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Pacing, Grazing and Stepping Backwards in Port Gaverne

Walsking Boots  www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comWe had a brief encounter with the sun last Sunday and taking advantage of the break in the weather I arranged to meet a friend for a walk on the coast. On days like these it’s not hard to understand why artists and particularly landscape painters have always made a home in Cornwall. The light and skies are simply breathtaking. We headed for Port Gaverne, which has a good mix of wildness and village, plus the added advantage of a nice pub which does Sunday lunch. I never tire of rounding that hill and seeing what’s there.

North Cornish Coast

Today Port Gaverne cove is a very quiet spot but it wasn’t always like this. In 1762 there is an early reference to industry, with a lease on a plot of land for loading lime-rich sea sand, once a very important commodity, used as a fertiliser on acid Cornish soils. Two hundred years ago it was a busy fishing port, although it has mostly been a place of work rather than residential. To give you an idea, in a late summer week of 1815Β  1,000 tons of fish were landed and carted across the beach to the fish cellars.

Port Gaverne Cornwall

When the fish trade declined the port serviced the slate trade. The Delabole Slate Quarry, five miles inland, had been in production since Elizabethan times and in 1807 the slate company quarried out the existing road down to Port Gaverne enabling access to easy sea transport to markets at home and abroad.

Around a hundred ships a year came, capable of carrying fifty to eighty tons. They were flat-bottomed and able to settle upright on the sand. Heavy mooring ropes were tied to posts set into the rocks on either side of the beach. A few of the granite posts can still be seen, and the deep round rock pools tell of the location of the wooden ones. The slates were loaded by women who passed them aboard by hand and packed them in straw. While the women were working, their children would play at the head of the beach.


Ship being loaded on the beach at Port Gaverne with slate in 1875

But back to the walk. We set off westwards.

North Cornish Coast

And see some amazing rock formations.

North Cornish Coast www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comI look behind.

North Cornish Coast

We climb up.

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And look down.

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Herring gulls for scale…

And away to the west.

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We look out to sea.

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Then we skirt farmland.

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At the edge of this field we find a dead fox. Most likely it was shot because of the lambs but we can’t tell for sure.

Dead fox

A Cornish hedgebank divides fields.

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Slabs of slate make a barrier on the steep path.

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We get back to the village and head down the path to the pub.

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But not before passing this derelict hotel. Anyone got a spare million?

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And Saint Pirans flag proudly flying. (Some people want Cornwall to be independent).

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Flights of fancy…

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Memories of the industrial past.

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And finally we get to the pub. And grub.

It’s cosy. A good traditional Sunday lunch with all the trimmings, Turbot for me, Roast Pork for my friend.

We chatted with these friendly people over lunch. The man with his arms folded is from the celebrated Fishermans Friends choir.

We chatted with these friendly people over lunch. The man with his arms folded is in the celebrated Fishermans Friends sea shanty singers – performing at The Royal Festival Hall next week.

Dogs welcome. We resisted pleading eyes.

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Afterwards I drive home via Port Isaac and stop briefly to look down at the little fishing village.

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30 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a spot! How long does it take to drive from your place to this?

    February 1, 2013
    • It takes about 30 minutes. I don’t know if you know but Cornwall is a peninsular, long and thin, so you’re never that far away from the coast. The sea is cold though! I used to get in all the time but I’ve become a bit weedy – I even wear a wetsuit in the summer now.

      February 2, 2013
      • It all looks out of a Virginia Woolf novel. I’m not a big swimmer anyway – but I love to walk beside the wild sea – the water nearby here – the Long Island Sound is a bathtub by comparison. So thanks for this lovely-vicarious walk (ending at the pub – how perfect!)

        February 2, 2013
  2. You live in an incredibly beautiful part of the world. You must feel like you won the lottery when you round that bend and get to look out over the vista and the ocean. One thing that I found interesting when we visited the U.K. back in 2005/2006 was that people just don’t notice how beautiful it is. I was wandering around in London looking up at the amazing architecture and people were looking at me like I was mad…couldn’t they see those amazing carvings, gargoyles and those monkeys crawling all over some of the buildings? What flight of fancy took these architects to make them design some of these amazing buildings? The countryside was gorgeous (what we saw of it) as it was winter when we visited. We didn’t have the time to venture out into the deep south but if we ever go back I will be out there with my own “mooky boots” wandering the moors and marvelling at your wonderful native plants. I think it’s true that we never really appreciate our own home turf till we leave it for a while and then return. I love the U.K. with its endless procession of history wending it’s way over the countryside and standing steadfast against the ravages of time. “Enduring” is the word that I would pick to describe the U.K. I love these pictures and thank you for sharing your walk with your friend :). The only pubs that we ended up in were decidedly unBritish and could have been plonked down anywhere in the world BUT they did offer cheap and filling meals for the 5 of us and at the time, that was more important than ambiance ;).

