I stumbled over the name Bedruthan Steps on the Cornish coast while looking where to start walking and photographing the South West Coast Path. So many people are proud to have completed this beautiful 630 miles walking path in England. Most of them have done it in many many little bits and more than once I heard them saying: “It took me 10 years, but I really enjoyed it.” For me, Bedruthan Steps seemed the perfect start on my challenge of having half of the South West Coast Path completed by the end of the year 2019. It’s a beautiful coastal location to get my individual photograph of on the North coast of Cornwall near Newquay.
How to prepare for the trip
Bedruthan Steps are on the North coast of Cornwall near Newquay. Preparation for the trip started soon with being at the ‘The Photographer Ephemeris’ website http://app.photoephemeris.com checking out sunrise and sunset times and directions as well as moon rise and set. The app is free on the web and cost about 3 GBP for the mobile phone. Other apps for this I have used are “Golden Hour” free on Google Play or “Sun surveyor” which is only free in the Lite version. Although the latter has a compass integrated, that needs careful calibration several times to work reliable. However, checking directions and times in advance was always enough for me so far.
Tide times and levels
For a coastal adventure on the West coast of England that it is definitely not enough to check sunset times and directions. Don’t forget to look up tide times at timetables such as https://www.tidetimes.org.uk or https://www.cornwall-beaches.co.uk. Differences between high and low tide are the largest in the world at the West coast of England.
You are not even able to get down the steps at all at high tide at the Bedruthan steps, because the whole beach is covered with water. Swimming would be an option, but in February and with all the photographers equipment? Huhu, times and tide are in my favor. And the weather? Grey for the next couple of days, but a sunny spell over a few days around Valentines day.
Accessibility is another big issue since cliff falls can change the coastline at any time. The National Trust takes care of this site and the staircase down to the beach. They close it over the winter time, because it’s to dangerous. After failing to get the information if it is open Mid February on their website an email to them and a lovely respond a day later reassured me that if weather permits it will be open. Yea!
Here I am – packing the gear, working out logistics and checking pictures on the web. From Bristol quite a journey by public transport, but doable to arrive early afternoon and walk from Mawgan Porth.
What was it like on route?
The 1 hour walk was already worth the effort. I climbed slowly higher from Mawgan Porth beach and then strolled along the cliff top. Thereby I had magnificent views to the rough coast upon coming closer to the place I wanted to photograph.
The steps themselves were very slippery, not the easiest of height and width and with high cold metal railings under which I could have slipped easily down when falling. More than once I had to use both hands to feel save. Therefore, I was glad that I didn’t take my camera out yet. I also forgot to count the steps while climbing down. Meant to do it, because I found numbers from 120 to 149 steps in the internet, but focused on placing my feet instead. A waterfall close to the steps made matters worse and my jacket and trousers wet. I don’t blame people describing the climb as strenuous and some refraining from going down at all.
And then? I hold my breath , after the last step down which were made from rock and not even having a railing. Stunning, wonderful, awesome – non of these words is a good description. If you ever come here, just take in the small bay with the high rocks of amazing colours, structures and texture.Take in the water streams flowing down the rocks and then the beach to join the far out sea. Take in the power of the waves in the distance and the smooth sandy beach beneath your feet.
People nowadays who travelled the world compare the rock formation with the 12 apostles in Australia.
A little history
This place was a favourite amongst the Victorians, who rediscovered and cherished their coast. I will discuss that in a separate blog focussing on the many piers that were build during that time. A legend appeared at this time about a giant named Bedruthan using the rocks as stepping stones on its way across the bay. Hence the name, legend has it.
How to enjoy and photograph a sunset at Bedruthan Steps
Sunset at Bedruthan steps was my brief for this photo shooting. As planned, I arrived in plenty of time to find a good perspective for my shot. That wasn’t easy with so much to explore around me, climbing over smaller rocks, going around others, looking where the sun could squeeze between rocks when landing in the water.
As you can see from the picture below – there isn’t much room between the rocks for the sun to be captured by sinking into the sea. Did I get side tracked? Of course I did. Colours on the rocks, wet limpets shining colourful in the sun, stream patterns on the beach – all beautiful and worth to take a look and enjoy or a quick shot on the side. The contrast between the small limpets and the big rocks intrigued me and I got some shots at different perspectives. Slowly the light got softer, the shadows less hard, the colours intensified as the sun went down.
Concentrating on the shots I wanted to take. Sunset at Bedruthan steps meant silhouettes of rough rocks before a beautiful sunset into the sea. Closer to a particular rock or almost with my back to the cliff? I like the emphasis the sunbeams give to the sharpness of the rock in the first picture, but went for a more panoramic view that put the emphasis on the narrowness of the bay and the height of the rocks. The rocks are much smaller and the sunset picture shows much more wide open space at the nearby Newquay beach.
Climbing up the steps wasn’t easy but doable and it was still dust when I reached the cliff top. I had looked back several times on my way here and therefore I didn’t have any trouble finding my way back. I arrived in the dark at Mawgan Porth beach with my hotel just across the street. Pleased with my time well spend I was filled with the experience of nature at its best. If the whole South West Coast Path greets me with stunning landscape like this – what an adventure lays before me. Additionally, I know I will come back and find another interesting perspective for a sunset shot at Bedruthan Steps.
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