The day started ridiculously early and grey and cloudy and windy and wet and generally miserable. Welcome to Summer 2007.
We hauled ourselves out of bed to this welcome as we prepared to get to Leeds airport for the 8.55am plane to Newquay..
The taxi to the airport introduced me to several roads I'd not encountered before in my many trips to Guiseley, although Brian seemed content enough. After 10 - 15 minutes the airport suddenly appeared out of the thin mist - we had arrived.
The airport was full of people going to destinations far and wide, some I'd not even heard of on airlines that, in some cases were equally obscure. We eventually found some seats in the busy lounges and were somewhat miffed to discover lots of quiet and almost empty areas as we eventually wended our way to the departure gate some 90 minutes later.
The flight was pleasant enough although twenty minutes late leaving. As we headed south the weather gradually improved and we were welcomed by the sun on arrival.
Our bus and train connections to Hayle all worked - more or less - the driver on the bus into Newquay insisted we had to change at the bus station, although we had been told to change in the suburbs. We were able to wave goodbye to our connection as we arrived. In the end it didn't really matter as the next bus to Truro just about gave us enough time to catch the train.
Despite being armed with a map finding our digs in Hayle was a bit of a challenge. The house numbers and names were all a bit confusing. We eventually found the digs - a lovely large Victorian house a few hundred yards out of town - just past the Harvey foundry ruins - now a park and nature conservation area.
Our hosts are very pleasant and recommend a pub for an evening meal - with the proviso we get there early. They also put us in touch with the local taxi firm. After settling in we're off for our dinner at the Cornish Arms. We have a good opportunity to explore this interesting small town as the pub is a good 45 minute stroll away. The meal and the beer live up to the star rating given by our hosts. We return by a different route and end up exploring the foundry ruins before settling in for the first of our two nights here.
Zennor to Hayle
The more faithful followers of this journal may wonder why we are in Hayle - a good 7 miles or so as the crow or seagull flies from last year's finish point in Zennor. No secret about it - it's a convenient - if slightly expensive - solution to a logistical problem. Zennor is not the most accessible place by public transport and it is not well endowed with places to stay. So if we stay night one in Hayle; get a cab to Zennor for a relatively early start, we arrive back in Hayle for a second night after a 12 miler round the coast. Next morning we can set off for points east. There is also the advantage of only carrying a light day pack with the bare essentials such as our lunch on day one.
The cab ride to Zennor passes without incident, although we did wonder why, in this rather windswept and sparsely populated area there was such a large marquee in a field about a mile from the village. We quickly found out as on a gate post at the start of our path was a large sign stating "Access to Wedding Party ONLY" They have a good day for the nuptials with a hot sun, cooling breezes and a few high white fluffy clouds.
We find the next couple of hours tough going - a combination of our lack of preparation and the terrain. The path is not particularly difficult, but there are enough ups & downs and twists over fairly rocky ground to demand high concentration levels. At the second of our regular breaks we have a pleasant chat with a couple from Canada walking the other way. It has taken them just under two hours to reach us from St Ives, which is good news - we are on track for time. Our hard labour though has been rewarded with some spectacular scenery.
As we approach St Ives more or less on schedule, in our unique style we get it wrong. We think the path goes this way, more or less along the contour, rather than that way which is down towards the cliff edge. The well defined path we take soon becomes less and less distinct as the bracken and gorse close in. Also we are once again in the lee of the breeze and the temperature is rising fast as it has done all morning. We can see the very well defined coast path about 50 feet below us. We continue to follow the narrow ill-defined path through the bracken as we gradually descend to where we should have been all along. We both wonder whether the "path" we are following was made by fellow walkers who made the same wrong choice, or some sheep.
Our little detour through the bracken has cost us about 30 minutes and left us hot & tired. Things do improve a little though as the terrain eases considerably as we approach St Ives. The traffic on the path also increases dramatically as we are passed by scores of people walking out from St Ives.
We decide to cut cross the base of St Ives Head and pass the Tate Modern as we head towards the harbour. The modern architecture of the Tate is in stark contrast to the buildings around it, and yet it somehow seems to fit in. For some reason it has taken us much longer than we anticipated when we left the Canadian couple. The day has been hot and we did lose 30minutes or so in the bracken but we are disappointed. We forego the pleasures of the seafront and leave the milling throng there to do battle with the milling throng on the parallel road a few yards inland. This is so we can find something to eat and the chance of a rest & some squash in one of the pubs we remember from last year.
