SOUTHWEST COAST PATH // LAMORNA COVE TO PENZANCE

SOUTHWEST COAST PATH // LAMORNA COVE TO PENZANCE

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.” ~John Burroughs

Start of day four and my least favourite day! It’s not that it was awful but after three days of only having the birds and the odd human to talk to, walking through large busy towns was soul destroying. Its amazing how quickly you get used to being alone. I most certainly picked up my pace while walking through Penzance, I longed for the solitude of the cliffs but until then my Southwest Coast Path walk got a little urban!

The cliffs around Lamorna Cove are beautiful. The cove has been known for fishing and quarrying in the past. It was also a haunt for artists such as ‘Lamorna Birch’, particularly in the 1930s. The Cove also has an arts festival and a flourishing village hall, in which you might see international performers from time to time on the Carn to Cove Rural Touring Circuit. The cove lies at the end of a woodland valley, as does St. Loy, a little further south along the coast. 

When the tide is out, Lamorna Cove sports a small sandy beach, but its rocky nature means the area is better known for diving and snorkelling. A nearby beach café serves hot and cold snacks or park up and enjoy an ice cream while looking out to sea. In the summer season you can hire motorboats and kayaks or if you’d rather something less active, the blue waters are perfect for bathing.

A lot of famous people holiday in the hills and coves of Cornwall. In the 1970s, three locals (an out of work actor, a DJ, and a young writer) decided to start a hospital radio station, named Duchy Hospital Radio. They set up in a caravan in a car park behind West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance. The actor and writer were particularly interested in spoken word programmes and secured an Uher, the must-have portable reel to reel audio tech of the day. The actor discovered that a famous person was getting away from it all at Lamorna Cove Hotel.  An interview with George Harrison would get Duchy Hospital Radio noticed! The famous Beatle was only too pleased to help and invited them to join him at the hotel for a cream tea. For an hour or more the actor and writer chatted amiably to George about being famous, hiding away in Cornwall, what the other Beatles were like, and the price of tea and chips. Back in the Duchy Radio caravan, the novice reporters soon discovered that in the excitement of meeting their hero, the actor had forgotten to press ‘Record’!

Along my walk I met Pingo!

Kemyel Crease is a nature reserve and woodland, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the coast between Mousehole and Lamorna Cove.

This reserve, owned by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, is a terraced cliff with a conifer plantation which slopes down to the sea. The Monterey Pines and Monterey Cypresses were planted by Victorian gardeners as shelter trees to provide a windbreak. Both species are fast growing and salt tolerant. The fuchsia bushes you can see were also introduced as hedges around small potato and flower gardens. These former gardens situated on the south-facing cliffs were known as ‘quillets’. There were over one hundred of them in the late 19th century and many of them continued in production until the 1930s.

It would have been a common sight to see donkeys treading the cliffs here as they ploughed the soil and carried seaweed (fertiliser) up from the shore to spread on the gardens. The mild Cornish climate meant that the produce grown here was ready much earlier in the season than other places in Britain. It was shipped to London markets by train.

Rare fungi can be seen here during summer and autumn. A notable example is the earth star fungus. The woodland is small (6 acres / 2 hectares) and sheltered and provides welcome shade on a hot day when walking the coast path between Lamorna and Mousehole.

I couldn’t tell you how excited I was to get to Mousehole. Boats sway gently in the salty sea breeze and seagulls flock overhead. Located in the very South of the Cornwall peninsula, in a place where sea meets land and the settlement remains steeped in history, Mousehole is a beautiful little village worthy of a venture through.

The last fluent native speaker of the Cornish language (though I’m not sure how they managed to accurately measure this metric) allegedly lived in Mousehole during the 18th-century and was named Dolly Pentreath. Baptised in 1692 (though it’s unclear as to what date she was actually born), she is the last recorded Cornish language speaker.

In 1930, Dylan Thomas described Mousehole as ‘the loveliest village in England,’ and it’s fair to say that not much has changed in the Cornish settlement since the Welsh writer and poet first declared it all those decades ago.

