Frank Squibb lived in Falmouth with his family and sadly passed away in 2013. ‘The Squibbs are very well respected in Cornish athletic circles. Frank made a daily round trip to St. Austell College where he was a senior Tutor, lecturing in Tourism and Leisure. When you read about his walks you will not question either his enthusiasim or his fitness, although his sanity may require some scrutinity! Frank also worked with youngsters who are taking ‘The Duke Of Edinburgh Awards. A real proper chap.
What’s new about a walk along the coast? Well, as those of you who’ve tackled it will know, the Cornish Coast Path – or ‘South West Way’ to give it its proper title – has one major drawback. You always have to either walk back to the starting point at the end of the day, or organise a car-shuttle between the ends of the walk.
Dave and Anne Carrivick of Trispen have come up with a simple solution – a cross-country link to connect the Coast Path between Mousehole and Carbis Bay resulting in ‘The Land’s End Round’. Now the Carrivicks have published details of the 50-mile route, and offer a certificate to anyone completing it in one go -although overnighting along the way is permissable. Frank Squibb joined them on the inaugural circuit in April 1995. “Fancy a decent walk on Saturday?” Dave’s phone call jolts me from my winter lethargy. I know Dave’s ‘Decent’ probably means starting and finishing in the dark with a lot of mileage in between. Anyway, I’m in desperate need of the exercise, so casting caution to the wind I dutifully present myself at Mousehole car park for what transpires to be the inaugural attempt on ‘The Land’s End Round’. The five-person team comprises Dave and Anne Carrivick, Brian and Barbara Williams from Bristol, and myself – all members of the Long Distance Walkers’ Association. My premonition was correct: it’s dark.
Even the seagulls are still aslumber as we head up the hill away from the harbour, threading our way through narrow, winding alleyways. Within minutes we’re out of the village, following a little-used footpath towards the village of Paul. The first climb over we pause to look back across Mount’s Bay, a perfect picture-postcard scene with the Lizard Peninsula silhouetted against a reddening sky. An exquisite sight, but hopefully not a harbinger of bad weather to come.
Soon we’re descending steeply to Newlyn harbour, the peace of the morning rudely shattered as we emerge to the clamour and busyness of the fish market, the boats unloading their night’s catch. From Newlyn the path skirts around to the west of Penzance, but there is little sign of habitation until we reach the new bypass at Mount Misery. On past Castle Horneck Youth Hostel, and across fields to Madron Church.
The sun is beginning to dry the grasses as we head out of Madron towards the Atlantic coast. What a delightful route this is proving to be. Age-old footpaths lead us through the hamlets of New Mills and Nancledra, and on across the granite heartland of Penwith. We emerge onto tarmac at Carbis Bay. Fifteen miles done, the trans-peninsula bit over, and time for a late breakfast at a cafe on St Ives waterfront.
Leaving St Ives, the last habitation for over 20 miles, behind us we head westwards along the South-West Way, Britain’s longest National Trail. Although there are many hardy souls who walk the whole distance in one go, many more do it in chunks, returning year after year to clock up another couple of hundred miles. The Land’s End Round provides the perfect day out, combining the very best of Britain’s coastal scenery with an attractive rural link way on age-old footpaths. The route description is comfortingly detailed as far as St Ives. Then follows “Turn left and continue for 35 miles until you reach Mousehole”. The way is easy to follow – basically keep the blue bits on the right and the green and brown bits on the left. Or you can buy one of the numerous guide books featuring the South West Way. Between St Ives and Zennor the coastpath is gruelling with continuous steep ups and downs. For the first few miles there are quite a few walkers around, but as we get beyond the bounds of a reasonable day-walk from St Ives we have the path to ourselves once again. The map shows the coast road running parallel to the path, but neither the road nor the several villages and hamlets along the way are visible without a detour.
Beyond Zennor the gradients ease for a while, and we are more easily able to take in the intoxicating scenery. The wild gorse is a sea of bright yellow broken only by the narrow ribbon of the path itself. The great Atlantic rollers, unhindered in their journey of three thousand miles, crash deafeningly against the rocks far below.ln an early guide book, From St Ives to Land’s End, written in 1908 the author, Folliott Stokes, refers to this area as being a favourite resort of adders. He tells the walker how to make an adder-skin belt: ‘First you have to find and catch your adder. Kill it with a stick and remove the head. Give the stump of the neck to a friend to hold, or if you are alone, place it under the sole of your boot. You can now peel off the skin as easily as you would peel off a glove”. He goes on to describe the process of curing and stitching the skins to make ‘an extremely handsome belt, that any rare and radiant maiden would be pleased to wear”. We see no adders this day. Either they’re still enjoying their winter sleep, or perhaps they are holding up the Levis of the rare and radiant maidens of Zennor.
At Bosigran the path skirts great cliffs, some of the finest climbing rock in the West Country. But such dubious delights as Fungus Face, Alison’s Rib and Suicide Wall are not for us today. The early morning prediction of the red sky is proving accurate. Mist is beginning to roll in, and there’s a dampness in the air.
Past Pendeen lighthouse, and we encounter a desolate landscape littered with the ruined engine-houses of long-abandoned tin-mines. Soon Cape Cornwall is in view and the pace picks up as we anticipate the delights of a meal at Sennen Cove. The tide is out when we reach Whitesand Bay, so we drop down to the beach and walk along the waterline to the Cove. Fish and chips and gallons of tea. Magic! Fortified and inspired we get back to the coast path once again, and run the long mile to Land’s End. The crowds are thinning as we pass the First and Last House and the hotel. There is now a sense of urgency about the expedition: 13 miles still to go. and darkness only a couple of hours away. The now constant mist obligingly lifts just long enough to enable us to take in the magnificent view of the Land’s End – “that shapely granite buttress, sentinelled by the graceful column of the Longships Lighthouse, and laved by the mighty Atlantic rollers” (Stokes again) – and then we’re away on the last leg to Mousehole.
A steep descent past the Minack Theatre at Porthcurno, and we reach the boulder beach at St Loy with the last of the light. The path crosses above Tater Du lighthouse, and we stand and look down on the beams of light, reaching far across Mount’s Bay into the misty night. An eerie sight indeed. The plaintive lament of the foghorn accompanies us for the rest of our journey. We reach Lamorna Cove by torchlight. Nearly there. No more running now. The pace is easy and we enjoy the night, savouring the memories of another fine day’s walking. At last the lights of Mousehole are below us, and we descend the steep road to the harbour to arrive at the ‘Ship’ just in time for last orders.