Walk - Polmanter - Zennor
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.
This walk finishes in St. Ives. From Easter to September there is a dedicated bus service connecting our park to and from Royal Square in St Ives. This is up to hourly in the peak season dropping to a few times a day towards the end of the season.
Take the First Kernow bus 16A runs between Halsetown and Zennor (towards Penzance). The journey takes approximately 15 minutes. Please check bus timetables at www.travelinesw.com before setting off.
- From the bus stop at Zennor Turn on the B3306, head eastwards and shortly turn left down the lane with the Zennor sign. The church tower will be in front of you. At the end of the lane turn right.
At Zennor 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 the tale is told of how a beautiful, strange woman used to sit in the back of the church listening to the singing of local chorister, Matthew Trewhella. She enticed him down to Pendour Cove, along the stream. It is said you can hear them singing together on a summer's evening. The legend has inspired poetry, novel and song. The bronze dial on the south side of the church tower shows her with an inscription dated 1737.
- Follow the road between the church and the Tinner's Arms and then take the signed path to the left. This leads towards Zennor Head and the South West Coast Path.
- At the Coast Path keep going straight on towards Zennor Head. 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 a tract of patchwork fields.
Trig points, or Triangulation Points, are the remains of a huge Ordnance Survey project to map Great Britain with absolute accuracy during the mid 1930s. The location of each trig point was selected so that at least two others would be visible from it. They were workstations for the surveyor, who could attach his theodolite (an accurate protractor built into a telescope) on the top of the pillar. Accurate angles between pairs of nearby trigpoints could then be measured. The use of Trig points have today been superseded by aerial photography and satellite mapping, Tregerthen Cliffs, owned by the National Trust, was home to the novelist D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda during World War One. The whole of West Penwith has been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area, covering over 9000 hectares of wild moorland, extensively farmed grasslands, sheltered valleys and coastal cliffs.
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 here is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a wide diversity of rare plants, animals and birds. Some of them are 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 silverstudded blue and pearl-bordered fritillary flutter above.
These are good nesting grounds for smaller birds, such as stonechat, whitethroat and sedge warbler. 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. Hauling-out is the behaviour associated with seals, when they temporarily leave the water between periods of foraging activity.
- After Treveal Cliff, at River Cove the path drops to a stream in the valley, only to climb steeply the other side. Keeping on the South West Coast Path, it makes its way over the top of Carn Naun Point, reaching 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.
- There are paths heading out around Hor Point, but the Coast Path continues straight ahead.
- At Hellesveor Cliff we are approaching the outskirts of our 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 towards Porthmeor Beach.
- Follow Beach Road, past The Tate, along The Digey and Fore Street. Cross the Market Place, turning right up Bedford Road until you turn left into Chapel Street. At the end of Chapel Street, you will reach the bus stop in Royal Square.
Either catch the Polmanter site bus or the First Kernow 16 back to Polmanter.