We nearly didn't go this year. First of all we had to change the dates - no great problem except we are going in the first week of August rather than early July. This was to accommodate the desires of my better half who wanted to go on a particular holiday when we usually went walking. With an eye to future walks and my own personal safety Brian is persuaded to agree to the change, although he mutters darkly about the impossibility of getting digs for one night in Cornwall in August. I also join a gym in an attempt to get fit for the escapade, and have already lost some weight. Brian and I get in several training walks - each one about 6 -7 miles. Things are looking up.
Then disaster strikes. On a college training day to develop team building or some other consultant-ese speak exercise Brian injures his knee leading a group over Ilkley Moor. There is about a month to go. The doctors order plenty of rest, and a few exercises, and with a bit of luck all should be well in about two months time.
As the day of departure nears Brian felt reasonably confident about the walk. His knee had stood up to some mild walking the previous week; but it was in Great Yarmouth and without a pack. Although "it will be impossible to get digs for one night in Cornwall in August" we are going. His injury has forced him to abandon the idea of carrying a tent
I'm just pleased to be going. I can better understand now, how Brian felt last year when we had to cancel. I developed a skin infection on my right leg which
kept me in hospital for a week, when we should have been walking.
It is 6.00am and the alarm rings shrilly, and rather blearily Brian and Roger stumble into their clothes and the car. Destination - Manchester Airport. For the first time we will let the plane take the strain in getting us to our start point.
The flight to Newquay in a Dash 8-300 via Cardiff was very pleasant despite a late departure caused by a delay to the incoming flight with our crew onboard. Our landing at Newquay was further delayed whilst they flew around in circles trying to get the undercarriage down! At one point the stewardess was peering out of the windows in an attempt to see if they were there.
Our bus connections from Newquay to Falmouth all worked out very well and we duly arrived at about 3.30pm. Despite the delays it was about an hour earlier than the train for a similar start time, and it was a bit cheaper too.
We strolled through the town on a gloriously hot Summer's day; had a beer or two or three in one of the pubs, before going to our digs. They turned out to be very comfortable, more of a small hotel than a B & B. It augured well for a good week.
But this is our walk and it would not be complete without some form of minor disaster. About 6.00pm, just as we are leaving for our evening meal, Roger
notices that the map case with sundry items, including his cheque book is missing. After much deliberation and frantic searching we conclude it must be in
the pub. However when we call in, the bar staff have changed and the new squad can't find it. With little else to do we get our evening meal, enjoy a stroll
along the South Bay and go back to the digs.
Falmouth to Helford
After a good breakfast, where we are invited to partake of seconds [yes we did indulge], Roger decides to return to the pub one last time in search of the elusive map case. The day is getting very warm as he arrives to find the pub shut - not too surprising considering it is about 9.45am on a Sunday, but surely the cleaners would be in. A quick visit to the newsagent to get a few items, back to the pub to be told someone has just gone in! Ten minutes later Roger leaves triumphant, clutching his map case tightly.
The search for the map case has delayed our start, and in the hot humid conditions we find the going not so much tough as uncomfortable. There is a gentle breeze blowing which we benefit from as we head along the prom, but we are soon in the lee of higher ground and lose its cooling caress. We make steady progress past Swanpool Beach; Pennance Point and the golf course before arriving at Maenporth for our first break.
We continue in the blistering heat towards Rosemullion Head. We are forced to take a break at Bream Cove where we hear a big shout about giant jellyfish from the hidden depths below our cliff top path. As we round Rosemullion Head we get the benefit of the cooling breeze for the first time since leaving Falmouth.
It is along this section that we pass two young ladies heading towards Swanage. They left Padstow 14 days earlier. At first this gives us some encouragement but we quickly realise they are carrying camping equipment and are half our age. Second thoughts though cheer us up as the going can't be too tough for them to have covered that distance in two weeks. We continue on in good spirits.
With stops at Mawnan Shear and Durgan we make steady progress to Helford Passage, arriving at about ten past two. We have experienced some varied countryside today - typical small sea-side resort; small sandy coves; cliff top paths - some open others enclosed by gorse and thorn; and deciduous woodland as we passed Mawnan Glebe. This was a pleasant relief as the woodland was quite open and provided some respite from the pounding sun. We also had some elusive and attractive views of the Helford Estuary from the wood. The river was dotted with a swarm of sailing boats of all shapes & sizes.
The walking is over for the day bar the short stroll to the ferry and the search for digs. Brian is pleased with the way his knee has reacted to the walking. It is grumbling a bit, but it feels like a "healthy ache" rather than a serious, walk threatening pain.
We had chosen Helford, just across the river, as our destination so that Brian's knee would get a good test without overdoing things. Also Helford is the biggest place for miles around. After disembarking from the ferry we soon realise that Helford is a small village, much smaller than we imagined. Even on a Summer Sunday afternoon the pub is shut. Bed & Breakfast signs are conspicuous by their absence. The village shop is open and we receive the bad news that there are no B & B's in Helford. The good news is that they have a card for a B & B at Landrivick Farm, about 2 miles away. They also have a selection of Cornish pasties. Strangely they are not advertised as the best pasties in the world.
We phone the farm and they can put us up; provide us with an evening meal and they will come and get us as well! So an hour or so later we are sitting in
the garden at the farm sipping tea and tucking into some delicious home-made fruit cake, courtesy of the farmer's wife, the lovely Linda Jenkins. Our good
fortune continues when the next night's digs are booked for us by the lovely Linda. All in all an excellent end to the day. After a slow start and a slightly
worrying mid-afternoon we have ended up in a cosy billet and the next day's walking mapped out
Manaccan to Coverack
The day dawns grey and misty - such a contrast to the heat of Sunday. Linda has already said she will take us to Manaccan, the local village, to re-start the walk. Breakfast is different. For just about the first time since 1993 when we started this walking lark we don't get bacon & sausages at breakfast. We do get lovely fresh free range eggs poached to perfection. During breakfast there is the lightest of showers that hardly wets the ground.
