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

Coverack to Lowland Point – a wildflower walk in the sunshine

Heading east from Coverack on SW Coast Path

The weather has been so beautiful recently, and at long last the wildflowers are in full bloom along the Cornish coast, giving us a spectacular display. On Sunday, I decided to head off for Coverack on the east coast of The Lizard, and made my way from there along the South West Coast Path up to Lowland Point.

Coverack from the east (photo: Amanda Scott)
Coverack from the east (photo: Amanda Scott)

Coverack itself is of course a lovely coastal village and working harbour, with a very active community – see their website here for lots of information and details of events. However, this time I didn’t linger there, although after parking the car, fairly early with just me and two or three dog walkers about, I did spend a moment or two simply enjoying the salty, seaweedy smell and the sounds of the sea.

Speckled Wood butterfly - posing nicely for me on the path out of Coverack (photo: Amanda Scott)
Speckled Wood butterfly – posing nicely for me on the path out of Coverack (photo: Amanda Scott)

As you set off east out of the village, first of all along a narrow lane through houses and then a gravel track, the path is gently wooded. There is a bench fairly early on, generously provided by a nearby house owner: I didn’t need to rest, but walkers who have put more miles in must love to sit and relish the sea view ! It was good to see butterflies flitting about, warming their wings in the early sunlight: I spotted this Speckled Wood, and also saw a Wall butterfly and a few Common Blues and Green-veined Whites.

The South West Coast Path then turns right down a descending rocky path. This had very much an ‘edge of the wood’ feel to it: Beech and Ivy arch overhead creating a woven ceiling to the path, a Woodpigeon gazed at me before diving into the trees, a stream chattered away to the right…but glimpses of the sea and the constant rush of waves beneath the woodland birdsong were a reminder that the coast was very near.

And then the wood ends and the view opens out.

Sparkling sea (photo: Amanda Scott)
Sparkling sea (photo: Amanda Scott)
Heading east from Coverack on SW Coast Path
The cliff drops down to the beach near to Lowland Point, and Thrift and other clifftop flowers grow at the beach edge (photo: Amanda Scott)

The way to Lowland Point is about 1.5 miles long from Coverack: it is straight and clear,  beginning along higher cliffs but ending much lower, first passing alongside low sandy crumbly cliffs (a raised beach in geological terms) and finally dropping down to the same level as the pebbly beach, before rising slightly again at Lowland Point – it is easy to see how this headland gets its name. The landscape round here, as well as being lovely in the ‘here and now’, is also full of history, with archaeological sites from the prehistoric era, the remains of mediaeval field systems, and some Romano-British saltworks (Trebarveth) right at the edge of the cliffs. I failed to find the latter – very frustratingly as I must have walked right past it – and I’ll have to go back for another look!

Thrift and Kidney Vetch (photo: Amanda Scott)
Thrift and Kidney Vetch (photo: Amanda Scott)

But the real stars of the day were the flowers. Milkwort, Thrift, Kidney Vetch, Foxgloves finally out, together with Sea Campion, Red Campion, Yellow Irises just starting to bloom alongside Cuckooflower and Ragged Robin in the boggier patches, Bluebells, Tormentil…I could go on and on and on…Instead, I’ve added a species list of what I found at the end of this post (which is probably only a small proportion of what was there…).

Coverack from the wildflower meadow on the coastal path (photo: Amanda Scott)
Coverack from the wildflower meadow on the coastal path (photo: Amanda Scott)

One of my favourite places was a beautiful wildflower meadow, to the left of the path approximately midway between Coverack and Lowland Point. I carefully walked through it: many of the plants were up to waist height and more. This was the first place and time this year I had seen Foxgloves properly out, looking fresh and pink.

Common Milkwort (photo: Amanda Scott)
Common Milkwort: this small delicate flower was abundant in both the woods and on the cliffs (photo: Amanda Scott)
English Stonecrop was just beginning to flower on rocks at the cliff edge (photo: Amanda Scott)
English Stonecrop was just beginning to flower on rocks at the cliff edge (photo: Amanda Scott)

A lovely walk, beautiful scenery, sea, cliffs, geology, archaeology, rich flora, insects and other fauna – what a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning! Mine was a ‘there and back again’ walk as I was loathe to leave the cliff top flowers and sea view, but there are circular walks in the area – see this one for example.

PLANT SPECIES LIST:

Thrift (photo: Amanda Scott)
Thrift (photo: Amanda Scott)

Beech
Bluebell
Bracken
Bugle
Cock’s-foot
Common Dog Violet
Common Milkwort
Common Sorrel
Creeping Buttercup
Cuckooflower
English Stonecrop
European Gorse
Foxglove
Greater Plantain
Greater Stitchwort

Kidney Vetch (photo: Amanda Scott)
Bird’s-foot Trefoil (photo: Amanda Scott)

Hazel
Herb Robert
Honeysuckle
Ivy
Kidney Vetch
Lesser Spearwort
Lesser Stitchwort
Meadow Buttercup
Navelwort
Pignut
Ragged Robin
Red Campion
Ribwort Plantain
Round-leaved Crowfoot
Sea Campion
Sweet Vernal Grass
Three-cornered Leek
Thrift
Tormentil
Wild Clematis
Yellow Iris

Sea Campion

Kynance Cove to Lizard Point

A beautiful blue sea at Kynance
A beautiful blue sea at Kynance

I haven’t been in Cornwall much over the last couple of weeks, but before I went ‘up country’ I enjoyed a glorious sunny day on the Lizard. It really was a beautiful day, with clear blue skies, flowers finally daring to poke their heads out and plenty of people out on the cliffs making the most of the warmth.

