Day 97 Weds 6 July: A milestone day. After today’s short ride from the Caerthillian, down to The Lizard Lifeboat Station at Kilcobben Cove, back up to Lizard village, around Mount’s Bay via Porthleven, Marazion and Penzance, and back to Penlee Lifeboat Station in Newlyn harbour, there will be no more coastal Cornish, English, Welsh or Scottish miles to do. This last link will close the chain around the big island. The next (and last) 27.1 miles of coast roads require no route planning nor map reading. Not just because today’s is a straightforward application of my “Keep the sea on your left and don’t stop pedalling” mantra. I have cycled and driven them before. But they must be done again today, to complete the clockwise circumnavigation in the correct order, on this bicycle. On Fondo.
No post-breakfast climb today. Free-wheeling through the fresh, cool morning air, down from the village towards Church Cove. Fork right after the Church, over the cattle grid and up the new access road. Fondo will have to be left at the top of the cliff in the LB Station car park. The new boat house is way down below, reached via a long, steep flight of steps. Or, if I’m lucky and manage to time it right, a ride in the special access lift. I’m lucky. John (DLA) turns up with a key to open the cage and operate the not-quite-vertical, non claustrophobic electric lift. It reminds me of the funicular railway that links Lynmouth with Lynton, but steeper and in a fresh air cage instead of a glazed wooden gondola. As first seen on the North Cornish coast at Padstow’s ALB Station, Trevose Head [Day 2], the new Lizard boathouse is in the now familiar early 21st Century architectural style, with its rolling wave form and copper roof, protecting the rigid curved glu-lam wooden beams over a large, airy interior. Big enough for the lovely Rose, the slip-launched Tamar Class Allweather Lifeboat. This is the latest in an ever evolving series of upgrades and improvements in the battle against the challenging waters around the rocky Lizard peninsula.
1859 A Silver Medal was awarded to Mr John Ridge for rescuing 18 people from the schooner Czar. The first Lizard lifeboat station was established by the RNLI at Polpeor following this rescue and a boathouse was built at the top of the roadway leading down to Polpeor Cove.
1866 Coxswain Peter Mitchell and Crew Members Richard Harris and Nicholas Stevens drowned when the lifeboat smashed onto rocks during a hurricane. 1867 The RNLI established a lifeboat station at Cadgwith.
1907 Silver Medals were awarded to Coxswain William Edward Mitchell and Second Coxswain Edwin Mitchell (Lizard lifeboat), and to Rev Henry Vyvyan, Coxswain Edward Rutter (both Cadgwith lifeboat), George Anderson and William Williams (both crew of the liner Suevic) for rescuing 394 people from the White Star liner Suevic in dense fog when it struck the Marnheere Reef off The Lizard. Coverack and Porthleven lifeboats also rescued 62 people.
1914 A new boathouse was built at Polpeor Cove for the station’s first motor lifeboat.
1941 The lifeboat Guide of Dunkirk was one of the 19 lifeboats that helped to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. After Dunkirk she was sent to Cadgwith station.
1958 The Lizard (Polpeor) station was extremely exposed and, in certain conditions, launching lifeboats here and at Cadgwith was a difficult and dangerous operation. It was also considered that this important area for shipping warranted a larger lifeboat than could be operated from either The Lizard or Cadgwith. The RNLI therefore decided to build a new station at Kilcobben Cove, lying half way between the two stations. 1959 A Centenary Vellum was awarded to the station at Polpeor. 1961 The original station at The Lizard (Polpeor) closed. The boathouse and roller slipway at Kilcobben Cove were completed. The new station was opened on 7 July 1961 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The station became known as the Lizard-Cadgwith lifeboat station. 1963 The Cadgwith station closed.
1967 The lifeboat launched on 28 May to welcome Sir Francis Chichester home after sailing single-handed around the world. 1979 A special framed certificate was awarded to the Coxswain and crew for their services to several yachts in difficulties during the Fastnet Race on 15 August.
1987 The station’s name was changed to The Lizard. 1988 The boathouse was adapted for the new Tyne class lifeboat. ON-1145 David Robinson was placed on service in August.
