time I was here, but today the weather is even better, which a clear blue sky, making the colours even more dramatic.

Pendour Cove

Pendour Cove

Almost immediatly I reach Zennor Head the coast path drops down the steep valley to Pendour Cove, where there is a footbridge over the stream. Well I knew this walk wasn’t going to be easy.

As expected there is then a climb up the other side to over Trewey Cliff, which gives a good view back to the little beach at Pendour Cove. The sea is a wonderful turquoise colour and the map shows a beach here but it is high tide, so there isn’t any beach.

Pendour Cove

Pendour Cove

Looking west I have a view of another little cove, again with the most wonderful colour sea, Veor Cove.

Veor Cove

Veor Cove

The coast path remains high around Veor Bay along Carnelloe Cliff and once around the west end of the bay I get a good view back at Zennor Head.

View back to Zennor Head

View back to Zennor Head

At the headland of Carnelloe the coast path remains high and there are some old mine shafts. There are also some amazing rock formations on the cliffs here, although I suspect not all are natural. Ahead I can see the narrow little headland of Gurnards Head whilst to the left is the narrow inlet of a beach at Porthglaze Cove (lovely name). Porthglaze Cove

Porthglaze Cove

At Porthglaze Cove the coast path again drops down to a bridge over a stream and back up the other side. As is usual, it’s back up the other side to the cliff at Boswednack, but I’m rewarded buy a wonderful view ahead with an attractive looking white cottage on the cliff top which must be a  lovely place to live.

Near Treen

Near Treen

No sooner am I up than it’s back down again to cross another stream via a footbridge and past more mine remains. Looking back I can already see I’ve made progress along the coast with the two headlands of Carnelloe and Zennor Head visible behind.

Carnelloe and Zennor Head

Carnelloe and Zennor Head

The path goes around the back of Treen Cove, another beach where there is sand but only at low tide. Beyond this is Gurnards Head, a narrow little spit of a headland really although I’m pleased to see it does have a path out onto it, which of course I follow. Looking back I get a lovely view of the coast I have just walked, which looks very green from here – hiding the very rocky path rather well.

Looking north from Gurnards Head

Looking north from Gurnards Head

The end of Gurnards Head is very rocky with the limestone crags all covered in lichens, it is a lovely spot. West from Gurnards Head the coast becomes more rugged and less green. At the top of Treen Cliff there is a good view back to Gurnards Head which now looks surprisingly small.

Gurnards Head

Gurnards Head

Gurnards Head

Gurnards Head

Looking west from here I can make out a lot of the coast and I think the headland at the end is Cape Cornwall.

View west from Gurnards Head

View west from Gurnards Head

The coast to Porthmeor offers a brief respite from all the ups and downs of the previous part of the walk. Rounding the headland I reach another beach, Porthmeor Beach (not to be confused with the beach of the same name nearby in St Ives). Unlike the other beaches I have passed there is a small amount of sand here, and some large rocks. The sand is slightly coarse and a beautiful white, making it a very pretty beach. I stop here for a quick paddle to refresh my feet. The beach is deserted too, another treat of this remote coast.

Porthmeor Cove

Porthmeor Cove

Soon it’s back up from the beach over Carn Moyle Cliff which offers a good view back over the beach

View back to Porthmeor Cove

View back to Porthmeor Cove

There are another few rocky little inlets west from here on the coast but the coast path misses them out keeping a little back from the cliff edge. There is another deep rocky bay at Halldrine Cove, which the coast path goes round the back of, but this time remains at a high level.

Halldrine Cove

Halldrine Cove

Ahead the geology is really interesting with a mixture of grass and granite outcrops and the ancient field systems at the top of the cliffs.

Fields system near Halldrine Cliff

Fields system near Halldrine Cliff

The path continues to climb, though fairly gently, to the cliffs at Trevean Cliff, where the road comes nearby to the coast, bringing with it more visitors. Ahead I can see all the old mine towers that showed this was once a very industrial landscape.

Mineshafts near Rosemergy

Mineshafts near Rosemergy

As I near Morvah I come to some old mine buildings, now in ruins, with just the walls standing, they look partly built into the rocks.

Ruined buildings near Morvah

Ruined buildings near Morvah

Passing these you can really appreciate the geology of Treowhan Cliff with the jagged rocks at a high level and more rounded rocks at a lower level.

Trevan Cliff

Trevan Cliff

Looking west from here I can now make out the headland at Pendeen, with numerous little inlets on the way.

View towards Pendeen

View towards Pendeen

On the cliffs I pass the remains of more houses associated with the mines, but this time the walls are only around a metre high. It is surpsing how quick nature takes over.

Ruined buildings near Morvah

Ruined buildings near Morvah

Soon below I can see another glorious beach, this one is Portheras Cove. This is the best beach I have come to all day, with plenty of sand and only a a few rocks. It is a wonderful and secluded beach and whilst it is not quite deserted, it is hardly quiet. Finding places like this is the real pleasure of walking the coast path, all these beautiful and unspoilt beaches, away from the crowds. There are however warnings of weaver fish, but it doesn’t stop me heading down onto the sands for a paddle and my lunch stop.

The sea is really crashing over the rocks here, making for a wonderful backing track.

Portheras Cove

Portheras Cove

Portheras Cove

Portheras Cove

The sands do slope down very quickly though, so the water gets deep quickly. It’s awfully tempting to spend the rest of the day here, it’s such a lovely beach and good weather, but eventually I have to leave. Up onto Pendeen Cliff and I get a good view back over the beach.

View back to Portheras Cove

View back to Portheras Cove

The coast path is now fairly gentle for the next half a mile or so to the lighthouse at the cliff at Pendeen Watch. I love these elegant lighthouses, and this is another beautiful one.

