St Michael’s Mount

Wednesday, 17th June 2015 Hello Usually our walks don’t follow much of a plan – we just get up and decide where to go over breakfast.  For our Wednesday walk this week a plan was necessary! You can’t go to St Michael’s Mount without knowing in advance what the tide is doing.  Well, you can – but then you chance having to get on a very small boat in very choppy seas with lots of potentially sea sick people.  We’ve done this and believe me its no fun! So, over a week ago, we decided we wanted to see the gardens on St Michael’s Mount and we checked the tides and this was the best day.  So we went.  It was lovely – go to St Michael’s Mount and see the gardens.  You’ll be impressed. Enjoy reading and looking at all the pretty pictures – here’s one:DSCN0783 Rickety Rambler xx

Perranuthnoe to St Michael’s Mount and return (5.5 miles) We start out in Perranuthnoe and walk past the church, along the lane and down over the hill to Trenow Cove passing the milk lady in her little electric delivery van on the way.  (I wish my milk was delivered every day by a little person in a little electric car…). We think we’ve been very good, parking away from Marazion and walking to the Mount, but along the way we bump into a (not so young) French couple who are walking to Porthleven.  They ask if there are a lot of ‘ups and downs’ and we tell them there are some and that it’s a long walk.  They smile happily.  We don’t tell them we’ve just driven from there and parked up the road – we don’t feel so virtuous anymore! It’s fairly misty today but we can see St Michael’s Mount across the fields to our left:DSCN0739 but Penzance and Mousehole are shrouded in low cloud behind it.  That’s Cormorants on the rocks by the way – you might just be able to make them out. We pass by the emus:

Emu at Perranuthnoe
Emu at Perranuthnoe

and through a grassy field just above Trenow Beach where we see orchids:

Heath Fragrent-Orchid
Heath Fragrant-Orchid

I’ve identified it from the Orchid Observers website and I’m pretty sure this is what it is.  Apparently it has a heady scent – but I didn’t think to have a sniff! After a while we cross a rocky, sandy beach and climb uphill to the Marazion Road.  It’s a short walk down this busy road to the lane which leads down to the causeway.   It seems as if half the tourists in Cornwall have also decided to visit the Mount today – there’s a long stream of visitors moving across the paved causeway or tramping over seaweed and sand. We descend the steps and make our way through the throng.  Halfway across we happen upon this monster: DSCN0750 It’s a Barrel Jellyfish, a huge creature the size of a dustbin lid with eight thick arms.  They are, apparently, gentle giants feeding on plankton and harmless to humans.  This one has unfortunately been stranded as the tide went out.  There’s some interesting information here: We arrive on The Mount and head straight for the cafe aiming to get a cuppa in before the crowds decide its time for elevenses.  It’s the right thing to do! DSCN0753 We are joined at our table by a young sparrow and a male chaffinch, very well behaved and demonstrating much appreciation of Mr RRs bakewell tart – I do not share my chocolate cake as I disapprove of feeding birds at the table (also it’s much too nice and contains fresh cream – not good for birds I’m sure!)DSCN0756 DSCN0761 DSCN0764 DSCN0769 Leaving the birds to their illicit snack we enter the gardens which are managed by the National Trust. St Michael’s Mount is basically an enormous rock garden, with the castle looming above and the sea rising and falling below.  The granite rock of The Mount acts as a giant radiator, absorbing heat from the sun during the day and releasing it at night, creating a unique micro-climate. Frosts are consequently, a rarity, and agapanthus, aloe and agave, along with a host of other succulents thrive here. DSCN0788It’s perfect for me of course, you know how I love all those patterns and symmetry and oh… that neatness! The information leaflet we’re given tells us that visitor numbers have escalated from 8,000 in 2003 to 65,000 in 2014.  This obviously causes significant problems for the gardening team in maintaining the Georgian and Victorian paths, steps and terraces which wind around the gardens.  For this reason the number of open days in the year have to be restricted. The leaflet lists the top ten plants to be seen.  Sadly, the Echium pininana comes in at number one!  This is my least favourite plant – it’s so……..messy!  It’s tall (can get to 20 feet) and bendy and always looks like its trying to fall over, and the leaves are just…..well ….messy!  I’ve never liked it.  I have to say that the bees love it though.  It’s a native of the Canary Islands – it’s a pity someone didn’t leave it there. Here are some pictures – in case it’s one you love as Mr RR does:

Echium pininana
Echium pininana – completely unable to stand up straight!
Echium pininana
Echium pininana

Moving on…… Of much more interest is the Acanthus, otherwise known as Bear’s Breeches:

Acanthus - Bear's Breeches
Acanthus – Bear’s Breeches

The Medieval Flower Book tells us that Acanthus was found throughout medieval Europe, though not always in gardens.  It’s leaves were often used in Romanesque and Gothic architecture and art, twisted to frame people and monsters, it was thought that it’s vigourous growth symbolised the resurrection. The plant’s Old French name ‘blanc ursine’ (white bear) linked the acanthus with bears because its flower bracts tear the flesh.  They do look fierce:

Bracts of the Acanthus - look at those spines!
Bracts of the Acanthus – look at those spines!

‘Blanc’ possibly got mistranslated into ‘brank’ the old English word for breeches – hence ‘bear’s breeches’. Another of the top ten plants is the Aeonium arboreum – another native of the Canary Islands – but this one a good choice, which its deep black-purple rosettes.  When we came here a few years ago, the gardeners had just lost all of these plants due to an unusually cold winter and hard frosts, but they’ve done a good job of re-establishing them: DSCN0795 Number three is one of my favourites – the Aloe polyphylla – or the spiral aloe, native to Lesotho:DSCN0794 Moving down to number eight of the top ten, the Puya chilensis from Chile, a plant that takes up to twenty years to flower – and we’re lucky enough to be here when it does! DSCN0801 It’s hard to describe this plant – the leaves are long and plentiful – that’s them you can see in the background – and then out of the middle of the clump rises this tall, thick flower head covered in these jade green bracts.  They almost look plastic, they’re thick and shiny and the most surprising colour, these photos don’t really do them justice: DSCN0799 DSCN0802 Astonishing! We continue our walk along terraces and through walled gardens and then head back downhill to have a look inside a pill box.  These hexagonal concrete structures were placed at strategic points along the coast in 1940 and 1941 – including three here on the Mount – as part of the defences against anticipated German invasion.  After the war, farmers were offered £5 for each one they demolished – but that was hard work, they were after all, built of blast proof concrete in order to withstand explosions!  Therefore many were never destroyed and remain in situ.

View from the Pill Box
View from the Pill Box

Having enjoyed our wander about the gardens, we set off back across the causeway and through Marazion, this time turning off on the lane which will find us on the inland path across country back to Perranuthnoe. Here are a few more pretty pictures though: DSCN0782 DSCN0787 DSCN0800DSCN0811 DSCN0814 DSCN0816 DSCN0818DSCN0781 Total miles walked this year: 425

Unfinished detail
Unfinished detail

Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR:

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