Our ride to Manaccan is quite interesting as Linda drives through the narrow lanes flanked by tall hedges at speeds only a local in a 4x4 with bull bars would attempt. Our progress is suddenly halted however when we come upon a lorry ready to unload a small JCB at a road junction. As the driver starts unchaining the JCB another 4x4 pulls out of the lane end and the recipient of the JCB gets out. After a few minutes conversation and to-ing and fro-ing we are back on our way. Linda, who seems to know everyone we meet eventually drops us off near he church in Manaccan.
Manaccan is a pretty little place with a street pattern better suited to the horse and cart and pack ponies than modern transport. Its narrow and twisty streets are filled by Linda's car. We are sad to say goodbye to the lovely Linda, she has been so friendly and helpful.
We set off and are soon in the footpath towards Carne. It gradually drops down through open woodland for a mile or so and then we are onto a lane for the last stretch. It is still overcast although the mist has cleared. We are soon off the lanes and take to the fields for the final stretch down to Gillan harbour. Here we experience for the first time the delights of marching through a field of 7 foot high maize. We cannot see more than a few feet in front of us, but fortunately the path is pretty obvious.
Despite the cloudy start it has been warm, but not too humid so far. The clouds start to break up as we walk through Gillan. We begin to realise how fortunate we had been the night before as we have yet to see a B & B.
We continue along the cliff path towards Nare Point and round to Nare Head. Looking back we can see to the east of Plymouth. The walking is relatively easy, except for an awkward flight of steps, where the tread is quite narrow. A little further along I am acutely aware that all there is between me and the sea is a very narrow strip of land, an electric fence and 100 feet of fresh air. Brian's comment that "wouldn't take much to go over here" does little to allay my fears.
After Porthallow the Coast Path follows the steep road as it heads to Porthoustock. At the top of the hill the road goes past a vineyard. I've been suggesting we should do a bit of sightseeing here, but Brian has been counselling against it all morning. As it happens the only sightseeing we do is across the countryside as the vineyard is closed on a Monday.
At Porthoustock we adjourn for lunch and tuck into the pasties we bought the day before. In the cold light of day they look rather large and intimidating. Nothing daunted we get stuck in. Brian manages to get through his, but I have to stop about half way. Porthoustock shows signs of an industrial past, but is now a quiet sleepy collection of cottages around the cove.
We leave Porthousetock via the road, and once again the climb out of the cove is rewarded by some gorgeous views across the countryside. During our lunch break the sun has burnt away the cloud and whenever we are in the lee of the breeze the temperature soars. We pass a collection of standing stones known as the Giant's Quoits. They stand approximately 12 feet high, and stood for hundreds of years on the nearby Manacles Point. They were moved to their present position in the mid-1970's when quarrying threatened to destroy them.
Shortly after passing the quoits we leave the road and head back to the coast. We go past a private beach, and are soon upon the Redland stone quarry near Dean Point. It seems odd to be walking through this industrial landscape after a day and a half of walking in beautiful countryside.
The quarry is very quiet and for the first 100yards or so we wonder if it is actually a working site. Just past the stone crushing plant and offices there is a bench and we take a rest. From our vantage point we can see a small sandy cove, with scores of seabirds scattered across the beach. The birds provide us with some entertainment as we watch them taking off and landing. Their take offs are somewhat ungainly as they take a run, start flapping and very gradually gain height. Only when they are 4 or 5 feet or so above the sea do they begin to look like true creatures of the air. There is an old jetty at the eastern end of cove littered with the equipment used to load the small ships with stone. It looks as though it has been idle for years. Eventually, just as we are about to leave we get a first sign of life as a diesel engine starts up and a lone JCB rumbles into view.
The rest of the walk into Coverack isn't too testing on the wide path except for the low branches from the bushes that enclose the path. From time to time the six footers amongst us [ie me!] have to bend double to avoid catching a whack across the face or getting ones pack snagged on a branch. The stretch past Lowland Point is also testing as the ground is very rocky. Great concentration was required to avoid turning an ankle on the protruding stones.
Coverack is at the southern end of a broad sweeping bay. Long before we reach the village we can see a pub and small harbour on the far headland - Dolor Point. In the event we reach a cafe on the northern fringe of the village first. Packs off, pots of tea ordered and a chance to relax. We provide some slapstick amusement to the other customers as we manouever our rucksacks and get comfortable.
All we have to do now is find a watering hole for tonight; some lunch for the morrow and our digs. We know they are up the hill on the far side of the village. A gentle 30minute stroll to explore Coverack, followed by a 10 minute slog up the hill to the school leaves us somewhat breathless and a little lost. We seem to have run out of village and cannot find our digs. We find one of the natives who directs us to a modern bungalow close to the cliff edge at Chynhalls Point.
We have landed on our feet once again. The room is large, comfortable and tastefully decorated, with a modern en-suite bathroom. Our hostess, Mrs Baird, even lends us a copy of the SW Coast Path Association's handbook. Later that evening we start copying the names and phone numbers of all the B & B's close to the path between the Lizard and Land's End - we think they'll be useful.
After a rest and wash and brush up it is back to the village for our evening meal and a pleasant beer in the pub. We find a footpath down to the village
which is a lot easier than the road, It is a glorious evening, with the setting sun giving a huge range of colours to the land and the sea. The effect reminds
me of our last night in Swanage.
Coverack to Lizard Point
We had little trouble finding the path in the morning - it was 20 feet from our bedroom window. So after a good breakfast we were off and away almost immediately.
Once again the going is fairly easy, with no major ups and downs. Our constant companions are the stony ground; the gorse and blackthorn bushes, which often obscure our view in this first hour. Once again I am ducking to avoid being decapitated by some over large thorn bushes. We are sheltered for the most part from the gentle breeze, so it feels quite warm and humid. In between whiles we catch glimpses of the sea and can see the Lizard light flashing in the distance.
