Walk - Kynance Cove & Lizard Village
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.
- In the National Trust car park at Kynance Cove take the path through the left-hand field to pick up the South West Coast Path at the far end of the field. Follow it around above Pentreath Beach to Caerthillian Cove.
Here the rock is 'bastite' serpentine, coarse-grained and flecked with large shiny crystals. This was subjected to less pressure on its journey from below, and so it is closer to its original form.
- Immediately before you descend to Caerthillian Cove a path leaves on the left. Take this across the grassland, ignoring the good path on your left to take the path that zigzags downhill. Turn left at the bottom and follow the valley inland, turning sharply right onto the lane climbing steeply towards Lizard village. Carry on ahead along Pentreath Lane, past the houses into the village.
- From Lizard Green follow the fingerpost signed towards Caerthilian and Kynance to return to Pentreath Lane, retracing your steps past the playing field on the left. Take the footpath on the right at the end of the playing field, forking left a moment later to follow the hedge alongside the field and into the copse beyond. Carry on ahead through the grassland to the road.
There were once two serpentine quarries here. This rock was formed deep below the Earth's crust, in its mantle, some 10 kilometres underground. Enormous pressures, caused by Earth movements, thrust the rock upwards to create an ocean ridge south of the equator. These then bulldozed it onto the southern tip of Britain, which had been a separate landmass until then (see the Kennack Sands and Kuggar Walk). The same pressure and tremendous heat transformed the rock into the two types of serpentine to be seen around the Lizard peninsula today. Brightly coloured and highly ornamental, serpentine is fairly soft, making it easy to work, and it was quarried in several locations around the Lizard. Queen Victoria, visiting Penzance in 1846, ordered several serpentine ornaments for her house on the Isle of Wight. As a result the local serpentine business became a boom industry. There was an extensive serpentine factory on the shoreline at Poltesco, the remains of which have recently been restored (see the Cadgwith & Poltesco Walk).
In the second half of the nineteenth century the railway arrived in Cornwall. Other visitors followed the Queen's example and Kynance Cove became a very popular tourist destination. Among the Victorian visitors was 'Water Babies' author Charles Kingsley, who came here with his friend, the Reverend C.A.Johns. Kingsley was a botanist of some repute as well as a novelist, and no doubt he pointed out the many different species of plant as they strolled through these meadows. Rev Johns exclaimed: 'If I throw my hat on the ground, wherever it lands there will be at least 10 species of wild plant underneath!' Look out for a rare green-winged orchid among the celandines and ox-eye daisies, and the yellow flowers of the creeping bird's-foot trefoil, as well as the red threads of the parasitic dodder, wound around the gorse bushes.
- Continue straight ahead on the road towards Kynance Cove, taking the path on the right just after the bungalow on the corner. Follow the path across the downs and on to the road above the beach car park at Kynance.
The open ground here is one of the few areas in Britain of the rare Cornish heath. In spring and summer the bushes are brimming with songbirds such as robins, blackbirds, wrens and various warblers, with stonechats scolding from their nests. In autumn look out for whinchats, ring ouzels, black restarts and pied flycatchers.
- Ignoring the car park (unless you want to finish the walk here), turn right on the gravel path before it and follow it around above the cove, ignoring the path on the right when the road bears left but taking the path on the left to cut off the right-hand bend a short while later.
- Reaching the road again, turn left and carry on around the sharp right-hand bend to take the path on the left just beyond. This will take you down past the café and toilets to the beach.
The Cornish name for Kynance is Porth Keynans, meaning 'ravine cove'. There has been a settlement here since before the eighteenth century, and a café here from the following century.
The purply-brown rocks in the middle of the cove are formed of 'tremolite' serpentine. This banded rock has fine grains as a result of the pressure that was applied to it as it surfaced through the Earth's crust. Because it was once molten, there are no fossils in it, and it readily absorbs heat and on a sunny day can be very hot to touch. The pebbles on the beach are of different rocks - white granite and pink gneiss - which were probably brought up from the Earth's crust as the serpentine passed through.
- Cross the beach to climb the steps on the far side to return to the car park.