It being New Year’s Day, we felt the need to get out and explore something new. Continuing our recent theme of searching for rock-cut swimming pools, and advised by another article in Cornwall Live, we set out for the environs of Pendeen to search for three we had not seen before. These were all man-made or man-improved, often by local miners, probably in the C20. As it was a viciously cold bright day, we felt no necessity to pack our swimming things.
Pendeen boat cove
We started with the pool at Pendeen boat cove which proved quite easy to find and the most accessible of the three. Just down from the lighthouse and before a sandy beach, is a tiny boat cove where a cluster of huts and a couple of fishing boats were sheltering from the bitter east wind. Some steep concrete steps with a railing led down to the lovely pool with its horizon-edge almost lapped by the waves.
The pool is large and looks at least 3 or 4 metres deep at its seaward end. It is more than large enough to get a few strokes in as you cross it. It may even be deep enough to dive into.
On the landward side is a smaller, paddling pool for novices.
As we walked back to the car, we passed a hardy soul in a dry robe heading for the pool. Brrrr …
Directions: we parked at Pendeen lighthouse car park and walked to the pool which is here.
These pools were much harder to find. The article describes them as being ‘a stone’s throw’ from Geevor mine and so we took the footpath through the site and headed for the feature on the map entitled ‘The Avarack’. This is a rocky outcrop close to sea level with a series of shallow pools scattered across it.
Getting down to the level of the pools is relatively easy to start with as there are some steps but these have been eroded and a less dignified method of descent is required on the lower stretches.
The remnants of metal posts and bits of concrete confirmed that this is indeed the group mentioned in the article. A small bridge and drain suggested that one of the pools was more significant than the others but none of them is much more than a paddling pool for children, echoing the anecdote in the article.
Towards the seaward end of the platform is a much smaller pool, not mentioned in the article, which did look suitable for divers. It was about 3m square and obviously deep. This would appeal to someone wanting a cold dip in a tall pool but it was hardly a single stroke across.
Directions: The main Avarack pool is here. Walking down through Geevor mine worked well for us – although it is a pretty depressing landscape. A more suitable approach might be from Lower Boscaswell as it could include a visit to the holy well and fogou on the way.
The Kenidjack pool
We had left the best pool to last. Despite the lack of skinny-dipping beauties, this really was the best-positioned and best-looking pool of the trio. The only disadvantage was getting to it.
The pool is situated at the entrance to the Kenidjack valley at the northern end of Porth Ledden and a swimmer can enjoy direct views of Cape Cornwall. The pool is very visible from the path: not the Coast Path which passes at a higher level around the end of Kenidjack castle, but the path down the valley.
Getting down to the pool requires a head for heights, the ability to scramble down some steep slopes and a degree of confidence. But perhaps we chose the wrong route or it is one of those things that seems scary the first time but is easy once you know the hand-holds. Access is easiest from the north as it is not possible to cross the zawn in the photograph
The effort is worth it for the pool is magnificent: a large deep pool which is several metres deep, with a narrow entrance to the sea. This is by far the best natural pool for swimming that we have yet seen. Warm it up by 20 degrees and we might think of taking a dip (although we did meet someone of the path who had just tested it).
Directions: The pool is here. We walked from the NT car park at Cape Cornwall and followed the coastal path up the Kenidjack valley. This is a bit of long-way round as the path avoids the very obvious old mine-workings and takes a high route along the cliff before dropping down steeply to where two donkeys greeted us warmly. An easier approach would be to take Old Foundry Road from Nancherrow and then following the path down beside the roaring stream, enjoying the industrial remains, and still meeting the donkeys.
The valley is the western end of the Tinner’s Way, emphasising the importance of Porth Leddon as a small harbour, under the shadow of the distinctive Cape Cornwall which is so much more identifiable from sea than the bulk of Land’s End. Next time you do the Tinner’s Walk, take your costume with you, or enjoy a cooling skinny dip in the pool as your reward.
A bonus pool
As we had parked at Cape Cornwall, we could not help taking a photograph of the altogether-too-sophisticated pool in Priest’s Cove at Cape Cornwall itself. This is probably what some of the other pools aspired to in terms of style but they are better for their rugged naturalness and altogether more private.
Some final questions …
These three pools may all have been amended or adapted by miners who were not hard to find around here but what was the process? Did the miners have to part-drain the pool first? Did they simply insert dynamite underwater? What did they do with the spoil: did they have to wade in and smash it up and remove it by hand?
And how did they get buckets of concrete down to the pools? We had enough trouble scrambling down. Did they create an aerial ropeway and send everything down by air?