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Chapel Porth remembered

An aerial view of the beach and cliffs at Wheal Coates and Chapel Porth, Cornwall
Aerial view of Wheal Coates and Chapel North | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Chapel Porth has long held affection in the hearts of those who live in Cornwall as well as those who come to visit. Two such people are Chris Ryan, who tells all about working at the site for 14 years, and visiting poet Peter H Jeffery, who captured the essence of this beautiful place in a poem.

Chapel Porth Postcard

Picture a narrow tranquil track

Beside the dancing ringlets of a tumbling stream

Close roofed by a thousand mad maypoles of spring blossom

Then to be fanned as you pass by wild flowers

Each bursting for the attention of a droning throng

That scatter hither and thither

Confused it seems by the heady scent of grass fresh mown

With all things so bright and beautiful

The Sunday school innocence of childhood is pleasantly recalled

And the spirit is lifted in contentment

The valley now broadens to a vast swathe of soft sea washed sand

Beyond the eyes reach

Margined by a looming curtain of mist that veils the mighty surf

But not its mighty roar

A mighty roar echoed by the soaring granite cenotaphs to long gone miners

That sculptured by the elements of time

Rise and rise again as if to touch the sky

It is here you can gambol like a mad March fool

Amongst the dunes with your loved ones

More likely though you will stand transfixed

And gaze and gaze in trepid awe

At the ever-changing splendour of nature's imagination

Reflection here will ask about your faith

Did he who made the lamb make this?

Think well before you answer.

(Reproduced by kind permission of the poet: Peter H Jeffery, of Crowborough, East Sussex).

Two people walking on the coast path above Towanroath Shaft pumping engine house, part of the Wheal Coates mine, near St Agnes, Cornwall
Walking along the coast path near St Agnes | © National Trust Images / John Millar

Profile: Chris Ryan, Visitor Experience Assistant, Chapel Porth

Chris always wanted a job by the sea and has worked here for 16 years now. He tells us about the atmosphere of the place, its local history, and the fun you can have here all year round.

What do visitors like most about Chapel Porth?

They like the closeness of everything: car park to beach, café or loos in 20 seconds. They love the fact that staff are here parking cars (no road rage here thank you!) and looking after them.

Why were you first interested in the job?

My love of the sea came from my dad, who was a keen sailor and gig rower, and my grandad who was a ship’s captain. I’m Cornish born and bred, and always wanted a job near the sea. I like to meet interesting people, and visitors from all over, which I get to do here.

I really enjoy being able to make someone’s day simply by doing my job. It’s great when I can offer a sea-view parking space, instead of a toilet wall (although it is actually a great toilet wall, being part of the old waterwheel pit that drove the tin ore crushing stamps).

Pointing people in the right direction for the caves, the wreck and the rock pools that are exposed at low tide is fun – they are always keen to explore.

What do you like most about the place?

I think that the mining heritage of the area is really interesting, especially as I’m a former mining ‘trammer’ at Wheal Pendarves, Camborne. People are amazed to learn that the hills, valley and car park were once a bustling industrial landscape. At low tide you can walk out on the sand and see the old engine house ruins high on the cliff top.

I like the local history, and there’s a piece of a wreck of the SS Eltham that still remains in the sand, but you can only see it on a spring low tide.

What are the most memorable days that you've spent here?

The 50th anniversary of Chapel Porth’s bequest by Betty Cowan was a great day: we had vintage cars, a 1950s band and the café sold ice creams at 1950s prices. We enjoy our vintage occasions here, like the bellyboarding and the North Cliffs (vintage car) Run.

Has the site changed much over the years? Have you seen an increase in visitor numbers?

The site has hardly changed, and that’s what people love. Some families have holidayed here for over 50 years.

Yes, there has been an increase in visitors. It used to be a bit of a secret, tricky to find down a narrow road, but these days the secret’s out. It’s a fantastic spot.

People scramble on the rocks down on Chapel Porth beach, Cornwall

Discover more at Chapel Porth

Find out how to get to Chapel Porth, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

Two people run around in the shallow water on the sandy beach at Chapel Porth, Cornwall

Things to do at Chapel Porth beach 

Whether you're looking for birdlife, hunting for caves at low tide or 'bellyboarding' in the Atlantic waters, Chapel Porth beach has a lot to offer.

Giant Bolster Chapel Porth St Agnes

The St Agnes Bolster Festival and legend of the Giant Bolster 

Every May Day weekend the villagers of St Agnes re-enact the story of Giant Bolster through the village & over the clifftops of Chapel Porth.