I parked in the National Trust car park at Kynance Cove, but rather than setting off down to the beach, I headed south along the coastal path, with two aims, to find Land Quillwort, and to see some Choughs.

On the coastal path near Kynance
On the coastal path near Kynance

Now, if there’s one thing I should know from past experience, it is that if I set off to find something in particular, I will NOT find it. True to form, I didn’t…Even more frustratingly, I had had described to me roughly where the Land Quillwort would be found, but either it had upped roots and moved (not likely) or I just didn’t have my eye in properly. Those of you in the know will be well aware that this plant is one of the Lizard specialities, so I’ll be off on another, and hopefully more successful, hunt soon.

If you imagine a red beak and photoshop in some red legs, this could be a Chough...maybe?
If you imagine a red beak and photoshop in some red legs, this could be a Chough…maybe?

As for the Choughs, well I had a great chat with the knowledgeable volunteers at the Chough watch point at Lizard Point, who hadn’t seen them much round there on the day, but knew they had been feeding on some fields near to the Lloyds Signal Station within the last hour. Off I trotted – no Choughs. I did see two black dots in the distance flying back the other way – it was probably them!

To make matters worse, almost everyone I passed on the walk said: ‘Have you seen the seal? It’s a really big one, really obvious – you can’t miss it…’. If only noone had said anything, then I’d definitely have seen it!

The sky really was this blue
The sky really was this blue

Now, all of this not quite seeing things made me a bit grumpy, which is why, for me at least, it’s always a good idea to set off and ‘see what I can see’, rather than having anything in particular to search for. Because, of course, I did see some lovely things on a beautiful day along the coast.

Round-leaved Water Crowfoot - one small flower left...
Round-leaved Water Crowfoot – one small flower left…

For example, I found this delicate Water Crowfoot – not the rarer Three-lobed Crowfoot that is another Lizard delight – but what I think is Round-leaved Crowfoot (the Water Crowfoots can be hard for a non-expert like me to distinguish). At first glance, this plant doesn’t look like much, and is found in boggy wet places – but in the early spring its pretty small white flowers appear.

To make up for the lack of Choughs, a Kestrel posed for me on a nearby rock, the soft pink displays of Common Centaury and rich yellow Gorse brightened the cliffs and, round by Lizard Point, the tasty smell of Three-cornered Garlic filled the air before the plants themselves came into view.

Three-cornered Garlic
Three-cornered Garlic

I’m hoping for some more bright days soon, so I can enjoy exploring – but without an aim in mind this time!

DSCF1109_edited-1

Around St. Agnes in the rain

Yesterday, I should have been staying at home doing some work, but the sun was shining, and what’s a person to do!

View from St. Agnes Beacon (Photo credit: Amanda Scott)

I decided to explore somewhere new but not too far, so I threw my walking boots in the car and headed off to St. Agnes on the north coast.  First I negotiated the one-way system in the village, stopped off at a local shop for crisps and chocolate, and then drove to near St. Agnes Head, parked, pulled on several layers of clothing and set off on the South West Coast Path.

English: Tubby's Head & Chapel Porth Walking t...
Tubby’s Head & Chapel Porth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The view was stunning, the sea a beautiful greeney-blue, and the path stony but level-ish. I quickly arrived at the intriguingly named Tubby’s Head, and sat for a few moments on a bench, in the seat of which there was fixed a small brass plaque: “June Claydon, Resting in Peace by the Sea, July 1992“. I wondered who June was.  I thought of her, maybe sitting on this bench in this same spot, doing pretty much the same as me, gazing out to sea and enjoying the crisp air on her skin. It is wonderful how you can be touched by the life of someone you know nothing about, simply because you occupy the same space, maybe feeling similar things, albeit in a different time.

Towanroath Mine Engine House, nr. St. Agnes, Cornwall (Photo credit: Amanda Scott)

You may already have noticed a discrepancy between the heading of this post and my reference to the sun in the opening paragraph. Well, by this, paragraph 4, the discrepancy disappears. Yes, from this point it started to drizzle, though it fortunately never became a downpour! Never mind, I continued on to admire the industrial archaeology of the Wheal Coates Tin Mine and Towanroath mine engine house, and then on to join the dog walkers and their happy dogs on Chapel Porth Beach.

After this I turned inland up Chapel Coombe, walking through woods on a muddy path alongside a stream. The sea was forgotten, and I was in a world of trees, farmland and  woodland birds until, emerging on to an upward track, I finally reached the top of St. Agnes Beacon. What a view! Wet and cold, but still…The heathland here is an important habitat, looked after by the National Trust. I was a little late in the year for the full heather display, but some Bell Heather was still flowering, its purple contrasting with the vibrant yellow gorse. A bird of prey hovered – what did it see? A vole or mouse (prey)? A pile of stones on top of the hill, meaningless to it? A wet human (not particularly interesting to your average raptor!)?

English: Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) The tip ...
Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After this, the weather was getting the better of me, so I headed back to the coast, enjoying the (very distant!) sun shining through breaks in the clouds lighting up the horizon, and then walked along the cliffs and back to my car.

As I drove home, I thought again about June Claydon. I’d like to think that, when my time comes, Cornwall will be enough my home, and enough people will think well of me, that there will be a bench here for me, too.

You can find a similar walk to mine, plus others, at The St. Agnes Forum Website.

And I’d love to hear from anyone who knows who June Claydon was.