South West Coast Path – Porthmeor, Carrick Du and Clodgy Point

South West Coast Path – Porthmeor, Carrick Du and Clodgy Point

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G was heading back to the Porthmeor Studios, for instruction in “oils with a palette knife” at the Porthmeor studios. These buildings on the northern side of St Ives, were originally fishermen’s net lofts, fish cellars and salt houses for curing the pilchards which for many centuries provided the towns’ main livelihood. Four cellars are still used by fishermen today. The others are occupied by artists, a tradition which started at the end of the nineteenth century when the railway brought many artists drawn by the famous quality of the light around Penwith. Porthmeor Beach has beautiful stretching sands, and is popular with surfers.

Leaving the artist behind my calling this morning was the coast path towards Zennor. St Ives was shrouded in mist, with a mystical air. Walking past Tate St Ives and the beach, the path is first paved and easy, giving tantilising views of St Ives through the haze. A couple of runners overtake me, but the path is pretty quiet just now.

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I head up towards Clodgy Point, clodgy is apparently Cornish for leper, suggesting a site of a leper colony in the past! This promontory like many others in Cornwall has seen its share of shipwrecks.

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This areas is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest with a wide range of unusual wildlife and plants.

The path continues up to Burthallan Cliff climbing steadily. The landscape is markedly different to the coast path south of St Ives. After a night of heavy rains and thunderstorms, the ground is decidedly damp in places, due to the springs running down. However a stone causeway has been laid to help navigate through this landscape that feels remote and wild.

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So Beautiful!

 

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By the time I turn round to return the same route, the sun has started to break through the clouds. And some of the wildlife is less concerned about me and my camera, than the crows that keep trying to dive bomb it!

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As I head back to St Ives, the views just get more and more stunning

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A fantastic walk, and one I’d like to do all the way to Zennor some time. I’m not sure the camera can ever do it justice really and wonder how G has got in with his oil painting. A stroll back into St Ives for some shopping, crab sandwich and cup of tea. Nice.

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South West Coast Path – Porthmeor, Carrick Du and Clodgy Point

Porthleven, Mullion Cove and Helston

 

Porthleven?

Theory 1 – from the Cornish words “porth” meaning port and “leven” meaning smooth.
Theory 2. – from “porth” meaning port and “Elvan” from St Elvan the 5th century saint who landed on these shores to spread the word of Christianity. (There was originally a settlement nearby called St Elvan)

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A rather grey day, but we decided to head for Porthleven which is the most Southerly working port in mainland Britain, positioned between the Lizard Peninsula and Marazion near St Michael’s Mount. The harbour is unusual in that it opened directly south west into the prevailing winds, as a safe haven for ships getting into difficulties near the Lizard.

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An act of parliament was signed by King George III in 1811 “for constructing a harbour in Mounts Bay in the county of Cornwall” The construction of the harbour was a tremendous and dangerous engineering achievement and took 14 years, using prisoners from the Napoleonic War. The granite pier and quays were complete by 1825 and the inner harbour completed in 1858. The huge timbers that seal the inner harbour closed, in the event of storms are still in use today.

The Bickford Smith Institute next to the pier and harbour entrance is a splendid local landmark with its seventy foot high clock tower. It was donated to the town by former MP, Mr Bickford Smith in 1884.

On the day we were there the conditions were clearly perfect for surfing, as there was a steady stream of wet suited bodies appearing, running for the beach, across the treacherous looking rocks and joining the queues in the rolling waves. It’s a particularly challenging area for surfing, attracting many top level surfers.

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Back in February 2014 during the ferocious storms, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to be on this beach. Scientists from Plymouth University found the waves were some of the most powerful ever recorded on Earth. The huge breakers up to 26 feet tall caused the cliffs to shake more than any others ever recorded and 1350 cubic metres of cliff face disappeared.

