Archive for the ‘South Cornwall’ Category
Below is an article of mine published in ‘Canoe Kayak UK’ magazine a few months ago. Hope it’s of interest…
A paddler’s guide to Lands End
It’s autumn 2007, and I’ve just completed 49 separate chapters of a guidebook to the fantastic sea kayaking in South West England, totalling about 70000 words. This was a long job, yet I’m still not finished. The final chapter left to write is the chapter on Land’s End in Cornwall. I’ve kept on putting it off, always finding excuses. The problem is, finding words to do it justice. Eventually, I grab a couple of bottles of Doom Bar (splendid Cornish beer) from the fridge and sit in front of my computer. I prod the keyboard with one hand and swig with the other. I bash out ‘Chapter 27: Land’s End’ in a couple of frantic hours, and then sit back and make a few victorious air punches. Having skimmed over what I’ve written, I ponder for a few moments and then add a final few words;
‘the best sea paddle in the South West’.
Anyway…what I thought I might do in this here article, is try to justify that statement. To attempt this, I’m just going to throw a random and disjointed assortment of information, anecdotes and tall tales your way.
The clue is in the name
The clue is in the name, but for those who don’t know, Land’s End is the extreme west point of England, where Cornwall runs out. West of here, there are only the tiny Isles of Scilly (45 kilometres) and then the next landmass is Canada (3500 kilometres). Incidentally, the proper name for Land’s End is Pedn an Wlas. I have no idea how to pronounce that, but neither does anyone else; unfortunately there are no native Cornish speakers left.
Most folk think of Land’s End as the specific spot where lycra-clad cyclists get photographed beneath a whimsical ‘mileage to faraway places’ sign, before embarking on a masochism-fest pedal to John O’Groats in Scotland. They might not know that the cyclists have to cough up significant monies just to stand beneath that sign, and that it’s the focal point of a rather tacky and utterly mis-sited children’s theme park. Thankfully, this crappy dump goes unnoticed by those paddling below and thankfully, is the only blight on the much larger and utterly magnificent Land’s End peninsula.
The Land’s End peninsula points west between St Ives on the north coast, and Mount’s Bay on the south coast. Whilst every part of this peninsula merits at least an A+, the very best paddling of all is found within the few kilometres north and south of Land’s End itself. A paddle between Sennen Cove and Porthgwarra offers something approaching Sea Kayaking Nirvana. Smooth granite cliffs, jagged islets, beckoning tunnels, foaming reefs, translucent surf, sandy beaches, intimidating tide races, abundant wildlife and even a rusting shipwreck await exploration.
My first sighting of Land’s End was in 1997, when MC Hammer was cool, and Princess Di was alive (for another fortnight, anyway). I’d bought a sea kayak on a whim and paddled from Bournemouth, wearing a t-shirt and using a holed nylon spraydeck. When I eventually I reached Cornwall I was still alive, but still totally clueless. I wasn’t sure where I was finally headed, but liked the sound of Land’s End. Be careful what you pray for. Early one morning I launched and paddled past Penzance. I soon spotted an offshore buoy which I now know marks the Runnel Stone. This is where the cliffs turn north a few kilometres south of Land’s End, to directly face the open ocean. It’s also where two seas collide; the English Channel and the Celtic Sea. My day became a lot more interesting. My memory of the next hour is of gripping the paddle in tight-sphinctered terror as I battled through swells; where had these epic waves appeared from? The blindingly obvious answer is, ‘the Atlantic Ocean’…but don’t laugh; you had to be there (with my 1997 level of innocence and ignorance) to grasp why this was all a bit of a jolt.
The thing which sets the cliffs of Land’s End apart is the geology. Whether or not you usually get excited about granite, prepare to be astonished. This peculiar rock weathers into distinctive ill-fitting angular blocks, like Brobdingnagian cubes of plasticine squeezed crudely together. Only, lots more attractive than that sounds. What’s that, you want to know why it does this? Apologies, I haven’t a clue; ask an actual geologist (I did look on the internet, but there were too many long words). Anyway, the upshot of all this for paddlers, is some truly unique formations to explore and play. Perhaps the most distinctive are the two remarkable stacks located just south of Land’s End; The Armed Knight is a delicate serrated ridge which improbably defies the full force of the Atlantic, whilst Enys Dodnan is a monolithic island pierced by an awe-inspiring natural archway.
