Yesterday I forcibly dragged my husband out of the house. He has been too much on the computer, too immersed in the culmination, maybe, of a drama years in the growing. I wanted rocks and I wanted small rocks in various colours. I was thinking about beaches I knew and different stones on each, Godrevy with it’s grey flat rocks, Porthleven with it’s amazing granite full of orangey quartz crystals the size of slugs, Dollar Cove with it’s rocks whose colour I forget and Poldhu with it’s dark grey rocks, criss crossed with fine lines of quartz.
Because he was taking so long to get ready, I ended up picking up a map and my book of Conrwall’s geology. The book is too technical for me, I am not a Geologist and my understanding is basic. What the technical names of different rocks means does not come easily to my mind but I could interpret the map of the Lizard well enough to see that it was crisscrossed with a wide variety of rock types (the Lizard peninsula is the Southern most bit of land of mainland Britain). I also found that of my maps of Western Cornwall, I was missing the Western side of the Lizard but I did have the Eastern side.
This is kind of odd really as the bit I do not have a map for, I know pretty well, but the other bit I have hardly ever visited. It is very isolated. Tiny roads covered in mud. Little villages by the edge of the sea, maybe with a road in and a road out, maybe with one road in.
So off we went to explore this section of the cost, from the mouth of the Helford river to Lizard point. It was a mild day, the wind of recent days had dropped and a bit of cloud cover made it a little warmer. Our first stop was at St Anthony’s, a tiny village caught between the Helford river and Gillan Creek. These rivers are deceptive, they are huge salt water affairs, flooded river valleys from times gone by. They have to be one of my favourite parts of Cornwall though. St Anthony had a tiny beach with many boats pulled up above the tidemark. The rocks were flat and grey and some of them were slate.
We drove back round the creek to Gillan, which gave us our first glimpse of the coastline around the corner. Gillan was a one road in sort of a place with only a turning circle at the bottom, so we could not pause for long or collect stones. We drank in the view and drove back up the hill.
Then to Porthallow, maybe a mile and a half as the Crow flies (we saw a lot of them, and even a couple of large Raptors and a Jay). Porthallow had a road in and a road out and was the first beach that had more than a track leading to it. Out of the shelter of creek we were much more exposed and the steep drop off of the beach was evidence of the way the wind here drives the waves onto the land. We gathered grey rocks with the occasional rock with a pinkish tinge.
Next was Porthoustock, maybe a mile as the Magpie flies, firmly sandwiched between the relicts of an industrial past. At the Northern end of the beach was a huge old building and at the Southern a wharf and a glimpse of the quarry through the broken headland. Here I got cold. Fishermen with longlines were contemplating the sea and a dead seal was being caressed by the surf. We collected more grey stones but now there were also stones that were were white and brown and stones that were were rough and black and white.
Next was Coverack and we drove along the sea wall past the harbour to the little car park. The tide was too far in for there to be anything much to limb down too. The rocks were battered, craggy and black but the sea had a turquoise glint.
Next was Kennack Sands which is largely sandy. The South end of the beach has some large rocks and a stream and is very pretty indeed. We walked along the sand and soon discovered we had saved the best till last. First we spotted little black rocks dotted in the sand but as the sand was covered in more and more pebbles we found black and red stones, Then he spotted a green snakeskin stone and we knew we had found the rocks that this area is most famed for, Serpentine.
There was a whole industry in this area around mining and carving Serpentine which is now much diminished and the remnants are purely just for the tourists and Serpentine is relatively low on their list of must haves these days.
The sun was setting beyond the land as we left. We drove on through the dusk, through Ruan Minor to Cadgwith, where we did not pause for lack of parking close to the sea. And finally on to Lizard point to finish the trip. Except that we got side tracked. We saw some of my husbands colleagues vehicle and stopped for a chat and it turned out they were in a spot of bother and needed extra hands to help, so we did. It was interesting to see my husband at work. The chances of this happening were tiny – there is one team of this type covering the whole of Cornwall on a Saturday, so for us to find them in such an out of the way spot…
We made it to Lizard by the iconic lighthouse in the dark. Ships glistened like jewels and the lights of the lighthouse were in full swing, sweeping across everything around, including us.