Walk - Sennen, Bosistow & Nanjizal
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 harbour car park in Sennen Cove walk past the RNLI shop. Turn right onto Stone Chair Lane and walk uphill to the road.
Sennen Cove still has a small fishing fleet and a few pleasure boats, but it does not offer anchorage to sailors from elsewhere, because of the dangers posed by the frequent heavy swells. The rocky headland at Land's End divides the Atlantic ocean from the English Channel, which makes the sea particularly turbulent in windy weather. Victorian artist John Ruskin described it as ‘an entire disorder of the surges’. Combined with the numerous submerged rocks and islets, this makes the area a treacherous place for shipping, and in ancient times sailors would walk overland from Padstow to Fowey rather than risk the sea passage (see the Lankelly & Menabilly Walk).
Beyond the Kettle’s Bottom rocks, about a mile to the west of Land’s End, there are several small islands, known as The Longships. Although most of them are submerged except at low tide, the three largest – Tal-y-Maen, Carn Bras, and Meinek – remain above the high water mark at all states of the tide.
On 30th June, 1791, Trinity House gave a lease to Lieutenant Henry Smith by which he would erect a lighthouse on the Longships, and which fixed the rental at £100 and the term as 50 years. A tower was soon established on Carn Bras, the largest of the Longships Rocks. The circular tower, designed by Trinity House architect Samuel Wyatt, had three storeys. The lightkeepers used the top storey as a bedroom under the wood and copper lantern. The lantern held 18 parabolic metal reflectors. None shone towards the land, as metal sheets blocked the windows in that direction. Soon after lighting the tower on 29th September, 1795, Smith was declared "incapable of managing the concern" and Trinity House took it over. The lightkeepers on the Longships led a primitive existence, cooking their meals in the lantern by the Argand lamps. The lighthouse was manned by four men, two of whom were on duty at any one time, working one month at a stretch. They received £30 per annum and free food at the lighthouse, but when ashore they provided for themselves.
The islet is just 12 metres above sea level, however, and, during storms, the base of the 24-metre the tower was often underwater that Henry Smith’s tower was replaced by the present grey granite circular tower built by Sir James Douglass, Trinity House engineer, in 1875. The present tower is 35 metres high, 35 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light and red lights isophase every 10 seconds and can be seen for 15 nautical miles. Its fog signal can sound once every 10 seconds.
- Carry on up the lane opposite, passing the house on the left to pick up the footpath heading into the field behind. Bear left past the hedge and then right shortly afterwards, going through the wall to take the lane ahead through the fields to the road at Mayon.
Mayon has been an important place throughout history, with its strategic views over Land's End, and archaeologists have found evidence of settlements and fields systems here dating right back to Neolithic (Late Stone Age) times. Prehistoric remains include cairns from the Neolithic Age and the Bronze Age which followed it, a cliff castle and hut circles from the later Iron Age and Romano British periods. There are also various remnants of the medieval settlement that existed here. First recorded in 1284, Mayon was spelt 'Mahon', a name derived from the Cornish word 'maen', meaning 'stone'.
- Turn briefly left, crossing the road to pass to the left of Mayon Farm. Bear left between the buildings to pick up the footpath through the field ahead, walking alongside the left-hand hedge. At the far end of the field go through the hedge into the field to the left, turning right to go through the next hedge. Carry straight on ahead along the track, crossing the next one to go through the hedge and into another field. The footpath follows the left-hand hedge, continuing straight across the field when the hedge turns left and then following the right-hand hedge in the next field to the far right-hand corner. Stay beside the left-hand hedge of the next two fields and continue straight ahead across the third, to come out on a small road.
In the first field behind Mayon Farm, there is a medieval wayside cross, which is a scheduled monument. The cross, about a metre high, stands in a small section of hedge preserved in the middle of the field. One face is etched with a cross extending down the shaft.
Two fields away, to the north east, there is another wheel-headed cross, with a latin cross in relief on both sides. It was discovered in 1973, being built into the foundations of a hedge that was being removed.
- Turn left on the road and pick up the footpath ahead as the road turns left. Continuing ahead on the lane, take the footpath along the green lane on the right at the left-hand bend by the wireless station. Follow the lane around to the right and on to the farm at Trengothal.
- Follow the lane through the farm, heading right with it afterwards to take the footpath on the right opposite the cottage. The footpath makes its way around three fields to head due south to Trebehor. At the end of the green lane go out onto the road beyond the buildings.
Trebehor, too, was first recorded in 1284, and has a medieval wayside cross near the farmhouse (which is itself a listed building, as are the buildings around it). This cross has a crucifixion on one face and a Latin cross on the other.
- Cross the road to carry on along the footpath opposite, heading for the far left-hand corner of the field, to come out on the road at Polgigga. Turn left on the road and walk to the crossroads.
- At the crossroads take the road on the right and walk to Bosistow Farm.
- At the farm turn left to continue to Higher Bosistow.
- At Nanjizal House bear right, forking right a moment later onto the bridleway past Nanjizal, bearing left at the drive to the house to come out on the South West Coast Path.
- Turn right on the Coast Path, detouring left to visit the secluded beach at Nanjizal, but otherwise continuing around the rocky coastline above Nanjizal Bay and on to Land's End.
Land’s End is associated with the mythical Cornish land of Lyonesse, believed by some to be the fabled lost world of Atlantis (see the Lost Land of Lyonesse Walk).
The granite around Land's End was formed some 275 million years ago. If you look closely at the boulders, you will see that they contain very large white feldspar crystals. This is a sign that the magma (molten rock forced up from from within the Earth's crust) cooled down very slowly after it was intruded through the older rocks already here. It is because of the mineralisation of the rocks during this process that Cornwall was such an important mining area. The county was renowned for its tin, even as long ago as the Bronze Age, and during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries its copper made it a world leader in the mineral industry. Lead, zinc and silver were also mined in the county, and china clay, still one of Cornwall's main industries, was originally formed from granite.
The granite coastline around Penwith is the most spectacular of its type in Britain, with its towering buttresses and large rectangular blocks. As massive breakers are hurled at the cliffs by the mighty swell of the Atlantic, the compression that results from the impact forces air and water into lines of weakness in the rock. Over time this sculpts the cliffs into caves, fissures, blowholes, and the gullies known locally as 'zawns'.
- Carry on past the buildings at Land's End, continuing around the headlands beyond and back down into Sennen Cove where the walk began.
The first headland is known as 'Dr Johnson's Head'. In 1755 Dr Samuel Johnson wrote the first Cornish Declaration of Independence, reasserting the county's rights to self-government created by King John. In 1201 the Plantagenet king granted a charter to the tin miners of Cornwall and Devon, acknowledging their 'just and ancient customs and liberties'. This later led to the establishment of the Cornish Stannary Parliament.
The next headland is named after a cartoon schoolmaster published in Rudolph Ackerman’s 'Poetical Magazine' between 1809 and 1820. The adventures of Dr Syntax as he went in search of 'the Tour', 'Consolation' and 'A Wife' were written in verse by Dr William Combe and illustrated by the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson.
The last headland before Sennen Cove is Pedn-mên-du ('Black Stone Headland'). As you approach it you pass Maen Castle, an Iron Age cliff castle, or promontory fort, some 2,000 years old. On the rocks beneath it are the remains of the RMS Mulheim, which was wrecked in the bay below and broke in two before the swell drove it into the inlet here at Castle Zawn.
In Sennen Cove and Land's End