It’s late evening and the sun is an amorphous mass of molten metal as it merges into the Atlantic, punctuated only by the lonely offshore lighthouses of Wolf Rock and Longships. With their jointed buttresses and pinnacles, the cliffs around Land’s End resemble soaring fortresses with castellated spires. The granite around and above us is set ablaze by the golden light, with quartz, feldspar and mica sparkling brilliantly.
Incidentally, if you think that I’m laying the adjectives on a bit thickly in this article…then I’m guessing that you haven’t paddled here yet.
Subject to considerable variation
“Is it just me, or are we paddling against the tide? I thought you were supposed to be checking this stuff beforehand?”
Atlantic swells hitting Land’s End get an unimpeded run-up, all the way from Brazil. A clue to just how big the waves get here can be found in the yellow lichen which marks the splash zone on the cliffs. Suffice to say, it’s a very long way above sea level indeed. Perhaps consider checking the weather and swell forecast before venturing forth on this serious trip?
Some things are harder to predict. Beardy nautical types use the boringly-reliable Admiralty Pilot books to predict tide flow times. These hefty tomes are a nerd’s dream, crammed with numbers and other data. Yet, amazingly, where Land’s End is concerned they simply give up. Their description is one short sentence long, and uses the word ‘probably’ twice, alongside the phrase ‘subject to considerable variation’. Hard as it may be to believe in this information-rich age, you’ll just have to take a punt on the tides and hope that your guesstimate is right. Pretty well everyone who paddles around Land’s End inadvertently finds themselves battling upstream at some point. The key to tackling this uncertainty is to expect and accept it; Land’s End is no place for control freaks!
We’re only five minutes’ paddle out of Sennen Cove, when Heather shouts, “Basking shark!” She gives a running commentary as we draw nearer. “It’s a small one…two metres long, to judge by the fins”. Soon, we too spot the unmistakable dorsal fin, followed closely by the tail fin, swishing the surface in sinuous curves as the shark hoovers up plankton just beneath the surface. We stop paddling, but the shark now approaches us. “Two metres” proves to be a comic misjudgement of scale; the shark is half as long again as our kayaks, and emphasises its awesome length and mass by repeatedly swimming beneath and brushing against their unnervingly fragile hulls. No one moves. Or breathes.
MV RMS Mulheim
According to the testimony of the Chief Officer of the MV RMS Mulheim, he was alone on the bridge on 22nd March 2003 when he accidentally caught his trouser leg on his chair, tripped and knocked himself out. He claims that when he recovered consciousness, all 4000 tonnes of ship and cargo were seconds away from making intimate contact with Land’s End. You couldn’t make any of this stuff up…probably. The Marine Accident Investigation discovered that the ship’s officers had plotted no course or chart positions for the ship’s voyage.
This shipwreck resides in Castle Zawn, just north of Land’s End. Despite a decade of battering by Atlantic swells, enough of the Mulheim is still intact to dwarf approaching paddlers. This isn’t an ideal place to land, on account of the bouldery beach and copious amounts of scrap metal thereabouts. In any case, paddling up close to (or even boarding) this rusting hulk is definitely in ‘Don’t try this at home’ territory. But all that said, it has been done…
I paddle gingerly into the high-sided cave known as Zawn Pyg, unsure what to expect inside. Thankfully, the water within turns out to be completely calm. I pass through to the far end, where this tunnel opens out to the sky again, at a perfect natural swimming pool. I turn around and paddle back. I encourage Claire, “It’s fine, go check it out!” No sooner has she entered the tunnel, than a sneaky rolling swell trundles beneath my kayak. It steepens and builds as it reaches the tunnel mouth, then explodes into a morass of foaming white which seemingly fills the entire cave. Oops.