We eventually reach the Union Inn and are relishing its cool interior and ice cold orange squash. All too soon we forsake this oasis to continue our fight through the crowds which mercifully thin as we leave the centre of town en-route to the station.
As we progress along the sea front past the station we get a bit of a rude awakening as reality replaces our 12 month old rose tinted memory. True the railway line is pretty flat and for the most part hugs the coast. The footpath doesn't! We are soon climbing again as we go over the hills the train goes under as we make our way past Porthminster Point to Carbis Bay.
As we round Carrack Gladden we decide that we should take advantage of the tide and walk across Porth Kidney Sands. Brian appears to dance down the rocks to the beach, whilst I make a somewhat less dignified descent. For some strange reason we quite enjoy walking on the beach and it is with a little regret that we have to clamber through the low dunes to regain the line of the path and so cross the golf course and pass the church at Lelant, where we reach a pub just in time for a squash break! The pub is hosting a wedding and we are treated to a procession of ladies in posh frocks and gentleman wishing they could get rid of those damn collars, cravats and penguin suits.
The next bit in to Hayle is along the road and somewhat boring although we do have views across the Hayle estuary. Shortly after 6.00pm we reach our digs feeling pretty tired. It has been a bit of a shock to the system as our lack of training walks bites hard. The day has been one of contrasts. The man made landscapes of the stretch from St Ives to Hayle and the open stretches between, whilst charming enough, just don't compare to the glorious scenery of the morning. As we toiled from Zennor past The Carracks, Pen Enys Point and the rest on our way to Clodgy Point and St Ives we were treated to some wonderful scenery.
That evening we returned to the Cornish Arms and despite our earlier exertions we enjoy the evening stroll to get there. At
the end of the meal however the siren call of the taxi firm's business card in my pocket is too strong to resist and we
decide to ride home.
Hayle to Portreath
After a leisurely breakfast we set of from Hayle, making our way down the by now familiar path to the town centre. We stop for provisions and make our way past the large traffic island beneath the viaduct that carries the railway across town. Some one or two or three has been busy as we are greeted by two large home made banners informing the world that today is Mark's 11th and Sean's 40th birthday. Hope they each had a good party.
The footpaths also have a larger than expected number of people just standing around. As we pass under the viaduct we hear the gentle ripple of applause behind us and are about to take a bow when several cyclists flash past. As we make our way towards the Towans more and more cyclists pass us as they complete the cycle stage of their triathlon. We have to be pretty fleet of foot crossing the road so we don't interfere with their progress.
Alongside the harbour just past the viaduct we take a closer look at a memorial we had passed on our visits to the pub, but being hungry had passed it by. The memorial celebrates the life of one Rick Rescorla - a son of Hayle who emigrated to the USA. Rick was one of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy in New York when the World Trade Centre was destroyed by terrorists. He is regarded as one of the heroes of that tragic day and is credited with saving thousands of lives.
We continue to dodge the athletes as we make our way toward the beach, and take our first break in the dunes at its Westerly edge. There are a few holiday chalets, but nothing to suggest that the beach is worth a visit. The last few hundred yards have been through a fairly desolate ex-industrial area. Our restart is temporarily delayed as a steady stream of kids makes its way off the beach. Just as we think it is our turn to move another little group of stragglers would come along.
The next couple of hours are quite frustrating. The beach, when we finally get to it, is a glorious stretch of sand - almost as good as Tynemouth's Long Sands. Our map suggests that the path goes through the dunes before continuing onto the cliffs we can see in the distance. At this range there does not appear to be a route off the beach to the cliffs, so we set off through the dunes. The dunes shelter us from the breeze and the temperature soars. The path through the dunes is signposted, but must have moved over the years as we see a post pointing this way , follow it's direction for several hundred yards and espy another way marker some 50yards off the line of path pointing that way - and so it goes on. We go onto the beach for a while and make quicker progress, but still cannot see a path off the beach to the cliff tops. Eventually we see signs of a cafe so it's back into the dunes for a welcome cuppa and sit down before heading off onto the dunes again.
Eventually we reach the end of the dunes and start the climb up to Godrevy Point. After the dunes it is good to be walking on proper paths and as we gradually climb we are rewarded with some super views. There are quite a few people out walking up to the headland, and a large gaggle of them are peering down into one of the coves just past the lighthouse. We join the throng and stare at the seals gathered on the beach and rocks several hundred feet blow.
