Marconi Stands as an Ebenezer on the Path
This section of the path (Porthleven to The Lizard) is meant to be the last one of my 300 mile journey for young carers. It is also the most emotionally charged on a personal level as I walk through childhood memories.
It is a small distance from Porthleven to Loe Bar: the last time I came here I was seventeen and had walked in the opposit direction from Mullion. I was in awe with this shingle beach which separates the sea from the largest natural fresh water lake in Cornwall, particularly since, at the time, I had no idea it was there and simply stumbled upon it on my walk.
The river Cober used to flow here and connect Helston to the sea, making the town an important port. In the 13th century, however, the bar formed and the port became landlocked. I cannot help but think that in those days, a change such as this must have had monumental consequences on the lives of the inhabitants – walking through the last few weeks, I have become accustomed to a life ruled by the rhythm of the tides – entire towns, such as Padstow – organise their days around it and there is no escaping tidal conversations along the path. Helston was fortunate enough to be declared a stannary town for the stamping of tin under royal charter in 1305 and gain nearby Gweek as a harbour connected to the tin country by ancient roads.
From Loe Bar, the landscape becomes exceedingly familiar. Church Cove fights threatening clouds whilst the sea rolls from emerald green to turquoise and aquamarine. The church’s position, nestled behind a clump of sout-west facing rocks, is precarious and protected at the same time.
Ahead lies a clean summer’s day. It is almost as if my mother is promising that by the time I reach the Marconi monument, the sea will be displaying its diamonds on the crest of each wavelet for the sun to catch, just as it did on our last walk. It is a gentle promise, a whisper of a presence amongst mariners’ crosses and ghostly figureheads.
Poldhu is next in the succession of familiar coves which accompany me on my pilgrimage to Marconi. I stop for a coffee and notice another female lone hiker… I had glimpsed her backpack bobbing up and down in the landscape ahead of me throughout the morning. I sense we are both on a lonely path today which may cross again later on and be more open to conversations. For now, I feel it is important I complete my last few miles alone.
On from Poldhu, Marconi looms on the cliff head, my childhood stares at me Beyond as I can clearly see the contours of the Polurrian Hotel, it’s gardens and cove.
I take a seat on the monument and look out to sea. Right there, in this moment pure sadness wells up and I sob through my entire being, casting off the moorings which held me stead fast to a cycle of anger, pain, disappointment and self-centredness. I think about everything I have learnt on the path: the recognition that it is the guilt of not having cared enough that has chewed up my soul and regurgitated it into society, stripped, weakened and poor.
If I lived under this guilt from the start of my teenage years, it is because I cared too much. It is that notion of early selflessness that binds young carers together and makes it difficult to understand oneself without seeing it through the eyes of the one we care for. And it is the self we find difficult to re-align when we grow up. It is now that I understand why this place is so important to me. It isn’t just that it was my mother’s favourite place… Whenever we came here, my mother was healthy and I wasn’t a young carer. When she was ill on our last stay here, my father and staff at the hotel were here to care for her, I still associated this place with being carefree.
Sitting on the monument’s step, I feel that I can bury my mum in peace with new depth of understanding. Marconi’s significance, representing lines of communication across a vast ocean, provides solace in a sense of community and hope.
As I write this, I have returned home and further layers are grafted onto my mother’s grave. As I attend Gateway church, I hear the story of Jonah’s anger and disappointment at God’s mercy towards the city of Nineveh. Jonah’s feelings stem from the fact that things didn’t go his way and his story becomes a metaphore for what we perceive as unfairness in our lives. Faith, hope and community can help us to leave bitterness, disappointment and anger behind. It is exactly this idea that the Marconi Monument represented for me this time, not sorrowful remembrance alone. My choice of a monument of communication and hope for my mother’s grave is linked by one of the elders to Samuel’s stone, a monument he calls ‘Ebenezer’, meaning ‘stone of help’.
Sharing a very personal story can make one feel vulnerable at times. But sharing also means you become enriched with new perspectives which truly help to mend the soul and go on to help others. Marconi is built on the site of the defunct Poldhu Wireless Station, it commemorates the first transatlantic radio transmission, received by Guglielmo Marconi in Newfoundland on 12 December 1901.
The outdoor centre, where young carers are enabled some time out from their responsibilities by MyTime charity, is the only remaining building of what was once the site of a radar development station during the Second World War. Out there, at Marconi, my personal journey feels connected to a place I feel is important for young carers’ wellbeing, enabling communication, friendship and time. Marconi truly is a ‘stone of help’ in so many different ways.
I leave Marconi behind and I am glad to have resisted the urge to stay. To pass through this place is important, ‘from this line, I must move forward today’. I discover anew the rock I always called ‘the Old Man and the Sea’, I sat many hours of my teenage years contemplating the sea from its height. It is actually called ‘Carrag-Luz’ or ‘Love Rock’.
Luz means ‘light’ in Spanish, and today, the old man watches upon thousands of diamonds left floating in the sea by the lost wreckage of pirate ships.
I walk on to Mullion harbour where the canon still awaits, my sister, brother and I are still sitting on it, smiling.
Farewell, Mullion! I have a few miles left to my destination and the beauty of kinance cove to look forward to on my way along The Lizard peninsula.
Last tent pitch and a cooked diner. I also get to meet the lone female hiker I had seen earlier on the path, her name is Anna, she is Swiss and hiking the whole length of the path on her own.
… But, The Lizard’s fog horn keeps me up most of the night so as I am awake and packed up early, I decide to walk on to Falmouth where I have a bus booked to get me home in a couple of days time.
Anna catches up with me at Kennack Sands and I am blessed by her wonderful companionship. My legs are in a bad way but she stays with me. Without her, I am not sure I would have got to the half way marker.
This walk is over for now, but my time on the path for young carers carries on…. Thank you to all those who have donated, those who have made this challenge happen and those who have been kind, there will always be a special place in my heart for you all xxx
Hi Pauline – we met you on Northam Burrows, Appledore end. So pleased you’ve made it and your writing on the blog moves to me tears.
You are a lovely person and it was our privilege to have shared a few minutes with you.
Feel very proud.
Hi John and Barbara
Sorry it took me so long to reply, I have only just seen your post. Thank you so much for your support and it is great to hear from you! I am back at work now but I think about the path and the lovely people I met everyday! Lots of love, Pauline