One big surprise was to discover a collection of sculptures, mostly metal animals, in several of the fields we pass and walk through. The artist is one Terry Coventry, a local farmer and sculptor. He has also sculpted a statue celebrating Thomas Flamank and Michael Joseph, leaders of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497.
The rest of the morning is spent making steady progress towards Kennack Sands. We have one particularly steep gully to traverse, but otherwise nothing spectacular. The sun finally makes its full entrance just after 10.00am, and the temperatures soar once more. We indulge in some beach walking for the last three-quarters of a mile or so across Kennack Sands and round the little headland to reach the most welcome beach cafe.
We stop here for about an hour, resting, lunching and chatting to two ladies walking in the opposite direction. They started out eleven days earlier from just East of Newquay and are heading for Falmouth. Like us they are B & B-ing, but they have pre-booked all their accommodation - including the lovely Linda at Landrivick Farm! In another little twist we find out they live in Marlborough, not far from our ancestral homes in Swindon. Before leaving Kennack Sands we discuss where we are likely to reach today. We decide that the Lizard will probably be the limit of our ambition, even though we are more than half way there. Out comes the trusty mobile and start phoning from the list so neatly [? - ed] scribbled down the night before. Eventually we get booked in at a B & B right on the path, just past the lighthouse. We are warned that the room is small but will sleep two. Our evening meal when we get there won't be a problem either as there is cafe less than 50 yards away.
With our accommodation sorted we press on with the next stage to Cadgwith. We forsake the coast for part of the way, and go via Poltesco and Ruan Minor. We have a mixture of road and path walking which makes a pleasant change from the gorse and thorns that flanked much of the path during the morning. On the outskirts of Poltresco we meet a couple from Germany who confirm our route.
At Ruan Minor we are advised by a local to take the shortcut down the footpath as it will mean we miss all the cars hurtling along the road, and down the steep hill ahead. We take her advice and rejoin the road a lot closer to the village centre. On the final half mile of road we do have to avoid two cars as they hurtle past us at about 15mph.
The village centre has what we are looking for - a pub! Two pints of orange squash, quickly followed by two more soon make us feel a bit more civilised. It has become baking hot again for the third day in a row, and we are grateful to get into the shade. Cadgwith is a busy little village that has managed to cater for the tourists, but still retain some of its fishing village charm.
Again we decide to leave the coast and strike out across country to Lizard village. Up on the open ground we get the benefit of the cooling breezes but the overall temperature is high. The scenery is peaceful, but not spectacular. An hour or so later we reach the village centre and start scouting for the essentials - a shop to buy tomorrow's lunch; a cafe or similar for tonight's meal and a pub for the mandatory orange squash. We soon identify the latter and after watering and resting set out to get the others. Lunch for the morrow is quickly bought, but we are not impressed by the cafes we pass. Let's hope the one near our digs is better. We hobble down towards the lighthouse to find our digs. Lizard village has little charm and makes its living from the tourists that come to stand on the point, and so be at the most southerly place in mainland Britain.
There is a small collection of buildings at the Point, including our digs. The room is small, but will do. We are staying in the most southerly house in England, a fact proudly borne out by the sign on the gate. The cafe, which claims the title as England's most southerly, is a few yards away. We find out when it closes and go to meet our landlady. She is a pleasant German lady married to an Englishman, and once again we have struck gold. We have a collection of sweat soaked tee-shirts etc and ask if we can hang them out on her clothes line. She offers to give them a quick run through the washing machine and stick them in the tumble drier!
We take our evening meal at the most southerly cafe in England and get another pleasant surprise. Although no architectural masterpiece, and owing more to the formica top table movement than the fresh starched table cloth brigade, this cafe is no greasy spoon out to milk the tourists. We manage to get a seat on the terrace facing the setting sun. I chose to have a smoked mackeral salad with extra chips and Brian chose the Steak and Kidney pie. The only disappointment is that smoked mackeral is off, would I like smoked pollack? The only Pollacks I have ever met were a married couple who taught at our alma mater [Headlands School - ed], so I thought "why not?"
When the food came the portions were large and the quality high. A most excellent meal, helped no end by the atmosphere engendered by the lowering sun and views along the coast. All in all a pretty good evening, and as Brian remarked, worthy of a last night venue if only it had been licensed.
Going back to the digs we spot about a dozen rabbits sunning themselves in the garden. Today has been a funny old day. I felt extremely tired by the end
of our walking, not only physically but mentally as well. This is a bit of a puzzle as we have gone barely thirty miles in three days so far. Brian reports that
his knee has stood up pretty well so far and feels good for a lot more. This is very encouraging as four days ago there was a real possibility that we might
be stuck in one place with Brian's leg in a sling.
Lizard Point to Porthleven
We wake up feeling somewhat refreshed and partake of a good breakfast. Our laundry has been returned and we are all packed up, ready to go. Our landlady is a keen supporter of the lifeboats and we are persuaded to purchase raffle tickets, which seems a small price to pay for getting our laundry done.
Our destination today is something of a moveable feast. After yesterday I don't feel able to commit to going much beyond Mullion Cove. This would mean staying in Mullion, a mile or so off the coast. Problem is that Mullion is only 6 or 7 miles away. The next sensible place to look for digs is Porthleven, some 13 miles distant.
With some trepidation we set off. The sun is out but now we are not in the lee of the Lizard peninsula and are exposed to the full force of the winds. They are more than a gentle zephyr caressing our rugged handsome features [ dream on kidder -ed] but not so strong as to make walking hard work. As before though, once out of the wind the temperatures are high, but there is a fresher, less humid feel to the day.
The ground is much easier today without the stones ready to trip the unwary. The scenery is very different too. Gone are the enclosing thorn and gorse bushes. In comparison the landscape is relatively bare of bushes and trees. There are no severe climbs so this is closest thing to a stroll we've had so far this week.
