Walks to St Michael’s Mount & Zennor

View toward St Ives in the distance from the Coast Path, the branch line train passing below us.
St Ives in the distance viewed from the Public Mud Path–dry at times–above Porthkidney Sands between Lelant and Carbis Bay. The Great Western Railway St Ives Bay Line train from St Erth passes below us.
The sign lives up to its name.
Believe the sign. Take the path only after three dry days.

Cornwall Cogitation #13,  Sunday 1 May 2016–You’re never more than 16 miles from the sea in Cornwall. The Southwest Coast Path, running the entire coastline of the Duchy, and Devon, lies one minute from our door in Carbis Bay.

Over the years we’ve covered 150 miles of the coastal path, some of it repeatedly.  Inland paths and lanes retain their pre-motoring era pride of place. In  recent years we’ve walked more than 600 miles in the three months here; this year to the end of April we’ve covered 400 miles on foot, a bit more than 5 miles a day, and that’s plenty good enough. One of the benefits of going on foot is seeing and thinking about the past and future in a slower motion present. On longer distance walks you arrive at a destination tired in body, refreshed in mind, and invariably stirred in spirit.

Walking St Michael’s Way

On Tuesday, for the first time this year, we walked St Michael’s Way, a 12.5 mile/19.5 km footpath from St Uny Church in Lelant on the Atlantic to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount on the English Channel. The Mount is an island accessible by causeway from Marazion at low tide.

St Michael’s Way is part of the Pilgrim Route to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago Compostela in North West Spain. It is one of a network of pilgrim routes throughout Europe that lead to important places of Christian pilgrimage. Pilgrims, missionaries, and travelers, especially from Ireland and Wales, are believed to have walked this way. While the trail dates back to 10,000 BC, it was signposted St Michael’s Way in 2004.

In the UK this footpath crosses where Irish missionaries blazed a trail.
This footpath commemorates where Irish and Welsh  missionaries and pilgrims–and farmers, peddlers, miners, and assorted scalawags–blazed trails across Cornwall.
Wild beauty.
A wild beauty bids welcome along St Michael’s Way.
Profusion of wild beauty.
The prickly Blackthorn lines parts of the path.
The ubiquitous dandelion shows its face among the Forget-Me-Nots.
Wannabe pretty faces pop up among the Forget-Me-Nots.


Marty and Jan cross one of the many fields, this a ssteep climb, on St Michael's Way. The cattle, thankfully, were moved to an adjacent field a week or two ago.
Marty and Jan cross one of the many hilly fields. The cattle, thankfully, were moved to an adjacent field two weeks ago.
These bulls were in the adjacent field, the white one sporting a nose ring.
These bulls, now in the adjacent field, are more intent on their bucket of special food than on us. The white one hides his fashionable nose ring.
We walked around the base of Trencrom Hill, an Iron Age fort, with only the song of birds filling the air.
We walked in silence around the base of Trencrom Hill, a Neolithic hillfort, where the song of birds reigns.
Passing a former Primitive Methodist chapel, now a home. Charles Wesley made a big impact among miner and other working families.
At Ninnes Bridge we passed a former Primitive Methodist chapel, built in 1873, now a home. John Wesley made a big impact among the mining and other Cornish families. Truro Cathedral was filled Sunday night 24 April for a shared program with Methodists, ” A Celebration of the Wesleys in word and music.” We attended the 4pm Evensong and with the choir sang the Charles Wesley hymn, “O thou who comest from above / The pure celestial fire to impart, / Kindle a flame of sacred love / On the mean alter of my heart!” We stayed for a bit of the 6pm concert but had to leave early to catch the train home.


A new kissing gate on the ancient path.
The Ramblers Association, bless them, put up some new kissing gates on the ancient path.
A field of now wild white daffodils, typical Cornish hedges separate the fields.
In the distance ancient Cornish hedges separate the fields. We’re blessed with sights, sounds, and smells.
Another stile to cross.
Another stile to cross.
Oh my, this mom kept a steady eye on us as we gave her wide berth. One of her twins is wrapped in a harness. After we were some distance off she laid down, but still keep her eyes on us.
This mom kept a wary eye on us. We gave her wide berth. One of her twins is wrapped in what looks like a canvas blanket. After we were a “safe” distance off “Elsie” laid down, but still kept a keen watch on us. Cows with calves have been shown to be more dangerous than bulls.
A granite stone bridge spans a stream.
A granite stone bridge spans a stream. Our stop for a picnic lunch is only 15 minutes away in Ludgvan.

