Next stop was Lizard Point, complete with the Last Café in England. There’s no ‘first café’ this time as the café is perched on the actual furthest point so to claim it as the ‘first’ would only be appropriate if approached from the sea.
The rocky coast of Cornwall has been the scene of many shipwrecks and Lizard Point was the scene of the greatest ever sea rescue by the RNLI.
There’s a plaque commemorating the rescue of all the 456 passengers from The Sueric which ran ground on rocks while sailing from Australia to Liverpool in March 1907. Sixty volunteer crewmen from Cadgwith, Coverack, The Lizard and Porthleven rowed back and forth for 16 hours to rescue the passengers, battling huge waves and ferocious winds in open boats and saved 456 lives, including the 70 babies onboard, without a single life being lost.
Reading this account, we felt humbled beyond belief at the heroism of those volunteer lifeboat crews.
We chatted to a couple of well equipped hikers, with all the correct gear, who looked exhausted. Marigold asked how far they’d walked today and the lady walker looked a little surprised.
‘We’ve just got here,’ she said, ‘not even started yet,’ indicating their car parked right next to ours.
We told them we were intending to go to Kynance Cove next and they told us it costs £5 at the National Trust car park, then a long hike, twenty minutes for ‘walkers,’ so that’s half an hour for us, before reaching sea level.
‘We’re National Trust members so it’s free for us.’
Yes, of course they are. We’re not.
They suggested we left our car here, at no cost as car park ticket machine was out of order, and walk there along the coastal path. It’s not far, they said, so that’s what we did.
Not far? Well, maybe not if your name is Mo Farah, but it seemed a very long way to us. Much of the walk was along the cliff edge, no place for anyone even mildly acrophobic.*
* That’s not a mis-spelt attempt at agoraphobia; it’s an entirely different phobia.
When we finally reached Kynance Cove, by now reduced to a weary ‘trudge,’ it was as glorious as we remembered from previous visits. Oddly, we don’t remember the actual trek to reach the beach being so arduous on previous visits. The idea of ourselves having declined physically being so ludicrous as to be discounted we were forced to conclude that coastal erosion was responsible for the vastly increased level of difficulty.
‘That wasn’t too bad, really,’ Marigold said after we’d recovered, a little.
‘Still got to do it all again,’ I pointed out, ‘but this time it’s mostly uphill.’
Of course we coped magnificently, even overtaking a few ‘proper’ walkers at one point. In fairness, they were carrying the equivalent of a sofa on their backs! Is it really necessary to carry so much ‘stuff’ in a vast rucksack?
Marigold pointed out one lad carrying all his worldly goods, plus a guitar, up the hill. Not that it seemed to bother him.
‘I’d swap that guitar for a penny whistle if it were mine,’ she said. ‘Be a bit less to carry up this hill.’
‘You should tell him’’ I replied.
‘I would, if I had a bit more puff.’
We got back to Lizard Point, somehow, and made our second visit to the Last Café. On the way I noticed a sign saying ‘Kynack Cove, two and a half miles.’
‘Only five miles then, there and back’ I said.
Marigold looked aghast. ‘I thought we’d walked about twenty miles,’ she said.
The sign helpfully told us it was a mere three and three quarter miles, each way, if we took the coastal path in the opposite direction. Or we could go there in the car.
We went by car.
We moved on to Cadgwith Cove, a pretty fishing village with a pub and not much else. About twelve years ago we came here over Christmas and the New Year, rented a cottage right on the harbour and we haven’t been back since. Not that we didn’t have a good time, far from it, but there’s so much more of the world out there to see!
‘Our’ cottage wasn’t very comfortable, as I recall, the bedroom was dark, dingy and a bit damp in the depths of winter, there was no tv, the oven didn’t work, you get the picture? Christmas dinner, ingredients sourced from far, far away Marks and Spencer in Hayle, was a disaster, but when the tide came in, sea spray battered the windows, the surf pounded on the rocks and it was glorious.
The whole village turned out to swim in the sea, in fancy dress, they suspended a galleon, decked out in coloured light, from one side of the harbour to the other to resemble a brightly coloured ship on the horizon and we still talk about the characters in the pub where dogs wandered around freely and a group of fishermen gave an impromptu recital of sea shanties. We missed out on food, but enjoyed Christmas immensely.
Today, it’s more or less as we remember. There are a few more houses, almost certainly holiday homes, on the hillside and the fishing boats are drawn up on the beach. Not much to do here if you’re young, I imagine, but we’re not so we didn’t mind.
We drove up the far side of the cove, somehow managed to get lost and, completely by accident came across Roskilly Farm where they make cheese, ice cream and many other delicacies. We parked up and were admiring a group of piglets, grubbing about in a field, when two old women turned up. ‘Two mad old biddies’ was Marigold’s version.
