Extract from ‘Around Land’s End’

On day three, the special landscape of the north coast of West Penwith began to exert its presence. The green, furry lichen on the rocks, very familiar from my many climbing trips to the area, appeared and inland were the moody tors and scarps reminiscent of the Peak District and Dartmoor. We came to the big cliffs of Bosigran, Rob produced a rope and gear from his sac and we left Vally sketching and clambered around rocks to the foot of Alison Rib, the cliff’s classic two-pitch ‘V Diff’. A young female instructor had a family of clients roped up ready to climb but let us go first. I employed a classic waist belay for Rob and tied myself on directly at the waist with a bowline. ‘Look at this everybody,’ said the instructor ‘this is how climbers used to climb back before they had any proper equipment’.

The afternoon stretched out in the bright hot sun. Gorgeous coves, filled with froth and forty shades of green, appeared beneath vantage points offered by each airy headland. At teatime we eventually reached the mining complex around Botallack, – towers, chimneys, settlement beds and engine houses, some decomposing elegantly, others restored by enthusiasts or in the process of being so. The stories of miners two miles out under the sea around here pull the gaze across metallic waters, the tragedy of some digging upwards following a seam and breaking into the seabed seems impossible to contemplate, in the same way that staring at the sun might be feasible but is also impossible.

We came to Cape Cornwall gone six with the evening gathering. Rob told me that the beautiful little peninsula here was once thought to be the most western part of the country and it would make a dignified extremity. With the sun fading behind the tower set on the perfect hillock at the centre of the islet, even I could believe that King Arthur or whoever was sleeping here, awaiting a time with the nation in terrible need. 

(nb. ‘While Giants Sleep’ does not contain photographs. These have been included only for the purposes of this blog) 

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