SWCP Day 16. Mayon Cliff (past Sennen Cove) to Porthcurno

Today’s distance walked – approx 8 kms (5 miles).
Ascent – approx 470m (1541 ft).

I woke at around 5am this morning, and got myself up and out quickly. It was only about 1Km to Land’s End, so I was there by 6am. Some other early birds were there too, so we took photos for each other at the sign – a couple who were just starting a camper van tour to John O’Groats and 4 guys doing a cycle tour of the SWCP.
Land’s End is extremely under whelming. There is a hotel, shops selling ice-creams and souvenirs, and a small sign which only gives you distances to New York and John O’Groats (how far to Auckland…!?). I was desperate for the loo, but couldn’t go because they lock the toilets at night, sigh…

Land's End
Land’s End

I got on my way with some urgency, and moments later I was back to the rugged beauty of the real Cornwall again. I stopped for breakfast on a little headland overlooking some fantastic granite rock stacks. I am now walking England’s South coast Eastwards, and instead of the Atlantic ocean, my outlook is now the English Channel.

Cornish coastline
Cornish coastline

It was an extraordinary couple of hours for wildlife spotting. First I saw a small adder snake next to a little mouse (that it had presumably killed). It remained motionless, and was facing away from me, so I took a wide berth around it.

Baby adder
Baby adder

Next, and completely unaware of the significance at the time, I saw pair of rare ‘choughs’ – Cornwall’s national bird. They are black with an orange beak and orange legs. I saw them on the path in front of me, and wondered what they were. I watched them for a bit until they flew off. Ten minutes later I saw a sign on a gate telling me to look out for the rare choughs, with a photo of the bird I had just seen.

Grass snake (or slow worm??)
Grass snake (or slow worm??)

Next I saw a brown grass snake, which I again gave a wide berth, and finally I saw a beautiful huge green caterpillar!

What a beauty
What a beauty!

I reached Porthgwarra, and close to the tiny harbour/inlet was the most beautiful little beach with clear turquoise water and golden sands. A guy was swimming naked there… How perfect to have the beach all to himself (almost).

Tiny beach at Porthgwarra
Tiny beach at Porthgwarra

A short time later I arrived at the famous Minack Theatre. This was something I’d been really excited about seeing. It’s an open air stone amphitheatre built into the steep cliffs, and it’s a very special place.

Minack theatre
Minack theatre

It was a vision and labour of love for local lady Rowena Cade who in the 1930s and with the help of her gardener, and later a builder, set about building this incredible place stone by stone. She worked on it for over half of her life. The entire site had to be cleared of gorse before any building could start, and once under way, Rowena worked on it every day even carrying up bags of sand from the beach at Porthcurno (a shockingly steep walk down & up), to use for the concrete the next day.

Minack theatre, works inscribed into the seating
Minack theatre, works inscribed into the seating

I had a look around the theatre and little museum and then had a coffee, and a mince pie (with clotted cream) and chatted to a lovely English couple. Outside, I booked my ticket for tonight’s play, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. I couldn’t think of a more perfect evening.

Amazing outlook from the Minack theatre
Amazing outlook from the Minack theatre

I called to book my pitch at the Treen Farm campsite and hurried along there to get set up. I spent a couple of hours relaxing and chatting with my neighbours, then I did my washing and hung it out to dry around my tent. Kerstin had arrived by then so we wandered down to Porthcurno beach. We spent a couple of hours there roasting in the sun. However the sea was so cold I could only manage a paddle!

The beaches at Porthcurno
The beaches at Porthcurno

We went back to the camp, got showered and changed into our theatre clothes (i.e. our clean set of clothes) and made our way back out to the Minack theatre. The show started at 8pm, but by 6.45pm when we arrived a huge queue had already formed. Amazingly you can take your own food and wine into the show. We had neither, but there was a fantastic little food hut outside selling 4 different dishes, so we bought our dinner there and took it in.

Kerstin and I get almost the best seats in the house!
Kerstin and I get almost the best seats in the house!

We were ushered through in queues in a very orderly fashion, and as we were waiting to be seated we saw a pod of dolphins swim past in the ocean just outside. It was magical.

Full house at the Minack theatre
Full house at the Minack theatre

Unbelievably, the night got even better! I’m not sure why, but a lovely attendant picked us to be seated in row number two, as there were a couple of spare seats. We couldn’t believe our luck, and giggled happily as we took our stone seats and waited for the play to start.
It was a great performance. I’ve seen open air theatre before but nothing quite like this. As the evening drew in, the colours of the sky and sea changed behind the stone stage, and an almost full moon rose directly before us.

Sense and Sensibility at the Minack
Sense and Sensibility at the Minack

We’d worn our warmest clothes and pulled out our sleeping bags during the second half (as we didn’t have any nice, plaid woollen blankets that the other theatre-goers had). It was an amazing night, to top off a fantastic day.

The night draws in at the Minack theatre
The night draws in at the Minack theatre

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