We reach Mullion Cove by lunch time feeling pretty tired, but agree it is too soon to stop. We decide to go on to Poldhu Cove and review our options there. I do not feel as bad as I did at this time yesterday and Mullion is still pretty close so we could go back there if we have to.
En-route to Poldhu Cove we see some large beast swimming steadily towards the west just below the surface and only 15 metres off the coast. From the cliff tops it is clearly not a rock, but we cannot get a clear enough view to positively identify the creature. We suspect it may be one of the basking sharks that the local TV has been reporting.
At Poldhu we have more debate, and a consult of the map suggests we should go forward if possible. It is mid-afternoon and Porthleven can be no more than 2 - 3 hours away. Armed with a good list of B & B's in Porthleven we decide to go on.
I start phoning as soon as we are out of the cove and onto the higher ground where our phones have a strong signal. Coverage had been decidedly patchy in the last two days, with no signal at all on the Lizard and at Coverack. Of the six B & B's on our list all bar one are full. This is disappointing to say the least. At the last one I leave a message on an answering machine.
We take the road for half a mile or so at Halzephron Cliff and rejoin the path as the road swings inland. At Gunwalloe Fishing Cove we are a little disappointed to find that the pub we were expecting to provide us with copious amounts of orange squash has been moved from the coast to the road about 800 yards inland. [Either that or we can't read a map]. All is not lost however and we find a cafe, which we would have ignored if we had known the price of a pot of tea - £5!
The walking is fairly easy except as we pass Carminowe Creek where we have to walk across the sand of Loe Bar. The bar isolates the creek from the sea, and at Southern end there is a monument to those who lost their lives in the wreck of the Anson frigate in 1807. This historic event led to a change in the law about the burial of people drowned at sea and subsequently washed up on the shore.
I have been trying to contact the one remaining B & B on our list all afternoon, and give it one last try as we enter Porthleven and still have no success. We pass many old and new cottages, nearly all of them available to rent as self catering accommodation. We turn inland at the end of the pier and head into town past the harbour. Porthleven is a pretty sort of place heavily dependant on tourists, but not brash. The harbour nestles on either side of a river with relatively little land on the foreshore. The streets run along terraces over looking the harbour. We see a large B & B sign half way up the hill on the far shore.
Ten minutes later we are there but there are no vacancies. We are directed to a couple of other establishments on this side of the harbour, but there are no vacancies at either. .. The second place does give us a couple of phone numbers. These calls result in sympathy; further contacts; more calls and no room for the night. By about 6.30 we are tired, hungry and homeless. Brian's prophecies about digs in Cornwall in August could be coming true. Brian suggests we get some food in our bellies - a sound idea.
We head away from the harbour area on the road to Helston, and about two hundred yards up the hill from the harbour we find our restaurant for the night - a chippy and a bench outside the church. We are just settling down to our evening repast in the setting sun when there is a jangling from my pocket.
The digs I had been trying to contact all afternoon have returned my call. Yes they are back from their day out, and no they have no rooms. I am about to hang up when the lovely lady asks what we are looking for. I reply on the lines of anything, bus shelter; ditch; washing line, and she says she'll call back. In less than 10 minutes we get a second call to be told we are booked into some digs overlooking the harbour.
We take down the address and set off in search of our new found roof. En-route we call in at the local supermarket and get provisions for the morning. On leaving the supermarket we ask a little old lady where the road we require is, and she seems a little unsure. We mention it is a B & B and suddenly she remembers - Oh yes! that'll be Mrs Pascoe."
We toil up the hill away from the harbour and find our digs, and indeed the establishment is run by a Mrs Pascoe. The ironic thing is that Mrs Pascoe's abode is no more than 100yards further up the hill and round the corner from the very first place we called at 2 hours earlier.
Apart from our alarms over accommodation today has been a pretty good day. We've walked further than on the other days, I feel much better and Brian's
knee has coped well. All in all we feel well pleased with our-selves. We will certainly get past Land's End now, a target we didn't feel confident about when
we started out. We have learnt one thing - don't take the accommodation for granted.
Porthleven to Penzance
Once again we have no clear idea of our goal -Marazion would be good, but Penzance would be better. All we can do is set off and see how it goes. As for digs, Penzance has dozens of places, but my list of digs gleaned from the book at Coverack becomes very sparse after Newlyn.
The morning passes quite uneventfully. The landscape is not too taxing, and the temperatures are quite bearable in the gentle breeze. Praa Sands is the only place of any size between us and Marazion and we are looking forward to a nice cuppa there.
On the outskirts of Praa Sands we decide to leave the coast path and take the road into town to maximise our chances of finding a cafe or pub. However we get it wrong and end up going several hundred yards further inland than we intended. On reflection the next 30minutes or so are not good for us. Praa Sands is a collection of holiday homes, with some beach cafes and shops at the western end. We would have arrived 10 minutes earlier if we had stuck to the coast path. We seem to spend an age sorting out the best way to the beach cafes when we finally reach them, and yet more time actually picking one.
In the end we choose the one with a bit of a garden, to find out it is run by Chris Old, the erstwhile Yorkshire and England cricketer. We sit in the garden under a huge umbrella and Brian goes inside. When he eventually returns he reports that he has seen The Man himself as well as the photos of him in his pomp. Whilst we are sipping at our second glass of squash He comes out and places a small advertising board against the wall. He still looks mean and fit unlike us - and to rub salt into the wound he's probably a year or two older than us as well.
Eventually we leave and continue on our way looking for a suitable place for lunch. This takes a little longer than anticipated as the path is beset by gorse and scrubby bushes. Eventually the path comes out on the cliff above Kenneggy Sands and about half way along it is joined by a path coming down from the right. The way-markers seem to imply that we could bear right. We also think we can avoid dropping to sea level by taking this path, so it's right turn and off we go. After about 150 yards we realise we are wrong. The only saving grace is that we have found some open ground and, because we have climbed 75 feet or so, some rather pleasant views of the coastline. During lunch we debate which way to go - further inland or back to the coast. Eventually we decide to re-trace our steps and head for the sea.
