Walk - Coverack and Black Head
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park in Coverack drop down to the seafront and turn right, to walk past the harbour and pick up the South West Coast Path around the headland.
Before you leave the car park, pause a moment to read the interpretation board about the local geology. It is worth detouring to the beach en route to the harbour to see some of the spectacular rocks on display on the foreshore. These include a fossil Moho, one of only three places in Britain where one can be seen. This is the junction between the Earth's upper mantle of serpentine and its lower crust of gabbro. Both were once molten rock, and as they cooled they fossilised into the large lumps of rock you can see embedded in the beach.
At the bottom of an ancient sea known as the Rheic Ocean, about 30° south of the equator, some 375 million years ago, the molten rock which became the Lizard was forced through the Earth's crust from about 10 kilometres below. The enormous pressure of these eruptions brought up a complete slice of all the rocks on the way up, from the mantle to the crust. Over the next 80 million years, tremendous earth movements caused the two supercontinents separated by the Rheic Ocean to close the gap between them. The ocean disappeared and the Lizard was bulldozed onto the tail of what became Cornwall. The new North America/Asia continent formed by the fusion of these two continents began to move north, crossing the Equator 250 million years ago and arriving in its present location just before the last Ice Age flooded the English Channel and separated Britain from the rest of Europe. One of the rocks thrust up from beneath the crust was peridotite, which is rich in iron and magnesium. As it passed through the crust and onto the Lizard it was changed into serpentine, the beautiful rock of many colours for which the Lizard is famous (see the Cadgwith & Poltesco Walk).
- Follow the Coast Path to Chynhalls Point. Detour to the left to visit the promontory fort across its tip.
Chynhalls Point was the site of one of many promontory forts, or cliff castles, built around the coast of Devon and Cornwall during the Iron Age, about two thousand years ago. These structures made use of the defensive properties of headlands like Chynhalls Point, taking advantage of the steep cliffs to protect the fort from the sea while building banks and ditches across the neck of the promontory to defend it on the landward side. The remains of the ramparts at Chynhalls Point have recently been exposed by the National Trust, who also introduced grazing to control the scrub. As a result, it is an important habitat for some of the rare and beautiful plants for which the Lizard is renowned. Look out for the vibrant lilac flowers of bloody cranesbill, the yellow-flowered camomile that forms a soft carpet underfoot, blue spring squill and the spectacular scarlet thyme broomrape.
For a further fascinating detour, follow the path uphill at Chynhalls Point, bearing left and left again at the top to follow the footpath into the sculpture fields at Trewillis. Carry on through the sculpture park, dropping downhill beyond to rejoin the Coast Path above Chynhalls Cliff, turning right to carry on along the main route.
Access to the sculpture park is year-round and free. Please treat the pieces on display with respect. There are usually about 25 pieces in place, depending upon Coventry's other commitments. Internationally renowned, he has exhibits of his work on every continent, and his studio is here at Trewillis. Following three years at Stourbridge School of Art, Coventry did two years' national service before continuing his studies at the Royal College of Art. After this he spent two decades farming in West Cornwall while raising a family, before returning to sculpture in 1985. Recent commissions include pieces for the Bugatti Foundation in Arles, Soho Square in London and the Schiffer Sculpture Foundation in Philadelphia. Largely depicting birds or people, Coventry's recurring themes in the sculpture park seem to be balance and power.
- If you choose not to take the route up the hillside into the sculpture garden, continue along the Coast Path along Chynhalls Cliff, ignoring all the small paths uphill to the right (unless you want to climb higher for better views. All the paths return to the Coast Path at 4, ahead).
- Carry on along the Coast Path to Black Head.
- From Black Head continue along the Coast Path above Dinas Cove ('Castle Cove') and around Pedn Boar ('Swollen Headland') to the next cove at Beagles Hole.
- At Beagles Hole a footpath heads inland. Turn right on this path and follow it above the stream and then alongside the hedge, carrying on ahead along the track to Treleaver.
- At Treleaver follow the track around the left-hand side of the buildings to take the footpath through the first field on the right, following the left-hand hedge to go through the far boundary into the large field ahead. Continue straight across this field to come out through the far hedge onto a road.
Half a mile to the north west, the Lizard Ales brewery occupies the upper storey of an old nuclear bunker. RAF Treleaver was a semi-sunken Ground Control Intercept Rotor Radar Station, part of a communications network designed for the interception of potential enemy aircraft, and it was scheduled for completion in 1953 and fully operational by 1956. It closed in 1958, however, when it was bought by the owner of the surrounding land and used to store farm machinery.
- Turn left on the road, forking right a moment later to follow this road past the buildings at Trewillis. Take the footpath through the first field on the right after the buildings and follow it to the far hedge, going through to follow the left-hand hedge of the next field, going into the field on the left just before the trees and carrying on in the same direction to the far corner. Follow the right-hand hedge of the next two fields to the road.
- Carry straight on along the road ahead, past the youth hostel, to come out on the road by the harbour at 2. Turn left here to return to the car park at the start of the walk.
Tea shop, shop, ice creams and pub at Coverack.