There is no sign of Claire, and the dreadful realisation dawns on me that I should probably do something to help. The problem is, I have absolutely no idea what. Eventually and unexpectedly, she emerges from the zawn…inexplicably unflustered, unharmed and with an intact kayak. I have no idea how she survived the oceanic maelstrom which I’d just witnessed, but mutter something about having been just that very moment about to paddle in and ‘rescue’ her…
Paddlers who get excited about deep dark tunnels will be in their element (but should probably Google ‘Freud’). The granite geology of Land’s End means that there are numerous vertically–sided passageways like Zawn Pyg to explore. Land’s End itself is pierced by a passage, notable for the strong tide flow passing through. Further south, a truly epic tunnel (go search for it!) leads into the cliff for over a hundred metres before veering sharp right in darkness and stretching for another hundred…before re-emerging into daylight. Note however, that these caves will often be occupied by the local seal population. Be especially carefully around pupping time, between late August and September.
It’s five in the morning, and two of us are paddling in pre-dawn light through the tide races at Longships, surrounded by hundreds of swirling birds. “Wow, just look at them!” I shout, “Puffins! Guillemots! Gannets! Fulmars! Petrels! Razorbills! Incredible!” My friend looks back at me, bemused and possibly pityingly. “Seagulls. I see seagulls.”
The Longships are a 500 metre long chain of rocks, located a couple of kilometres directly offshore from Land’s End. This reef has often been compared to a passing ship, as the 43 metre high Longships Lighthouse gives the impression of a tall mast.
Land’s End is an exposed place to paddle in the first place; paddling that little bit further out to Longships increases this commitment significantly. You’ll need to ferry glide carefully through several successive tide races, each seemingly larger and steeper than the last…but it’s absolutely worth paying the rope out this far. On arrival, you’ll be checked out by the locals, the grey seals. These fellows laze on rocks, or float idly in the eddy pools whilst food floats past on the tide races…a natural sushi bar. On our last visit, we experimented with snorkels to roll over and watch the seals in the glassy-clear water. What we actually saw was a lot of seaweed, but our efforts clearly kept the residents amused.
Having written a guidebook about this stuff, I occasionally delude myself that I ‘know’ Land’s End. On this day however, I’m lucky enough to be paddling with a local, and it’s him giving me the tour. We’re in Nanjizal Bay. The word ‘grand’ barely seems adequate to describe Nanjizal, but that’s what I’m going with, as it’s now past midnight. To my south is the tunnel of Zawn Pyg, whilst the cliffs to my north are known as Diamond Horse Cove, because their quartz veins resemble diamonds. All of this stuff, I know. What I didn’t know until shown today, was that the sand spit in the centre of this granite amphitheatre forms clean peeling waves at certain states of the tide, waves which allow long rides before petering out safely into deep water; pretty convenient if you fancy surfing a fragile sea kayak. I retrieve my helmet from the back deck, wait for my turn behind Mike, and accelerate down a glassy and transparent wave face…
This article focuses on the Land’s End peninsula between Sennen Cove and Portgwarra, the part which includes Land’s End proper. The entire peninsula offers outstanding sea kayaking, however. The paddle along the south coast from Penzance to Porthgwarra takes in some stunningly attractive fishing villages, with the sandy bay of Porthcurno being a highlight. North of Land’s End, the paddle to St Ives past Cape Cornwall is a long and committing trip along surprisingly wild coasts. The granite gives way to dark and foreboding basalt, and the cliffs are topped with ghostly ruins of tin mines.
South West Sea Kayaking by Mark Rainsley – planning details and information, available from www.pesdapress.com.
West Cornwall & Land’s End Peninsula Guidebook (from ‘Friendly Guides’) by Neil Reid – great little guidebook, including excellent maps.
www.landsendweather.info – live weather reports and webcam showing sea conditions.
www.southwestseakayaking.co.uk – more photos and information, from the author.
I’ve just been sifting through some pics from the summer, for a magazine article I’m working on. I was reminded…as if I needed reminding…of just how amazing the cliffs of Penwith (far west Cornwall) are. These castellated spires are found a few miles south of Land’s End.