As it happens the descent to the beach level doesn't involve a slog out on the other side as a well made track leads gently upwards through some impressive buildings built to resemble a castle.
When we round Cudden Point we catch our first glimpse of St Michael's Mount in the distance. From this distance it appears as a small pimple sticking out of the sea which gradually takes on a more majestic and mystical air as we approach.
With a couple more stops, one for tea at Perrin Sands, it is mid afternoon when we reach Marazion. We are forced to use the main road through the town. Although we have to put up with a steady stream of traffic in both directions on the narrow street, it does give us an opportunity to keep an eye out for some digs. As we go through the town I begin to feel a bit stronger than earlier - obviously feeling the benefit of the little nap at the stop before Perran Sands!
We spot a sign pointing "this" way to the Tourist Office, so we go in that direction. About five minutes later we see another sign pointing "that" way. Unfortunately it is in the direction of where we have come from! Surely we haven't walked past the wretched place? We re-trace our steps until we reach the first sign. Something is very odd in Marazion. So we turn around again, and call in at the Arts Centre. Yes the Tourist Information Centre used to be here, but it closed! The nearest one is in Penzance.
We plod on to the western edge of town and rest up on a grassy area amongst a large carpark just behind the prom. We are able to get a good look at St Michael's Mount from here, as our route through town meant that its view was obscured, apart from tantalising glimpses down the side streets. Its imposing presence dominates this part of the bay and the history of the place is the stuff of legends.
After a little thought we decide to press on to Penzance. We can see along the wide sweep of the bay and the route is along a billiard table flat prom. Penzance is also by far the larger town with almost certainly a wider range of places to stay.
We set off into a slowly setting sun in an almost cloudless sky. We join a steady stream of people heading west. The walking is easy and we make swift progress past the railway carriage sheds at Long Rock, just about half way. The next bit of entertainment is provided by the helicopters to and from the Scilly Isles taking off and landing at the heliport a few hundred yards further on. We can clearly see the landing pad and the turnarounds are really fast. The helicopter lands, the steps are whisked up and the passengers dis-embark. Within 10 minutes or less the next lot of passengers are climbing in and the beast is preparing for take off. The engines don't stop. It may be the time of day but the service seems to be pretty continuous - better than most bus services!
We are well into Penzance by now, but as we walk past the station it is clear we will be just too late for the Tourist Information Centre. After gathering our
thoughts we head into town and swiftly find some digs opposite the station close to the town centre and the TIC. At first we are a little apprehensive, but
they turn out to be very comfortable and welcoming, if a little old fashioned and shabby. We have a lot of planning and information gathering to do in the
morning, as well as some pressing purchases to make. I need a new belt to replace the one that snapped two days ago. One of the more colourful
features of today and most of the previous days has been the multitude of butterflies we have seen. They have come in a variety of sizes and sported
just about every colour in the pallet. We have seen butterflies in previous years, but not in the same quantity or variety.
Penzance to Porthcurno
We start the day with an excellent breakfast capped with a selection of home made marmalades and jams - all very scrumptious. We are tempted to buy some, but the thought of lugging them around for the next three days puts us off. Our first port of call is the TIC. We really need a lot of information on the availability of digs, and public transport in case we end up in a place with no where to stay. Unfortunately the Penzance office doesn't cover much past Porthcurno, but by borrowing their Yellow Pages we gather some names and addresses. The bleak news is that once past Mousehole, which is only a couple of hours away, the availability almost dries up until one reaches St Ives. We have a couple of names for Porthcurno, but nothing between there and Mousehole.
We book some digs in Porthcurno some 11 - 12 miles away, and head into town to purchase our lunch and my belt. By 9.45 we are ready to set off. It would have been sooner but paying for the belt proved difficult as a technical problem with the till nearly defeated the shop assistant.
It is starting to get warm again as we head out along Market Jew Street, which is the main shopping street of the town. This street is named from the Cornish "Marghas Yow", which means "Thursday Market" and has no connection with Judaism. Outside the Market House at the top of the street stands a statue of Sir Humphrey Davy who was born and brought up in Penzance in a nearby house. We follow the coast road to Newlyn keeping a keen eye out for likely watering holes. Despite walking through a built up area we are destined to be disappointed and eventually stop and take a swig of our water as we sit on some benches overlooking Newlyn harbour. It is full of fishing boats of all sizes and colours and two lifeboats.. There are some interesting views back across Mount's Bay to Marazion and St Michael's Mount. We can just about make out the Lizard as a dark smudge on the horizon.
The road walking continues onto Mousehole. Just before Penlee Point we pass the now closed Penlee Lifeboat Station. Next to the building is a Memorial Garden dedicated to the men of the RNLI, volunteers all, who lost their lives in 1981 going to the assistance of the SS Union Star. This prompts the thought that in all the miles of coastal walk we have never experienced the full power of the sea. It is a sobering thought.
In Mousehole we eventually find a pub for the long awaited orange squash. The pub is very pleasant and is also a memorial to the men of the Penlee lifeboat. There are pictures all over the walls of the men and their boat lost in 1981. For all this though the place does not feel mawkish or sombre. We sense they have a great deal of respect for, and pride, in their men.
We reluctantly leave the pub and after a further half mile or so leave the road and hesd into open country. For the first time that day we experience the absence of noise - it's lovely. We decide to take an inland route, chiefly for a bit of variety. At first all goes well but we get totally lost around Higher Kemyal Farm. We follow what we think is the path past the farm, but spend the best part of the next hour tracing and retracing false trails, all within 300 yards of the farm. At one stage we are thoroughly disheartened to see the Coast Path about 30 feet below us, but totally inaccessible. After much confusion a little sanity creeps in and we go right back to the farm and have a good look at the map. It soon becomes apparent where we went wrong. The footpath required goes between the farm buildings whilst we followed a track made by the farmer and his beasts into the fields behind the farm. A series of simple map reading errors and over reliance on the marks in the ground have led us astray.
