The beaches of Cornwall are very popular with English visitors from the northern counties as well as overseas visitors. Some, like Port Isaac, have been made too famous by TV shows such as Doc Martin. Others, like St Ives, are now famous as artist colonies. And still others are fishing villages, such as Padstow, which TV chef Rick Stein has made famous. In summer, they are all filled with tourists.
Today, there are many more tourists in Padstow than when I was there in 1986. Now, the village shops are all cafes and souveneir shops. Now, pleasure yachts fill the harbour with many fewer of the working fishing boats. It has lost its allure for me, although, judging by the number of tourists, it’s still a big drawcard for many. We were looking for something further off the beaten track.
Perhaps the most famous of all Cornish tourist destinations is Land’s End. It’s always packed with tourists and, even back in 1986, there was not a lot of the natural beauty left to be enjoyed. It’s become something of a fairground. I would not go there again.
We sought a quiet place to enjoy the weekend and found Sennan Cove, only a short distance north from Land’s End. It’s a place left in peace by the tourist buses which would find it very difficult to make their way down the narrow, twisting, steep road to the cove. And, anyway, there’s not a lot for a busload of tourists to do… it’s just a peaceful beach. It was perfect for us!
When we arrived, the sea was calm and there were just a few people on the beach enjoying that peace.
Patches of seaside daisies held their faces up to the warm afternoon sun.
Some daisies even grew into an electrical box by the edge of the road!
Our home away from home for the weekend was the Old Success Inn, built in the 1600s and, in some ways, it still felt like that. It was a bit of a rabbit warren of rooms with bits added to the original building over the centuries. This was the Inn where David slept on the floor because the bed was so soft he thought that it would cave in and smother him! At least the floor was better for his back. We enjoyed our time there; the staff were friendly, the pub food was better than most pubs and the location was just right.
Sennan Cove is a tiny village with just a couple of shops and cafe. A few small, old style fishing boats were pulled up in the shelter of the long slip way for the rescue boat. This is one of the most treacherous areas on Britain’s coastline (and there are quite a few of those). The life boat station was established here in 1853 and people have been rescued from the unpredictable sea here ever since.
It was not always thus… for many centuries, rescue was not always uppermost in the minds of locals. This area was renowned in times past for the many shipwrecks that, in the view of the locals of the time, provided food and clothing for the poor. It’s said that donkeys were used to carry lanterns across the cliff tops to fool seamen and create many ship wrecks in and around this rocky cove. Looking out across some of the beach rocks it’s possible to see a couple of the dangers that lurk in these waters not too far from shore. And there are many other rocks unseen beneath the waters. The list of ship wrecks is a long one.
Smuggling was another well known, and dangerous, part of local life in these parts, in times past. They got away with much at Sennan Cove because the Revenue men were mostly busy patrolling the villages and coves on the other side of Cornwall, the side closer to France and with usually better sea conditions. Stories of smugglers and their close calls with the law abound in books about Cornish coastal life. They have become akin to Australia’s bushranger stories and just as much romanticised, when the facts were, in reality, very brutal for those who took part. But for the desperately poor villagers of Cornwall, smuggling often made survival possible.
There are a few houses tucked in between the beach front and the steep cliff. This one has an iron bar attached just below the roof to make sure that the thatch roof isn’t disturbed by delivery trucks, or the local double decker bus, when they turn on the quay side. This is a no through road and a tight turn is a must. As with any coastal area, the sea salt has made the iron turn to rust, thus adding a visual warning presence to the side of the house.
There are no gardens as such here but there’s an occasional mallow plant.
The path up the hill to the south of the village is adorned with blackberries.
Weed they may be in Australia, but here they provide delicious berries –
and very attractive small flowers.
David climbed to the top of the cliff. Looking north along the coast it’s easy to see that Sennen Cove is well placed for walks along the Cornish coastal path. Apart from the wonderfully rugged coastal scenery to be enjoyed along the way, there are many ancient sites to see as well as relics from the once thriving tin and copper mining industry. We would search for those old mine workings next day.
Wild flowers, like this Thrift, add to the beauty of the area.
A mix of Silene and Thrift makes a pretty, natural rock garden.
Lichen on the rocks adds a dash of bright colour.
I wonder how long this rock has been balancing on the cliff edge…
and how long it will stay there!
Looking south along the cliffs gave an idea of the terrain that was mined for tin and copper.
Watching the sun dropping lower in the sky across the Atlantic Ocean was a good way to end this day.
By next morning, however, the blue sky had vanished along with the calm sea. It was raining and exceedingly cold. The miners of old had had to endure many a day like this, so we would continue with our plan to seek out some of the old mine workings along the coast. Perhaps the unpleasant weather would add to our understanding of the way the miners and their families had lived.
More of that anon
Jennie and David
Photography Copyright © JT and DY of jtdytravels