Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Cornish holiday - Kynance Cove & Lizard Point

Here's another post about my recent Cornish holiday in and around the Lizard peninsula, a beautiful and fascinating part of the world that I wish I was still in!

On the second day of our holiday, although the wind had not dropped, the sun had come out and was to remain so for the remainder of the week - result. Today we drove over to Kynance Cove, from where we planned to walk to Lizard Point and back again. I had a quick(ish) look for a Western Subalpine Warbler which had been reported in the area on Twitter within the last couple of days, and spoke to another couple of birders doing the same thing, but it seemed that the high winds of the previous day had seen the bird off. It meant we got to enjoy a bit of heathland though before heading off along the coast, and I also saw my first Whitethroats of the year, as well as plenty of Stonechats.

I love heathland.
Kynance Cove gradually revealed itself as we walked down the path towards it, with the spectacular serpentine stacks and outcrops coming into view. One of the main reasons I'd wanted to come to the Lizard was to see the serpentine so I was pretty excited about the geological delights in store! I was not disappointed - the serpentine was like no other rock I'd ever seen before, with an incredible range of colours (reds, browns, greens, greys, blues and creams) and bizarre textures and veins. The beach and surrounding area consists of two different types of serpentine, tremolite and bastite, but to be honest I couldn't easily tell them apart due to the highly variable nature of the rocks and the effects of weathering. It didn't detract from my enjoyment of the marvellous geology though!

Kynance Cove coming into view.

Kynance Cove.




Kynance Cove.


Kynance Cove.
Chris eventually managed to drag me away and we set off south along the good old South West Coast Path. As we were feeling quite hungry already, we decided to walk to Lizard village first to find some lunch before going on to Lizard Point. Along the way I spotted my first Swallows of the year, the ubiquitous Linnets, several Rock Pipits and a few Shags and Gannets offshore. I stuffed my face with humongous mussels at a pub in Lizard village and bought a small souvenir chunk of polished serpentine from one of the many rock shops.

View along the South West Coast Path.

Lizard village.
After that it was a short walk down to Lizard Point, the UK's most southerly point. The clifftop paths were thick with maritime flowers and we saw what was to be the first of the week's many Wall butterflies flittering around. There was a constant trickle of migrating Swallows flying in, and we also saw a few Grey Seals in the sea although were a few days too late for the Basking Shark that had been recorded on the sightings board! Down on the beach at Polpeor Cove there was more exciting geology in store, as the rocks had changed again since Kynance Cove into lovely wavy schists.

Thrift (Armeria maritima) on the cliffs.

Lizard Point.
Heading down to Polpeor Cove.
Polpeor Cove at Lizard Point.

Schist, showing nice wavy lines of aligned platy minerals caused by metamorphism.

We walked back along the coast path to Kynance Cove, spotting a few Skylarks on the way. Stopping for a short sit on the grass at one point, a long-billed head suddenly popped up on the cliffs nearby. It was a Whimbrel on passage - it must have only recently arrived on the cliffs. It took off and flew away, calling as it went; a great sighting that I hadn't been expecting at all!

On the drive back to the cottage, we made a brief stop at Goonhilly Downs, a large area of heathland very close to where we were staying. As well as being an excellent site for plants and wildlife (I added Willow Warbler and Blackcap to my bird list, and Cornish Heath to my plant list) its human history also goes back thousands of years. There are Bronze Age barrows and a menhir, and many derelict buildings dating back to World War II, when there was an RAF radar station on the Downs. One of the old buildings has been turned into a viewpoint - you can climb the stairs to stand on the roof for excellent views across the heathland.

Dry Tree menhir.

Goonhilly Downs from the roof of one of the old WWII buildings.

Cornish Heath (Erica vagans).
As a historian, Chris enjoyed the parallels between the similar roles Goonhilly Downs had played as a hub of communication for people over time - in the Bronze Age, during WWII, and now in the present day as it was the nearest place to our cottage that we could actually get any mobile phone reception! Having checked the weather forecast and tide times for the next couple of days, we drove back to the cottage after another top notch day on the Lizard peninsula :o)

Map showing (more or less) the route of our walk.

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