Once on the right path all becomes very easy except the fairly steep drop into Lamorna Cove. The tiny hamlet snuggles into the steep banks of the Lamorna Valley where it reaches the sea. The tide is out and we can see just how tall the harbour wall is. There is obviously a deep spot in the pool of water at the end of the wall as some children are jumping in from the wall. We spend quite a while guzzling tea in the village cafe before moving outside to have our lunch overlooking the harbour.
After lunch comes the second hiccough of the day. We follow a sign saying the coast path goes "this" way to the end of the harbour wall next to a rocky cliff. We follow others in a crazy scramble up a rocky "path". When we eventually reach a proper path Brian voices my thoughts when he says he is surprised they have routed the path this way. Of course "they" have not routed the path this way, it is us missing a turning a little earlier. The approved route is a not too severe climb along the path we have just reached. It's been a bad couple of hours
As we leave we get a really good view of the cove. There are a large number of SCUBA divers in the bay and we can really appreciate how sheltered it must be. Our next stop is adjacent to Tater Du lighthouse after quite a hard section over rocky ground with a lot of up and down - although not too steep. The rocky ground makes concentration paramount as it would be so easy to turn an ankle. Fortunately things eased off towards the end and we could really enjoy the peacefulness of the surroundings. We were accompanied by a small boat chugging west for a time. It soon left us behind. We also met a lone walker heading East.
My notes for the next section are a little sparse. There is a start time - 16.09, a stop time - 17.30 accompanied by "Additional time 10minutes" and the comment "TUFF!!" These rather terse comments summarise pretty accurately what happened. What they don't say is that we got a little lost in Porthcurno. At about 5.00pm I phoned our landlady to let her know we were still on the way and should be there - well - eventually. She gave us some encouraging news by saying that their house was next to the shop, and there was only one more hill to climb. Armed with this we set off, climbed one more small hill before dropping down into Porthcurno ending up in the car park exactly as described by our landlady. We espy the shop opposite the car park, and a house next door to the shop.
We approach the house and it looks all shut up. We knock on the door anyway and get no answer. It's back to the road and a look around. Of course the easy thing would be to phone again, but there is no signal down in the valley. A few yards away on the other side of the road are two bungalows. We decide that they count as "next to the shop" and walk down their drive. There is no one at home at the first, but we get a response at the second. It is not where we want to be. Fortunately though they know where our digs are - they even know our hosts for the night.
Our digs are at the other end of the village opposite the post office and shop. It's just up the hill on the left. Ten minutes later [although it feels like twenty], after a tiring slog up the hill, we spot our digs. This is obviously the hill we were told about earlier and it is a much more severe than the ones out in the country.
Porthcurno has a special place in the history of telecommunications as it is the place where the telegraph cables from Spain; Portugal and the Azores come ashore. We passed The Porthcurno Telegraph Museum on the way to our digs. The museum is set in the tunnels dug at the start of the Second World War to protect the telegraph equipment.
Despite being at the forefront of telecommunications since 1870 Porthcurno still can't get a mobile phone or TV signal. The latter explained why we got
the same show regardless of channel when we switched the telly on whilst getting changed. The only thing we saw was what our hosts had their satellite
telly tuned to.
Porthcurno to Sennan Cove
Today should see us reach another milestone in our epic journey - Land's End! The day started well. We got a good breakfast and with the shop literally across the road lost no time in provisioning for the day. During the next hour things then went downhill, both literally and metaphorically. All went well as we retraced our steps down to the coast. We take a few extra minutes ensuring we get the right path out of town. Brian has been looking forward to seeing the open air Minack Theatre, but he's disappointed as we pass it at a lower level.
We start on the coast path proper and it soon becomes quite narrow, with a bit of a cliff face on one side and fresh air on the other. Also the ground becomes more and more rocky. It is a bit of a scramble to get past some places and Brian's comment about you could easily go over the edge doesn't help at all! With quite a breeze blowing I don't feel at all comfortable - at the time I did wonder if I was having a panic attack. Brian is leading at this stage and after about 10 minutes of this difficult terrain he rounds a bit of a headland and very quickly re-appears. He has decided that what is round the corner is definitely not for us. Apparently it makes what we have endured so far appear as a stroll in the park.
Things must be bad for Brian to come to that conclusion As for me, I am not in the mood to find out! It is all a bit disappointing to have to go back whence we came, but we do get a good view of the telegraph cables' landfall as we retrace our steps and stumbles. We do not have to go all the way back as we discover a path going up the cliff to the road past the theatre, and a quick consult of the map indicates an alternative inland route past St Leven and sundry farms.
We pass the theatre, but can't see the open air auditorium and follow the road to St Leven. At one stage we are wondering where the place is, as after about 20 minutes we expect to see the church at least. We eventually find the village hidden away at the bottom of a small valley. The church, although on a raised patch of land to our right, has a short squat tower that is shorter than some of the surrounding trees.
We rest for a while on a bench in the churchyard where we idly watch two men who are taking a keen interest in the gravestones, taking photographs of some. After about 5 minutes we hear the gentle strains of organ music emanating from the church. What with a warm summer's day, few clouds and shelter from what breeze there is, we feel at peace with the world after a pretty rotten start to the day.
All good things must pass however and we resume our walk. After the cock up at Kemyal Farm yesterday we spend some time making sure we get the right route out. Half way across the first field the sky rather suddenly starts to cloud over and within five minutes there is rain in the air. A minute or so later it is heavy enough for us to down packs and struggle into our waterproofs. Less than a minute later the rain has stopped completely and the sun is shining once more!
We continue over the fields towards Bosistow Farm - or not - depending on which OS map one has. The 1:50,000 which we use has Bosistow farm marked half a mile or so North of where we know we are - yet the farm buildings proudly proclaim we are at Bosistow Farm. All very confusing, and after our map reading exploits of late we begin to wonder if we are lost again. [On returning home we look at the 1:25,000 map and the mystery is resolved - there are two Bosistow Farms!]