Today, Mousehole sits within one Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, meaning that it is quite literally classified as a stunningly beautiful site. This also means that you should bring your camera equipment along on any trip to the sleepy fishing town. You’ll obviously want to snap a photo or two!

The sandy strip that makes the beach of this fishing town is unusual in that it sits right inside the harbour, just a short swim away from where the boats sway in the gentle sea breeze. Located right by the fishing village’s main car park, pack your swim stuff, a great book, and a picnic and prepare to relax for a couple of hours alongside the crystal clear waters of this Cornish beach.

What started off as a simple string of lights hung to add some winter cheer by a local artist over fifty years ago has since become an annual tradition. One of the best things to do in winter in Cornwall is to wait until the sun has gone down before heading to Mousehole.

Once there, between the end of November and the beginning of January each year, you’ll soon discover that the Mousehole Harbour Lights are fun for all the family. During this period, the harbour is lit by the twinkling lights of ten thousand light bulbs, while all the eateries are open to frequent.

Of course, one of the main attractions of this quiet fishing community are the small streets and laid back ambience which permeates the village. You could easily spend several hours getting lost in the many galleries and small independent shops which populate the place, snapping photos and seeing what Mousehole has to offer (as well as purchasing a souvenir or two).

Walk along the harbour walls, take in the sea views, and enjoy spectacular views of Mount’s Bay. During the colder months of the year, the famous Christmas lights are erected and people come from all over the place just to see the twinkling bulbs.

The South West of England is well-known for its locally produced cuisine and traditional fare. And the quirky cafes and coffee shops of this pretty fishing port are no exception. So whether you want to try a local crab sandwich, or simply wish to sample a local tipple, here are the best places to eat in Mousehole:

Aside from having a pun-filled name, Hole Foods is easily one of the best cafés in the village. With harbour views and friendly staff, head here and you can also expect to find the best hot chocolates in Mousehole (they even have veggie marshmallows!) I had a tomato and mozzarella sandwich, a big pot of tea and a brownie to go (you know for energy!)

Highlights from the official website for the Southwest Coast

  • Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve: Monterey pines grow here as well as Monterey cypress trees which have a beautiful lemon scent. The Reserve is rich in fungi and if you are walking in the summer or autumn months, you may see the unusual earth star fungus.
  • Point Spaniard: said to be where the Spaniards landed before ransacking Mousehole, Newlyn and Paul in 1595.
  • Mousehole: a traditional fishing village described by Dylan Thomas as the prettiest village in England. Mousehole is actually thought to be Llareggub in his play Under Milk Wood. Many artists come here striving to capture the natural beauty of the area in their work and there are some galleries worth exploring. Often battered by winter storms, the villagers of Mousehole were once unable to put out their fishing boats due to the terrific gales. The villagers were close to starving when one man called Tom Bawcock braved the storm and brought back a massive haul of seven different types of fish. His heroic acts are celebrated every 23rd December when all of Mousehole gather to eat ‘Starry Gazy Pie’ (a fish pie with assorted fish heads poking out through the crust).
  • Art and fishing in Newlyn: home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the UK, Newlyn is also remembered for its cultural history due to the group of post-impressionist painters who set up in Newlyn and later established a school of painting.

The walk between Mousehole and Newlyn is pretty uninspiring, if you are lucky you will see some pretty street art but first you have to pass the pretty shit stuff! One thing I will say about this stretch of the walk was at least it was flat!!

With over 40 acres of harbour, the fishing industry is one of the most important in the county; contributing millions of pounds to the Cornish economy each year. All sorts of fishing vessels can be seen in the harbour from beam trawlers and long liners to crabbers and even small open boats used for hand-lining mackerel in the Bay.

It is worth rising early to visit the bustling Fish Market and see the fish being sold; displayed in coloured rectangular baskets and ticketed awaiting auction. Some of the fish will go to local restaurants, but most are sold to buyers from various other European countries, especially to France, Spain and Portugal.

In the 1880s a number of artists flocked to the town and formed an artists’ colony. The painters of Newlyn came to be known as the Newlyn School and this history is still very much alive in the town, with many galleries including the Newlyn Art Gallery and displays at the Penlee House Museum.

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