Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Mullion Cove to Porthleven (South West Coast Path 57)

Mullion Harbour

We set out from Mullion harbour, which offers a great view out to sea with Mullion Island and the great rock called The Vro to the right and left respectively. We climbed up to the cliff top and soon had a view of Polurrian Cove beyond a jagged rock.

A bit further on we encountered the Marconi monument.

The first transatlantic radio transmission was sent from the nearby Poldu radio station in 1901. The memorial was erected by the Marconi Company in 1937 soon after the station was demolished. Poldu was chosen initially as a remote location which would prevent Marconi's experiments gaining any press or public attention.

As we turned Poldhu Point, a new coastline opened up with larger, less rocky coves than we had seen before and more sandy beaches.

The first of these was Poldu Cove (why the different spelling?). Ange had fond memories of coming here as a child and it seems little changed. We walked round the back of the beach and climbed up the other side back onto the cliff to find our way round to the strangely named Church Cove.

According to Pevsner (using the excellent newly published revised second edition of his volume on Cornwall) the church of St Gunwalloe probably dates from the 13th century, and was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th and restored in the 19th. It is a remarkably picturesque location.

The adjacent Gunwalloe beach was a much more rocky affair.

We turned a headland to walk along Halzephron Cliff. It was dark and gloomy now and coming on to rain. By the time we reached the start of Porthleven Sands at Gunwalloe Fishing Cove, it was quite wet, but the long sandy expanse stretched impressively away from us. It seems that it is dangerous to swim along here and no doubt this explains why it is so underdeveloped.

Once we were about halfway to Loe Bar the rain had stopped and I took this view back into the sun.

The next major milestone was Loe Bar, where a wide mound of sand and shingle separates the sea from Loe Pool. This was a ria, or drowned river valley - a geographical feature we have met a few times on the South West Coast, notably at Helford and Kingsbridge . It is now Cornwall's largest freshwater lake into which flows the River Cober. The bar seems to be at least 700 and possibly many thousands of years old.

Another mile brought us to Porthleven, where the waves were already high enough to create some spray off the end if the breakwater.

We walked along by Porthleven's well-defended harbour: apart from the breakwater, there is an outer harbour and giant planks are apparently used to close the mouth of the inner harbour. These were not proof against February's gale force winds.

This is the view from the end of the harbour. The imposing building in the distance is the Bickford Smith Institute built in 1882 as a scientific institute and library. It is now the Town Hall.

For the third day running we saw a Peregrine - in fact today there were two sightings, one at Poldu Cove and the other above Portleven Sands. I also saw a Large Skipper for the first time this year. 

Conditions: warm and reasonably sunny, with a period of rain in the middle.

Grading: Moderate.

Distance: 7.1 miles (distance now covered 342.7 miles).

Map: Explorer 103 (The Lizard).

Rating: four stars.

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