South West Coast Path: Marazion to Helford

By mid-June of 2022 we were already back in Cornwall, having completed St Ives to Marazion only three months beforehand.

We devoted our week to the Lizard Peninsula, restarting at Marazion, continuing down the western side and rounding Lizard Point before ascending the eastern side to reach the Helford Estuary.

Our base was a small cottage near Lizard village, in the parish of Landewednack, just north of Lizard Point.

The bus services were such that it would have been far easier to base ourselves in Helston. But, having stayed in both St Ives and Penzance, we wanted a more peaceful location this time round.

Apart from one overcast day with light rain, we had good weather throughout. The temperature was mostly warm but comfortable, even while other parts of the country sweltered through a heatwave.

This section offered a rich variety of landscape, strenuous in some places, easy in others.

Our five walking days were allocated to get the very best out of the limited bus service in these parts:

  • Day 1: Marazion to Porthleven (10.8 miles)
  • Day 2: Porthleven to Poldhu Cove (5.0 miles)
  • Day 3: Poldhu Cove to Church Cove (Lizard) (10.9 miles)
  • Day 4: Church Cove (Lizard) to Rosenithnon (11.7 miles)
  • Day 5: Rosenithnon to Helford Point (9.7 miles)

So a total distance of 48.1 miles.

We managed to find buses between our base and all the destinations we couldn’t reach on foot, saving only Helford, which required a taxi. In most cases these journeys involved two connecting buses via Helston. All the buses we caught ran broadly to time, except the first, on Saturday morning.

Most of these services pick up from several small villages so are indirect and consequently slow. It wasn’t unusual for these journeys to take upwards of 90 minutes.

Our base for the week

We travelled down from London Paddington to Redruth on GWR’s 10:04 departure, arriving at 14:39. Then we transferred directly into a pre-booked Redruth Taxi, which took us the 20 miles or so to our cottage, charging a fairly reasonable £65. Despite the limited mobile coverage hereabouts, we managed to pay by card.

The Lizard Peninsula is an area of perhaps 200 square miles. Natural England describes it thus:

‘The Lizard peninsula forms the southern-most point of mainland Britain. The area is dominated by a gently undulating exposed heathland plateau cut by narrow river valleys. The surrounding coastline is rugged and geologically complex with caves, enclosed bays and small rocky islands. To the north flows the Helford River which in the summer carries a ferry linking the north and south banks at Helford Passage. There are long uninterrupted views over the plateau, out to sea and along the coast. These factors lead to a strong sense of place and sense of tranquility.’

We stayed at Heevara Cottage, booked through Cornish Cottages, at a cost of £728. There is a single room downstairs, with a galley kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom above and a small garden outside.

The property would have been a tight squeeze for four adults, but suited us almost perfectly. I would have liked access to a teapot and a cafetiere – and I found the duvet a little too thick for summer temperatures – but otherwise no complaints.

Heevara is located to the north-east of Lizard village, off a road called Cross Common. A pair of horses lived in the field behind us: their powerful farts often punctuated our late afternoon relaxation on the chairs outside.

Many of our daily walks started at the bus stop next to Lizard Green, in the centre of the Village.

The Green doubles as a car park, with toilets and several eateries nearby, though only a farm shop and a butcher/delicatessen. (We had arranged for a Sainsbury’s delivery shortly after our arrival.) There is also a pub, the Top House Inn, and several gift shops.

The parish church of Landewednack – the most southerly in Great Britain – is dedicated to Saint Wynwallow (c.460-532) who founded Landevennec Abbey near Brest in France. Landewednack means ‘the sacred enclosure of St Wennac’, ‘Wennac’ probably being an alternative version of ‘Wynwallow’.

The Church was possibly founded in the Sixth Century, perhaps by one of Wynwallow’s monks, rather than the man himself. The doorway to the current building is the oldest part, dating from the Twelfth Century.

There are several other listed buildings in and around the Village, including an 1860s Methodist chapel, an 1880s Sunday school and cottages dating from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

One of these, in Church Cove, just beyond St Wynwallow’s, is thought once to have  hosted Noel Coward, inspiring his song ‘Room with a View’ (1928). Later it was the holiday home of Jack Train (1902-1966), a staple of the wartime comedy ITMA.

