And so we come to the Lizard, the headland which forms the eastern end of Mounts Bay, and the most southerly point on the mainland of Britain, with its handsome white lighthouse. When I was growing up in the area, I often wondered where the name Lizard came from. It’s not like Cornwall is renowned for its lizard population. It turns out it is a corruption of “Lazars’ Point”, a lazar being an archaic word for a leper. This peninsula is a favourite haunt of geologists due to the abundant presence of the beautiful, veined rock called serpentine, a relic from the area’s violent geological past. This stone was once a popular adornment for posh buildings due to its decorative appearance, and many churches both here and further afield have serpentine fonts and so on. Nowadays it is most commonly found in the form of souvenirs sold in the gift shops of the locality.
A more modern-day feature of the peninsula, which can be seen from miles around, is the Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station, with over 60 dishes dotted about the landscape. The granddaddy of them all is a dish affectionally named Arthur, which in 1962 received the first live transatlantic television broadcast from the USA. Other dishes have similarly Arthurian names, such as Merlin, Guinevere. Actual operations at the site ceased in 2008, but very recently it was reported that it is to take on a new role in space missions. There was a visitor centre there until 2010, which sadly has closed until further notice, but there are plans to reopen the site to the public at some point.
Map of the area.
photo © 2008 Stuart Richards | more info (via: Wylio)