The Strangles, Cornwall
The stretch of Cornish coastline named High Cliff (aptly named due to being the highest cliff in Cornwall) is also home to my favourite local beach – the Strangles. Regardless of where you park, the route to the beach involves winding down for over 200 metres and then using a rope and rickety steps to drop the last couple onto the beach, this means that is rarely busy and perfect for relaxing.
There are a quite a few options to park for this walk, depending on how close to the beach you want to be. I like to park at option 1 and do the whole circuit. There is also a large carpark at option 3, which is the closest you can get by car.
It’s a fascinating place to visit, with the towering Cornish north coast known for the unusual geological phenomena where shale is interspersed with quartz and violently twisted into layer upon layer on itself. The beach is close to Crackington Haven, from which the formation takes its name – the Crackington Formation. The route starts with a beautiful view towards Boscastle, if you look carefully you can see a white dot, which is Boscastle Lookout.
Its a hilly walk to the beach from the first carpark but also presents the best cliff views. In summer the cliffside is flooded with colour, as the gorse and heather poke up between bracken and the other summer flowers. The local farm use the fields for South Devon cattle, but no need to be afraid as its one of the most relaxed breed of cattle you will ever meet.
One of the interesting things about the Strangles is that the type of beach is dependent on the weather and the tides. Sometimes there will be no beach (check the tide times!), other times it will be completely stony, and occasionally it is sandy enough for paddling. There are no lifeguards so swimming isn’t advised, especially as the tides along the north coast can suddenly change and sweep you out to sea.
The arch at the far end of the beach is known as the Northern Door and is a perfect example of the Crackington Formation. The sheets of Shale has been twisted upon itself, creating a spear of rock that forms the arch. There is a similar spear formation at the other end of the beach, though it is only accessible when the tide is very low over the summer. You can see the stripes of quartz from a distance, looking much like a zebra’s stripes.
I also recently discovered that the beach is home to fossils! We were walking towards the stone arch when my uncle picked up a pebble, seemingly at random. He flipped it over and the other side had a fascinating pattern. Despite posting it online I am not much closer to identifying what it is. The majority of suggestions ranged from spilt rice to maggots. The more serious guesses were Coquina or sea smoothed quartz crystals. And the remainder of comments were chuckling about English place names… Whoever heard of Strangles, just along from the lovely village of Crackington Haven! I’m used to our Cornish names, but they are a bit odd when you think about it.
I spent the majority of my next visit staring at the rocks and have yet to find another one. Though I have discovered that the beach also has ammonites trapped in the sea smoothed shale pebbles.