This incredible cave is hidden somewhere between Land’s End and Gwennap Head, in furthest west Cornwall. What you can’t see here is that this monumental tunnel is just the final exit…it leads far, far back into the Penwith granite until it becomes narrow and confined and light is limited…and then it turns a corner and continues for a longer distance again (past another entrance which seems to have been positioned perfectly to let in just enough light to paddle by), before opening out at a final entrance, facing the open sea. My paddle through was rather exhilarating, with a couple of waves breaking over my head in semi-darkness.
I wrote a guidebook to this coast, yet had never spotted it or been inside. Many thanks to the local paddlers who introduced me to it; good luck on finding for it yourself…
This article was originally published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine…
Escape from Britain!
Eight great offshore adventures
Everyone who has tried sea kayaking knows that it takes you to special places. Locations which unlucky uninitiated folk (‘Muggles’) can’t hope to reach or perhaps won’t even be aware of. As master of your own little craft, a brave new world of exploration awaits you if you simply poke the bow of your kayak away from the beach and paddle off. Our British coast is a particularly wonderful place to explore by paddle power, with several lifetimes’ worth of private and secret spots awaiting discovery. Perhaps the most alluring are those which lie just offshore, within plain view but beyond touch. British sea kayakers are simply blessed in this respect; a galaxy of reefs, rocks and islands sit offshore, awaiting your visit. Dipping briefly into pretension and cheap psychology (and why not?)…approaching such inaccessible places satisfies a primal urge to escape humdrum everyday life and head out to explore what’s over the horizon or around the corner, perhaps the same urge which drove humans to the Poles and the Moon. Yet, these places are right there on hand, waiting for you at this very moment; remember that nowhere in Britain is more than 90 minutes’ drive from the seashore, and escaping from Britain is a simple matter of making a few paddles strokes from that shore!
This article suggests some great offshore paddling trips, all accessed from the mainland coast of Britain. Each is reachable by kayak in a daytrip, although naturally some are more serious undertakings than others. Popular areas such as Anglesey and Scotland’s Hebridean Islands have been ignored as they are already well publicised. These offshore paddles are simply a selection of the author’s personal favourites. There isn’t quite enough information in this article to plan and complete each paddle, and this is entirely deliberate. Hopefully there is just enough information here to encourage you to head to a map, or the internet, and start formulating your own ‘escape plan’. There are of course many more similarly amazing offshore places to be discovered…don’t let this article deter you from seeking them out, but do share whatever you find with us!
Before venturing forth to escape Britain and leave our shores behind, you should ensure that you are appropriately experienced and equipped for offshore padding, and that you have taken proper consideration of the weather and tidal conditions on the day. But you already knew that, right? If you want to learn more about such things, the ‘sea kayaking’ chapter of the ‘BCU Handbook’ published by Pesda Press is as good a starting point as any. Another important consideration is the impact that your offshore escape will have on the local flora and fauna; seek up to date advice about nesting seasons, landing restrictions and suchlike.
* Accessible –locations reachable by a short paddle offshore, with relatively sheltered waters to cross. However, appropriate equipment should still be carried, and weather and tide will always need careful consideration. Plenty of opportunities to land.
** Challenging – Destinations achievable by intermediate sea kayakers who have planned and prepared carefully to handle exposed waters and tidal conditions. Limited opportunities to land and stretch legs.
*** Aspirational – Offshore adventures requiring good fitness due to the mileage involved, and precise planning to take account of tides, shipping and weather conditions. For experienced and confident sea kayakers only. Landing is difficult or impossible.