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When the tide is out, a three mile long shingle and sand beach is exposed towards Loe Bar and the Penrose Estate. We took a stroll round both sides of the harbour. On the right is the Old Lifeboat House, now a studio and exhibition space. The two cannon standing either side of the harbour, come from the frigate HMS Anson, which was wrecked on nearby Loe Bar in 1807. They were once fired on the Napoleon’s navy during the battle of Brest. A morning coffee sat outside and the sun even came out. A lovely place, no doubt we will return!

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From Porthleven we drove on to Mullion Cove, now owned by the National Trust. This tiny picturesque harbour was originally built in the 1890’s and still shelters a small fishing fleet from powerful westerly storms.

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Just up from the harbour is The Chocolate Factory and craft centre, worth a stop off for some shopping!

After a quick drive to the top of a hill with a view for our picnic lunch, we finished our day in Helston, where the rain clouds were finally amassing.  This bustling market town has a mixture of Georgian and Victorian architecture with a fine monument built in 1834 of Humphry Millet Grylls, a local bank and solicitor whose actions kept the local tin mine open, saving 1200 jobs. We visited the fascinating Helston Folk Museum which is housed in a very long building, the former Market House and Drill Hall. The Market originally had two separate market halls, one for butter and eggs, and one for meat, you can still see the original sloping granite floors. The museum was extended into the Drill Hall in 1999 and a mezzanine gallery was added. It really seemed to go on for ever! At the end of the museum a class of school children in old fashioned clothes were being taught their lessons in the Victorian manner!

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When we finally left the maze of the museum and made our way to the car, the heavens finally opened. We’d had a fantastic day, so really couldn’t complain!

 

Porthleven, Mullion Cove and Helston

Porthcurno, telegraphs and sharks?

On the Monday afternoon we headed back to Porthcurno. We had previously visited the amazing Minack Theatre perched up on the cliff.

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Today we were heading for the telegraph museum. While G had a quick nap in the car, I took a stroll down to the beach. Porthcurno beach and bay, enclosed by the Logan Rock headland is a stunning stretch of golden sands, which has been listed as one of the top ten beaches in the world! Not exactly tropical weather today but still beautiful.

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At the beach you can see the Cable Hut/House the last point before the cables go under the sea. In fact you can still see one of the thick cables. So what were these cables? And why was this site so important? We went into the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum to find out how this spot in Cornwall became the most important communications site in Britain.

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The first cable under the Atlantic Ocean was laid in 1866 by the SS Great Eastern and in Cornwall the first submarine telegraph cables were landed here in Porthcurno in 1870, part of an early international link from the UK to India (then a British colony). In 1872 the Eastern Telegraph Company Limited was formed which took over the operation of the cables and built a cable office in the Porthcurno Valley. Between the wars, the office operated as many as 14 cables for a time, the largest submarine cable station in the world, with the capacity to received and transmit up to a two million words a day. The telegraph message (though primitive in today’s technical world) transformed global communications! Before telegraphs, the quickest way to communicate with another continent was sending a letter by ship!

From the 1850s until well into the 20th century, British submarine cable systems dominated the world. In 1896 there were thirty cable laying ships in the world and 24 of them were owned by British companies!

By World War 2, the office at Porthcurno had become a crucial communication centre and to improve the security of the site, a network of tunnels were built to shelter the essential telegraph equipment from enemy fire.

It’s a fascinating place to visit with plenty of hands-on exhibits (morse code practice anyone?) and lots of information about the people who worked here and at sea laying the cables.

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It’s fascinating history, of course. But surely in this world of global satellites, we no longer need to lay cables under the sea? You might think so, but actually our internet today still relies on those underground cables. In fact 99% of all international data is transmitted by submarine communications cables, hundreds of thousands of miles long. Laying these cables is a complex expensive business! Thwarted rather by sharks, who happen to like gnawing on those cables so that companies such as Google, need to shield their cables in shark proof wire wrappers! Ouch.

Telegraphy (from Greek: τῆλε têle, “at a distance” and γράφειν gráphein, “to write”) is the long-distance transmission of textual or symbolic (as opposed to verbal or audio) messages

Porthcurno, telegraphs and sharks?