Walk - Penzance to St Ives - Day 4

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

If you are coming from Penzance by bus to continue on this walk then the First in Devon & Cornwall Bus 1A takes about 40 minutes to reach Treen.

  1. From the Gurnard's Head Hotel walk seawards down the small road to Treen and at the end take the left-hand fork to pick up the footpath on the left which leads through the fields to Chapel Jane and Gurnard's Head. When the path reaches the South West Coast Path turn right. Follow it around Treen Cove and on past the disused mine to skirt around the front of the fields beyond.

West Penwith has been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area, covering over 9000 hectares of wild moorland, extensively farmed grasslands, sheltered valleys and coastal cliffs.

Managed by the Rural Development Service, Environmentally Sensitive Areas are designed to protect traditional farming landscapes considered to be at risk. Participating farmers receive grants to maintain and enhance the landscape, heritage and wildlife. Key to this are using cattle to graze rough areas and maintaining existing field patterns. Some of these fields were in existence 5000 years ago and are considered to be the world's oldest man-made structures still in continuous use.

Capital payments are made to encourage farmers to rebuild Cornish hedges, restore traditional buildings, protect archaeological sites and restore habitats such as coastal heathland and maritime grassland. Something like 90% of the eligible area is being protected in this way under the voluntary scheme.

The entire coastal strip is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a wide diversity of rare plants, animals and birds, some of them nationally rare species. The exposed granite cliffs along the coast encourage wildflowers like thrift and sea aster in their crevices and stonecrop and kidney vetch on their outcrops. Seabirds such as fulmar, shag and kittiwakes nest around them.

On the grassy slopes, wild carrot, sea campion and ox-eye daisy thrive in the salt-laden air. Wild thyme and bird's-foot trefoil thrive in the heathland above. Bluebells provide a splash of colour on the thin soil between the gorse and bracken. Heather runs riot in a blaze of purple in the summer months. Rare snails and beetles live among them, while nationally scarce butterflies such as silver-studded blue and pearl-bordered fritillary flutter above.

These are good nesting grounds for smaller birds, such as stonechat, whitethroat and sedge warbler. The disused mines provide a home for bats and peregrines as ravens wheel overhead. Sometimes you can even spot a chough, Cornwall's adopted bird, once almost extinct but now making a comeback thanks to conservation work.

Down in the coves, limpets and barnacles are plentiful on the rocks. Grey seals breed along here, with haul-out sites on the offshore islands, where they can be seen on the rocks at low tide.

  1. Rounding Boswednack Cliff the Coast Path continues around Porthglaze Cove. It then heads out around Carnelloe Long Rock before pulling back up around the old mine workings on the headland. The Path then heads inland again, curves north east and crosses the tops of Carnelloe and Trewey Cliffs. Crossing the stream on Trewey Cliff, climb steeply to a T-junction on the path at the top and turn left to carry on towards Zennor Head.

A detour to the right takes you to Zennor. Here the Norman church stands on the site of a sixth century Celtic church. It is famous for its carved medieval bench-end depicting the Mermaid of Zennor. In good mermaid tradition she enticed a local lad into the sea, and he was never seen again. The bronze dial on the south side of the church tower shows her with an inscription dated 1737.

On the windswept moorland above the village are the Zennor and Sperris Quoits, two Neolithic (Late Stone Age) chambered tombs topped by massive granite slabs. These are just a couple of the thousands of prehistoric mouments which litter the peninsula among the rocky outcrops. They are of international importance.

  1. The path divides as you approach the headland, the right-hand fork is a shortcut (with a diversion to the trig point), meeting the main path above Porthzennor Cove, beyond. Carry on along the Coast Path as it travels high and then drops low, through more relics of the tin mining industry, along the edges of another tract of patchwork fields.
  2. The path leading inland by the stream above River Cove heads up to Trevail Mill (also known as Treveal Mill). This is, a seventeenth-century corn mill which is a listed building. A number of footpaths in this area link farms and mines, as well as roads and campsites.

After Treveal Cliff, once more the path drops to a stream in the valley, only to climb steeply the other side and make its way over the top of Carn Naun Point. It reaches another trig point at Trevega Cliff. Again it drops on the far side of the headland and makes its way through another rock-strewn foreland to pass across the neck of Pen Enys Point.

Rosewall Hill , above you, is another stretch of remote moorland. It is a site where the layers of history peel back to prehistoric times, with quoits and cairns dotted among medieval fields and dwellings. The whole area is overlaid with the pits, shafts and chimneys of the nineteenth-century Rosewall Hill and Ransome United tin mine.

  1. There are paths heading out around Hor Point, but the Coast Path continues straight ahead. At Hellesveor we are approaching the outskirts of our final destination, St Ives. Rounding Clodgy point, at last our path begins its final descent towards the town. It passes around the front of Carrick Du and drops to Porthmeor Beach. Walk across the beach, or carry on along Beach Road, past the Tate, to come to the town centre. Detour to St Ives Head to round off your walk, or head straight into the town.

St Ives is a vivid splash of colour and warmth after a hike through the remote and rugged coastline from Penzance. St Ives is one of the jewels in the crown of Cornish holidays, with crystal-clear turquoise waters lapping on golden sands and a sub-tropical climate, brought courtesy of the Gulf Stream, which provides the perfect environment for lush displays of exotic plants.

For generations its pure air and bright light have drawn artists. The area is full of galleries, studios and workshops. Allow time to visit the Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Stroll around the granite quays of the harbour, where fishing boats still bring in today's catch. This is the hub of the town. Narrow cobbled streets radiate from here, lined with white-washed fishermen's cottages in picturesque terraces.

There is a huge selection of cafés, bistros, restaurants, pubs and inns. If al fresco is more your style, visit one of the many bakeries specialising in local delicacies such as saffron cake and the world-famous Cornish pasty.

When you have finished exploring St Ives, pick up the bus at Malakoff, on The Terrace. The First in Devon and Cornwall Bus 17 takes 40 minutes to reach Windsor Place in Penzance. The Western Greyhound 516 or First in Devon and Cornwall Bus 17A goes to Penzance Bus Station and takes 40-45 minutes.

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