Don’t let the winter stop you from getting out and exploring the history and heritage of this North Cornwall beauty spot with views across 200ft cliffs guaranteed to take your breath away if the wind doesn’t, writes ROBERT HESKETH
Starting at Zennor Churchtown, with its historic church, excellent folk history museum and watermill, this stimulating walk crosses a series of ancient fields and returns via a magnificent section of the coastal path.
Legend has it that a Breton princess, St Senara, founded a church in Zennor more than 1400 years ago. It was given to Tywardreath |Priory in 1150 and parts of the present building date from the 12th century. Its most famous treasure is the Mermaid chair, made with medieval bench ends. Matthew Trewhella, son of the squire and a church chorister, was reputedly lured to his death at nearby Pendour Cove by the ethereal singing of a beautiful mermaid. Had he read Homer’s Odyssey he would have recognised the danger of her siren voice…
The sea is a harsh mistress. A model schooner hangs from the ceiling in memory of W A Proctor, who was lost in the Pacific during a single handed voyage from Newlyn in 1965. It is also dedicated to the unnamed shipwrecked sailors who lie buried in the churchyard.
Opposite the church is the Tinner’s Arms, an 18th century listed building where D H Lawrence and his German wife Frieda stayed at the start of their short and turbulent sojourn in Zennor during the First World War. Speaking out against the war and singing German songs did not endear them to local people. Under suspicion of colluding with the enemy, Lawrence and Frieda were summarily ordered out of Cornwall by the authorities in 1917.
Read more about Lawrence and many other aspects of Zennor’s history at the surprisingly large and comprehensive Wayside Museum, where tableaux are supported by period photographs. There is a great deal of interest besides, including the working watermill, which grinds flour for sale.
Mining and quarrying are strongly represented with trucks, tracks, tools, a set of Californian stamps and more besides. There are farming tools and wagons, numerous archaeological finds, and a fascinating room devoted to the sea and shipwrecks. Other rooms recreate Zennor School, a wheelwright’s workshop, a cobbler’s workshop, a dairy and a kitchen.
1 Follow the lane past the Tinner’s Arms and the church. Turn right, signed “Field Path”. Pass the graveyard across a granite cattle grid. The well defined path continues through a distinctive landscape that originated in the Bronze Age of tiny fields, separated by granite walls and cattle grids. En route, we cross a series of granite stiles; themselves listed structures from the early 19th century. Continue across the farm tracks at Tremedda and Tregerthen. Walk through the farmyard at Wicca. Continue in the same direction to Boscubben, passing to the right of the house.
2 Bear left down a track signed “Treveal – Resident’s Vehicles Only – Footpath”. Ignore the footpath on the right. Continue down the track till you pass a house, then immediately turn right down to a cattle grid. Here, you turn left onto a path signed “River Cove St Ives”.
3 Turn left onto the Coastpath. Care is needed for the next 3km (2 miles) with the uneven footing, especially when the rocks are wet. When the path forks, keep to the upper path (the lower leads around Zennor Head) and continue to a T junction of paths.
4 Turn left towards Zennor (unless you wish to divert right to Zennor Head, a fine viewpoint and magnificent at sunset). After crossing a stile, the path becomes a tarmac lane leading back to the church.
Time: Three hours
Points of Interest
Superb coastal scenery
Wayside Museum and Trewey Watermill
Zennor church with its Mermaid chair
Ancient field patterns
Terrain: Field paths and Coastpath. Uneven footing and large boulders make going tough on the coastal section. No long slopes.
Child/dog friendly? Suitable for older children and dogs on leads. Beware unfenced cliffs.
Start: Car park in Zennor Churchtown SW454384.
Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer 102; Landranger 203.
Refreshments: Tinner’s Arms, Chapel Café and Wayside Museum in Zennor.
Public transport: Buses 300 (daily) and 508 (Monday-Saturday) stop at Zennor daily on routes from Penzance to St Ives.
More Walks: Shortish Walks near the Land’s End, Paul White, Bossiney Books, 2004.