My heart always leaps when I see the sand dunes at the bottom of the A30 on the way home and recently we took a look behind the dune at the three miles of golden sands.
I must say my first sight of Godrevy beach was simply breathtaking, with pale silky soft sands stretching away as far as the eye could see and a hint of sea vapour hanging in the air from the surging waves as they arrived on the shore.
Our visit to Godrevy beach
We took the £3 option and parked in the first car park at the entrance to Godrevy near to the Nature reserve but for a £5 (or free if we had been National Trust members) we could have parked much nearer to the lighthouse and maybe visited the colony of seals beyond the headland. As we only had a couple of hours to explore we took the cheaper option and set off briskly on foot from just above the Red river, following a path between the dunes and the sea, before dropping down on to the expanse of sands, quite near to the lighthouse.
Godrevy links to Gwinear bach at low tide and of course with three miles of sands to choose from we had a job to find a rock to sit on and have lunch but as we neared the lighthouse we found a sheltered corner under the cliffs to munch Marks and Sparks sandwiches and watch the world go by.
Once there we really wished we had a longer time to spare of course, so that we could just spend the afternoon in our warm corner, soaking up the autumn sunshine but the clock was calling, so we had to make a choice. Should we walk on towards the lighthouse and the prospect of seeing the seals or turn back towards the huge waves rippling rhythmically across the bay?
Well it was the stretch of sands and enticing views across St Ives bay that won and so we strolled on occasionally noticing the blue black mussel shells scattered across the beach.
We watched the surfers dwarfed by the huge waves as we walked, tiny stick men struggling to master the waves, occasionally flying over the water but more often enveloped in the foam.
As we walked back to “our” exit slot in the dunes Charles paused and scooped a mussel shell from the fine sand, glowing slightly blue with erosion on the outer surface – A last memory of our day that sits now on our window sill lightly dusted with sand.
As we walked back to the car above the beach but could still see the ever optimistic surfers running across the beach towards the waves below us. And I’ve a feeling if you were to visit agian tomorrow or the next day they would still be there trying to tame the Atlantic waves.
The Towans a little bit of info
I rarely leave Cornwall but if I do the sight of the massive sand dunes of Hayle Towans coming into sight always makes my heart skips a beat. This autumn we took a look behind the dunes to the seemingly endless beach that runs beside St Ives bay.
The great barrier of sands that back the sea here have the Cornish name Towans (meaning dune) followed by area names along its length – Lelant, Hayle, Riviere, Mexico, Common Pollack, Upton and Gwithian – such is the extent of the reach. The dunes have relentlessly claimed the farmland along their boundaries.
At Upton Barton for instance, in 1650 the farmhouse of an arable farm, was buried overnight by a collapsing sand dune. The family only escaped through an upstairs window and the farmhouse was never seen again until revealed by erosion in the winter of 1808 – 09.
Myths and legends!
Legend has it, that sometimes the turrets of the castle of Theodoric, a Cornish king infamous for beheading a Celtic saint in the fifth century, can be seen should the wind blow long and hard in a Cornish gale. Strange places those dunes!
The National Explosive Works
The dunes may not have been the best place to visit in former times because in 1888 The National Explosive works were established to supply explosives to the mines. An interlinking network of clearings threaded through the dunes for the manufacture, linked by single track railways of which traces can still be seen today. On one occasion an explosion in a Nitroglycerin plant shook the windows in St Ives across the bay and it was said to have been heard as far away as Dartmoor.
Godrevy Lighthouse stands on a tiny island not far from the shore, guarding the dangerous reef known as “The stones” near to the entrance to St Ives bay. The stretch of sea there had an infamous history of wrecks but it wasn’t until the loss of the steamship “The Nile” in 1845 that was the catalyst for the building of Godrevy lighthouse 1854
Explore more of Cornwall
Explore more of West Cornwall in my occasional blog series visiting Cornwall’s hidden gems or try “The Penwith Tour” circumnavigating the Penwith Peninsula to discover hidden coves, fishing villages, stone circles and never too far from the sea