    February 1, 2013
    • It’s true, when we live somewhere we don’t appreciate things quite as much as when we first experienced them. I remember being totally awed by the sunken lanes and high hedgebanks here in Cornwall when we first came to visit, but now I don’t think about them in the same way – but I do still think they’re beautiful. The coast is so spectacular that it always gives me a bit of a shiver, maybe because I don’t get there that often even though I only live a short distance! Too busy with the cows πŸ˜‰

      You’re right about London, it is pretty amazing and when I go back there now I do appreciate it. When I lived there I was one of those people rushing around with my head down! Too much to do, too little time…the old excuses πŸ˜‰

      One of the reasons that the UK has remained lovely despite a huge population is the rather draconian planning laws. People may moan about red tape and the difficulty of getting things built but it’s the main reason that the countryside still looks the way it does. Some people are worried by the new relaxation of the law about building on ‘green belt’ land – we’re watching this space.

      If you ever come again, be sure to drop in!

      February 2, 2013
      • I will wander the moor in my mucky boots and will probably get lost ;). If I EVER get brave enough to suffer that nail biting 30 hour flight ever EVER again, you will be the FIRST to know πŸ™‚ its a bit like childbirth… you remember the pain for a while but after a while the memory recedes like the tide…I don’t think my air France plan trip will EVER recede! πŸ˜‰

        February 2, 2013
    • I’ve never been on such a long flight, 9hrs is my maximum. I’ve got quite a few friends to visit down under…one day I’ll do it!

      February 4, 2013
  3. Harriet #

    ee that were grand! Lovely reminders of coast walking in Cornwall.

    February 1, 2013
  4. Pamela McMullan #

    It sounds like a great day out.

    February 2, 2013
    • It was, it felt a little like coming out of hibernation…January can be a bit like that can’t it?

      February 3, 2013
  5. Gue' #

    What a marvelous spot to take an after walk. Hike and climb, rather. Some of those paths looked fairly steep! It’s beautiful country, though. The fishing and slate history was interesting.

    Between browsing over your prior blog and the bits in this one about dinner in the pub, I’m now ravenous. I also think you solved my ‘What to fix for dinner tomorrow’ question. Some Root Soup. If I can find the parsnips. They can be a bit thin on the ground, locally. Not commonly available but I think I know where to look.

    There’s no real recipe for Root Soup. It’s a winter time thing and mostly root veggies and a bit of cabbage cooked with ham in a veggie broth base. My soups never turn out exactly the same every time because I tend to throw in things according to what I have in the fridge and pantry and what mood I’m in.

    February 2, 2013
    • Sounds good. And what would we do without soup? As you say you can pretty much throw anything in and it will taste goodI. The roots are nice and hearty with the cabbage and I like to add beans too (usually from a tin) haricot, butter or chickpeas. I just got a bit bored of it all…hence the chocolate! πŸ˜‰

      The coast path IS steep, you certainly get out of breath (feel like imminent expiry πŸ˜‰ ) on the climbs.

      February 3, 2013
      • Gue' #

        The soup turned out great.

        I even found parsnips! I had to buy a bag of three, whereas the last time I bought any, they were loose in the produce department of my local grocer. I only needed one but used them all, anyway.

        By the time I got everything in the pot, it was about full to overflowing! I think I need a bigger soup pot.

        I used turnip, potato, rutabaga (I think you call them swedes), parnsip, carrot, onion, celery, a small yellow crookneck squash (marrow), a little cabbage, a handful of fresh green beans (haricot verts, if my high school French is correct) 2 large containers of veggie broth (store bought), a large can of diced tomatoes, one small can of diced tomatoes with green chilis, the Christmas ham bone that was in the freezer, salt, cayenne flakes, Mrs. Dash Table Blend.