Pilgrim vs tourist

“There’s too much touristy sightseeing in the world these days, and not enough pilgrimage–intentionally joining and being joined by Jesus and his companions in daily discipleship,” wrote Eugene H. Peterson in a blurb in J. Nelson Kraybill’s book, On the Pilgrims’ Way (Herald Press, 1999).

Re-reading the book during our Cornwall stay reminded me of the life-giving quality of guided conversation, Bible study, and prayer with friends. Nelson could have profitably spent 12 days talking to himself on the 150 miles he walked on the Pilgrims Way to Canterbury, but he chose to have others join him for part of each day. Rich!

In the introduction, Nelson wrote, “Our walk with Jesus is a pilgrimage, a step-by-step journey in which we get a foretaste of the joy and restored relationships that someday will cover the earth in the kingdom of God. This kingdom is not so much a place as it is a people who accept the reign of God (emphasis mine). . . This people is ‘called to belong to Jesus Christ'” (Romans 1:6).

Finally, the causeway to St Michael’s Mount

The Causeway at low tide lets us walk to St Michael's Mount.
The causeway at low tide let us walk to St Michael’s Mount. We had some years ago toured the castle, so coffee and cake, a sit-down, and people-watching were the order of the hour.

A memorial walk to Zennor

On Friday we walked the field path across farms to the village of Zennor, six miles from St Ives–the coast path could take us all day these days, I fear, the most rugged part of its 600 miles through Devon and Cornwall lies between St Ives and  Zennor. The path is variously called the church path, coffin path, or field path. Coffins would have been carried to the consecrated burial grounds at St Ives or Zennor, with coffin rests on some stiles giving the pallbearers a rest, keeping the coffin out of the mud.


I walked the six-mile-long path to Zennor in memory of my parents Lloyd and Leona, Jan’s husband Jim Lauver, and my cousin Robert Bender. Dad would have delighted in the horses, cattle, calves, and sheep we encountered. Mom would have been busy herding we six siblings over the 57 stiles and telling us to watch out for the cow plops. She’d have had the presence of mind to pack water. Robert would have noticed the small fields, the big tractors, the derelict buildings, the footpath going through the middle of some fields, and right between barns and houses, some now converted to holiday rentals.  Jim would have noticed the rocks, the hills, the sea, the fitting proportion of it all.

All would have marveled at the outstanding beauty, down-to-earth character, and the history and prehistory of the area. All, too, would have enjoyed noon refreshment at The Tinners Arms in Zennor, a visit to St Senara church, followed by cups of locally-made Moo Maid ice cream at the nearby old chapel hostel café.

We took the bus back to St Ives, a memorable walk indeed, still sinking in.

Church buildings, burden or blessing?

On the field path to Zennor we came across an abandoned, roofless building that had been a meetinghouse for the Byronites, once a Methodist-related religious group. It reminded me of a notice in last Sunday’s bulletin about Church of England churches in Penwith (Penwith is the extreme south west region within Cornwall): “Church Buildings Burden or Blessing?–Do we see our churches as a burden (huge maintenance/running costs) or blessing (where people encounter God and as a vehicle to serve the local community?)”

Penwith deanery churches are open differing afternoons between April and September for people to drop in for local members to share their experiences of burden and blessing. “The aim is to gain good ideas from the creativity of other churches and develop a deeper sense of our shared ministry to the wider community in Penwith.” Many of these churches are regularly unlocked during the week, without staff.

A bit more than a week to go

We’ve a little more than a week to wrap up our stay here. From Carbis Bay/St Ives in Penwith to where you’re at home–I look forward to the time when our paths cross. Best! -John

Yea, spring!
Yea, spring, wild Cornwall!







3 thoughts on “Walks to St Michael’s Mount & Zennor

  1. After those long hikes I never hear you complain of being weary. Amazing! You take time to include us in your journey with good explanation of the wonderful pictures. If your memories ever fail you will be pleased with each tidbit of information you have so carefully recorded.


  2. walking fuels writing and writing (your writings) fuel rich memories and new perspectives. Marianne and I join your many friends awaiting your arrival on the west side of the pond.
    Best Regards, Ray.


  3. I don’t know if you received my last reply as I can’t find it as “sent.” . . . . So I will send it again as I remember it. . . . After your long trecks you still have enough energy to include us in your journey. Amazing pictures and creative writing! Thank you!! The details you share make us believe we are traveling with you without needing to clean the mud from our shoes. Someday you will be thankful that you didn’t leave a stone un-turned while you spent these days in and around Cornwall. When will we see you and hear your voices backing us up at Pr. St. Church?


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