In early April with the sea cooler than the sudden warm spring sunshine spell, sea mists formed and rolled in wraith like over the cliffs and beaches bringing a chill to the air around. Moderate breezes built great Atlantic surf waves which rolled in, regular in length and height, crashing onto the sands of Watergate Bay. We were last in this part of Cornwall 18 years ago. We had come to do kite sand yachting, a rather fast exhilarating sport involving a large surf kite, an alloy A frame with a bucket seat and three wheels! Great fun as I remember.
This time, we’d come to cycle and explore parts of the coastal path. The seven-mile cycle around the 480-hectare SSSI Goss Moor reserve was pleasant despite the electricity substation and lines of giant pylons. An area of marsh and swamp, vast beds of bulrushes swathe the landscape. Stunted trees, adorned with green mosses and lichen provide perches for buzzards; across the drier moors the first spring butterflies (Marsh Fritillary, according to my guide book) flit across emerging heather and gorse. It was the legendary hunting ground of King Arthur; and recorded in the Domesday book of 1086, as part of the manor of Tremodret.
I particularly wanted to visit the area as it forms the headwaters of the river Fal, which I occasionally sail on.
To the south rose the flat topped, layered china clay spoil heaps. This is industrial Cornwall, an ancient heritage of tin and china clay mining. Here, in this area, much of the moors has been worked for tin, as far back as the 12th and 13th century; and in the 1930’s – 1950’s, sand and gravel were extracted. And to the north, on the skyline, just visible, an ancient stone cromlech (in welsh); a remnant from ancient Celtic times, a place of burial, of old druid ceremony. (Later research showed it to be Castle-an-Dinas, an Iron age Celtic hillfort dating from the 2nd or 3rd century BC. Apparently, it comprises of three concentric circles of ditch and rampart enclosing an area some 850 feet in diameter – a trip for next time. You are never far from a sense of History in Cornwall!)
Further down the coast, the climb out of Chapel Porth Beach valley up onto St Agnes Headland was strenuous but afforded stunning views across to abandoned wheal mines on the neighbouring cliffs. A few hardy surfers braved the waves but rip currents swept them south along the beach and most didn’t stay long in the rough seas.
We followed bare rocky paths through knee high heather and gorse scrub, dodging the occasional capped mine shaft in deep depressions. Up here, they have capped mine shafts with a conical wire frame; in some places the mine shaft entrances have been filled in.
Amongst the windblown gorse bushes, clumps of violets gave a splash of colour against the greys and browns of dead heather and bare rocky outcrops.
And clouds of grey swirling mists shrouded the headland paths whilst grey green waves crashed onto the beach below. Very ‘moody’ and atmospheric!
We ended the day in Perranporth. The beach, cloaked in yet more mist, was deserted. Breaking waves could be heard but not seen. On the right, a new apartment development was taking place; in the high street shops were getting a new coat of paint ready for the forthcoming summer season. Refuelled by giant Florentines and vanilla milkshakes (don’t we just know how to live!!), we did the touristy bit, dipping in and out of touristy shops selling everything from flipflops to wetsuits, driftwood sculptures to miniature dashboard ‘dancing figurines’. British seaside resorts, you got to love them!