We head back to the coast shortly after leaving the farm, eventually arriving at Mill Bay. The walk over the fields has been sooo gooood - walking in warm sunshine with barely a sound to disturb the quiet and peace of the countryside. After the briefest of showers just after leaving the church, the clouds have climbed to a more respectable height, and thinned out as though ashamed at causing us the inconvenience of getting dressed up.
During the morning we have decided where to call a halt for the day. We will seek digs at Sennan Cove. Brian is keen to go further, but I am not. Eventually after several phone calls we get fixed up at a place called Kelynack about four miles beyond Sennan Cove and a mile inland. We are given some rudimentary instructions as to how to find the place from the coast. Although further than our original choice we feel relieved at having found digs with such little difficulty.
At about 1.00pm we reach Land's End, the most westerly point on mainland Britain. We have turned the corner [or gone round the bend if you prefer]. After this we are going home.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people there, all posing for photographs or peering out into the Atlantic Ocean. It's quite a sobering thought when you consider that apart from the Scilly Isles there is no land for nearly 3000 miles. We take our lunch here and spend a little longer than usual as we wander around the visitor "attractions" that have been built over the years.
There has been a lot of modern development, adding shops; amusements and a restaurant to the hotel, cafes and gift shops originally here. All a bit commercial but, at the risk of being hounded, I don't think they are out of place. Land's End is not spectacularly beautiful, and I doubt if the scenery would attract many visitors if it were not at - well - Land's End. The countryside is relatively flat with no stunning views. Land's End is the place for these developments - they would have been an eyesore in any one of a dozen other places we have seen this week. The number of visitors does bring problems however. The footpaths around the place show signs of severe erosion, even with the hardcore etc that has been put down.
After the mandatory photographs we take our leave via one of the dozen paths that straggle off in the general direction of the car parks and Sennan Cove. Initially we thought that this would be a relatively easy section and we would walk on to our digs at Kelynack. However when we get to the Cove I for one am feeling pretty lousy and we have an uncharacteristic exchange of words just before entering the village. We end up getting the bus to Kelynack and that leads to a bit of a pantomime.
Kelynack is on the shoulders of a small valley leading to the coast. Not knowing where the bus stop will be we ask the driver to give us the nod when we get there. He forgets and by the time we see the place name and get the bus to stop we are out of the village at the bottom of the [not too deep] valley. So we get off and walk back up the hill to the village but cannot find our digs. Rather than wander around like the lost tribes of Israel out comes the trusty mobile. With directions firmly in our minds we walk back down the hill and three quarters of the way up the other side!
Our digs are very comfortable, and we get a good deal of information about the best places to eat - all in St Just about a mile away - and how to get there across the fields and down pedestrian streets. When the time for feeding arrives we head off into the evening light. The walk to town is very good. The evening is really pleasant - warm with gentle breezes and, as we've had a couple of hours rest we are well able to appreciate it. We end up in the Wellington Inn for our supper, and we both have the best moussaka we've ever tasted that would have been good value at twice the price - just as our host had described. When we left we had thought about getting a taxi back, but this is a luxury we don't need and we enjoy the walk back even more than the outward leg.
On return we go down to the lounge and spend the rest of the evening in conversation with our host. Conversation is perhaps a slight misnomer because at times we could hardly get a word in as he reminisced about his life and times in the RAF. I'm sure I saw Brian looking surreptitiously for donkeys' hind legs at one point in the evening.
Despite all of this it is an enjoyable evening. One very good thing to come out of it was the offer of a lift back to Sennan Cove in the morning. This makes
life a lot easier as we are no longer dependant on the 2 hourly bus service. We also get the names and phone numbers of three places in Pendeen -our
target for the morrow.
Sennan Cove to Pendeen
After breakfast we pile into our host's car for the 10 minute journey back to Sennan Cove, and once again get a non-stop story-telling session. Apparently this is a fairly regular service he offers to visitors, usually to & from Land's End. He has also had his share of guests either setting off to, or arriving from John o' Groats who have made the journey by increasingly improbable means. Without doubt our sojourn with him has been interesting and enjoyable.
At Sennan Cove we spend a few minutes working out which of the many paths is the Coast Path. The one we require goes through the dunes behind the beach before climbing up the low cliffs at the far end. The going is fairly easy until we reach the relatively deep and steep sided Cot Valley where we have to cross a stream. Turning right up this valley would eventually bring us out in Kelynack and our digs of the previous night. It has taken us about 90 minutes to reach here and Brian remarks he is glad we didn't walk this last night.
A little later we take a break and are caught up by a family heading in our general direction. We pass the time of day for a few minutes, which is good for them as they are trying to walk to Land's End! We show them the map, turn them around and wish them an enjoyable walk. What the youngish kids think about it I don't know.
The next couple of hours do not enhance our reputation as map readers and interpreters of the landscape. We take our next break by a tall chimney, a relic of the areas mining past, believing we are very close to Cape Cornwall, but in reality we are a good mile from the place. In choosing a path to take after our break we soon realise we are not where we think we are and end up going round in circles for 20 minutes or so. Eventually with the assistance of a local we sort out a route across country and miss out Cape Cornwall all together reaching the coast before Kendijack Castle.
The only good thing about the the last hour or so is that we get booked into digs at Pendeen. Our host of last night gave us three places to contact, but we only get an answer from the pub, and that would have been his third choice. As ever practicality is more important and we book it. AS we progress we start to see more and more signs of the areas mining history. We pass redundant chimneys and winding engine houses, all in various stages of decay. They stand as gaunt figures in the landscape marking the site of the mine shafts that made the area prosperous in earlier times. In the distance we see the chimneys of the Levant mine.
An hour or so later we reach Levant - home of the oldest working beam engine in Cornwall. There are quite a few visitors taking the opportunity to go
down the mine. As we leave Levant we pass the working tin mine next door and head inland to Pendeen via Lower Boscaswell. We quickly find our pub,
which boldly proclaims it serves award winning curries every evening. The pub is somewhat old fashioned and dark. We are led through the pub to our
room that is "out the back" - it all sounds a bit murky.
