Strangles is a pretty ominous name for anything. And it appears that this darkly beautiful beach, on arguably the most dramatic part of Cornwall’s northern coast, gets it’s name for equally ominous reasons. The dangerous currents and jagged rocks that surround Strangles make this a particularly treacherous part of our coastline.
There is a much repeated local adage about the ruthless nature of this stretch of water:
“From Pentire Point to Hartland Light,
A watery grave by day or by night”
and Strangles beach lies right inside this danger zone, not far from the more picturesquely named Crackington Haven.
As I explained in my earlier post Cornwall’s Highest Cliff the geology on this part of the coast is odd for Cornwall to say the least. The cliffs tumble in folds of different coloured rock not the usual towering granite and the beach pebbles reflect that with their boiled sweet strips. The fact that the pebbles are so delightfully smooth also speaks to the rough and tumble of the waves here. Remorselessness creating tactile beauty.
I was entirely alone when I visited Strangles beach and as I am sure many of you already know there is something quite special about climbing down to an empty beach and being the first to make footprints in the sand and the first to see what the tide has left behind.
But I have to admit I also had a strange feeling of trepidation as I looked down onto the beach from the cliffs above.
The walk down is relatively easy, a well maintained narrow path descends in a zig-zag until you reach a wooden ladder and then finally a rope to swing from down large boulders to the pebbly part of the beach.
I managed the descend with no problems even with a backpack weighed down with a flask of tea and a large lump of yarg. But somehow I felt like I shouldn’t be there. Perhaps it was all the reading I had done about Strangles the night before, stories of wrecks and wild seas that was making me feel very uneasy.
I was very aware that there was only one way back up the cliff and I also conscious that I was unsure of the turn of the tide. But more than likely it was the sad tales of washed up dead sailors that sent my nerves jangling.
On the night of November 7th 1900 in heavy seas the Irish steamer City of Vienna sank after a collision with a mystery ship. The lifeboats were destroyed in the impact and the small cargo boat sank in a matter of minutes. All hands but one lucky soul, Otto Trink, were lost that night and a couple of days after the accident the bodies of the crew began washing up on Strangles beach.
Otto’s ordeal and the tragic fate of the rest of the crew was reported in detail in the Royal Cornwall Gazette a few days later.
I am happy to say that I didn’t find anything more ominous on Strangles than a fish crate from the coast of Brittany, France.
And by the time I had eaten my picnic and wandered the beach searching for the best pebbles Strangles had become a place that I long to return to . . . very soon . . . and perhaps on a sunnier day.
For more stories of the sea try Storm finds a post about what weird and wonderful things get washed up on our shores or perhaps take a look at Shipwrecked which tells the story of the skeleton of a boat buried in the sands of Mounts Bay recently uncovered by the sea.
Or why not read about a little known Cornish Pirate with a silly name in Who was Pirate John ‘Eyebrows’ Thomas?
Also I must just add, if this article hasn’t already made it clear, Strangles is not a swimming beach and as with all coastal walking always be aware of the tide! And go careful on those steep cliff paths, it’s a long way down!