Porthleven to Lizard Point

We spent tonight at the most southerly point in Britain. We really must get to John O’Groats, having now been to the other three – Lizard Point, Land’s End and Lowestoft Ness.

After doing the rest of Mount’s Bay at a run, we had the world’s fastest sandwich at a little settlement called Mullion Cove and then – we were worrying about another Lamorna – up we went onto The Lizard. With rain and darkness both approaching we mutinied at Kynance Cove and cut inland to Lizard town, avoiding a stretch of path we’d walked more than once before and ensuring a relatively civilized arrival time.

One of the most striking features of the south Cornwall walk awaits you as you leave Porthleven – the Loe Bar. This is the wide sand bar that closed off the one-time port of Helston from the sea in the thirteenth century, and also the location of the climactic scene in Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek. As you walk along it the sea is on your right and a large freshwater lake is on your left – a tempting prospect which brought us back for a visit and most of a circular walk around it a few months later. Immediately after it, as the path starts to rise again, is the memorial to the dead of the wreck of HMS Anson in 1807 – this provided us with a stopping point for Andy to deal with some blisters that had started to trouble him.

Gunwalloe Church Cove features an interesting church with a tower that is partly sunk into the high dunes that shelters it from the sea – it’s worth a stop and we duly did just that. Soon after comes Poldhu Cove, which is deceptively wide and therefore takes far longer to traverse than it appears it ought to. At the top are the remains of Marconi’s first wireless station, where in he 1901 he sent the radio message that reintroduced civilisation to the former American colonies. A monument stands nearby and we stopped to check whether there was mobile phone reception – satisfyingly, there was.

Andy was aware that if Mullion Cove, our planned lunch stop, was to be reached at any sort of sensible time we could not afford to slow down any more. Although we were starting to flag, we took Polurrian Cove at a fast trot and reached the cove on schedule. There we ran into severe temptation in the shape of a very good cafe and were very nearly undone by another cup of tea and a slice of cake. Resisting this, we slogged up the hill out of the cove and onto the Lizard, where the Royal Navy amused itself by practicing helicopter rescues in the fields beside us for the next couple of miles.

The Lizard is certainly an odd place, with its own flora and fauna, and its own geology – schist, gneiss and serpentine. Once you’re up on the high ground, it is as flat as if someone has taken a ruler to it. Even so, there are a few spectacular ups and downs. Over the past few days, we had noticed and local people had confirmed that The Lizard has its own weather system – generally a pall of thick cloud, high winds and rain. Andy was nervous of the place, because of a general feeling of death – shipwrecks, climbing accidents, people falling off high cliffs, foul weather. It was a lot tougher in the end than it appeared, principally the very stiff descent and climb associated with Kynance Cove.

This cove has one entrance to the sea, but two valleys to climb in and out of. It was suggested to us that it also sees the National Trust at its most overbearing, with businesses driven away and buildings demolished in order to improve the landscape. The combination of tiredness, dusk, rain and general pissed-offness drove us inland to Lizard town, and then by torchlight down the well laid-out path to Lizard Point itself where we were staying.

Eventually we trudged up to our B&B – The Most Southerly House. And it is. More criticism of the National Trust was voiced to us, which has apparently been doing its utmost for years to chivvy out the couple who live there. Our accommodation, however, was not in the Most Southerly House, but in its annex – a little separate building with its own facilities. Andy loved it, as a unique place with its own sofa. Lisa could have done with the comforts of a conventional, upmarket B&B this evening. We had cooking facilities, usually ideal, but couldn’t use them as the trudge back into Lizard town unearthed no shops. So it was chips and another can of lemonade shandy each, seasoned with the excitement of watching the lighthouse beams rake across the headland, but diluted by the extremely heavy rain that caught us as we headed back to the B&B with our chips.

At breakfast the next day we found ourselves in a room that appeared to have been got as the owners liked it sometime in the early 60s, and that had remained unchanged since. It’s got a radiogram, and two stuffed, formerly living foxes. Down with minimalism!