Back to Cornwall and having already visited the most southerly point in mainland Britain it only seemed logical to visit its most westerly as well, Land’s End. Far better known than the Lizard, Land’s End has a certain mystique associated with it which is sadly spoiled, in my opinion at least, by the presence of an amusement/entertainment park. Quite what place a Shaun the Sheep experience has to do with this stretch of coastline I will never know but nevertheless it was a place we simply had to visit. But how to do it? I really didn’t want to line the coffers of whoever is responsible for such a carbuncle so instead we parked at Sennen Cover where our modest parking fee would go to the upkeep of another traditional harbour instead. Far more responsible in my books and as if to agree the RNLI had posed their latest lifeboat perfectly.
It’s less than a couple of miles from here to Land’s End but boy is there plenty packed in along the way. Heading up to the lookout point at Mayon Cliff had already delivered four Fulmar, a couple of Gannets and another male Wheatear before I picked up a stunning male Black Redstart hiding in a cleft. There was just time to get Emma onto it before a short flight took the bird out of sight from where I never managed to relocate it. Brief though the encounter may have been it was easily the best example of the species I’ve yet seen and in a far more natural setting that the birds we saw in Cardiff Bay.
The view from the cliffs was spectacular but another unexpected discovery was waiting just around the corner. Nestled in a narrow cove are the battered and torn remains of the MV RMS Mulheim. She came ashore in 2003 in somewhat curious circumstances when the man on watch was knocked unconscious after standing up from a chair and getting his trousers caught. I kid you not. Fortunately any environmental damage was limited and the majority of its cargo of recycled plastic car parts was able to be removed via a temporary conveyor system. For the ship however there was to be no happy ending and after being declared a total loss she has been left at the mercy of the sea.
In contrast to other areas walked during the week this stretch was noticeably different with expansive heathland butting up to the cliffs. In summer I’m sure it would be awash with flowers but today we were happy with a singing Skylark and only our third butterfly of the year, a Small Tortoiseshell, closely followed by two overflying Choughs.
Another quarter of a mile brought us to Land’s End itself and, when not looking at the entertainment sprawl mentioned above, it was every bit as dramatic as I’d hoped for. Gorgeous scenery, ‘that’ sign and conditions just about clear enough to see the lighthouse at Longships. There was even an unexpected trig point to be bagged.
With it being out of season the place was relatively quiet but wherever you find picnics a tame bird or two will never be far away. Thankfully Land’s End’s clean up squad has eschewed the more typical Gulls in favour of Jackdaws and some incredibly pretty Starlings. One of the latter even gave us a loud and varied performance whilst perched on the old Padstow lifeboat which is on static display.
Perhaps my most lasting memory though will be of a sign warning that the path ahead was deemed a red route and should only be attempted by those with able bodies. I’m not sure whether it was referring to the step or wide gravelled path but it was quite clear this certainly wasn’t Kansas any more.
Our return route took us back the way we’d come before it was time to pay St Ives a visit. Last year we were met with torrential rain and very accommodating Turnstones. Thankfully this time out only one of those still remained. Can you guess which?
This small group were roosting just behind the RNLI station and proved to be real stars. Apart from posing perfectly they had a delightful habit of all jumping at once each time a wave broke against the sea defences. I managed to catch some of the resultant spray in the image above but sadly not that jump. You’ll have to use your imagination instead. Down at the harbour a flock of twenty Common Scoters were heading strongly out to sea and there was a single Guillemot just offshore. We were also joined by an inquisitive Grey Seal but it disappeared before I’d managed to get the camera out. From there it was on to a very enjoyable walk around the town itself which proved both far larger and prettier than I’d been expecting. From sandy beaches to prominent headlands, it was all there, though god knows what the architects were thinking when they built the Tate gallery. Attractive it most certainly is not.
With the sun by now finally heading landwards it was time to take our leave once more. If you ever get a chance to visit I highly recommend it but for gods sake do heed the road signs. You really don’t want to end up driving through the centre unless perhaps you have an old mini or at least are not averse to rearranging your wing mirrors.