Saturday: Marazion to Porthleven

We had carefully planned to catch a First Bus L1 service to Helston, changing there on to another First Bus service, the U4, to get to Marazion.

Unfortunately, the L1 turned up 10 minutes late and, owing to a problem with its display, was attended by an engineer outside Helston.

It eventually arrived there over 20 minutes late, leaving us 40 minutes to while away before the next U4.

Pausing briefly to reminisce over the last time I sampled Spingo ales at the Blue Anchor, some 25 years ago now, we repaired to Helly’s Tea Room for coffee and a comfort break.

The coffee was fine but the toilet was closed, so we re-repaired to the public toilets by the museum before heading back to the bus stop. The U4 came on time, depositing us at Marazion an hour later than anticipated, at around 11.15.

Tracy still being a stickler for these things, though now rather inconsistently (see below), we strolled down to the point opposite the St Michael’s Mount causeway before retracing our steps.

The coast path runs through much of Marazion, originally a medieval market town, which recently bid (unsuccessfully) to become Cornwall’s second city.

It boasts few famous residents, though Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) was a young curate here, many years before he wrote ‘Abide with me’.

Finally we turned down a lane next to Marazion Cemetery, which took us back to the coast while offering a fine prospect of St Michael’s Mount above the gravestones.

Approaching Trenow Cove, we caught sight of a Little egret foraging on the rocky foreshore.

The Mount continued to make its presence felt as we turned inland, past a field of mauve flowers, to avoid some erosion. Continuing below St Piran’s and St Michael’s Church, in the village of Perranuthnoe, we noted a curious flag – half Union Jack, half Ukrainian – flying from a mast.

Soon afterwards we were confronted by the squat ugliness of Acton Castle, built in the late Eighteenth Century by the botanist John Stackhouse (1742-1819). A near neighbour was John Carter (1738-1803), the leading light in a family of smugglers. He was nicknamed ‘The King of Prussia’ because of his supposed likeness to Frederick the Great, and gave this nickname to nearby Prussia Cove.

We worked our way steadily down towards Cudden Point. Somewhere hereabouts, the battleship HMS Warspite came to grief while being towed from Portsmouth to Faslane for breaking in 1947.

Various unsuccessful attempts were made to salvage her before this was finally achieved in 1955. It remains the largest salvage operation ever undertaken in British waters.

Rounding Cudden Point, we passed a sequence of picturesque coves: Piskies Cove, Prussia Cove and Bessie’s Cove, named after Bessy Bussow who ran a kiddlywink, selling smuggled alcohol. Bessie later appeared in Arthur Quiller-Couch’s (1843-1944) short story ‘King o’ Prussia’ (1902).

We stopped for our picnic lunch on a bench overlooking Bessies’s Cove, its pale yellow sand contrasting beautifully with the greensward cliffs and the cobalt shallows, glinting in the warm sun.

Continuing on our way, we skirted the remains of some old fishermen’s sheds and a rocky inlet with a boat hauled up on the slope. In a cottage garden above there was an abundance of ‘red hot pokers’ and we also spotted a Scarlet Tiger resting on an old stone wall.

Passing above the pristine Kennegy Sand, the Guide encouraged us to seek amethysts amongst the waste deposited by the Speedwell Tin and Copper Mine. But found we none.

Soon we were approaching the surprisingly large community of Praa Sands, the beach largely deserted.

We paused at the memorial to the crew of a Short Sunderland flying boat from 461 Squadron based at Pembroke Dock. It was attacked by eight JU88s while on submarine patrol in the Bay of Biscay on 2 June 1943 but managed to limp back 300 miles and beached on Praa Sands. One man was killed in this action and most of his crewmates were lost on a subsequent patrol just two months later.

We had some difficulty finding the way up from the beach but were soon climbing towards Rinsey House perched on Rinsey Head. Built for a London stockbroker in the early 1930s, it may now be rented as a holiday cottage – though it costs up to £4,000 a week in high season!