Pendeen Lighthouse

Pendeen Lighthouse

West of here I can see more old mine shafts and buildings on the cliff tops. The coast path cuts out Pendeen Old Cliff and then descends down to another stream giving a good view over the little rocky island of The Enys and back to the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch.

View from Pendeen Old Cliff looking north

View from Pendeen Old Cliff looking north

It’s a fairly gentle walk along the cliff tops to Trewellard Zawn where there is quite a sight. I hadn’t expected this at all. Whilst so far I have past some mines they have all looked to be fairly small affairs. Not so here, as the valley is packed full of the remains of mines and the associated building. There are also the old spoil heaps, no coloured with the minerals in them. It looks like the mine just stopped working one day and was left as it was (which was probably the case).

Trewellard Zawn

Trewellard Zawn

Just inland is Geevor Tin Mine, which was still working until 1990 but is now a museum and preserved mining site open to the public. Signs here direct you inland to visit, but I stick to the coast. The mining here looks to have poisoined the soil because where until now the ground has been green around the rocks, here nothing has grown, leaving bare rock.

There are also some more modern remains, I suspect from World War II although the mind boggles at what they might have been for.

World War II remains?

World War II remains?

Just a short distance along the coast brings me to another mine, Levant Mine. This one is, unusually, in the care of the National Trust, more known for stately homes and natural beauty than ex-industrial sites. The mine and it’s buildings are beautifully preserved though and open to the public. I have a lock around this interesting site before continuing on the coast.

Levant Mine

Levant Mine

Levant Mine

Levant Mine

Beyond here the coast path is a byway, probably and old mining track and gives a good view back to the mine, which looks rather evocative – this is classic Cornish scenery.

It does not take long for the industrial views to change to more natural ones and looking back now I can barely see the mines, only the tops of the chimneys on the old engine houses can be seen.

View back to Pendeen

View back to Pendeen

Some of the place names around here are truly odd, as I pass Stamps an Jowl Zawn and then the stunning De Narrow Zawn, with numerous rocky inlets, it reminds me of Hells Mouth.

De Narrow Zawn

De Narrow Zawn

The landscape is again dotted with old mines, this one Bottallack Mine. The coast ahead though is more natural with green bracken covered cliffs. There are more ruins on the cliff top

Ruined buildings near Botallack

Ruined buildings near Botallack
Looking out to sea I’m pleased to spot the Longships Lighthouse, off the coast at Lands End, which looks closer than I expected.

Longships Lighthouse out to sea

Longships Lighthouse out to sea

There is another steep mining valley ahead, and some more wonderful names on the map – Wheal Edward Zawn, then North Zawn, South Zawn and finally Zawn Buzz and Gen. Ahead I can see the headland of Cape Cornwall is now close.

View to Cape Cornwall

View to Cape Cornwall

Heading further west I can also see the rocky beach of Porth Ledden in front of Cape Cornwall. Heading into the valley, as I expected I am passing more remains of mines, although these ones are returning to nature.

Mine returning to nature at Porth Ledden

Mine returning to nature at Porth Ledden

There is a cottage with lovely views on the cliff top at the other side of the valley. This indicates I’m close to Cape Cornwall and I soon pass the National Trust sign. The sign here tells me that this area was bought by Heinz (the Baked Beans people) who then donated it to the National Trust. I’m glad all those beans I have eaten over the years helped to protect the place!

I head right out to the end of the rock and the tower that is built on the top. Again the plaque at the bottom says it was purchased by Heinz in 1987 and presented to the National Trust. This is an interesting place with good views both north and south.

View north from Cape Cornwall

View north from Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

Arriving back at the car park the walk has taken me longer than I expected and it is now 6:30pm in the evening. Thankfully my car is still there and I don’t have a parking fine and the hut is still shut, so I’m still none the wiser if I was meant to pay or not.

I then make the short drive into St Just for a meal before heading back.

This is an absolutly stunning walk and a great showcase for both the natural beauty and industrial heritage of Cornwall. So many of the views on this walk are the classic Cornish view of an old mine building with beautiful granite cliffs behind. It is hard going in places, but there are a couple of good beaches on the way where you can have a nice rest. I would have liked to have had more time to visit some of the mines too, but perhaps I will come back another time. I was also pleased to have such good weather for this spectacular and remote walk.
Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk. During the summer months there are two direct buses, route 300 and route 547, but both of these are summer only. In the winter First Service 16 links Penzance and St Ives to Zennor whilst First service 10 links Penzance to St Just, so it is best to change in Penzance. Sadly, First do not make so much effort to connect their services as Western Greyhound do, so you might have a bit of a wait in St Just.

First service 300  : Lands End – Sennen – Sennen Cove – Lands End Airport – St Just Bus Station – Botallack – Geevor – Morvah – Gurnards Head Hotel Zennor Turn – St Ives. This bus runs 3 times a day seven days a week during the peak summer season (from 24th May to 31st August this year) and is operated using a vintage double decker bus.

First service 16 : Penzance – Gurnards Head Hotel – Zennor – St Ives. This runs 4 times a day Monday – Saturday only between Zennor and St Ives, although unlike the 300 this does run all year round.

Western Greyhound service 547 : Newquay – Perranporth – St Agnes – Porthtowan – Portreath – Gwithian – Hayle – Lelant – Carbis Bay – St Ives – Zennor – Gurnards Head Hotel – Morvah – Geevor – Botallack – St Just – Lands End Airport – Sennen Cove – Lands End. This bus runs once per day seven days perk week until late September. The bus times aren’t great for this part of the coast though.

First service 10 : Penzance – Heamoor – Newbridge – St Just – Morvah. This bus runs hourly between Penazance and St Just Monday – Saturday, with a few buses extending to Morvah. It runs once every two hours on Sunday.

Here is the complete set of photographs from this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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