Serpentine is a stone found on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula in reddish or greenish varieties. The stone looks quite mundane, until you wet its surface. Only then, do you see the colourful veins in the stone which – resembling snake’s skin – give the stone its name. During the nineteenth century, this wonderful stone was popularly utilised for fireplaces and suchlike. The beach around the abandoned Serpentine Works at Polpeor Cove is strewn with polished offcuts. Searching for these can make rainy days pass by quickly.
Heather and I are currently semi-permanent residents of a disused serpentine factory on the coast of the Lizard, Britain’s most southerly peninsula. Our prolonged stay is closely connected to the dire weather, but there are certainly worse places to be holed up in a tent. Long live the National Trust, and their lenient attitude to discreet wild camping on their land.
The Lizard lighthouse is well worth a visit. It’s the biggest lighthouse complex in the world, this being because Trinity House used it as a kind of residential depot for their off-duty lighthouse keepers, at least before they replaced them all with computers. Out to sea, a constant stream of shipping can be seen passing around Lizard Point. Trinity House (they operate the buoys and lighthouses around England and Wales) used to have a museum at Penzance, but it shut down a few years back. Much of the collection is being transferred to the Lizard over the coming year.
Lizard Point looks pretty terrifying at the best of times, with complex reefs and serrated rocks extending offshore. With the wind and swell we have right now (and don’t be deceived by the ‘calm’ timelapse photos) it’s several paddlers’ worst nightmares rolled into one.