I have just got back from a lovely cottage holiday in Cornwall with Mr Smiles. I thought I would share with you my favourite walk of the holiday. To me a holiday isn’t complete without a bracing walk along the coast and this was an exhilarating walk along the cliffs at St Agnes.
Chapel Porth, St Agnes and Wheal Coates Mine
We chose to start the walk at Chapel Porth Beach car park as there is a Seasonal Cafe there. We began our walk with a hot cup of tea and a home-made flapjack. Walk books tend to start at St Agnes Head but we preferred to set off from Chapel Porth and take advantage of the facilities available.
Chapel Porth is what I call a `proper, Cornish beach.’ Flushing village, where we were based, is on a tranquil Estuary. It was good to see the contrast of the more dramatic Atlantic Coast.
From Chapel Porth we crossed a stream at the back corner of the car park and followed a path up Chapel Combe. During the 19th century the entire valley floor that leads down to the cove was given over to the processing of the mineral ore that came from the tin and copper mines, scattered across the surrounding countryside. As we walked up the valley the landscape is now overgrown by nature, but it was once taken over by the mining industry and there are still visible signs of this industry. We passed below a mine building.
The path then leads through peaceful woodland. I enjoyed listening to the enormous variety of birds chirping in the trees.
We then made our way uphill to the summit of St Agnes Beacon where there were fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and coastline.
Having stopped to take in the wonderful views we made our way to St Agnes Head and then followed the coastal path. The track down to the headland was bordered by typical Cornish high walls full of wild flowers and butterflies. Stately purple foxgloves were everywhere. The lanes were alive with foxgloves, red campion, buttercups and cow parsley. I like the fact that Cornish walls, verges and hedges are allowed to take on a life of their own. In Oxfordshire a lot of the daisies have been mowed down and the hedges are butchered `neatly’. Apart from the hedgerows the coastal path is awash with wild flowers in June including lovely pink clumps of sea thrift. I also spotted blue sheep’s bit and pretty English stonecrop which I haven’t noticed before in Cornwall.
St Agnes Head is a vast 300 ft high wall of rock soaring above the Atlantic sea. The walk traces the flat clifftop tracks past the little promontory of Tubby’s Head, once an Iron Age Settlement. From here the landscape becomes typical mining country. We passed the abandoned Wheal Coates mine whose buildings can be seen uphill from the Coast Path.
The tall Towanroath mine engine house towers above you. Towanroath Shaft is a granite building with the appearance of a castle keep standing directly above the sea amidst swathes of pink thrift. Towanroath was built in 1872 as the pumping house for Wheal Coates mine.
As I gazed up at Wheal Coates I realised what a hard life being a Cornish tin miner would have been. It would have been quite a walk to work. In the Winter the conditions would have been bracing on the coast and then dark and damp down the mine. You would definately have needed a large Cornish pasty for lunch!
Beyond Towanroath the path descends back into Chapel Porth. We didn’t have a pasty but did have another cup of tea and a fabulous ice cream called a `hedgehog’ from the cafe. The Hedgehog is a Cornish Ice cream, rolled in Cornish clotted cream, and coated in honey roasted Hazelnuts. Delicious and a very good reason to finish the walk at Chapel Porth!
The tide had come in so we had a last look at the sea before heading home to Oxfordshire.