Walk - Lamorna & The Kemyel Nature Reserve
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- In Lamorna Cove turn left above the car park (facing the sea) and 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 low trees and bushes.
'Kemyel 'is derived from the Cornish 'ke', meaning hedge, and 'Myghal', meaning Michael. Crease means middle.
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.
- The Coast Path makes its way through the Nature Reserve close to the coast. You can 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).
- Just after you have passed the first farm building on your right, about half a mile ahead, a footpath heads through the small paddock on your left. Take this path and turn left through the paddock, aiming for the far right-hand corner as you turn towards Lamorna again. From here the path heads rightwards, uphill along the hedge, to the far right-hand corner again. Going through into the next field, once more the path travels to the far right-hand corner.
Below you as you join this footpath 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. They left just 12 local men to repel the invaders. Francis Godolphin, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall was the leader of the 12. 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, above, but the Spaniards, having set fire to Mousehole and Newlyn, followed them up and set Paul alight too.
Beyond Point Spaniard is Mousehole, pronounced 'mowzel', named after a cave the size of a (very large!) Mouse. It is famous for its Christmas lights, 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. It is usually made of pilchards, eggs and potatoes beneath a pastry crust. The fish heads and tails poke through the crust and gaze 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. It was 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, so 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.
Here another path joins from Raginnis Hill, travelling along the top hedge. Follow the path along the top right-hand hedge of the next few fields to Kemyel Drea.
'Drea' means a settlement of some kind. 'Gwillan' means 'with views'.
- Going through into the farmyard, follow the drive to the left of the buildings. Continue along 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.
- 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 a footpath leaves on the right, carry on ahead on the lane, around a left-hand bend From here a footpath zigzags downhill to Lamorna. Turn left here to return to the car park.