Shortly afterwards, the Wheal Prosper engine house hove into view, and then more engine houses close to Trewavas Head.

Wheal Prosper was a tin mine open just six years, from 1860 to 1866.

Wheal Trewavas opened in 1834, closing in 1846. At its peak, some 160 miners were digging for copper and tin. There is some uncertainty over the cause of its closure: was it because of flooding, because the owners were running into financial difficulties, or because of a dispute over dues claimed by the Duchy of Cornwall?

We came up with two men who, like us, were photographing these striking ruins. One seemed to be getting into difficulties, so we were relieved to see later that he had managed to reach Porthleven.

Ten minutes later we could see our destination nestling a couple of miles ahead. Shortly before reaching it we passed a small white cross, erected in 1949 in memory of the many sailors who drowned hereabouts.

Soon we had reached the Ship Inn, where Kate and I spent one New Year’s Eve in the early Nineties, together writing a limerick for a competition set by my boss.

The powers that be had just decided to establish a quango called the Qualifications and National Curriculum Authority (to be pronounced ‘Quanca’). The purpose of the competition was to demonstrate to these powers that this was not a sensible decision!

Needless to say, we won.

Back in the present, having negotiated a woman trying to wedge her Mercedes van in the narrow lane leading up to The Ship, we stopped at Origin Coffee, right next to our bus stop.

I very much enjoyed the coffee we drank with our shared cinnamon bun – a Chinese coffee from Yunnan Province called Aqi Badu. Later we considered buying some, only to discover that it costs a stonking £16.50 for 250g!

The waitress at Helly’s had remarked that Porthleven was going up in the world and these two experiences confirmed that some such gentrification is occuring.

We chatted to the barista – a resting actor – while he closed up, before heading outside in good time to catch our bus back to Helston.

Here we transferred to a Go Cornwall 34 service which had us back at the Lizard by 18:30, just before it began to rain.

Sunday: Porthleven to Poldhu Cove

Sunday’s forecast predicted cloud and light rain, so we were not sorry that the available bus services were essentially limiting us to a half-day’s walk.

We caught the same 08.23 L1 service to Helston, which today ran to time, and a connecting U4 service to Porthleven.

Overnight we had purchased 5-day online tickets we could use on any bus in Cornwall, at a cost of £20 each. We activated these each morning before travel and then simply used the Go Cornwall app on our phones in lieu of a payment card

It was cloudy but dry, and not yet overcast, as we left Porthleven around 09:30. Two gig boats were rowing out of the harbour as we skirted it, rounding the imposing Bickford-Smith Institute building before continuing along the long lane of holiday homes that extends along the cliff top. 

Soon, though, we were entering the National Trust’s Penrose Estate, including the impressive Bar Lodge, built in the 1890s, which so impressed me last time I visited these parts, but which is also much more than I can afford.

Immediately beyond is Loe Bar, a long sand and shingle beach suspended between the sea on one side and a lagoon on the other. This is Loe Pool, formerly the estuary of the River Cober and now the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall.

We joined several dog walkers, runners and day trippers crossing the Bar, slightly disfigured by the presence of unfinished workings on either side.

We came upon a second white cross, very similar to that we had encountered the previous day, this one commemorating the sinking of HMS Anson on 29 December 1807, with the loss of 100 men. The plaque says that this disaster prompted Henry Trengrouse of Helston to invent a life-saving rocket apparatus which has since saved thousands of lives.

The rocket fired a line, which enabled a hawser to be stretched between ship and shore, from which a rescue chair could be suspended and pulled ashore. The equipment was small enough to be packed in a chest and carried on board ship.

We passed the wonderfully-named Halzephron Cove, along Halzephron Cliff, slightly inland of the Halzephron Inn, which is said to date from 1468. ‘Halzephron’ is derived from the Cornish for ‘cliff of hell’.

There was once a prominent Saxon settlement at Winnianton, on the way down to Church Cove, also known as Gunwalloe Cove.

We went first to the National Trust café at the rear of the Cove, as I was by this time desperate for coffee. We drank it looking out upon the beach.