        Once everything was in the pot, brought it to a boil, then down to simmer. After about an hour, I pulled the ham bone out, shredded the meat, tossed the bones and put the meat back in the pot. Let it simmer for another 30 minutes or so, et voila… Root Soup.

        February 3, 2013
    • I like the sound of it all…but particularly the ‘Mrs. Dash Table Blend’ !

      February 4, 2013
  6. This looks enviable. Particularly that coast path. You did well to catch the sunshine. It seems to be in decline in London.

    February 2, 2013
    • Only briefly….back to the usual now. When is it ever going to STOP RAINING… πŸ˜‰

      February 3, 2013
  7. aw great walk again, thank you! I love Cornwall so much – I used to go climing near Gwythian (sp?) when I was at uni. Just the thing to blow a few cobwebs away, all that brisk sea air. Until I saw your photos I had forgotten how much I love the wild coastline – completely the opposite of the mountains. One day I’ll find a desert island that has it all! x

    February 3, 2013
    • It sounds familiar. Though a lot of names sound a bit like that! Tre this Tre that Wythian this Wythian that… πŸ˜‰ Did you do coasteering? That sounds quite fun, but if I decide to do it I will definitely do it later in the year after the sea kayaking experience last February!

      It’s funny, I live inland and get bit swallowed up by it…moors and woods, so it’s always lovely to get to the coast. But the mountains must be stupendous… πŸ˜‰

      February 4, 2013
  8. Great pics again – thanks for sharing them. We’ve wanted to hike the Cornish coast for a long time – maybe this fall will be the time to do it. Is it possible to set out on foot from one town and walk for a few days along the trails, staying in pubs or B&Bs along the way?

    February 4, 2013
    • Thanks, glad it’s got you in the mood! It certainly is possible to do as you say, there are plenty of places to stay. Here’s a link to the South West Coast Path site

      there’s lots of info on there about routes etc and places to stay.

      North Cornwall is wild and rugged, South Cornwall is more sheltered with a different feel – depends how much time you have, you may be able to encompass both!

      If you come anywhere near Tintagel let me know, I’ll meet you for a cuppa.. πŸ˜‰

      February 4, 2013
      • Thanks for the link and we’re on for the cuppa if it works out!

        February 6, 2013
  9. Lovely photographs and background information. I love Cornwall and have walked several sections of the coast path, I have a friend I visit each year who lives just outside Lostwithiel. It is such a magical place. I’m not familiar with this area but would love to visit some time πŸ™‚

    February 4, 2013
    • Ah it is lovely, hope you make it one day, plenty of photographic opportunities for you too! The Strangles is another great place, an NT reserve, a bit further north. I love Lostwithiel, all those antique shops πŸ™‚

      February 5, 2013
  10. With so many gorgeous photos to enjoy, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but one did rather strike me. It’s the “westward look”, showing the coastline. Looking at it, I suddenly “saw” the map of England superimposed – and had a much better sense of what is going on with all those squiggly map lines. Maps are so two-dimensional – it’s always a shock to realize the coast doesn’t just go in and out, it goes up and down.

    Here in Texas, of course, it’s quite the opposite. Flat, flat is the name of the game. Not only are the beaches long and flat, the coastal prairie is flat and reaches inland for miles and miles. If you head off in a boat, the water stays relatively shallow for a good distance off shore – another slow and gentle slope.

    That old photo from the slate trade is another reminder. We can’t use the tide here to bring in boats – there’s no tide! Well, there is, of course, but the tidal range is only 1-2 feet. Our highest and lowest tides are wind-driven. The bays are so shallow that strong, constant winds can empty them completely, or flood them so much that roads are cut off.

    February 8, 2013
    • Thanks Linda. I just read your comment and realise that I’ve made a mistake! It’s actually looking east or north east, which would make sense as it’s the north coast.

      I know what you mean about maps. I like the very detailed OS maps, where you can see every contour, path and historical features.

      I love flatlands, but we don’t have anything as big scale as you have. Norfolk is the closest we get with it’s big skies and fenlands.

      February 12, 2013
  11. Would love to hike there!

    February 10, 2013
  12. Somewhat productive couple of days in the garden, hoped to re-enact a coastal walk with weather ‘just like this’ today with P and dog A… but… the day is full of Cornish mizzle! Pah! No worries, another day, we’ll drink tea and eat cake instead… πŸ™‚

    February 10, 2013

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