St Ives Bay is a vast sweep of sand with St Ives at the south end and, on the northern tip the lighthouse at Godrevy Point is said to have been Virginia Woolf's inspiration for her book To The Lighthouse.
Hayle sits on the estuary of the Hayle River in the centre of the bay. In the early part of the 19th century Hayle was at the heart of the Cornish mining industry where rail and tramways converged from the outlying mining areas. Two of the largest foundries were here and it was the centre for steam engine engineering. But the tin mining industry declined rapidly between the Wars and Hayle's fortunes spiralled downwards.
But things are looking up. I talked to the Harbour Master who told me ING Investment bought the Hayle harbour in 2004. The North Quay has been developed and is now used by 30 fishing boats and many leisure craft, though a sandbar at the mouth of the navigable part of the river makes this a tricky place to get in and out of. A protection zone has been established around a patch of a rare weed called Petalwort at Middle Weir, but a large superstore is being built on the South Quay.
I left Baa at St Erth and caught the train that goes around the bay to St Ives. You don't want a car in St Ives and everything is in walking distance. I walked around the narrow streets in the sunshine, along with hundreds of tourists even though it was mid-September. I love the Barbara Hepworth collection of sculptures in her garden in the centre of town and walked from there through the crowds past pretty little lanees and alleyways, the tea shops and pasty shops to the Tate.
|Barbara Hepworth's garden|
The scenery on the drive west from St Ives changes suddenly to moorland. On the advice of the Harbour Master at Hayle I was heading for the Levant Mine near Pendeen. The road passes brackeny hills with grazing sheep, small farms with pretty stone farmhouses, and the occasional B&B. The vast open expanses that lead to the sea are peppered with the ruins of old tin-mines with their circular chimneys. The beaches are still wonderful but this feels completely different to the holiday and surfing destinations that I have been through.