The sea here can be treacherous, having claimed many shipwrecks and the life of Vyvyan Adams, a Conservative MP who drowned while swimming in 1951.

Tucked away on the far side, just beside the sand dunes, we found a second St Wynwallow’s Church. The present building has Fifteenth Century features but was restored extensively in 1869.

It is but a short hop around Mullion Golf Course to Poldhu Cove, where we took our Sunday lunch of Cornish steak pasties. I forewent the free cup of tea on offer for Father’s Day. As we sat on a bench beside the café, a bulldog on a lead went mad in the sand close by.

Our 34 bus arrived on time at 13:02 and we were home well before 14:00.

As the rain came on, the afternoon grew dismal: you know that feeling associated with wet Sundays by the seaside? Father’s Day bought back memories of Dad, also reminding me that I’d heard nothing from my son! And I remembered, with some sadness, how I had walked some of today’s section with Kate all those years ago.

I grew melancholy.

Tracy enjoyed an extended afternoon snooze, while I finished David Golder by Irene Nemirovsky, which somehow fitted my mood and the day outside. I had tuned the TV to 6 Music which was celebrating the work of Kate Bush.

Monday: Poldhu Cove to Church Cove (Lizard)

The rain had cleared by Monday morning, leaving a blue sky with light clouds. We were up in time to catch the 08:40 34 bus direct to Poldhu Cove, alighting there by 09:15.

After using the very conveniently placed toilets, we were off, climbing round Poldhu Point, past the care home and along Angrouse Cliff. There is a monument up here commemorating the existence, from 1900 to 1933, of the Poldhu Wireless Station.

On 12 December 1901, associates of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) transmitted the Morse Code for ‘S’ to Marconi in St John’s Newfoundland. This was the first transatlantic radio communication, although there is some doubt whether the claims of success were fully substantiated. More successful efforts followed in 1902 and 1903.

In 1937, the Marconi Company donated this coastal strip to the National Trust, adding the land behind it in 1960.

We descended to Polurrian Cove, which is beautiful, though rather dominated by the large hotel immediately behind. Then round to Mullion Cove, passing ‘Carrag-Luz’ or Love Rock, presumably because there are two stones kissing?

We went straight to the delightful Porthmellin Café where we bantered with the two ladies in the kitchen while they made our coffee and served us a slice of cake to share.

This we took outside, to a bench overlooking the tiny harbour, constructed in the 1890s. By that time the extensive pilchard and herring fishing industry, at its peak a century beforehand, had declined considerably.

As we finished our coffee, one of the few surviving fishermen here prepared to winch up his boat.

We climbed on to Mullion Cliff and into the Lizard National Nature Reserve. This gave us a clearer view of Mullion Island, a little beyond the harbour, known as a haven for seabirds. The sea was a vivid blue in the small coves below.

Around midday, on Lower Predannock Cliff, we came upon a family of choughs, once known as the Crow of Cornwall. The parent birds were feeding their young.

Once common here, choughs all but vanished from Cornwall in the 1970s, but have begun to breed again. The RSPB estimates there may now be as many as 350 pairs in Britain.

We rounded Vellan Head, then Pengersick and a slightly larger cove called Gew-graze, also known as Soapy Cove, because there was a soapstone quarry nearby until 1820 or so. Up to 500lb of stone was quarried weekly, primarily used in the manufacture of porcelain.

Just inland there is a farmhouse which has inherited the wonderful name of Jolly Town.

We stopped for what I hoped would be a very brief chat with a trio heading in the opposite direction. I hopped from foot to foot as the cows behind walked closer.

I dislike close encounters with cows, especially when there’s a sheer drop over the cliff just behind me!

But Tracy kept chatting. I think she was rather enjoying my discomfort.

It turned out that these three were also walking the coast path in its entirety, but they had started at the wrong end, in Dorset. Apparently this was because they live in Christchurch.

I expected Tracy – who has proved a real stickler in such matters – to throw the book at them, but she declared it quite reasonable behaviour!