Escape to…chalk sea stacks
Old Harry Rocks *
Location: Studland Bay, Dorset
Launch point: Knoll Beach, Studland Bay (SZ O34836)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 100m/ 3km
Old Harry Rocks are easily reached from any of the car parks in sandy Studland Bay. Escape from the nudists and the anchored yachts and follow the dazzling white cliffs south around the bay until you reach this spectacular chain of chalk stacks. The walkers high above the nearby cliffs will peer down in envy at your ability to explore this inaccessible place. Caves and tunnels honeycomb the stacks, take time to check them all out. It is always possible to land, explore on foot and perhaps enjoy a picnic. Note that there is a tide race at the seaward end of the stacks; stay well clear unless you are confident in moving water. One more (occasional hazard) is the wake of Seacat ferries departing Poole; shortly after one has chugged past, a series of steep waves will surge into the stacks and this is not a good time to be inside the tunnels! Incidentally, the name ‘Old Harry’ is a euphemism for the Devil; Harry had a ‘wife’ close by, but this stack collapsed into the sea in 1896. Having come this far, you’ll probably be tempted to explore the equally impressive stacks located nearby beneath the cliffs stretching south of Old Harry.
Escape to…a Cornish castle
St Michael’s Mount *
Location: Mount’s Bay, South Cornwall
Launch point: Marazion (SW 515308)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 800m/ 800m
With its church and castle reaching skywards atop a 90m conical rock, the island of St Michael’s Mount is the most recognisable landmark in Cornwall. The island has been a religious site since the fifth century, when local fishermen experienced a vision of St Michael (after too much beer?). Various fortifications have also sprung up, latterly a decorative Victorian castle. The island is actually accessible on foot from Marazion by a tidal causeway which is covered for two hours either side of high tide. Paddle around the island and explore the far side at your leisure, then time your landing in the harbour as the causeway is cut off. This will allow you to stretch your legs and enjoy the gardens and castle in relative peace and quiet without the presence of kayak-less tourists. The castle belongs to the National Trust (brace yourself for the entrance fee) and is filled with an eclectic mix of stately rooms and eccentric artefacts, including mummified cats and samurai armour.
Flat Holm Island**
Location: Severn Estuary, South Wales
Launch point: Swanbridge (ST 167674)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 4.5km/ 6km
Cardiff might not sound like the likeliest destination for an offshore escape, but it just so happens that the city limits encompass a small offshore island, Flat Holm. The paddle to Flat Holm from outside the Captain’s Wife Pub at Swanbridge isn’t long, but crosses some very strong tidal flows; this is a trip requiring solid planning and settled weather. Flat Holm is recognised by its flat profile and tall lighthouse and is not to be confused with the steep-sided island further away, unsurprisingly named Steep Holm. A paddle around the island will reveal numerous concrete fortifications overlooking the tidal rapids; these relics date from the Victorian era. The landing beach on the north side of the isle gets quite small at high tide, so approach with care and carry your kayaks high above the tide line. The island’s residents include the wardens who greet you, and (less welcomingly) 4000 pairs of shrieking, aggressive black-backed gulls. Wear a brimmed hat as the gulls have a tendency of using you for dive-bombing target practice! It is possible to stay in the farmhouse on the island with prior arrangement (see www.flatholmisland.com); one surprising bonus of this is the great night-time view of Cardiff proper, across the water.