We carry on along the gently undulating cliff top path sharing the views with the other walkers [there are several car parks either side of the headland which makes for easy access]. We make steady progress along Reskajeage Downs, past Crane Castle and Basset's Cove. The day has been pretty good so far with only a light shower as we left the dunes, now thankfully a distant memory. Our destination of Portreath is only few miles away and we are looking forward to continuing our pleasant stroll along the cliffs into town.
Of course it doesn't go to the plan we have imagined. In addition to passing the exotically named Samphire Island and the inexplicably named Ralph's Cupboard we have to negotiate two deep and steep gullies before we can call it a day. Finally at about 5.30 we reach the Basset Arms for a welcome orange squash. The staff are very helpful in our search for digs and we find ourselves B & B-ing in the Portreath Arms a few hundred yards away.
Of course our excitement for the day is not over. On entry to our room for the night I nonchalantly throw our room keys onto the chest of drawers and watch as they slide gracefully to the back and off the edge between the wall and chest. After moving the furniture to retrieve the keys we head back to the Basset Arms for a meal [good], meet a couple of lads going the other way and return for an hour or so's fascinating conversation with an emigre couple from Southampton who have become experts on the history of Portreath. We learn much about the town, its inclined plane and industrial and fishing past. Another good day - but tiring.
Portreath to Perranporth
The day starts windy and sunny, and the ground shows evidence of overnight rain. We walk past the new housing alongside the dock. It really does look out of keeping with its surroundings.
After a few hundred yards we start to climb up the steep road out of town and quickly reach a sign diverting us for more of the same due to a landslip on the path. After about a mile our progress is rudely halted by some locked gates. We have reached an airfield and there is no obvious way other than climb over the gates or go back.
Not wishing to spend time at Her Majesty's Pleasure we turn round and start searching for some sign of a route to the Coast Path. After several hundred yards we see the diversion sign facing us - not a lot of good when coming out of Portreath!
We are soon back on the coast and the wind is whipping up the waves. The show is very good, but the wind chill rather spoils it. The path is close to the cliff edge hereabouts, and we are soon confined to a fairly narrow strip of land as the airfield's perimeter fence squeezes up to the cliff edge. Eventually we get some more elbow room and begin to see some strange tent like structures and excavations going on inside the perimeter fence. A little later we get some inkling as to what is happening as the MOD has put up a "Warning - Do NOT Enter" sign, that goes on to explain that they are cleaning the site up. The tents are special "Vapour Retention Tents" - whatever they may be. We spend an idle 10 - 15 minutes speculating why there is a need for such a large scale clean up, with such safety precautions. We reach no sensible conclusions and continue on our way.
We continue a fairly gentle undulating course as the path follows the meanderings of the coast through heather fern and gorse. Pretty much the sort of scenery we've had since starting out from Zennor. There is one big gully to negotiate before Porthtowan where we stop for a cuppa. The early brightness has largely disappeared by now, but the wind refuses to relent.
The weather gradually gets more bleak as we head out towards Chapel Porth. The cloud base gets lower and more grey with every step. The wind feels as though it is getting stronger. The result of wind driven waves induces me to nickname one of the inlets Cappuccino Cove.
As we approach the western cliff at the entrance to Chapel Porth we are pleased to see a selection of paths zig-zagging their way into the sandy cove. We can see the small stream, and we hope that the wooden hut set back from the beach in the corner of the small car park contains two things - a cafe and a loo!
On a brighter day Chapel Porth would be beautiful, but the blustery chill wind takes the edge off its charm. There is no cafe, but the wooden hut does have a take away selling hot drinks and snacks tacked onto a bus shelter section with some wooden benches. The Ritz it ain't, but after the last blustery hour it is manna from heaven. We make ourselves comfortable and eat our lunch.
After 30 minutes or so of resting, eating; drinking and watching a score or so hardy souls on the beach we leave our wooden shelter and start the zig-zag path out of the cove. The cliffs gradually get higher and for the first time in quite a while we feel as though we are on a real cliff top path. The weather gradually brightens as well and at one of our stops just past St Agnes Head we peer down onto the backs of the gulls as they soar along the cliffs. At this same stop not five minutes later I am relaxing to the lapping of the waves below, the not too raucous cry of the gulls and Brian's not so gentle snores.