We stopped for lunch on Kynance Cliff, with a spectacular view down on to Kynance Cove perhaps half a mile ahead. As we sat, a kestrel hovered nearby, immediately over to our right.

Kynance was a highly popular destination for Victorian holidaymakers, having been popularised by a Royal visit in 1846, when Prince Albert came ashore from the royal yacht.

Tennyson also visited in 1848, recording in his diary:

‘Glorious grass-green monsters of waves. Into caves of Asparagus Island. Sat watching wave-rainbows. Glorious ranks of waves and billows.’

We were now within easy walking distance of our base.

Later in the week, on our final day, we braved the crowds and found a small spot of our own on the beach at Kynance Cove. We even had a short swim, taking care as there are strong currents. Tracy waxed lyrical, reminiscing fondly over her idyllic childhood holidays here.

After lunch we followed the coast path down to the Cove and back up the cliffs on the other side, passing Pentreath Beach, drawing ever closer to Lizard Point and its lighthouse, built in 1751.

The Spanish Armada was first sighted here, in the afternoon of 29 July 1588. And the Battle of the Lizard was fought between the French and British navies on 21 October 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession. France won.

We stopped for an ice cream and to use the toilets before continuing on our way.

Later, again on our final rest day, we visited the souvenir shops and enjoyed a lovely full English breakfast at the Polpeor Café.

The staff handed round binoculars so we could study the four seals way below, carefully watching proceedings aboard two fishing boats. A tiny sparrow was feeding upon the crumbs left by departing guests. Behind us, a tableful of Scousers grew increasingly voluble.

The owner told a story – perhaps apocryphal – about how a local seal would climb aboard a small boat to sunbathe until the fisherman tried to prevent this, whereupon the seal promptly sank the boat!

Back on our ‘walking day’ we continued round the bottom of the Lizard, past Bumble Rock and on to Housel Cove, where sits the imposing Housel Bay Hotel, which opened in 1894.

This was subsequently the venue for our traditional final night slap-up meal: a five-course tasting menu with paired wines followed by coffee and petit fours. We were placed at a table in the window and were admirably served.

Our waitress told us that the Hotel was to be closed over the weekend for a vegan wedding party. In the kitchen, a new hand successfully completed his first night. I murmured ‘well done’ as we passed by on our exit. We staggered back along the darkening lane to our cottage.

The Hotel, when new, accommodated Marconi, who set up the Lizard Wireless Station nearby. From here, in January 1901, he successfully received a radio signal from the Isle of Wight, 180 miles distant. A few years later this was the first land station to receive an SOS from a ship in distress.

More visible now is the white-painted Lloyds Signal Station on Bass Point.

It was built in 1872 by Fox and Company Shipping Agents, to semaphore passing vessels, so they could receive orders from their owners. Soon over 1,000 ships a month were using the service. In 1883 it was taken over by Lloyds of London, who operated it until 1969.

Passing the pair of men very kindly cutting down the undergrowth, we reached the Bass Point lookout station and, nearby, a memorial to the crew of the Bugaled Breizh, a Breton Trawler which sank offshore in January 2004 with the loss of five lives.

The cause of the accident was never established, though there were suspicions that an unidentified submarine may have snagged the ship’s nets.

Soon we had reached the new lifeboat station at Kilcobben Cove. This was originally built in 1961 at a cost of £90,000 but, in 2010, the station was demolished and rebuilt to accommodate a new Tamar-class lifeboat, reopening in 2012.

A little further on, Church Cove Road intersects with the coast path, so we simply followed it home.

Tuesday: Church Cove (Lizard) to Rosenithnon

We woke to a sunny day, the temperature forecast to reach the low 20s. We granted ourselves a short lie-in as we had no outward bus journey.

Having descended again to Church Cove, we soon encountered a white wooden diamond atop a red-and-white-striped post. This is a marker for ships, aligning with another to show the position of Vrogue Rock, submerged and half a mile offshore.

We reached the Devil’s Frying Pan, a collapsed sea cave with its archway still intact. It was peaceful enough on a warm June morning but, during rough weather, there is said to be turmoil below.