Escape to…a rock lighthouse
South Bishop Rock ***
Location: St David’s Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, South West Wales
Launch point: Whitesands Bay (SM 733271)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 6.5km/ 9.5km
South Bishop Rock, topped by its squat lighthouse, can be spied from St David’s Head, the most westerly point of the Welsh mainland. This sheer-sided rock is the most distant of the Bishops and Clerks, an isolated chain of rocky islets inhabited only by seals, puffins, razorbills and guillemots. The seas surrounding the rocks throng with porpoises, instantly recognisable by the way in which their dorsal fin distinctively ‘rolls’ along the sea’s surface. The tidal flows here on the outer rim of Pembrokeshire are severe; the famous ‘Bitches’ tidal rapid is nearby and there is plenty of rough water. This trip is only for those confident to use the flows to time their paddle precisely to both make it to the South Bishop (the next stop is probably Ireland!), and to return safely. It is only possible to land and drag kayaks ashore in the calmest of conditions. From the small landing platform, a precarious set of steps lead up through a gulley in the rock to the summit. If you are lucky enough to experience such conditions, you’ll get to sit below the lighthouse and enjoy one of the finest lunch spot views in Britain, and you’ll almost certainly have it to yourself…
Escape to…a secret archipelago
The Islands of Fleet *
Location: Fleet Bay, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
Launch point: Mossyards (NX 551519)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 500m/ 2.5km
Hidden away in a quiet corner of south-west Scotland and barely glimpsed from the A75 are the three tiny Islands of Fleet; Murray’s Isles, Ardwall Isle and Barlocco Isle. The three low-lying isles are real gems in an area already blessed with lovely coastlines. They are located on the fringes of shallow Fleet Bay, the estuary of a river called the Water of Fleet. Approach the isles quietly and sensitively; the islands have significant populations of nesting seabirds whom you really don’t want to scare away from their eggs if you paddle too close. Seals will follow you to investigate as you paddle in and around the seaweed-strewn reefs which fringe each isle. This is a magical place for pottering about or simply drifting. Landing is possible in various places, but again be careful that your wandering won’t disturb the avian inhabitants. Time your paddle from the car park near the campsite at Mossyards around high tide. At low tide, the Fleet estuary dries out and it becomes possible to walk to and between some of the isles. Speaking hypothetically, if you were to launch late in the day from Mossyards, an hour or two before low tide…then you’d probably return to find that the launch beach was now a mile or two wide, and you’d probably end up having to head a mile or two further down the coast to land and have to walk back to the car in the dark. This is all hypothetical, however…
Escape to…a seabird city
Bass Rock **
Location: Firth of Forth, East Lothian, Scotland
Launch point: North Berwick (ST 168674)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 2km/ 4.5km
The Bass is a hefty plug of volcanic rock, rising incongruously from the Firth of Forth. Its impressively soaring cliffs (and some cavernous tunnels) would draw kayakers anyway, but they are not what you’ll remember best. Anyone lucky enough to find good weather to paddle out beyond the reefs and waves of North Berwick to visit Bass Rock, will most distinctly remember the smell. Gannets are Britain’s largest seabird, and 150,000 of them make quite a stench. Gannets are always a breathtaking sight, but here at Bass Rock you are witnessing nothing less than a gannet city. These huge birds occupy every spare inch of space on the rock, and the noise and clamour of their constant activity has to be experienced to be believed. They almost blot out the skies above as they wheel in dense circles, trying to spot fish below. Spying prey, they plummet seaward en masse, folding back their wings to enter the water in sleek dart-shapes. Go see, be astonished. Do stay alert, however…this is an exposed spot with tidal flows and large ships passing through to take into account.
Escape to…a barrier island
Scolt Head Island *
Location: North Norfolk
Launch point: Brancaster Staithe (TF 793445) or Burnham Overy Staithe (TF 845444)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 500m/ 2km
Scolt Head Island is the gem of the North Norfolk Heritage Coast, a vast and unspoiled expanse of sandy shore hidden from sight behind Norfolk’s rather upmarket resort towns (dubbed ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’). The paddle across to the island is a short one, only being practical around high tide. This is Britain’s finest example of a ‘barrier’ island, a landform more common in exotic locations such as Australia. A line of high sand dunes protects the expansive salt marshes behind from the sea’s full force. The island stretches six kilometres long, with little going on…you’ve just successfully escaped the holidaying crowds of north Norfolk using your kayak as a getaway vehicle! The solitude is however seriously disturbed by the tens of thousands of geese who roost in autumn and winter, and by the shrieking terns which nest at the western end (avoid landing here). A paddle right around the island is possible with careful timing to ensure that there is deep enough water in the maze of channels on the landward side. At the western tip of Scolt Head Island, look out for the shipwreck which becomes visible as the tide falls. This genuinely wild island is a National Nature Reserve, treat with respect and leave no trace of your visit.
