Pacing, Grazing and Stepping Backwards in Port Gaverne
We 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.
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 1815 1,000 tons of fish were landed and carted across the beach to the fish cellars.
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.
But back to the walk. We set off westwards.
And see some amazing rock formations.
We climb up.
And look down.
And away to the west.
We look out to sea.
Then we skirt farmland.
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.
A Cornish hedgebank divides fields.
Slabs of slate make a barrier on the steep path.
We get back to the village and head down the path to the pub.
But not before passing this derelict hotel. Anyone got a spare million?
And Saint Pirans flag proudly flying. (Some people want Cornwall to be independent).
Flights of fancy…
Memories of the industrial past.
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.
Dogs welcome. We resisted pleading eyes.
Afterwards I drive home via Port Isaac and stop briefly to look down at the little fishing village.