For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Land's End And Beyond

Along the path I often came across ponies grazing the grassy, plant-rich margins between cliff and farmland. Without selective grazing by livestock, invasive species - such as birch trees and brambles - would soon take over, reducing the biodiversity of these beautiful, protected strips...


I walked on past Porthtowan and Portreath to Godrevy Point. Off Godrevy Point lies Godrevy Island. The lighthouse on this island was the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf's introspective, innovative novel, To The Lighthouse. Virginia's family, the Stephens, used to lease a holiday villa (Tallend House) just round the bay in St Ives...


From here the official path follows an awkward, undulating ridge of sand dunes, but I took the easier option, and simply walked down the long stretch of Towans beach. It seemed miles to Hayle, where, unusually, the route joins a busy road circling the Hayle estuary. I skirted Lelant churchyard, regained the shoreline, then finally entered St Ives. It had been a long day and I was tired. My B&B was quite delightful - a low, stone terraced cottage opposite the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden. It was spotlessly clean and most artistically furnished. It catered for walkers only, and I was the only guest there. Later I strolled along the quay at St Ives' harbour. It was early evening and the tide was out...


The next day I set out to cover the thirteen and a half miles from St Ives to Pendeen. The guide book warned this was the toughest stage of the whole walk. It was right. To make matters worse, it rained for most of the day, and the greasy rocks and hidden depressions underfoot were treacherous. I slipped many times, though not disastrously. At midday I turned inland for half a mile, seeking a rest and some lunch at the Tinners' Arms in Zennor. Big mistake. If you take off your raingear, perch on a comfy stool at the bar of a pub, slurp a huge bowl of home-made soup, then knock back a couple of pints of Cornish bitter... you really don't feel like going back outside again. But, eventually, back outside I went - groaning - into the murk and the drizzle...

DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived here in Zennor during the First World War. Their relationship could be a fiery one. After one quarrel it's documented that Lawrence chased Frieda round the rooms of Higher Tregarthen - the cottage they rented for £5 a year - scattering furniture and shouting 'I'll kill her! I'll kill her!' And, on another occasion, Frieda smashed in fury an earthenware plate over Lawrence's head from behind. Lawrence hardly took pains to endear himself to the Cornish population. He once opined: 'I don't like these people. They are like insects gone cold, living only for money, for dirt. They are foul in this. They all ought to die.' Though he then added, rather lamely: 'Not that I've seen much of them. I've been laid up in bed!' Unsurprisingly, the locals grew more and more wary of this eccentric writer and his German-born wife. Finally their cottage was searched, and the police ordered the couple to leave Cornwall within three days - under suspicion of spying.

I won't go into detail about the rest of the afternoon. Suffice to say, I swore and grumbled and staggered and stumbled my way to Pendeen, where I collapsed with a whimpering sigh onto a big double bed in my room at the North Inn. I don't think I even took off my boots. But much later that night, in the pub bar, I ate one of the best curries I'd ever had in my life. The bar was lively. No canned music, no slot machines - just good conversation. So, unexpectedly, the day did end with some pleasure and satisfaction after all...

It was Wednesday 18 August: a special day. For, that day, I would reach Land's End, and the country's 'corner' would be turned. I raced along like a demon, all the trials and tribulations of yesterday mere blown chaff in the memory. Here I am nearing Cape Cornwall...


... and here I am bidding it farewell just a few moments later! I was keen to reach Land's End, England's most south-westerly point (not its most southerly - that's Lizard Point, on the Lizard Peninsula, which lay further on)...


Beyond Sennen Cove, it was only a few more miles to Land's End. At last!


This is the 'First And Last Refreshment House In England'. I didn't go in. It was packed with day trippers. Disappointingly, the whole area resembled an American theme park. So I quickly left, turned the 'corner', and was soon dancing along the path under airy, blue skies through some of the most spectacular cliff panoramas I'd yet seen...

9 comments:

Bonnie said...

What a way to travel! Hard vigoroous exercise, astounding views, historic charm, spotless B&Bs, and welcoming pubs. If you keep doing so well at promoting this, you will not have 'solitary' walks much longer! We'll all be following you ... :-)

am said...

"So, unexpectedly, the day did end with some pleasure and satisfaction after all..."

Now you've got me wanting to read To The Lighthouse again. I read that in the years when I went back to finish college when I was 30. The landscape on this path is not only beautiful but part of my literary landscape. No wonder it feels (How does it feel?) familiar, like family in the best sense of the word.

Thanks for the "Must Be Santa" comment (-:

The Solitary Walker said...

Good grief! All you lot following on behind? Would the bars be able to cope? Not all the B&Bs were quite so spotless, though. But you'll have to wait to hear about for that!

The Solitary Walker said...

Am: I love Virginia Woolf, and 'To The Lighthouse' is a tour-de-force. I would say one of the most brilliant and original novels of the 20th century. The whole path has many literary associations: DH Lawrence, John Betjeman, the Romantic poets (particularly Coleridge), Daphne du Maurier - and the occult/supernatural/crime/existentialist writer Colin Wilson. You may not know him, but I'll write about him later...

pilgrimpace said...

I was walking the Path somewhere near Zennor 15 years ago. I slipped on the greasy rock. My foot lodged in a crack while the weight of my pack took my body over. A severely sprained ankle. I had to hop a mile to the nearest road and flag down a car for a lift to St Ives and then hospital in Plymouth. No walking for several months after that. And there were people doing the same stretch in high heels. Oh well!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your story, Andy. Obviously the answer is: do it in high heels next time! I hope you've learnt your lesson. (This is something you don't read in 'Trail' or 'TGO' magazine. Remember - you heard it on 'The Solitary Walker' first.)

pilgrimpace said...

I'm off to the shoe shop tomorrow. I hope they have size 10's in stock. Ultreya!

George said...

I have a feeling that my comments of yesterday on this post did not make it, no doubt because of some technical error on my part. In any event, I really enjoyed both the photos and the literary richness of this segment of your trip. It must have been great for you, given your two great passions, walking and books.

The Solitary Walker said...

No, I didn't receive any comments from you yesterday, George. These glitches happen occasionally in Blogger. Glad you liked the post.

Yes, the path is rich in literary associations, also painterly ones - both St Ives and Newlyn (near Penzance) are important centres for British art. I didn't mention it in my post, but there's an adjunct of London's Tate Gallery in St Ives, as well as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. (As I'm sure you know, Hepworth was one of our most celebrated sculptors - ranking alongside Henry Moore.)