Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Trail report: Lands End to Pendeen

Being a creature of habit I've got a certain bunch of routes I tend to run fairly regularly and, having covered most of the coast path within easy shooting distance of home this idea I had of documenting every stretch had sort of dried up. There remain however a few gaps - sections I have never run. The bit from Land's End to somewhere just West of Zennor is one such section. Shameful really as it turns out to be an absolute corker!

John O'Groats 874, I'm not giong quite that far today
Parking at Land's End good and early (if you live in Cornwall you can get free parking - local's pass available here) I set off up the coast. The weather wasn't looking too good though I was sure the reports had been fair. The first mile to Sennen is an enjoyable romp over laid granite paths and a few quite technical bits. The little coast guard lookout - like a tiny castle turret on the cliffs - marks the cliffs of Pedn-Men-Du - the black cliff. Sennen cliffs are one of the most popular climbing destinations in Cornwall and rightly so. Short but powerful routes on perfect granite abound though I'd not be getting involved in any of that today.

The steep run down into Sennen takes you quickly into civilisation though at this early hour there was no-one around. Leaving the promonade its generally the done thing to run along the beach - on the way back I traced a far harder and longer route over dunes and down a path behind the car park - not recommended. The line off the bach is pretty obvious and it was about here that the heavens opened. Waterproof on for the first time in a good few months, I trotted along a good path above the rocks between Sennen and Gwynver.

Leaving the beach at Sennen as the heavens open

Not the coast path!
Now things went a bit wrong for me when I got around the corner to Gwynver. The path appears to track diagonally up the grassy bank behind hte beach, just below the lifeguard hut. Don't make the mistake I did and take this route. If you do you'll end up reaching some long, steep steps and will no doubt follow them. Doing so led me to a road. So I followed it for a bit...and got hideously lost. Continuing on I spent hte next hour following footpaths across fields, always close to the coast but certainly not on the coast path!

Eventually I found a sign that led me back to the cliffs just west of the Cot Valley. When I arrived at Cape Cornwall I found a sign for Land's End saying 5.5 miles, but by then I'd done 8.5! I got it right on the way back though and can hopefully help others not to  make the same mistake. At Gwynver, stay low! Keep to a sandy path right at the back of the beach, you'll arrive at the bottom of the aforementioned steps but carry on and soon all will become clear. This section, for a couple of miles, is a real gem. the path is close to the sea and weaves in and out of boulders - lots of sections are redirected a few feet inland and with good reason as the original route is undercut in many places. There's a good bit of boulder hopping and some lovely technical running in a remote setting to rival any on the Cornish coast. Always undulating but never too steep the path winds on, crossing open ground in some places, skirting fields of crops in others, gradually gaining height as you close in on Porth Nanven.

The Brisons from Porth Nanven

It can be tricky to take the best path down to Porth Nanven, ideally head down to seaward and a lower path early on, before turning into the cove itself. If you don't you'll find yourself on a very long set of switchbacks winding slowly to the base. The better route takes you straight down to the stream just behind the pebble beach. Porth Nanven is one of the most photographed beaches in Cornwall being made up entirely of large, smooth, granite boulders and with lovely views of the Brisons, the rocks a little way off shore. From here you'll need to head up the road a few hundred metres until an obvious path leads steeply up the other side of  the valley and on towards Cape Cornwall. The views of this magnificent outcrop are well worth the journey. Most of the buildings are owned by the National Trust and the landscaped gardens and white washed walls contrast the rugged outline of the cliffs beyond.

North of here the path again leads inland and down into the next valley - Kenijdack. Home to the Boswedden mine this area is steeped in indutrial history. Dropping down below the Cape Cornwall golf course you enter a lush secluded and sheltered valley, hidden from the onslaught of the prevailing winds by the Cape. Climbing out among the mine workings and up onto the Northern side of the valley the rugged North Coast re-appears with the mine workings of Levant, Geevor and Botallack laid out ahead. After this steep climb there is a welcome flat section, though the paths are rocky and demand your attention. The observant will recognise the engine houses used in the recent Poldark series as they pass Bottallack. The Crown engine houses, situated just above the sea are a well publisiced attraction. 

Poldark Country
Looking back towards Cape Cornwall from Levant

Further on the Levant mine appears - the buidlings here have been restored and are managed by the National Trust.

Geevor mine closed in 1990 and you will see remains of a more modern nature. The scars in the landscape are fresher here and the romance is slightly tarnished - this is a bleak industrial landscape showing the true nature of mining - a tough, dangerous business. Geevor itself is now a tourist destination - allowing trips below ground and many displays and activities. Its well worth a visit if this sort of thing interests you.

Heavy industry at Geevor

The next mile or so towards Pendeen watch are more undulating and incredibly beautiful. This day I turned around shortly before the lighthouse but if you managed to get this far without going horribly wrong like I did then you should arrive after about 10 miles and have time for a good look around.

Pendeen Watch

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