The next few miles onto Perranporth see a gradual decline in the weather, and a change in the scenery. The first couple of miles or so to Trevaunance Cove are not too bad and after negotiating the steepish flagged path down to the cove we spend a pleasant 20 minutes or so in the pub chatting to a couple and drinking the habitual orange squash. The stairway up to the loo is probably the most difficult climb of the week so far!
After that the weather begins to close in and the temperature drops. We lose sight of the sun altogether. The scenery changes too as there are more and more reminders of Cornwall's industrial past as we pass close to disused mines and quarries. The poor weather has not deterred fellow walkers and we meet quite a few - many more than on previous days. I guess they are coming out of Perranporth for an hour or two. The last mile or so into town is depressing as the rain that has threatened for the last hour suddenly pours down as we pass Droskyn Point. In next to no time we are soaked, and having made us thoroughly uncomfortable, it stops.
On the approach to Perranporth from the West one feels that there really should be a harbour waiting to greet one. We arrive at what ought to be the harbour's edge but this part of Perranporth looks as though some playful giants visited a long time ago and brought their own sand as well as their buckets and spades. When they left they took everything back home except the sand! The result is a large section of beach where the harbour ought to be and a small stream that just peters out in all the sand.
We adjourn to a cafe and ask the usual questions about B&B's. We are recommended to the large hotel across the "harbour". It's big and looks more expensive than our usual haunts. With no better ideas we pay them a visit and are subjected to a series of rapidly changing emotions. As we get closer we note that the bar entrance is facing us and it makes gaudy look dull. Far from being more expensive than normal we begin to wonder if it will be a lot cheaper! We walk through the bar to reach reception and are suitably under whelmed. The hotel bit however id much more pleasant and, yes, they do have rooms at about our normal price. We are soon in a large pleasant room in the annexe. The hotel caters for families and is a curious mix of the "trendy" bar we saw first; a nice lounge bar, large restaurant and ballroom - all at reasonable prices. Very Good.
We get cleaned up and head into Perranporth where we find a small licensed cafe that does a good roast dinner and a bottle of wine at very reasonable prices. We start to musing on the day's activities and overall we feel as though it's been a good day despite getting lost in the first hour. We also recall the two young men about half our age we'd met the previous evening outside the Basset Arms in Portreath. They'd walked in from Newquay having left at about 6.00am. We did wonder at their stamina as we are only half way there!
After a rotten, wet welcome we are warming to Perranporth, but I don't think we've seen her at her best.
Perranporth to Newquay
Tuesday 10th July
We take a buffet breakfast in the large dining room and stare at a bleak scene through the large picture windows. The sky is almost as grey as the sea and little flurries of sand are getting whipped up by the wind. Not a promising prospect. It doesn't get any better by the time we leave and we are soon in our waterproofs and battling head on into a biting wind - the joys of July in England. Despite the rotten weather there are several hardy souls who seem intent on having a day on the beach!
We are soon into the extensive dunes behind the beach and get some respite from the wind. The path is much more clearly defined compared to the dunes leaving Hayle, and we are soon able to dispense with the waterproofs andas an added bonus, the wind is no longer in our faces. As we plod on through the dunes and past the holiday centre just south of Penhale Sands we notice a couple walking the other way on the beach. They must have come from Holywell or beyond as the only sign of life on the beach in the last 20 - 30 minutes has been a life guard driving up and down on his beach buggy. The question is how did they get down to the beach? We have been keeping an eye out for this all morning as there is a big cliff leading up to Ligger Point at the end of the beach. Walking on the beach would be less tiring than the dunes and we want to take advantage of this, but can see no way up to the cliff at the far end of the beach. Just to make life interesting we lose the path through the dunes!
Help is at hand however as another couple are heading South along the beach. We scramble down from the dunes. [This is good fun as long as one keeps upright. Lock the foot at 90o to the leg, and keeping the leg straight, place foot into the steep-ish bank of loose sand and slide to a halt - repeat with other foot until the beach is reached]. The news is good - there are steps from the beach up to the cliff, which is quite low at the point it reaches the beach.
Thus fortified we speed up across the firm damp sand of the beach and as we approach the cliff we begin to wonder if what we've been told is true. There is no sign of the steps, and then, when they are no more than 50yards away we see them tucked away behind a sand dune.