Arriving into Cadgwith at around 10:15, there were few cafes open, so we continued on our way, having dutifully admired the picturesque thatched buildings clustered around the Harbour.

There is ample evidence hereabouts of quarrying for serpentine, and we stopped for a while to admire the remains of the Lizard Serpentine Factory at beautiful Caerleon Cove.  At the industry’s height in the 1880s, some 20 men were employed here making gravestones, mantelpieces, even entire shopfronts.

Ascending on to Thorny Cliff, we soon arrived at Kennack Sands. A line of cars was already descending the narrow road to deposit holidaymakers on the beach.

We stopped at Mora Café for coffee and some tasty Millionaire’s Shortbread. Very clumsily, I knocked over the dogs’ water bowl on leaving.

The sunseekers were all gathered on the west beach, whereas the dog-friendly east beach was almost deserted. We passed to the rear of it, encountering three taciturn young men – and a more loquacious older one with American accent – just before the steep ascent at the end of the beach.

As morning turned to afternoon, we savoured the beautiful landscape, the sun sparkling on the vivid blue shallows far below. A white cruiser was moored in the mouth of Porthbeer Cove as, up on the cliff, we encountered two wild ponies, one standing; the other lying stretched out beside him.

We met a foreign-sounding couple coming out from Coverack who advised us to take the easier of the two paths heading in, as the seaward path was almost completely overgrown.

The cows fortunately kept away as we stopped for lunch in front of the lookout post on Black Head. While we were finishing, another couple emerged from the rocks just below. They had completed the coast path and were now dipping in and out, reprising their favourite bits.

They mentioned that they’d cycled seven miles of the path, but Tracy didn’t turn a hair – proof, if proof were needed, that she’s become far more relaxed about this sort of thing.

When we arrived at the bifurcation of the paths we could see several people attempting the overgrown route, so felt it would be churlish not to give it a go ourselves. It was certainly overgrown, but not impassable.

We went through Coverack without stopping, intending to buy our ice creams later at St Keverne, but I did stop briefly to refill my water bottle outside the Bay Hotel – many thanks to them for providing this service.

After so many cliffs it was strange to continue over the flat terrain round appropriately named Lowland Point. The apparently deserted Dean Quarry was brooding in the warm afternoon sun.

At Godrevy Cove the coast path heads inland to the small village of Rosenithnon, following a stream. Being a tourist, I pronounce this place rose-en-ith-non, but the local lady we chatted to next day at the bus stop compressed it to something more like ‘rose-aaarrrr-non’.

From here we had a rapid route march inland to St Keverne, to pick up the only bus, a 36, which was departing at 16.40.

Unfortunately there was no open ice cream vendor, and we didn’t have time to go via Roskilly’s some distance away, so had to settle for a cornetto each from Spar, eaten at the bus stop.

Two women hurried past, anxious to find the plaque near the church commemorating the leaders of the 1497 Cornish Rebellion.

The bus came on time and the exchange on to the 34 was smooth at Helston.

That evening we dined at the Top House Inn. Unfortunately, several of the dishes had already sold out, and more did so even as we finished our first course. By the time we were ready for dessert, the choice was restricted to crème brulee, ice cream and cheese! We didn’t partake.

We chatted to two Yorkshirewomen, convulsed in hysterics over a picture one had taken of her shadow on a visit that day to St Michael’s Mount.

Wednesday: Rosenithnon to Helford

It was another warm and sunny day, with temperatures if anything a little higher: a two water bottle day.

I woke promptly, having spilt my early morning coffee over the bed.

This was not my only clumsiness. When later, on our rest day, we visited Smuggler’s Gelato for ice creams, I managed to deposit my entire Kiwi Sorbet in my lap, causing the Canadian lady behind me to corpse violently.

It turned out they were part of an HF Holiday based at St Ives.

We caught the 34 and 36 buses as planned, transferring from one to the other at the Sainsbury’s just outside Helston, because the time gap would have been too narrow in Helston itself.

Here we got talking to a couple who planned to buy a house in Mullion. She had only just retired from the civil service. It transpired that both of us had mums who died in January aged 91! We shared our difficult experiences of dealing with probate.

