Saturday, 30 July 2016


I have travelled to many places in the world over the years, and visited some of the most iconic locations, but one thought always comes back to me on my travels: this is great, but we have our equivalent back home.  When visiting Australia, one of the places I visited  was The Twelve Apostles on the much-vaunted Great Ocean Road.  While undoubtedly an impressive sight, we have our own version in Cornwall: Bedruthan Steps.  The geology is different – granite versus limestone – but these huge stacks rising out of the swirling Atlantic Ocean are a good substitute for their Antipodean equivalents for those not able or wanting to make the journey Down Under.  The stacks were formed after the last Ice Age when the softer shale rocks around the granite eroded, leaving the granite stacks jutting out of the sea.  Of course, no coastal geological feature in Cornwall would be complete without an accompanying legend.  The story goes that there was a giant called Bedruthan who used the stacks as stepping stones.  The legend in this case is relatively recent, dating from the 19th century, when it was dreamed up in a bid to attract Victorian tourists.  There used to be a mine here called Carnewas Mine, but all that remains of it now is the building being used as the National Trust shop.  As a matter of fact, the name "Bedruthan" is believed to derive from the Cornish Bosrudhen, meaning something like "red place", possibly a reference to the iron ore deposits in the ground hereabouts. The nearest settlement is Mawgan Porth, where there is a range of luxury accommodation.  

Map of the area. 

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Photo by Ericoides, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 22 July 2016


The beach at Porthcothan is backed by dunes and is popular with families, although care needs to be taken due to the strength of the currents.  At low tide, when the beach expands in size considerably, the tide comes in rapidly.  Facilities include a store, a car park with public toilets, and a surf school.  Smuggling used to be rife here, and a reminder of those days remains in the form of Will’s Rock, a rock stack at the end of one of the headlands overlooking the beach.  The story goes that smugglers left a man from the Revenue on the rock to drown in the rising tide.  However the man, Will, survived to tell the tale.  On the other side of the beach are some double rock stacks.  One of these, known as Jan Leverton’s Island (I have been unable to find out why – answers on a postcard) used to be a single large rock with a pair of  “windows” going through it, but the section containing the windows was knocked out by storm waves, leaving a stack on either side.  There is also a collapsed cave with openings onto the beach and the end of the headland, big enough to scramble through at low tide.   Nearby Park Head is the site of an Iron Age fort.  Fans of Poldark may recognise the beach at Porthcothan, since it was used in the BBC production to represent Nampara Cove near Ross Poldark’s home.

There has been a battle brewing over the management of the beach at Porthcothan.  Apparently in late 2014 some locals rerouted a stream in an attempt to protect the Porthcothan sand dunes.  A noble cause one would suppose, but unfortunately they neglected to get permission from the Council or the Marine Management Organisation.  This infuriated some of the other residents, who wanted to enlist the help of experts before wading in and taking action to manage the site.  A salutary lesson for anyone tempted to take such matters into their own hands.

Map of the area. 

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Photo by Tony Atkin, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 9 July 2016


Trevose Head got an airing during the last Christmas season when the BBC broadcast a stylish Agatha Christie thriller called And Then There Were None.  Towards the end of the series there was a shot of a striking cliff-top hole – this was the so-called Round Hole at Trevose Head.  The ‘hole’ in question has been formed by the collapse of the roof of a  a sea cave.  Trevose Head is also home to a lighthouse, first built in1847 as an extra defence between Lundy and Land’s End.  The headland boasts a golf club for those wanting to practise their golfing moves against a spectacular backdrop.   Just below the headland is Constantine Bay, which enjoys a reputation as one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall.  Named after a 6th century Cornish saint, the beach and its neighbour Booby’s Bay are just two of seven beaches within easy reach of the area. Although the beach is popular with surfers, swimmers should beware of the rips arising from the west-facing aspect.

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Photo by Harry Lawford, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 4 July 2016


This quiet outpost of Padstow is the former home of the Padstow lifeboat – and of actor Edward Woodward, who lived there in the latter part of his life.  Situated on the west side of the Camel Estuary, it is a good place for observing leisure craft as they inch their way past the Doom Bar sandbank.  Walkers heading out here along the South West Coastal Path pass Gun Point, where there was a gun emplacement during the Napoleonic War.  Beyond Hawker’s Cove the path leads to Stepper Point, topped by a tower built as a landmark for sailors.

There are two beaches near the village of Trevone, one sandy, the other with rock pools and a natural swimming pool at low tide.  Just as well, since the strong tides here make sea bathing risky.  The cliffs above the beach feature a Blow Hole which attracts a lot of interest.  St Saviour’s Church in the village is unusual in that it was built relatively recently, in 1959, as a replacement for an earlier wooden mission church.  The roof is made of slate from Delabole and the walls of iron-rich local sandstone.  As the stone is weathered the iron works its way outwards to give a hard casing.  

Map of the area. 

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Hawker's Cove.  Photo by Chris J. Dixon, via Wikimedia Commons