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Walk - Church Cove and Cadgwith

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Route Description

  1. From the front of the Lizard Point car park pick up the South West Coast Path to your left, heading east towards Church Cove and Cadgwith. Follow it past the Lizard Lighthouse and carry on towards Housel Bay.

The Lizard Lighthouse, with its distinctive twin towers, marks mainland Britain's most southerly point. The first lighthouse was built here in 1619, at his own expense, by philanthropist Sir John Killigrew, but the cost of maintaining it brought him close to bankruptcy. James I set passing vessels a fee of a halfpenny per ton, to be put towards the upkeep of the lighthouse, but there was such an outcry from shipowners that Killigrew's patent was withdrawn and the tower was demolished. The continuing hazards of the Lizard Point prompted a number of applications to construct a replacement, but it was 1751 before one was built. Trinity House took responsibility for it 20 years later.

As you continue towards Housel Bay, below you to the right is the Lion’s Den: a 35-metre deep hole created by the collapse of the roof of a sea cave in 1847.

  1. Ignoring the path to your left, travelling inland, carry on along the coastline, rounding Pen Olver to come to Bass Point, with its Lookout Station.

At Pen Olver you pass two sheds used by Guglielmo Marconi for his early radio experiments in 1900, in conjunction with a much larger station at Poldhu. He set a new record for wireless communication the following year, with a signal transmitted 186 miles, from the Lizard to the Isle of Wight. Following further experimental work, in 1902 he was able to send the first ever transatlantic signals from Poldhu.

The white-painted building on Bass Point, beyond, is the Lloyds Building, established in 1872 to monitor passing shipping. Nearby is a lookout post manned by the volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institute, opened in 1994 after two fishermen drowned within sight of the former Coastguard lookout, which had just been closed.

  1. Keep following the Coast Path as it rounds Hot Point before dropping to the Lifeboat Station at Kilcobben Cove.

Although three of them are now disused, there are no fewer than four lifeboat stations between Lizard Point and Cadgwith, so hazardous are the waters around The Lizard. On 17 March 1907 the 12,000-ton liner SS Suevic triggered the biggest rescue in the history of the RNLI when she struck the Maenheere Reef, off Lizard Point. Despite gale-force winds and thick fog, volunteer lifeboat crews from the Lizard, Cadgwith, Coverack and Porthleven rowed out repeatedly, and in 16 hours they rescued all 456 passengers, including 70 babies.

In 1885 the boathouse at Church Cove housed an auxiliary Lizard Lifeboat, but launching it from the steep slipway was difficult, and in the 14 years it was in operation it was only used twice. In contrast, between 1859 and 1961 the lifeboat at Polpeor Cove was launched 136 times and saved a total of 562 lives. Cadgwith had a lifeboat from 1867 to 1963; but the Kilcobben Cove Lifeboat Station station is the station used today, because the lifeboat can be launched safely from here in virtually all sea conditions.

  1. Ignoring the path running inland above the Lifeboat Station carry on along the Coast Path, ignoring the next path inland, too, and descending into Church Cove.
  2. For a short walk, leave the Coast Path here to take the footpath uphill, carrying on along the road to the Lizard village at 10. Otherwise, carry on along the Coast Path from Church Cove towards Cadgwith to come to a footpath heading inland above Polgwidden.

The large red-and-white wooden diamond, mounted at the top of the cliffs at Church Cove, is the Balk Beacon, a daytime navigation aid.

There is a major geological boundary on the headland at The Balk, where the bedrock changes from schist to serpentinite. Around the Lizard Point the rocks are schists – rock structures characterised by the parallel arrangements of the materials which go to make them up. From The Balk to the Lizard lighthouse the rock is hornblende schist, with a high content of green and black crystals.

As you approach Cadgwith, you pass a 200-feet-deep chasm above an archway in the cliff. This is known as the Devil's Frying Pan ('Hugga Dridgee' in Cornish), because the sea crashes so violently around the cave that its central boulder is said to resemble an egg frying in a pan. It was formed by the sea eroding a fault in the rock and enlarging it into a cave. The roof was weakened by the compression of the air inside the cave as the waves surged around it, and eventually it fell in. Eventually the archway will collapse and a new cove will start to form.

  1. Take this footpath for a shortcut to Gwavas at 9, but for the full walk carry on along the Coast Path to Cadgwith.

Cadgwith once had a thriving fishing fleet. In 1908 it had a record catch, when 1,347,000 pilchards were landed in two days.

  1. At Cadgwith leave the Coast Path and turn left on New Road, following it up through Cadgwith and carrying on past roads to left and right to the place where a footpath leaves the road on either side, a short distance beyond.
  2. The footpath to the left is the one you want; but before turning onto it, pause a moment to check out St Ruan's Well, beside the footpath to your right.

St Ruan's Well, or Grade Well, was built of granite and serpentine in the fourteenth century but over the centuries it has been elaborately refurbished. There was once a small granite cross in its niche.

Take the footpath to the left, opposite the well, and follow it through the fields, heading for the gap in the right-hand hedge in the first and cutting the left-hand corner of the next field to aim for the left-hand corner of the third. Follow the lane to the road.

On the right-hand side of this last field is The Church of The Holy Cross and St Grade, the Lizard Point's most prominent landmark. Built of serpentine, it dates from around the twelfth century but was extensively rebuilt in 1862.

  1. On the road turn right and pick up the footpath continuing in the same direction at the right-hand bend just a few yards beyond. Ignoring the path to the left, carry on ahead, following the footpath to the left at the end of the first field as it heads to Trethvas Farm. At the entrance to the farm fork left and take the footpath on the right to follow the right-hand hedge of two fields and the left-hand hedge of the third, to come out on the corner of Cross Common Road. Bear left on the road to walk into Lizard village.
  2. At the first junction fork right beyond and then bear right on Beacon Terrace as far as the school. Fork left, to take Housel Bay Road opposite the school. Turn right just after the last house, going through the gate ahead and staying by the left-hand hedge until it turns. Turn left with the hedge but aim for the far right-hand corner once you have done so, carrying on ahead through the narrow strip of field beyond to the path at the end. Turn right and walk a few yards to the lane. Turn right on the lane and walk to the road, turning left to follow the footpath beside it back to the Lizard Point car park.

Nearby refreshments

Lizard Village (pub, shops and cafe).

Public transport

The walk is served by a Truronian bus service. For details visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Lizard Point or Lizard Village Green

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