The initial 200 - 300 yards of the climb to the cliff top is quite severe - not helped by the strong wind that threatens to blow us over. Eventually the nasty bit is over and we make our way on more gentle grades towards and around Ligger Point and past Hoblyn's Cove where we are constrained by the cliffs and Penhale Camp. It is around here that we are overtaken by a young Irish lass heading in our direction. We first saw the young lady the day before. We stop and continue our brief chat of the previous day as we peer over the camp fence and watch some cadets drill. Today she is planning a bit of a circular walk via the coast and Holywell back to her car. Our companion didn't stick to her plans of the previous night. She had planned to stay in Newquay but thought it a bit tatty, so she stayed elsewhere. All a bit disconcerting as Newquay is our destination
After a few minutes we all set of in the direction of Penhale Point and are soon trailing far behind our Irish acquaintance. The scenery is quite attractive and at one point we see a cave cut into the cliff below us.
We are both very tired by the time we each Holywell and are more than pleased to get sat down with yet another orange squash in the comfort of the pub. I think we both would like to stay for a lo-o-o-ong time, but all too soon we have to leave - to be greeted by yet another flurry of rain! The terrain has not been too severe on the whole so far today but the biting wind, whilst not full in the face, has been against us all morning making life difficult and the walking tougher than it might have been.
Leaving Holywell we are confronted by dunes yet again. My notes say that we found these hard going, and the weather was no kinder as we had to put our anoraks back on because of the cold rather than rain. Eventually we reached the end of the dunes and were climbing up to the cliffs. This was much easier and the views improved too. We passed the remains of some ancient settlement on Kelsey Head. We next had to negotiate a nasty little gully before crossing a small cove that rejoices in the name of Porth Joke. The gully would be pretty easy without packs - and the evidence for this was before our eyes as a large party of folks of all ages disappeared to the bottom and seemed to fly up the other side - dogs included. Brian found it a little more difficult, but for me it was something of a trial. I just couldn't seem to work out where to put my feet! Eventually I work it all out and Brian has only had to wait 5 minutes for me to catch up. We head off for Pentire Point West and our final destination - Newquay.
The next obstacle we have to overcome is The Gannet - a rather large stream that suddenly opens out into a mini estuary separating us from Newquay. The maps indicate that there is a ferry [Summer Only] so we feel reasonably confident that we will not have a long detour. First we have to find the ferry. The path takes us through yet more dunes, but these are quite different to the ones we have encountered earlier. They are proper adult dunes that appear to have stopped growing and so have become covered with a multitude of flora whose names we know not.
We find the ferry and after a short wait we are whisked [?] to the far shore where we have the delights of 163 steps to climb. Brian says he counted them, I was ready to believe the sign at the bottom. As it was the cafe at the top was more than welcome and we had a very pleasant 15 -20 minutes admiring the view.
Having been round Pentire Point West on the other side of the Gannett we don't feel it necessary to go round Pentire Point East on this side as well, so we cut across its base and head for surfers paradise - otherwise known as Fistral Beach. As we approach we can see scores of surfers in [on?] the sea and yet more on the beach. I just don't get surfing especially in the UK. What is it about dressing up in a rubber suit, floating about in the North Atlantic, which on a good day probably reaches only 10oC, waiting for "The Wave". Not just any wave, but "The Wave". If and when it does arrive you then have to try and stand up on a lump of wood or plastic to experience the most exhilarating thing - ever, better than birds or booze [or so I'm told] - before being dumped pretty unceremoniously somewhat closer to the beach. I just don't get it. Why there's much more fun to be had walking through the countryside with a 25kg pack on your back for hours and hours in rain and freezing winds .......
We pass Fistral Beach, turn towards the town and start playing "Hunt the B&B". We pass plenty of holiday flats etc but B&B's are in short supply. As we enter the narrower streets on the approach to the town centre we meet our Irish friend yet again. Being my usual cheeky self I nick some of the chips nestling in her hand. We have a short conversation and she has not changed her view of Newquay & the chips are nought but a snack before she heads east on the first leg of her journey home. Having had more chips urged on us we part company for what proves to be the last time and resume our search for digs. The first two places are full. The next one is not brilliant but does have vacancies so we take them. This proves to be a mistake as they turn out to be the worst digs of the week and grossly overpriced for the standard. One day we'll learn.
