Cornwall Divers Guide Far West – St Ives Bay – Isles of Scilly – Marazion.
This section – Cornwall Divers Guide Far West covers the Cornish Peninsula area west of Perranporth on the north coast, round Land’s End to St Michael’s Mount, including the offshore Seven Stones and Isles of Scilly. From Perranporth, round to Mousehole, near Penzance, is somewhat similar to the north coast, with long stretches of unbroken cliff. St Ives harbour, or the more tidal Hayle estuary are the last launch sites on the north coast until Sennen Cove, at Land’s End. From here one can reach Gurnards Head, Pendeen Point, Cape Cornwall and the famous Brisons. Fifteen miles of coast are littered with inshore steel and wooden shipwrecks, 34 colliers alone, plus the Nails, Gannet, Scheldt, Busby, Paknam, William Cory and Liberty to name but a few. Offshore from Pendeen, the Three Stone Oar reef is well worth a visit for its variety of marine life and clear water but beware of strong tides.
At Land’s End, Sennen Cove has three concrete slipways, two of which are restricted in use, but the larger public slip at the north end leads to a firm sandy beach, with plenty of local parking. At the north end of Sennen Cove lie the two Brison rocks, which hold the remains of the s.s. Datetree, which broke her back when wrecked in 1914, and close at hand lie the remains of the naval stores tender Devon and several other wrecks. From here it is possible to reach Cape Cornwall with ease, where can be found the small Cunard liner Malta, the Royal Navy submarine L-1 and many others. South and west from Sennen Cove, lie the Longships, a huge reef on which stands the Longships lighthouse, and the remains of the s.s. Bluejacket lie in the shallows, which all but demolished the lighthouse when she struck in 1898. Between the reef and the mainland are the Armed Knight, Shark’s Fin and other reefs, on which previously unknown wreck sites are still found. Further round Land’s End to the south and east lies Gwennap Head and a mile offshore, the well known Runnelstone Reef, whose deep gullies and severe tidal stream and marine life are a photographers paradise. Over 15 known steamship wrecks lie between the Runnelstone and mainland, many on top of each other or intermingled into a giant scrap heap. It is possible to explore no less than five ships in a single dive here.
Working east, Porthgwarra, a miniature cove with a small, steep slipway and half a dozen houses, also offers a launch site, but its small size makes it essential that only two or three divers make up a group. Groups who turn up en masse will be far from welcome, and possibly refused permission to launch, since it is privately owned. Further east still, past the Bucks Rock, where in 1868 the s.s. Garonne was lost, past the remains of the s.s. Avebury, lost in 1884 and you come to Lamorna Cove. This is an excellent launch site, with waterside parking, amenities, toilets etc. and is highly recommended as a point from where to explore the Land’s End peninsula generally. For the beginner or snorkeller, the cove offers great shallow water diving straight out from the shoreline, only make sure you have a SMB, since there is a lot of boat traffic in the area in summer. There is even an old Cromwellian cannon site in the bay in 35ft(10m)on the eastern side near Carn Du, which has yielded several silver coins. Into Mount’s Bay itself, Penzance is the main base for diving facilities and launching, concentrated around the slipway and inner harbour.
Contact Bill Bowen (01736-752135) for compressed air, diving spares or advice, his workshop being on the eastern quay, almost next door to the clubroom of the Penzance BS-AC branch.
Peter Uterhark (Tel:01736-68859) is another experienced diver/charter skipper, who will take out diving parties by arrangement.
From Penzance it is but a short distance to St Michael’s Mount and the remains of the battleship HMS Warspite, or the Stones Reef, Prussia Cove and Praa Sands. In the opposite direction lies Low Lee ledges, near Mousehole, on which can be found an abundance of marine life and the wrecks of the s.s. Primrose and an unidentified Dutch East Indiaman. Offshore from Land’s End are two great diving areas, remote, but well worth the effort to reach them. Ten miles south-west lies the Wolk Rock which rises up from a depth of 200ft(61m) on which stands the famous lighthouse, now un-manned. The other site lies 17 miles due west, known as the Seven Stones, is famous for having sunk the super-tanker Torrey Canyon in 1967, the largest shipwreck ever in British waters. In addition there are some 200 other wrecks in varying depths. A visit to the Stones will be an experience you will never forget.
Further west still, 24 miles in fact from Land’s End, or 40 miles by sea from Penzance, lie the magical Isles of Scilly. The five inhabited islands and some 100 islets and rocks are a mecca for divers, frequently offering underwater visibility in excess of 120ft(37m) and some of the most famous wrecks in history, including the still treasure laden men o’war Association, Eagle, Romney, Firebrand and Colossus. There are some 900 other wrecks around the islands, including the Dutch East Indiaman Hollandia and Princess Maria, and literally dozens of cannon sites. Here you can genuinely frolic with grey seals and dolphins, explore underwater caves and deep gullies, sheer rock faces, particularly the aptly named Deep Point, pinnacles reaching up from 165ft(50m) or simply forage through the debris of generations of lighthouse keepers, thrown into the sea from the Bishop Rock or Round Island lights, both now fully automated. Scilly can be reached by helicopter, fixed wing aircraft or ferry, the latter being cheapest, particularly if you are carrying heavy diving equipment, or simply by booking an ‘all-in’ diving holiday on one of the many ‘live aboard’ charter boats that visit the islands.
The m.v. Scillonian sails daily in season, making the crossing in 3 hours, whilst the helicopters take just 20 minutes.
Tim Allsopp of St Martin’s Diving Services (Tel: 01720-422848) offers boat trips, an experienced skipper, training courses for beginners, compressed air or equipment hire.
Diving trips and cylinder refilling is also available through Jim Heslin (Tel: 01720-422595).
Accommodation details available from the Tourist Centre (Tel: 01720-422536).© Photograph of Cornwall Divers Guide Far West - Sennen Cove with kind permission of Martyn Wright Flckr