Walk - Mousehole & Kemyel from Lamorna Cove

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

  1. Coming out of Lamorna Cove car park, with your back to the sea, turn right before the houses to pick up the South West Coast Path as it heads out around the cove and on to Kemyel Point. From here it passes through heathland and into the low trees and bushes of the Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve.

Lelant-born author Rosamunde Pilcher set many of her novels in Cornwall, and they have been extensively adapted for stage and screen. Lamorna Cove provided some of the breathtaking Cornish scenery for the filming of four of her stories – 'The Empty House', 'Another View', 'Voices In Summer' and 'Snow In April – screened by Frankfurter Filmproduktion in 1995. Pilcher was established as one of Britain's best-loved storytellers in 1987, when her novel 'The Shell Seekers' sold more than 5.5 million copies. This was also filmed in Lamorna Cove and elsewhere in Cornwall by Frankfurter, in 1989, and – combined with the runaway success of an 89-part series of Pilcher's stories screened by ZDF Television in the 1990s – this launched Pilcher as a firm favourite in Germany too. In 2002 she was awarded the OBE for services to literature.

The Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve is owned and managed by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, who bought it in 1974. The South West Coast Path splits the Reserve in two, travelling directly through it beneath a low canopy of branches which meet across the path in places, dappling it with shadows. Victorian gardeners brought in stands of Monterey pine from the central Californian coastline to plant in this exposed place to provide a little shelter. As well as being fast-growing, Monterey pine is able to tolerate the salt content of the winds blowing in from the sea. Monterey cypress, another rapid-growth evergreen from the same area, was also introduced as a windbreak.

Late in the nineteenth century fuchsia hedges were added to create small flower and potato gardens in the well-drained south-facing cliffs. These gardens were known as 'quillets' and there were more than a hundred of them. Donkeys were used to till the soil and carry seaweed up from the shoreline to fertilise it. Thanks to the mild climate, the flowers and potatoes ripened here much earlier in the season than anywhere else in Britain, and they were taken by train to market in London. As recently as the 1930s these gardens were still in production.

'Kemyel' comes from the Cornish 'ke', meaning hedge, and 'Myghal', meaning Michael. Crease means middle. Presumably it was once Michael's middle hedge!

  1. The Coast Path makes its way through the Nature Reserve close to the coast, or take the small path around the upper edge of the Reserve for views out to sea. The two paths join at the top of the Nature Reserve a little further on, to carry on along a lane to Raginnis Hill.

 'Raginnis' means 'facing an island' (St Clement's Isle, just offshore).

  1. Meeting the road to Raginnis, carry on ahead and into Mousehole.

Below you as you approach the road is Point Spaniard. During the Anglo–Spanish War in 1595, Carlos de Amésquita landed here with 400 men. Despite being posted here in adequate quantities to outnumber any potential invading party, the English militia turned tail and fled, leaving just 12 local men to repel the invaders. Their leader was Francis Godolphin, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall. Penzance was bombarded by the Spanish fleet, destroying 400 houses, and three ships were sunk. Mousehole householders fled up the hill to the church at Paul, but the Spaniards, having set fire to Mousehole and Newlyn, followed them up and set Paul alight too.

  1. At the end of Raginnis Hill, as it reaches Chapel Street, turn right down Portland Place to walk along The Wharf and around the harbour. Turn left on Fore Street and left again onto Mill Pool.

Pronounced 'mowzel', Mousehole is named after a cave the size of a (very large!) mouse, and it is famous for its Christmas lights, as well as its granite streets and the tiny harbour. The Knights of St John landed here on their return from the Holy Land during the Crusades. Poet Dylan Thomas called it the prettiest village in England, and it is thought that it could have been the inspiration for Llaregub, the fictitious village in his play 'Under Milk Wood'.

It is also the home of the Cornish delicacy, Starry Gazey pie, usually made of pilchards, eggs and potatoes beneath a pastry crust, with the fish heads and tails poking through the crust and gazing skywards. The first such pie was made just before Christmas one year in the sixteenth century, when Tom Bawcock saved the starving population by taking his boat out in storm-force winds to bring home a mammoth catch including seven different species of fish. A starry gazey pie was baked, featuring one of each kind of fish, and Tom Bawcock's Eve is still celebrated on 23rd December every year with a lantern parade.

On 19th December, the Christmas lights are switched off for an hour in memory of those who perished on that night in 1981 in the Penlee Lifeboat Disaster. A cargo-carrying coaster, the Union Star, got into difficulties after its engines failed in winds gusting at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour, eight miles east of the Wolf Rock off St Mary’s in the Scilly Isles. The Sea King helicopter, scrambled at RNAS Culdrose to go to its aid, was unable to winch anyone to safety because of the winds, and the Penlee lifeboat was launched.

With a crew of eight, including no more than one from any family as was the custom in poor weather conditions, the Solomon Browne made several futile attempts to get alongside the Union Star in the 60-foot breakers. Eventually it managed to get close enough for four people to board it from the stricken coaster, but before anyone was carried safely to shore both vessels went down with all hands. 

  1. Turn right and follow Virgin Place uphill to Cherrygarden Street. Turn right here and follow the narrow winding lane uphill, passing Treen Villas on the right and continuing to climb alongside the mill leat, coming out on Love Lane. 
  2. On Love Lane walk a few yards to the right to pick up the footpath opposite, following this through four fields to Raginnis. Turn left in front of the buildings to take the lane ahead to Raginnis Hill. Turning right briefly, go over the stile to the right of Gwillan Drea and follow the footpath to the far right-hand corner, going through to follow the path along the right-hand hedge through several fields to Kemyel Drea.

'Drea' means a settlement of some kind. 'Gwillan' means 'with views'.

  1. Going through into the farmyard, follow the drive to the left of the buildings to follow the hedge beyond, taking the narrow path to the right of the gate ahead. Bear left beyond to follow the footpath alongside the trees, carrying on ahead through the trees and the field beyond to come out on the road by Kemyel Mill House. Carry on along the road past the buildings, taking the footpath on the right just beyond, bearing right in the field to go through the gate. 
  2. Carry on ahead through the next two fields, continuing in the same direction on the road ahead, bearing right with it around Burnt Toast Cottage and carrying on along the grass lane. When the lane turns left, leave it to carry on through the gate ahead and diagonally across the field to the far left-hand corner. From here a footpath runs through the woods and out onto the road.
  3. On the road turn left. At the next junction bear left again, carrying on down the road to return to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

Lamorna and Mousehole.

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