We get settled in and mosey down into town and find we agree with our Irish friend. The town centre is a bit tatty and
fraying at the edges. We spend a lot of time trying to work out our plans for the next few days. So far we have covered
about 11 -12 miles a day, but the places to stay are becoming more awkward at 7 - 8 mile distances. Also we need to do our
laundry soon. As with many of these little chats no firm conclusion is reached before our heads hit the pillow at our
rather shoddy digs.
Newquay to Mawgan Porth
The next day is much better and our spirits have been lifted in direct proportion to the clouds. With nothing decided in terms of a strategy for the next few days we pay a visit to the bus station and tourist information office to garner as much information as possible. The Tourist information can't help us very much as its area doesn't stretch too far North. The bus station was able to provide us with photocopies of most bus timetables for North Cornwall!
When we do start walking in earnest we realise that we didn't see the best of Newquay the previous night. As we head for the northern suburbs the place becomes less tatty - and there is a fair amount of re-development going on. The walking bit isn't too pleasant though as we are walking through an urban landscape with a lot of traffic noise. We have to wait until we are past the railway station, very well hidden by its facade of shops, before we have the "luxury" of walking on grass for a few hundred yards before being forced back to the pavements.
We pass by some more whimsically named places - Lusty Glaze and Whoopsadaisy - sorry - Whipsiderry. We have to pass quite close to Newquay airport and are surprised by the number of aircraft landing & taking off. Most are light aircraft, but we do see planes similar to the one we arrived in. At least hereabouts we are able to do some "real" walking and have a sense of being out of town even if the road is only a field or two away.. On our bus rides to & from the airport we have visited Watergate Bay, and it is little more than a lovely beach, an hotel or two and a large car park. So we are a little surprised to see a gaggle of vans parked on the road side about half a mile out of town so to speak. We also notice a large group of people standing and sitting along the path in front of us - surfers having a break perhaps? The vans look old enough, but if they are surfers they are a long way from the beach some fifty feet below us. As we approach the group we are stopped by a young man and asked to be very quiet - all very mysterious! We can now see another young man crouched by a motor cycle and another with a video camera and yet another with what looks like a boom microphone all wrapped up in fur. Apparently it's a TV production crew busy making a new programme to be called Echo Beach and starring Jason Donovan and Martine McCutcheon.
After a few moments the director calls "cut!" and traffic along the South West Coast Path can resume. Nobody asks for our autographs as we pass by the crew [Philllistines!]. Watergate Bay is thronged with people. The main car park is full and the overflow filling rapidly. We are feeling quite hot and tired - never a good sign, but after a cuppa we don't feel too bad.
It takes us a few minutes of concentration to work out which way to we have to go to get back to the coast path., and then we are off. I would like to say off to a flying start but it is more of a measured stride up the hill, turn left at the end of the building and climb the steps between high[ish] fences before coming out on the cliff top. For the next hour and three quarters with one 15 minute break we follow the coast and contours in pretty good weather to Mawgan Porth. We feel we should stop hereabouts and try to do our laundry. The pub where we have our orange squash is quite comfortable but their rooms are full. There is a launderette but at the moment no digs! We are told of a place that does B & B "just up the hill and past the old pub" on the road to Trevarrian. So we shoulder packs to find the place in question. It is indeed up the hill and past the old pub, but by no stretch of the imagination could one say it was "just up the hill". When we get there we get bad news as they are full, and conform that apart from an hotel there are no other B& B's near by.
By now we are somewhat fed up and decide to get the bus back to Newquay, do the laundry there and start again tomorrow. So it's back down the hill, play hunt the bus stop and await our carriage. After about 15 minutes it duly arrives and we return to Newquay by a succession of narrow lanes and sharp, blind corners. We have to reverse a couple of times to let traffic pass. Our driver is the third or fourth we've been exposed to and all have exhibited no mean skills in getting us from A to B.
Having learnt our lesson of the previous night a make a bee-line for the Tourist Information Office and are soon booked into a place a few hundred yards away that is as good as last night's accommodation was bad. After a brief rest we set off to the laundry and eventually find one. The nearest had closed down so we had to explore deeper into Greater Newquay to do our smalls. As we wait we discuss the day and come to the conclusion that it has probably worked out "all right", and that we have done the "right thing", but deep down we are both a little disappointed. We speculate how far we might get on the morrow, not an easy task when trying to factor in things like waiting for the bus, and bus journey time etc. Although I am feeling pessimistic I have to admit that Porthconan will be too close at only 4 miles or so from Mawgan Porth. Constantine Bay is about 7 miles, but that seems a bit short too; unfortunately, Trevone, the next place, is over 12 miles from Mawgan Porth and what with waiting for buses etc seems somewhat improbable.
