An Encounter with the Real Mermaid of Zennor, A Force 8 Storm, Paradise in St Ives.

Post 176: 16 April 1998: Day 5 – Zennor to St Ives (via Zennor Quoit) – 8 miles

I awoke with a thick head, which was not helped by a claggy and wet morning. After a hearty cooked breakfast, I decided to visit Zennor’s Wayside museum, which has superb displays on the agricultural and historical background to the area. I then passed the traditional pub, the Tinner’s Arms, to the beautiful St Senera church of Zennor. It has been said that ‘When London was a collection of mud huts, Zennor was a church town.’ There has been a centre of worship here since the 6th century A.D.

The earliest record of a church dates from 1150, but little remains today of this church. Two of the old 16th century bench ends survived and they have been made into the ‘Mermaid Chair’. The carved figure of a mermaid is holding a glass in her right hand and a comb in her left hand.

It is said that a beautiful women in a long dress used to sit in this church listening to the wonderful singing of a local chorister, Matthew Trewhell. One day she lured him to the stream which runs through the village; she led him into the sea at Pendour Cove, now known as Mermaid’s Cove, where his voice can still be heard singing to his love. There are also two stone Cornish crosses in the churchyard.

Not finding a mermaid to lure me on this occasion, I carried on walking to try and find Zennor Quoit in thick mist. The Quoit took some finding but in an eerie cloud I came across the 4,500-year-old Neolithic chamber tomb with a main chamber of five upright stones and an antechamber of three others. I was captivated by the sense of timelessness and loneliness.

I returned to the coastal path and found the wind and rain starting to increase. It turned out that a force 8 storm was on its way. The path is very rocky, arduous and undulating, but provides dramatic coastline walking.

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At two islets, the Carracks, there were seals sheltering on the rock.

Some years later I was sitting in warm sun at peace with the world watching the seals, when a walker from Holland came along. She was bronzed and had been walking the coastal path. I lent her my binoculars to see the seals and with that she carried on walking with me to St Ives. She was on the last day of her walk around the Land’s End peninsula. We chatted about the many long distance walks we had done and we were ‘kindred spirits’ both having a love of walking. I was very impressed as she had walked across the whole of Spain coast to coast and was now walking the Land’s End peninsula solo. How do you get fit to walk the steep ups and downs of this rugged coastline when you live in Holland which is flat? Turns out she roller-skated to work and cycled a lot.

As it got to late morning and lunch was on my mind, she asked me if I wanted to go somewhere quiet. Now I thought this was a bit odd as the path was already quiet, having not seen any other walkers, but I thought it might be a language thing (despite her English being very good) and she wanted somewhere quiet to have lunch. I suggested a couple of places aside the coastal path with very good views, but on both occasions she said she had something else in mind. I wasn’t really sure what she meant but thought there might be a better spot further along the path. Eventually, we came across a bench with a good view. I was getting hungry and wanted my lunch so more or less insisted we stop. Strange thing was she had no lunch with her, so I shared some of mine with her being a Good Samaratan. It was only later when I told my wife about my encounter she said that she thought the lady had something other than lunch in mind! She was the Real Mermaid of Zennor.

Back to 1998 and the storm was in full spate and the rain was at lashing me. At times the wind was so strong I had to bend over to grab the grass verge, so as not to get blown over. There were no other walkers about.  I have seen the rescue helicopter in this area on sunny calm days!


Arriving in St Ives an American couple asked where I had come from as I looked a bit wet. The water poured off my waterproofs onto the pavement.

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It was with relief that I eventually found myself sipping tea in the number 38 art shop on the quayside in St Ives (photograph taken on another day!).

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A friend runs the shop (update he is now retired) and I am always guaranteed a welcome cup of tea after the energetic walk from Zennor. One of my favourite walks of all time.

St Ives has everything, golden beaches, turquoise seas,

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September 2008 102St Ives Sept 07 011St Ives Sept 07 031St Ives Sept 07 092September 2008 098St Ives Sept 07 sunset3E

Sennen BeachFootsteps in the Sand

arts and crafts exhibitions, quaint cobbled streets, delicious fresh crab salads (from Stevensons), Cornish ice-cream,

PICT0002-2traditional pubs,

St Ives Sept 07 246restaurants, and cafes all centred around the harbour.

September Sun St Ives

However, because of this it does tend to get rather crowded in summer.

The prominent St Ives Tate Gallery is worth a visit for lovers of modern art. The famous sculpture Barbara Hepworth lived in St Ives and her studio, Trewyn, was left to the nation after she died in a fire in 1975 and displays superb examples of her work, which were inspired by the landscape of this area.

After a pub meal with my friend and a guided tour around Trewyn I retired to my bed breakfast.

A truly memorable day.

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