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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Walk 157 St Ives to Hayle (Cornwall)

Walk 157 St Ives to Hayle (Cornwall)

(Third leg of English coastal walk – Lands End to Bristol)

Map: L/R 203
Distance: 8 miles or 12km.
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Terrain: coastal paths, some sandy parts and some road
Access: Parking at both ends.
Public transport: Trains every hour, change at St Erth

Start at the north end of St Ives near the lifeboat station on the coastal path.

St Ives derives its name from Saint Ia who is said to have arrived here from Ireland in the 5th or 6th century. The town is a pleasant place to explore with its narrow streets and sandy beaches (including the main beach – Porthminster). Pilchard fishing provided the town with its original prosperity but this has been superseded by tourism. There is plenty to look at for one or two days if you have the time. In the late nineteenth century it was 'discovered by artists' who were attracted by the quality of the light. It has now become a major centre for art; especially notable are the Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth's collection of sculptures.

Near the pier, designed by John Smeaton in 1770 (Eddystone lighthouse is one of his other notable buildings), is a plaque commemorating the record breaking passage made by a St Ives lugger in 1902 to Scarborough – 600 miles in 50 hours. Impressive. Another plaque records the thanks of the Royal Marine Commandos for the local people's hospitality when they were stationed here between 1943 and 1950. The nearby lighthouse was added in 1890. St Leonard's Chapel dates back to medieval times. It was restored in 1971 and opened as a museum and a memorial to the fishermen of St Ives.

Follow the coastal path out of the town alongside Carbis Bay. Look out for The Baulking House – it was a Huer's lookout. His job was to create a hue and cry when shoals of pilchards were spotted in the bay and then direct the fishing boats to them using hand signals.

The light yellow of Porth Kidney Sands stretches up to the estuary of The River Hayle. A number of Celtic saints are said to have established chapels here in the past. Great care needs to be taken if swimming because of the swift dangerous currents.

The path turns inland alongside the River Hayle. Much of this area is a nature reserve which is especially attractive to migrating birds, over 270 species have been recorded. It is the warmest estuary in the country and rarely freezes. On the way to Lelant Saltings you pass near the railway line which provides the trains with great views on the way to St Ives or Hayle. Lelant was once an important town and seaport. 'Heyl' means estuary in Cornish.

On the way into Hayle is a most impressive rail viaduct built in 1852 from a Brunel design and later updated with brick arches. It is worth taking a stroll into Hayle to look at the canal and other buildings. It is mainly a Victorian town which prospered from making machinery for tin mining and copper smelting. An old shell of a water mill has a floral display marking the town's status as a World Heritage Site. Look out for the tidal gate on the canal in the Copperhouse area also the Copperhouse Pub and St Elwyns Church. The latter is named after a fifth century saint and is a Grade 2 listed building. However, Pevsner, in his History of Architecture, described it as loud outside and dull inside! (Didn't get to go inside to offer an opinion).

Photos show: St Leonard's Chapel in St Ives; Porth Kidney Sands; the old mill and floral display, Hayle.

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