A Coastal Walk: West Penwith, Cornwall

The view from The Farmhouse, our holiday home in Lower Porthmeor, West Penwith.
The view from The Farmhouse, our holiday home in Lower Porthmeor, West Penwith. The little stone-edged fields that radiate out from the neighbouring farms are typical of this area of Cornwall which was designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) some time ago. The chimney stack is part of the well- preserved remains of a tin stamping mine which was built alongside the stream which flows into the cove at the end of the valley.
Walking down to the coastal path along the stream we found this very young lamb.
Walking down to the coastal path along the stream we found this very small  lamb.
Porthmeor cove, big boulders at high tide, smooth sand at low tide. We have swam with seals here on previous holidays.
Porthmeor cove, big boulders at high tide, smooth sand at low tide. We have swam and snorkelled here when the sea has been as calm as a millpond. Some of us, not me, have been in when the waves have been 1o feet high. Once I was first in wearing my wet suit and a seal swam up to investigate. We find that seals are especially curious when you are clad in neoprene.
Looking across the cove to Morvah cliffs.
Looking across the cove to Morvah cliffs.
Gurnard's Head, one of the mist visible promontories in Cornwall. It's Cornish name, Trereen Dinas, means the castle on the high place and relates to the fortified cliff castle dating from the second century BC. We walked out to the furthest point passing through the remains of two stone ramparts. Within these ramparts are the remnants of 18 hut circles clustered in two distinct groups and visible today as grassy platforms.
Gurnard’s Head, one of the most  visible promontories in Cornwall. Its Cornish name, Trereen Dinas, means the castle on the high place and relates to the fortified cliff castle dating from the second century BC. We walked out to the furthest point passing through the remains of two stone ramparts. Within these ramparts are the remnants of 18 hut circles clustered in two distinct groups and visible today as grassy platforms.
Sea campion (Silene uniflora) growing out of the granite. It thrives in seabird colonies as it is able to tolerate high levels of nutrients. Fulmars nest along the coast and we saw many of these graceful birds wheeling in the wind overhead.
Sea campion (Silene uniflora) growing out of the granite. It thrives in seabird colonies as it is able to tolerate high levels of nutrients. Fulmars nest along this craggy coast and we saw many of these graceful birds wheeling in the wind overhead.
Looking along the length of Gurnard's Head. Bluebells were still flowering on the sheltered eastern side.
Looking along the length of Gurnard’s Head. Bluebells were still flowering on the sheltered eastern side.
Zawn Duel, a zawn is a narrow coastal inlet often the result of a collapsed cave.
Zawn Duel, a zawn is a narrow coastal inlet often the result of a collapsed cave.
Stone crop hugs the granite. I just love the colours, the contrast and the textures here.
Stone crop hugs the granite. I just love the colours, the contrast and the textures here.
Thrift or sea pink or cliff clover (Armeria maritima) was everywhere in all shades of pink.
Thrift or sea pink or cliff clover (Armeria maritima) was everywhere and in every shade of pink.
Rocky coves punctuate the coastline and are accessible if you can manage the scramble down.
Rocky coves punctuate the coastline and are accessible if you can manage the scramble down.
The cliffs at Boswednack are 100 feet high and of black sedimentary rock. Here we're close to Zennor headland looking back with Gurnard's Head in the distance.
The cliffs at Boswednack are 100 feet high and of black sedimentary rock. Here we’re close to Zennor headland looking back to Gurnard’s Head in the distance.
Zennor Head, a high and rugged bulwark of ancient sedimentary rock. 300 foot  cliffs drop into the sea on the western side where a cavernous inlet, the horseback zawn, is bounded by a grassy, undulating ridge called the Horse's Back.
Zennor Head, a high and rugged bulwark of ancient sedimentary rock. 300 foot cliffs drop into the sea on the western side where a cavernous inlet, the horseback zawn, is bounded by a grassy, undulating ridge called the Horse’s Back.
The village of Zennor, forever associated with the myth of the mermaid. The ancient chair in the church with its carving of a mermaid holding a comb and a mirror upholds the myth, as does the locally made Moomaid ice cream.
The village of Zennor, forever associated with the myth of the mermaid. The ancient chair in the church with its carving of a mermaid holding a comb and a mirror upholds the myth, as does the locally made  Moomaid ice cream, especially delicious when eaten at the halfway point of a long walk.
And here are the Jersey cows coming in for afternoon milking. They were so well-behaved walking in line through all the open gates to the milking parlour. We chatted to the young farmer who was putting up new temporary fencing as after each milking the cows come out onto fresh grass. And the destination of the milk? Rodda's dairy, it is neighbouring farm which supplies the milk for the Moomaid ice cream.
And here are the Jersey cows coming in for afternoon milking. They were so well-behaved walking in line through all the open gates to the milking parlour. We chatted to the young farmer who was putting up new temporary fencing as after each milking the cows come out onto fresh grass. And the destination of the milk? Rodda’s dairy. It is the neighbouring farm which supplies the milk for the Moomaid ice cream.
We're on the return leg now. Hasn't the weather stayed good? We met a small herd of grazing ponies round about here who were very interested in the contents of our pockets.
We’re on the return leg now. Hasn’t the weather stayed good? We met a small herd of grazing ponies here who were very interested in the contents of our pockets. The high moorland in the distance is dominated by the craggy ridges known as ‘carns’. Carn Galver (816 feet) is one of the highest and you can see how it rises up from the coastal plateau and the ancient field system below. These rocky highlands are extraordinarily rich in archaeological remains ranging from Neolithic stone enclosures (4000-2500 BC) to engine houses from the 19th century. In late summer this upland will be clothed in Western heath. The gorse, which is now being very effectively grazed by Belted Galloways, is in flower all year.
We rested here on this grassy ledge studded with thrift just looking out on the Atlantic.
We rested here on this grassy ledge studded with thrift just looking out on the Atlantic.
One last look back at Porthmeor Cove before the final steep ascent to home and tea and saffron cake sitting in deck chairs in the garden.
One last look back at Porthmeor Cove before the final steep ascent to home and a very welcome mug of tea and thick slice of saffron cake sitting in deck chairs in the garden.
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6 thoughts on “A Coastal Walk: West Penwith, Cornwall

  1. That looks bliss! I can’t believe the colour of that sky. Did you try out the pub called the Gurnard’s Head? We had a fabulous meal there a couple of years ago, a must whenever we are down that way.

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  2. Yes it really was that blue, not a cloud in the sky looking seawards and a brisk breeze made for very pleasant walking. We know the GH well and walked there (only 10 minutes along the road) for dinner on our last evening. We had a lovely walk back in the gloaming star spotting on the way. It is fabulous down there but at 300 miles and five and a half hours driving each way it’s a long haul.

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  3. Dramatic coastline – very Poldark! Gosh you do have to travel a long way to get there – and do you get clogged on the A303 on a Sunday night? My son lives in London and often has a tedious journey to see us in the West Country.

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  4. We were lucky, no hold-ups. The worst bit is usually around Stonehenge but it was fine both ways last week. It helps being able to go outside school holidays – at last! Yes, we were really were at the heart of the tin mining industry, just imagine the noise from the engines pumping the water, the streams running with arsenic, the grist mill stamping the tin … and all the deaths and injuries. Very different now thankfully.

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  5. What fabulous blue skies you had while you were there! I’ve never been as far as Cornwall, only Devon, but I think I will have to change that one day!

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