As we walk through the yard we are confronted by a group of modern looking chalets and are let into one. I immediately apologise to Brian for selecting
such accommodation. The room is huge, with a large double bed and a single, and more space than you can wave a stick at. There is a large picture window
at the end that leads onto our private balcony giving us an excellent view over the fields to the sea. The bathroom leads off and is well equipped with
modern plumbing to die for. We get unpacked and start luxuriating in the unaccustomed space. The curry and beer later that evening wasn't bad either.
Pendeen to Zennor
We started the day with little ambition. Uppermost in our minds is that today is the last day, with the usual last night festivities to look forward to. We are both feeling tired and do not want to over exert ourselves. We both feel that St Ives is a touch too far and that at some stage we will have to resort to the bus. We have been fortunate with accomodation so far and for most of the walk we've had a list of possible places to stay. We do not have that luxury as far as St Ives is concerned.
With these considerations running through our minds we decide to go back to the coast via the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch, then head back inland to Morvah, where we should be in good time to get the bus to St Ives. Our plan goes very well, except for one small problem - we make much beter time than we ever imagined was possible. The walk to the coast is very pleasant, although the sky is a little overcast, and ther return a steasy walk on country lanes. We arrive in Morvah about an hour before the bus is due - we'd expected maybe a thirty minute wait. The village is tiny and the only cafe is closed, which is a shame becasuse it doubles up as a craft shop. We take a walk through the village and are back at the closed cafe in less than10 minutes despite taking our time. After sipping at some water Brian suggests walking on to the next village, as we should be able to get there before the bus.
We set off down the road and get to Trevowhan in next to no time. By now the walking bug has bitten deep and we decide that we will still get to St Ives in good time to get digs if we take the next bus in about two hours time. With no clear target in mind we head on down the road once more. For once the road walking isn't unpleasant as the traffic is very sparse, and there are some interesting views of the sea and inland hills to amuse us. The bus we expected to catch at Morvah finally overtakes us as we take break at a disused mine just to the north of Rosemergy. The mine is something of a tourist attraction as there are about a dozen cars in the car park.
With two hours before the next bus is due we continue our walk along the road and eventually reach Zennor, an interesting place with a youth hostel, church and a pub. On the outskirts we pass a reminder of harder times in the form of the plague stone.
Zennor is something of a honey pot for walkers on the day we arrive. We pass several groups as we make our way to the pub for our orange squash. There are more walkers here, including a large group taking up half the courtyard. We debate our next move as the people around us enjoy their lunches and drinks. It is about 1.15, and in normal circumstances we would not have hesitated in setting out for St Ives. These are not normal circumstances as the last night begins to exert its influence over our minds. In the end we decide to call a halt for the day. The next question is do we wait for the bus, or phone for a taxi. I insist on a taxi which arrives a little later.
The taxi ride into St Ives is interesting as the driver keeps up a pretty much non-stop commentary, including his doubts on us getting accomodation for one night. We are dropped off at the Tourist Information Office and try to book some digs. The assistant spends time telling us how difficult it will be. Eventually after such a sucking of teeth that would have done credit to an emergency plumber we are booked in, however it comes at a price as the guest house charges us a premium of £5 because we are only staying one night. We both think it is exploitation and an excellent example of rip off Britain.
We were also advised to book early for an evening meal as the good restaurants fill up quickly. After a rest and a shower and change of clothing we explore St Ives. It is an ant hill of a place teeming with people getting in each others' way. We probably see more people in the next hour than we have all week. We check out the restaurants and eventually select one. The only time we can reserve a table is 6.30pm - a bit early but we have little choice.
The evening turns out to be a good one - one of the best. We have a good pint in a local bar before the meal, which was excellent. We then stroll through the town and into one of the hotels that has a terrace bar for a couple of pints. Here we sit and look across the harbour as the sun makes its sedate way to bed. This peaceful scene is shattered as I get a phone call from a young lady.
She is returning a call I'd made earlier after spotting a flier in a shop window advertising a blues club. We learn that although the blues club isn't on tonight
there is live music in another bar in the town and that "dad will be playing". The rest of the evening is spent listening to some pretty good music and
drinking some pretty good beer. All in all a damn good end to the week
Our return journey is fairly un-eventful as we take trains and buses to get us to Newquay airport. At the airport we are subject to the enhanced security
measures brought in as a response to the arrest of alledged terrorists made during our walk. We both feel the measures are somewhat over the top. The
flight is very pleasant and we have no failing undercarriage to delay us. We do have lot of hanging around to do at Manchester waiting for the courtesy
coach to pick us up and take us back to the car.
1. It's all a matter of styles for stiles. In our 10 days walking we have crossed at least 4 different types of stile. At no other point in the country have we been exposed to such a variety, from the traditional wooden 2/3 plankers; to cantilevered stones protruding from a wall; the narrow gap variety and one not seen before:- a series of horizontal stone slabs with the highest in the middle and a 12 - 18 inch gap between them. .
2. Looking back at our walk I believe we were much more tired than we realised. I am not sure why this should be We had a very early start on the Saturday to get to Falmouth after a week at work. This, coupled with the effect of the heat, may have resullted in my feeling particularly bad en-route to the Lizard. Although none of the days were particularly severe we did make uncharacteristic errors in navigation towards the end of the week - the first on the day after the 13 miles to reach Porthleven. We also got ratty with each other in a way that we've never done before, and on another day Brian remarked that my balance seemed all awry. Was all this down to.tiredness brought on by the cumulative effect of our exertions? I think it could have been.
3. There is a strong element of nationalism in the part of Cornwall we walked this year. Not a day went by without us seeing at least 2 or 3 of the Cornish flags [white cross on a black ground] proudly blowing in the breeze, and the Cornish rebellion of 1497 was led by men from the St Keverne area.