South West Coast Path: Penzance to Porthleven

In which: George joins me for the first time on the SWCP ● after 3 years I get closer to St Michael’s Mount ● the weather is glorious ● George keeps off the verge ● Lucy, Ellie and Hetty join me

Date: 17 April 2011
Time of walk: 0915 to 1600
Today’s walking: 22.0 km
Progress along SWCP: 21.9 km
Estimated ascent: 940 metres

During a week staying at a cottage by King Harry’s Ferry near Falmouth, I managed to get three walks on the South West Coast Path, with Lucy acting as chauffeur as well as joining me for parts of the walks, and allowing the cavaliers to have shorter walks than George who was with me all the way from Penzance to Kuggar.

From the railway station at Penzance, looking across Mount’s Bay to St Michael’s Mount. No sooner had I put my rucksack on, than I was providing directions, something which I was called on to do several times today.
Two trains at Penzance wait to head east.
The heliport for flights to the Isles of Scilly
Approaching Marazion, a look back along our route
As the tide was fairly low, the causeway to St Michael’s Mount is fully exposed. The Mount was a Benedictine priory, then became a fortress in the 12th century, and its sheltered harbour a port for the export of tin and copper. The Mount may have been Ictis, a tin-trading port mentioned by Diodorus in the first millennium BC.
The route through Marazion was a bit of a trudge on inadequate pavements buffeted by cars and coaches squeezing through the narrow streets, but eventually we re-emerged onto farmland, with more retrospective views of the Mount, with a better view of the castle from here.

We descended to the beach for a short way, then the route ascended via a metal staircase which George repeatedly refused to countenance. A couple who were walking their dog suggested that I wait for them, and George would chase the other dog up the steps, but with George that seemed unlikely. In any case the other dog didn’t like the look of the steps either, and tried to climb the near vertical soil cliff instead. I was about to carry George when he summoned up courage and did the stairs at a trot.

Perran Sands as the path sticks to the cliffs and skirts the village of Perranuthnoe
Lucy is very anxious to apologise for George’s alleged scruffiness because she didn’t have time to trim him before we went away. He looks fine to me.
The rocks of Stackhouse Cove, with above them Acton Castle
And looking back across Stackhouse Cove
Some interesting vegetation on this big wooden post
George shows the way, crossing a heavily vegetated old wall as we head for Piskie’s Cove
The flowers were lovely, and the walk glorious under blue skies (albeit a bit hazy) and on dry ground after weeks without significant rain.
The post and chain are associated with the salvage of HMS Warspite which ran aground here in 1947 after breaking free from her tugs near the Wolf Rock while en route to the breakers. The salvage operation took six years to complete.
Approaching Prussia Cove
More buildings at Prussia Cove
And the cove itself. The cove is named after the King of Prussia, alias John Carter, a notorious smuggler
Porth En Alls, the base for masterclasses of the International Musicians Seminar
Heading for the beach of Praa Sands

There was a sudden and still disconcerting interruption of beach tourists at Sydney Cove with its Beachcomber Café. These arrivals in a different world from the cliffs of the coast path are odd, and make me feel strangely out of place (doubly so with a dog) and I often seem to press on through them very quickly. Generally having both food and drink with me for the day, there is little need to avail myself of their facilities, though I got a few ice-creams between Padstow and St Ives last August.

After the café there was a crossing of a car park and a large grassy area then dunes, and then this road, with the odd request to keep dogs off the verges. I vowed to do as requested even if it meant that any cars would have to back up to let George past or follow him at 3 mph, but sadly there were no cars moving.
Looking back at Praa Sands
From near Trewavas Head, there is a rock formation that reminded me of a meercat.
Interesting rock formations – I think this may be a mixture of granite and slate, but stand ready to be corrected
An example of an old wall. The coast path used to be on the far side, but the path and much of the wall have gone with cliff erosion.
Lucy, Hetty and Ellie had travelled to Porthleven, from where they walked back to meet us just west of Parc Trammel Cove, here. Having spent the day watching the clock and expecting to be early, the last stages of the walk proved to be the slowest and George and I ended up a little behind time, but nothing too major, and Lucy simply stopped and waited for me when she’d walked far enough.
A monument to all those drowned who were buried on the cliffs rather than in consecrated ground prior to the Burial of Drowned Persons Act 1808. Before that, drowned seamen were buried without shroud or coffin and in unconsecrated ground, often after a lengthy delay.
Lucy and the cavaliers as we near Porthleven

And so, unlike earlier walks on the South West Coast Path (chronologically, anyway), I didn’t retire alone to a B&B room but went back to our cottage with Lucy and the dogs – the B&B option is rather more lonesome but not having to think about driving and routes home, dinner for five, and plans for the next day has its advantages too. It was good to do the first SWCP walk with George for company, and great to have the five of us together for the last section.

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