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Sunday, 13 December 2015

Walk 151 St Michael's Mount/Marazion to Penzance and Newlyn (Cornwall)

Walk 151 St Michael's Mount/Marazion to Penzance and Newlyn (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 8 miles or 12 km approx
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: coastal paths and pavements
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Plenty of bus links

The walk is mainly alongside the road until Penzance. When I visited there was a heliport near the road where the sky bus regularly flew to the Scilly Isles – I think this is now closed and the service goes from St Just airfield near Lands End. The west coast mainline train service which terminates at Penzance also runs alongside the road.

Follow the walk along to Longrock and the sands, then on to Penzance. The name Penzance comes from 'pen sans' which means 'holy headland' in Cornish. In 1663, Penzance became a coinage town for Cornwall which meant it was responsible for taxes levied on tin mining. The metal was brought down from the smelters by mule and tested for purity. Penlee Museum is well worth a visit for more background information about the area, it also houses an interesting art collection.

Here are a few things to look out for in Penzance:
The Humphrey Davy statue in the centre of the town. Davy was born here in 1778 and at 16 he was appointed as an apprentice to a local doctor. While there he became interested in chemistry and discovered the pain relieving effects of laughing gas. By 24 he became a professor of chemistry and, of course, is best remembered for his work on the miners' safety lamp.
The Egyptian House is marked up on signs, this strange building dates from around 1830 and was restored in the 1970s.
Off the main street is The 17th century Admiral Benbow pub which features in the opening scene of Treasure Island. It has a fascinating collection of maritime artefacts from numerous local wrecks over the last 400 years. Serves good beer and has been visited by many famous people over the years including the Rolling Stones, Gregory Peck and Suggs of Madness.
Not far from here is the Elizabethan Union Hotel, originally a manor house. It was here when there was an attack by the Spanish in 1595. I didn't go in but the blackened walls from the Spanish attack can (reportedly) be seen in The Nelson Bar. Victory in the Battle of Trafalgar was first announced in this building.
The quaint Captain Cutters House which sells specialist tobaccos and is known around the world.

Walking out of the town along the coast there is a stretch of water on the land-side with the Abbey Warehouse in the background. This was built in 1800 as a storage facility for the docks and has recently been restored. There is reputedly a smugglers tunnel to the Admiral Benbow pub.

Further along, adjacent to the harbour, is Ross Bridge. There was a swing bridge here and evidence of the old railway turntable which was used to operate it can still be seen. The Jubilee Park on the coast side was opened in 1935 at the time of George V's jubilee and was built in a streamlined fashion so it could cope with the frequent storms and high winds. It was successfully restored in recent years by a local architect.

The walk continues seamlessly into Newlyn, a traditional harbour with a fishing fleet. The town was home to William Lovett one of the leaders of the Chartist Movement in the 19th century. Members were dedicated to bringing about electoral reform in England. The Newlyn riots took place in 1896 when local fishermen, who strongly supported the Sabbath as a day of rest, took exception to crews from the north of England working on a Sunday. In the 1890s a group of artists, later to be known as The Newlyn School, flourished in the area and often used the surroundings and local people in their work.

Before finishing the walk look out for the 15 foot granite column dedicated to Louisa McGrigor who died in the service of the Red Cross during World War 1. There is also the sculpture of a fisherman which is a memorial of Cornish fishermen lost at sea.

Photos show: The Egyptian House, Penzance; The Red Cross Statue, Newlyn.

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