Maernporth to Bream Cove: a short early autumn walk

Knapweed seedheads, coastal path

Earlier this week I was passing through Maernporth on a cool, somewhat damp, early autumn day. On a whim, I decided to park and have a short walk along the coastal path, southwards towards Bream Cove.

Maernporth Beach (photo: Amanda Scott)
Maernporth Beach (photo: Amanda Scott)

I wasn’t expecting to see much, but wanted to get some sea air into my lungs.

I was surprised! There were quite a few plants blooming – Yarrow, Betony, Rock Samphire, and Scentless Mayweed peeking out from among the grasses – and some gorgeous seedheads, including the Knapweed in the photograph at the top of this post and fluffy Hemp Agrimony.

Scentless Mayweed (photo: Amanda Scott)
Scentless Mayweed (photo: Amanda Scott)

There were also insects out and about, despite the grey coolness of the day.

Fox Moth caterpillar (photo: Amanda Scott). This furry chappy ambled to and fro across the path, and ended up pretty much where he started! Thanks to Sally Luker for identifying the species for me.
Fox Moth caterpillar. This furry chappy ambled to and fro across the path, and ended up pretty much where it started! Thanks to Sally Luker for identifying the species for me (photo: Amanda Scott).
Speckled Wood butterfly perching (photo: Amanda Scott). Presumably a male
Speckled Wood butterfly perching. Second brood individuals of this species can be seen into October. They prefer to feed on aphid honeydew, but later in the year can often be seen nectaring on brambles, when the honeydew is more scarce (photo: Amanda Scott).

There were also some great rock formations to be seen, both on the macro scale in the cliff faces, and closer up as the eye followed quartz intrusions snaking their way through the layers in rock pools.

Rocks, Maernporth Beach (photo: Amanda Scott)
Rocks, Maernporth Beach (photo: Amanda Scott)
Quartz intrusions at Bream Cove (photo: Amanda Scott)
Quartz intrusions at Bream Cove (photo: Amanda Scott)

I did spend a while ambling about through the rock pools and sands of Bream Cove. This is quite a wide cove – I walked down to it opposite the National Trust’s land at Nansidwell, onto a small beach called Woodlands Beach (also called Nansidwell Beach). It was amazingly quiet, with only another couple of people. I didn’t find anything spectacular in the rock pools, though there were quite a few small splashes and mad dashes into the seaweed, so something was there!

All in all, a lovely short walk, and I’m glad I made the effort. There are longer walks incorporating this stretch, including this circular route, for example. It just goes to show, it’s worth getting out, even on a greyish mizzly day.

Maernporth Beach

A Red Admiral weekend

Friday just gone was a day of Small Tortoiseshells. My garden in West Cornwall was visited by tens of them enjoying a late summer feast on the buddleia – I was glad I hadn’t pruned it back already.

But then Saturday and today, Sunday, there was barely a Small Tortoiseshell in sight. Instead the garden was full of the striking beauty of several Red Admirals, again nectaring on the buddleia, but also seeking out ivy flowers and late summer bramble.

Red Admiral (photo: Amanda Scott)
Red Admiral (photo: Amanda Scott)

Butterflies seem so delicate, it is easy to forget that several species accomplish great feats of migration. The strong-flying Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) may have a small resident population in the south of the UK, but most of those we see each year have arrived from Europe and North Africa. The females lay eggs (usually on common nettle (Urtica dioica)) and UK-bred butterflies emerge from about July, but their numbers are swelled by several further waves of immigration during the summer. You can see them as late as October, occasionally later.

Our winters are generally too cold for this species to survive overwintering, possibly apart from the warmer south of the country (including Cornwall). Many adults will therefore attempt a southward migration as the weather cools. On a wildlife boat cruise out of Falmouth recently, while I was of course thrilled by the sunfish and porpoises, I was also delighted to see two Red Admirals a fair way out from shore, determinedly heading south away from the coast.

I hope they made it.

English: Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalan...
Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) feeding on Buddleia davidii (photo: Wikipedia)