Returning to Rosenithnon, we had to endure a long stretch of inland walking. Initially the path led us to Porthoustock Beach, but never quite reached it, turning with the road towards Porthallow instead.

The route took us through woodland, past Fat Apples Café, the destination of the couple we’d met earlier.

The coastline between Porthoustock and Porthallow is unused by the coast path, though there are several roads and a beach café. There are even walks advertised that follow this route, so quite why the coast path doesn’t is beyond me.

The guide says negotiations are under way to secure a more coastal route – but they seem unduly protracted!

Finally arriving in Porthallow, once a thriving fishing village specialising in pilchards, we went first to the Porthallow Beach Café for coffee and a shared brownie. Then it was across to the official mid-way marker for the coast path, located in the car park, for a quick selfie.

Three hundred and fifteen miles down; three hundred and fifteen miles still to go!

It was pleasant to be back following the coast, and now we could see Falmouth in the distance, beyond Nare’s Point. There was once a ‘decoy Falmouth’ here, designed to fool German bombers and built by Ealing Studios.

Our joy was short-lived as, just after Snail’s Creep, we encountered another diversion to avoid a collapsed bridge at Parbean Cove. So we missed out on Nare Head and Nare Point.

Instead we were routed through fields, at one stage going round three sides of a large field, instead of directly past the front a substantial property. After approaching Trewarnevas we were finally permitted to descend towards Gillan Creek.

At some point here, as we followed a wide path through dense woodland, Tracy lost her footing and crashed down onto a small boulder. We had kept on our sunglasses, anticipating only a short stretch in dappled shadow.

It looked a nasty fall and I was worried about her condition, but fortunately she escaped with a badly bruised knee and a jarred shoulder.

We arrived at the Herra, a small headland, which was stunning in the early afternoon sun. After a paddle we retired to a bench for lunch, watching people messing about in boats.

After rounding another small headland, opposite St-Anthony-in-Meneage, the path began to head inland. Some posh people pontificated in cut-glass accents around the picnic table in their cottage garden. There is plenty of money in these parts.

It was quite a shock to be transported into a completely different estuarine environment, as we followed the muddy Gillan Creek for a mile or so, to the crossing near Carne Mill, on the way to Manaccan.

Then there was the same journey in reverse along the north bank, until we finally reached the parish church at St-Anthony-in-Meneage (‘meneage’ means ‘land of monks’).

The church has Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century features, though was restored in 1890. A carving on the stone wall is thought to be a rare Saxon chi-rho.

We were next taken out to Dennis Head where there was both an Iron Age castle and a Seventeenth Century fort, the latter occupied by Cornish Royalists during the Civil War.

Then it was ‘about turn’ for the home run into Helford, along the much wider estuary of the Helford River.

By around 15:30 we pitched up at Bosahan Cove. It was so beautifully tranquil that we decided to have another paddle before sitting for a while on the small beach, watching the yachts pushing up and down river.

Two women vanished after a few minutes and another couple took off with a dog in their canoe, leaving us in splendid isolation. Was it something that we said?

On arriving at Helford we were greeted by the welcome sight of the Holy Mackerel Café. We were keenly anticipating mouth-watering cake before we noticed the opening times were ‘11am until 3ish’.

For weary coast path walkers, that’s less use than a chocolate teapot. Apparently I am not the first to complain.

So we went on, round the corner to the Shipwright’s Arms, where we had celebratory G&Ts while watching a fisherman load his catch into a van on the small beach below.

Then we called a taxi, for there once was a bus known as the L3 which is no more. Before it arrived, we walked down to the ferry landing stage, for a ferry connects Helford proper with Helford Passage across the water.

That marked the official end of our walking week.

We were picked up by our Telstar Taxi next to the resolutely closed Holy Mackerel. On the journey back, Pete, our friendly driver, related his life story and some of his own adventures on the coast path. The L3’s demise cost us a taxi fare of £45.

We hope to be back in Cornwall in September, to take on the next stretch, from Helford to Falmouth and beyond!


July 2022

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