Friday 3 June 2016
St Ives to Zennor
Mary’s house (Lyn’s friend)
The sky was grey when I got up and my tent was wet in the still morning. I left everything and headed down the hill into St Ives to wander around without the crowds. This town had a much busier feel about it and was the first place I’d been in a while that had some movement at 8 am. A few bakeries and shops were opening, the street cleaners were out and the day had begun for more people than I normally see before 10 am.
St Ives has lots of tiny little streets, crammed with shops and art galleries, and plenty of cobbles. Despite its huge popularity, which has a lot to do with The Tate Gallery (closed for refurbishment until 2017), it still maintains a certain artistic charm.
I bought myself a coffee and a croissant and headed onto The Island (St Ives Head) to sit on a bench overlooking the bay. The sky was slowing becoming bluer and it felt hot already. I was amused to see a cluster of 3 families already with tents and windbreaks pitched on the small beach below The Island; perhaps they’d been there all night?
Colin and John were manning the Coastwatch Lookout Station on St Ives Head and I chatted to them while they monitored the comings and goings of the boats around the harbour. It was the busiest Lookout Station I’d been in. It turned out that Colin was the manager of the Cornwall Rugby Team that had won the County Championship at Twickenham last weekend; he had the trophy with him as well.
It was about 10.30 when I left The Island, walking past the Chapel of St Nicholas. There was a plaque saying a chapel had stood on the site “from time immemorial”, until 1904 when it was partially destroyed on the orders of the War Office and rebuilt in 1911.
It was a steep walk back up the hill to the campsite. I packed away and went for another coffee in the cafe overlooking St Ives Head as I had a couple of cards to write and needed to charge my phone.
It was almost midday when I finally set off along the cliff for Zennor. It was a very rugged 3 hour walk.
As ever, the colours of the sea were amazing. The cliff was different. It was almost as though a giant had taken handfuls of boulders and thrown them at the cliffs.
To walk this path one needed to be able to clamber over rocks and weave in and out of boulders. It was hard going but the scenery made it very rewarding.
This part of the coast path seemed very popular and I passed lots of people, many of whom were finding the walk a bit challenging. The heat probably didn’t help.
Zennor Head has a small plaque on a rock to say it was gifted to the National Trust in 1953; I imagine it’s the same as it was then.
I walked into Zennor and headed straight into the church to check out the Mermaid’s Chair. In the Middle Ages, in Cornwall, the mermaid was used as a symbol to explain the two natures of Christ; she was both human and fish as he was both man and God. Before the Christian Era mermaids were one of the symbols for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and the sea.
I popped into the Tinners Arms for a much needed drink as I was very hot and sweaty. It gave me a chance to check out the story of the Mermaid of Zennor, who lured a local man to the sea. They upset King Neptune and so he laid a curse on the Cornish cliffs that led to many shipwrecks and lives lost. An upbeat story.
Walking to Mary’s house it was clear to see the ancient field system around here, with small fields bounded by stone hedges. Most of the land is protected from being built upon and so the landscape and the villages don’t change. It is a lovely place.