One said to the piglets, ‘Guess what? I just had a bacon sandwich’ and cackled energetically. Very energetically, which was pretty remarkable considering it was her 80th birthday today. She told us her name was Maud and her friend, aged 83, was Ursula. Perfectly suited names.
‘If you go in the café, over there,’ Flora advised, ‘watch out for the cat, he’ll have your arm off if you don’t give him any milk.’ She cackled wildly, again. It was relatively early in the day or I’d have suspected Maud and Ursula had been imbibing freely. Maybe they brought their own supplies.
Marigold asked Maud if she knew where to find the sculpture park above Coverack, our next destination.
Maud frowned. ‘Ask them at Paris Hotel for best route to the sculpture park. I’m hopeless with directions.’
Ursula said, ‘It’s a nightmare. Up hill all the way, then there’s just things sat in a field. Not what I call art. Had more fun in Sainsbury’s.’
‘Take no notice of my friend,’ insisted Maud, ‘she’s got no appreciation of art at all. Ask at the Paris Hotel. They sort things out for me at the Paris, no problem. Nothing to do with France, the name, you know, but I’m saying no more.’
Ursula joined in. ‘No, nothing to do with France. I should think not too. My late husband had a word for France and French people. I can’t possibly repeat it.’
‘Ursula’s late husband was in the Diplomatic Service,’ Maud confided. ‘You get a rounded view of the world in the Service, but far too much association with foreigners for my liking. Don’t you forget about that cat, now. Jumps on the tables, likes milk but prefers cream.’
They wandered off and we decided we’d risk the café, despite the grave expressions of concern about potentially lethal cats. We spotted the killer feline straight away and, as Maud had warned, he was perched on a table in the courtyard, sipping milk from a spoon offered by a customer. He looked too fat to be dangerous and so it proved.
When we sat down for a moment, one of those stone in shoe problems, he waddled over, jumped up and began purring. We had no milk on offer, let alone cream, but he allowed us to live a little longer!
We moved on again to Coverack, A place we’ve been before and we actually stayed briefly in a cottage here a few years ago. We noted the Paris Hotel, set back from the road, on our way in.
We didn’t bother to go in and ask for directions, but we did discover it was built by the Redruth Brewery in 1907 and named after the liner SS PARIS which ran aground on the headland on Whit Monday 1899. So, the mad old biddies were right, no direct connection to France.
Marigold said she remembered a café on the right hand side from our previous visit, but the only one we found was the Harbour Lights café, which wasn’t so familiar. It was waitress service, we were advised, and sat down and watched cars trying, in vain, to find a parking space. It appeared we had taken the last free space!
After ten minutes, no one had arrived to take an order so Marigold went inside. The waitress was talking to her friend, laughing like a drain as Marigold put it, and showing no inclination to attend to her VIP customers.
We left the car in its treasured parking space and walked on towards the harbour where we found the café we remembered from last time which also serves as a shop for locals. This isn’t a ‘beach’ resort, there’s very little actual beach, but it’s a pretty village with a great deal of charm.
No actual beach as such, but the shoreline here is remarkable because of the rocks that form a narrow barrier twixt sea and shore. (Don’t ever remember writing ‘twixt’ before, ever)
Back to the rocks; a geologist would doubtless offer up a sesquipedalian account of their origin, but I’ll try and keep it brief.
At the bottom of an ancient sea known as the Rheic Ocean, about 375 million years ago, the molten rock which would become the Lizard Peninsula of Cornwall was forced through the Earth's crust from about six miles below. The enormous pressure of these eruptions brought up a complete slice of all the rocks on the way up, from the mantle to the crust.
Rocks on this beach originate from the molten magna of the Earth’s core, including the brightly coloured Serpentine rock unique to this area, the actual Earth’s crust, and, even more rarely, rocks formed from the molten junction of the mantle and the core. This transitional section of the Earth’s core is called a fossil Moho, the shortened version of Mohorovicic Discontinuity, normally found five miles or so beneath the ocean bed. Coverack is one of the few places in the world where it is seen at the Earth’s surface.
Enough science, time for some culture. We set off to walk to the Terence Coventry sculpture park as Marigold had seen a reference to it in the Sunday Times. The article didn’t tell us the only way to get there was up a steep hill from the harbour.
We struggled up the hill, wearing shoes not designed for fell walking, stopping every few minutes to take in the coastal views. Otherwise known as getting our breath back. We passed a house on the left bearing a tablet in honour of Elizabeth Coad, who turned out to be a member of the ubiquitous Roskilly family whose wares we’d seen at the family farm.
Eventually , we reached the sculptures, in two fields, one to the left and one to the right of the path. The setting is spectacular and Marigold loved the sculptures.