On the Edge

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall is the only Cape in England and is so-called because until the 19th century it was thought to overlook the meeting of the English Channel and St George’s Channel (they actually meet at Gwennap Head, near Land’s End). A climb up the Cape headland to the stack offers panoramic views of Lands End, Sennen Cove, the Brisons rocks, the Isles of Scilly and the Wolf Rock lighthouse. You can either walk here from St Just or via the south-coastal path, or drive down to the National Trust car park, from where you can walk down to the former Count House and holiday cottage Brisons Vean (the dark facing house with the two round windows)  and around to the lookout, or take one of the routes behind the house up to the summit.

The Summit

Porthledden house, up on the hillside behind you, with its landscaped walled and terraced gardens and glasshouses was built by Captain Francis Oats who started work at Balleswidden mine aged 12, studied mineralogy in Penzance after his shifts and went to South Africa in 1873 where he eventually became the chairman of De Beers Company. Returning to St Just as a rich man, he bought Cape Cornwall and lived there until his death in 1918. It was later bought by H J Heinz Ltd in 1987 who subsequently donated it to the National Trust.

Edit: This wonderful restored Edwardian house with magnificent views over the coastline was launched on the market at £2.75m in September 2015, it found a buyer in October 2016. 

Porthledden House in the background

I had to visit twice this week as on my first visit something went wrong with my camera card and I lost all the photos 😦 I was rather annoyed because I had braved the stiff (and cold) wind to climb up to the summit to have a closer look at the chimney there and the views. The 138 year-old chimney stack of the Cape Cornwall Tin Mine is at the highest point of the Cape.

On my second visit I declined climbing up again as it was still blowing a gale, but still managed to get some lovely vistas of the surrounding coastline. Below you can just make out the Longships Lighthouse on the right which at 35 metres tall is 1¼ miles from Land’s End. Built by Trinity House in 1875 it is on a group of rocks called longships because of their resemblance to a fleet of boats.

Sennen beach and Land’s End

You cannot miss ‘The Brisons’, known locally as ‘General de Gaulle in his bath,’ the twin greenstone islets which take their name from the French word ‘brisant’ for reef. A breeding site for shags, razorbills and gulls in 1999 they were visited by a female Steller’s sea-lion, far from home in the north Pacific. They have been the cause of many shipwrecks and tragic tales,  and the starting point of an annual swim to Priest Cove.

The Brisons

Priest Cove marks the junction between metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and killas* where you can see spectacular overturned folds with intermingling veins of granite and killas which make the area so rich in mineral ores. The ramshackle huts, pots, ropes and fish boxes belong to several fishermen who still work the waters from The Brisons to Pendeen, long-lining for mackerel and shooting pots for crab and lobster. The cove is a favourite setting for local artists and was especially liked by Daphne du Maurier.

killas are slate rocks, pods of greenstone and pillow lavas which caused copper and tin to form in lodes along the point of friction.

Priest Cove
Priest Cove

The South West Coast Path passes through the sheltered valleys of Cot to the south, and Kenidjack to the north, and extensive mining and associated activities can be seen along the way.

If you enjoy a walk, long or short, then have a look at Jo’s site where you are welcome to join in.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

58 thoughts on “On the Edge”

  1. Cornwall really came through for you this year Jude, and these are great photos, in perfect lighting conditions. I liked General de Gaulle in his bath. It is easy to see the connection.
    I checked out the apartment rentals for our break in September, but at £1,900 for a week, I can’t quite stretch to it…
    Regards as always, Pete. x

    1. Haha… I checked out the apartment too! The cottage we stayed in was much more reasonable if you fancy Cornwall.

  2. I think I would positively cry if I lost all my photos from an outing. I hope you enjoyed the second outing as much – or more – than the first one. I’m learning so much about England’s geography from your posts … considering I’m starting from zero!

    The one thing that jumps out at me from the majority of your photos is the complete absence of trees. Without trees, everything looks so bare and desolate. Is it simply too rocky?

    1. The loss of the photos was annoying. It would have been more so if I hadn’t been able to revisit the site. We were lucky that the weather stayed good for us! I hadn’t noticed the lack of trees, but yes, you are right, there are very few and most are quite small hedgerow shrubs rather than trees. There are some in the Cot Valley which is much more sheltered. I don’t think there are that many woodlands around West Cornwall. There are a lot around the Fal river which is further east. I guess this area is rather bleak, but I love it!

  3. What a fabulous shot of the General in his bath! 🙂 I would have been heartbroken as well as annoyed to lose the first set of photos. Kudos to you for braving the gale-force winds yet again. Beautiful shots, Jude. 🙂

    1. I don’t understand what the problem was – the photos showed on the camera, but not when I tried to copy them onto the computer. Not sure whether I trust that card now.

      1. It might well be corrupt…..you could try reformatting it if you are sure you can’t get the images back, then do a test run of some stuff near home, check it out and see what happens. The problem with a corrupt card is that it may only be in certain sectors and not obvious initially. Aargh….technology….

        1. Reformatted it pretty much straight away as the instruction was to repair the disk, and I figured that in doing that it would delete all the files. Which it did. I have tested it out around here and it seems to be fine. As it is an 8 GB disk I would like to keep using it. As you say there could be bad sectors 😦

        2. Yep, my experience was of bad sectors about 3/4 of the way in, and lost virtually everything on the 4G disk…. Loads of images I couldn’t repeat from French Catalonia some years ago….

  4. How annoying to loose a whole set of pictures! But you did very well by doing it again! Thanks for sharing, specially the bath of General de Gaulle!

  5. Jude I would have a fit if I lost all my photos. It is one of the reasons when we travel Dave and I each have a camera plus my phone. In this case you could go back which is such a relief.
    Stunning vistas and thanks so much for your perseverance.

    1. The OH has a camera, but he doesn’t go up the ‘ups’ or near the edge as I do. And fortunately I did use a different camera later on that day, so only the photos from the summit were lost in the end. I just wish I knew how the error happened so I know if it is the camera or the card’s fault. I have used both since without any issues so who knows!

  6. Don’t we have a fascinating coastline, Jude? Your photo of The Summit reminds me a little of a lighthouse (now holiday cottage) just down the coast from Whitby. I love the inviting shot of the gate, too. I was wondering what killas are so thank you for that, and also for the map. No excuse for getting lost now. 🙂
    Many thanks for walking with me. I always enjoy your company.

    1. I loved the picture of the gate and the name – one reason why I had to return and get another photo! I was more upset at losing that than the views from the top! I am a s.a.d person :-/

  7. Stunning landscape Jude, but what I love is the nitty gritty of the rocks, you seem to know lots about the geology stuff. I don’t think my pockets are deep enough for that apartment, especially when I compare it to the one I’ve booked in Tavira, but the view would be grand. De Gaulle is fun, trust the Cornish to think of that x:-)x

    1. Ooh! When are you going to Tavira? Is Jo going to be at home? I’d love a holiday in the Algarve, well actually anywhere in Portugal. I do like Portugal. I was hoping to get over there this year, but it doesn’t seem very likely. Next year perhaps…

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