Escape to…rusting wartime ruins
Redsands Fort ***
Location: Thames Estuary, Kent
Launch point: Warden’s Point, Sheerness (TQ 980748)
Distance offshore/ from launch point: 9km/ 15 km
Who says that offshore adventures must always involve rocks or islands? This very different escape leads paddlers to some haunting manmade relics. The long paddle down the Thames Estuary to Redsands Fort is best planned to ride the ebb tide out from Sheerness, and the flood tide back. This remarkable Fort consists of seven interconnected rusty towers rearing on stilts above the water, one of several similar ‘Maunsell Forts’ (named after their designer) erected during WWII to shoot down German bombers approaching London up the Thames. The Guardian newspaper described them as “some of Britain’s most surreal and hauntingly beautiful architectural relics”. Paddlers who have visited them tend to be less articulate, muttering descriptions like “Something out of ‘War of the Worlds’” and “Those walking things from ‘Star Wars’”. All agree that visiting the forts is an indefinably special experience. Plan your route carefully and pay close attention to buoys…Redsands Fort is just south of the main shipping channel into London and straying into the path of a container ship would ruin your day. Landing at the forts isn’t really practical, so be prepared to spend a fair while out on the water.
According to the testimony of the Chief Officer of the MV RMS Mulheim, he was alone on the bridge when he accidentally caught his trouser leg on his chair, tripped and knocked himself out. He claims that when he recovered consciousness, all 4000 tonnes of ship and its cargo of waste plastic were seconds away from making intimate contact with Land’s End. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch discovered that none of the ship’s officers had plotted any course or chart positions for the ship’s voyage from Ireland to Germany, and certain basic safety procedures had not been followed.
You couldn’t make any of this stuff up…probably.
Enys Dodnan is a small islet found a kilometre south of Land’s End, England’s westernmost point. The Armed Knight is a distinctly turreted stack, just nearby.
It’s not a bad place to be.
These stunning cliffs are a few miles south of Land’s End in Cornwall. There is a paddler in the picture, somewhere.
Note the height of the splash zone, as indicated by the yellow xanthoria lichen. There is nothing between this cliff and Brazil…
Above photo taken at dusk, one evening last week.
The ‘Longships’ are the rocks offshore of Land’s End. Imagining its lighthouse as a tall mast, this extensive reef can certainly give the impression of a Viking flotilla when viewed from shore.
The reef stretches for about 250m north and south of the lighthouse and rewards close exploration. A visit at low tide will obviously give you more to look at. Numerous tide races form around and between the sharp rocks and you share this aquatic playground with seals galore, sunbathing, sleeping, fishing, swimming, occasionally all at once. The lighthouse itself is the second on Longships, the 1795 original having been replaced in 1873 by the current 43m tower. A keeper of the first lighthouse had his hair turn white in a single stormy night, during which the lantern was smashed.
On previous visits, I’ve always been rushing past en route offshore to the Isles of Scilly. A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to spend a little more time there…
This secluded cove is in south Cornwall. Fishing boats ply the local coast from this small gap in the granite cliffs. After landing, boats are dragged up the slipway above the waves. Over years, this has worn a groove into the slipway rocks. The original capstan – a human or horse powered winding mechanism – is still present, above the slipway.
This – the furthest west point of England – was the view from my morning run, this time last week. I ran from our campsite near Portcurno to Sennen Cove, along some of the finest cliffs and beaches in Britain, whilst Atlantic swell crashed and surged far below. The following day I ran the other way, to Penzance, and the day after that…I paddled this same coast.
Except that…I’m supposed to be running a trail marathon in under two weeks from now, and that was only the second week of my training. My limited understanding of such things suggests that four weeks is not an appropriate length of preparation. This could be problematic…
This wonderful tunnel passes clean through the very end of Land’s End, England’s most westerly point.
After due consideration and much umming and ahhing, we decided not to attempt paddling through it this time…
Praa Sands is a popular beach break in South Cornwall. In the strong northerly (offshore) winds which we experienced a few days ago, it forms a steep, fast and dumpy wave. I paddled my board out back through the groundswell, taking my place in the line-up amongst the various surfers you see in the photos here.
Five minutes later, dazed and battered and with every orifice crammed full of sand and saltwater, I paddled my board back in again, and joined the other novices using the small mushy waves on the shore…