2011 The Tamar class lifeboat Rose was placed on service on 16 July, funded by an anonymous donation from a charitable trust. 2012 The new boathouse was opened on 5 May.
Many thanks to John (DLA) for the ascent/descent, Ned (LOM, Ex RN SAR) for the valued autograph and Dan (Station Mechanic) for the ice cold drink and tour.
Next stop: The boating lake cafe on the Helston-Porthleven road for the planned rendezvous with Patch Harvey, the Penlee Lifeboat Cox’n. Way back on [Day 1], Patch suggested that if&when I ever make it all the way around the coast, he’d join me on his bike for the last leg from The Lizard. A keen cyclist and man of his word, here we are on the ‘home run’ back in to Penlee. Thanks Patch. Great to be cycling in the company of a local lifeboating, fishing and sporting legend. Or should I just say some bloke in a Lantern Rouge/ ‘Fat Bloke At The Back’ cycling Jersey? Whichever you prefer. Thanks anyway, for pacing me back via Porthleven, the stunning views across Mount’s Bay from Rinsey Head and down through Marazion & Penzance to your Penlee Lifeboat in Newlyn Harbour. According to Garmin, not counting the resurfacing hold-up near Rosudgeon, we averaged 16 mph into the usual headwind. Not exactly Tour de France peloton pace, but a lot faster than my overall solo average around the coast.
A great big thank you to Claire, John& Nicky, Phil & Carol, Neil, Nick and Jim, the welcoming party who’d travelled from various corners of the country to cheer me in to Newlyn. I suppose Neil wins the ‘greatest distance travelled’ award, even though he cheated by flying most of the way. An equally big thank you to Elaine (Penlee LPO), Patch (Cox’n), Tony (Mech) and whoever it was (?) who covered for Patch this morning, for putting up with and looking after the McAllister & Co invasion. This time, with more celebratory fizz on an almost empty stomach, I kept my mouth firmly shut. Until the pasties arrived.
The Penzance area has been host to a lifeboat for 213 years. For a potted history of the Penzance, Newlyn and Penlee Lifeboats take a look at the history tab at the foot of this link. Here’s an account of just one particularly busy day in the life of a 19th century Pezance Lifeboat:
1867 Silver Medal awarded to Samuel Higgs Jnr for three services in Mounts Bay in an east-south-easterly gale and very heavy sea 5 January 1867. After a distress signal was seen the lifeboat launched and found the Brixham schooner Salome drifting rapidly towards shore, five men and a boy were taken off just before the casualty stuck the rocks and broke up. More signals were seen in the pitch dark evening with a hurricane now blowing and in heavy rain the lifeboat launched again and returned within an hour having rescued the crew of five from the Looe schooner Selina Ann. The third time the lifeboat launched was to the Teignmouth schooner Hairess when she rescued six people.
Sadly, the term Penlee Lifeboat is still synonymous with the name Solomon Browne, well within living memory for most of us.
1981 On 19 December the lifeboat Solomon Browne was launched in hurricane conditions to go to the aid of the coaster Union Star that had engine failure and was being swept towards the southern coast of Cornwall. The coxswain repeatedly took the lifeboat alongside the coaster to try and rescue the eight people on board, before managing to take four people off. A helicopter was unable to get a line to the people on the coaster. The lifeboat made a further attempt to rescue the remaining four when radio contact was lost. It was subsequently discovered that the lifeboat had been completely wrecked with the loss of her crew of eight. The coaster was also lost. There were no survivors. Coxswain William Trevelyan Richards was awarded the Institutions Gold Medal for the manner in which four people were taken off the coaster. The remainder of the crew, Second Coxswain/Mechanic James Stephen Madron, Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman, Emergency Mechanic John Robert Blewett, crew members Charles Thomas Greenhaugh, Kevin Smith, Barrie Robertson Torrie and Gary Lee Wallis were awarded Bronze Medals. The Medals were presented to the widows and parents by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester at the Royal Festival Hall, London on 11 May 1982. The Institution paid pensions to the dependants of the lifeboat crew in accordance with its usual practice and a local appeal raised over £3 million