So having sorted all that out we decide to do what we always do - nothing. Tomorrow will take care of itself!
Mawgan Porth to Trevone
It is quite a late start - after 10.30 - by the time we reach Mawgan Porth. The bus times were not as convenient as we had hoped, but at least we had plenty of time to buy lunch!
The weather at least, with visibility down to about 25 - 50 yards in places, is clearer than our plans. We have decided nothing since last night and so we head out, initially along the beach where the visibility improved a little, then onto the low cliffs for the gradual climb up to Trenance Point. The visibility goes down to 30 yards or so as we climb away from the beach, Once up on the cliffs we are exposed to quite a strong wind which suggests it is low cloud rather than fog & mist.
Our first stop is in the National Trust land near Carnewas, and the poor visibility adds a touch of humour to the day's progress as we wonder why the shadowy figure in the murk in front of us is standing so still, and staring intently at Lord knows what. Only when we are about 20 yards away do we realise it is one of the signs at the entrance to the NT property! As the day wears on the cloud base lifts somewhat and on the lower stretches of the path the visibility near sea level approaches several miles. At this level we can see the cloud banks rolling in towards the coast. All very atmospheric if damp at times. The cliff is something of a switchback along this section with some precipitous drops into the coves below from the higher points.
We stop for a short break one more time before we reach Porthconan at about 13.07, and it is only in this last 50 minutes or so that we finally get rid of the mist and low cloud. Although the cloud lifts we still suffer total cloud cover for the next couple of hours. In one sense our way ahead is clearer, but our minds are not in deciding our final destination. We press on to Constantine Bay passing several fields with a large signs displayed designating them as protected zones. As such we are urged not to enter the fields so the sky larks and corn buntings can nest in peace.
By about 15.18 we reach the beach at Constantine Bay, hoping for a cafe or similar for a cuppa etc. We are disappointed. We make a steady progress across the beach and rest in the dunes. We have finally rubbed our 6 brain cells together and come up with A Plan! We both think it is far too early to stop, and so we should go on, but not the long way round the coast. Brian still has his sights on Trevone, I still think Harlyn is more likely. We will only reach either before the digs witching hour of 6.00pm if we take a short cut. Our Plan is to leave the coast at Booby's Bay [seems an appropriate name considering our state], head for Trevose Farm and take the road to Harlyn. We'll make it up as we go from there.
We pass a solitary B & B in Harlyn before reaching the beach at Harlyn Bay. We take a well earned cuppa at a caravan doubling up as a beach side cafe and continue our plotting. We are told that there are several B & B's in Trevone and the pub does rooms too. Just to make life a little better a watery sun appears in the sky.
Finally, after about 24 hours of cogitation [indecision? - Ed ], we decide where we're going and head off to St Cadoc's Point and Trevone. The entry to Trevone is a little dour with a large expanse of low flat grey rock jutting out into the sea. The houses we can see are a grey colour that does little to lift the spirits. We head along the main road of the village and pass rows of very residential looking houses on our right, and fields on our left with nary a B & B in sight. We are saved by a shop after a few hundred yards where we get directions to a couple of B & B's a little further inland.
Without the directions we would never have found them. We find ourselves billeted in a super place. The pub is only a few hundred yards away and we are assured does excellent meals. And, to cap it all the sun has started to shine properly. A little later we are comfortably ensconced in the pub, which has a grand view over the fields to the sea from the rooms at the back. We are soon replete with pub grub as good as described. The pub is a real hub of the community with any number of dates for the various local groups displayed on the walls. There is a large display of pictures of the pub's annual charity day which raised a tidy sum.
On reflection the day has been a good one. We've enjoyed the walking, despite the mist and cloud of the morning. The evening
has turned out grand. We are happy.
Trevone to Polzeath
After a cracking breakfast we set off back to the coast, and soon realise what we missed on the way in the previous night. The western approach is indeed dour, and if one goes, as we did, straight into the village one misses a super sandy beach some 300 yards deep by 100 - 150 wide.
We make steady progress past Round Hole and Porthmissen Bridge. Round Hole is precisely that - a round hole in the headland! It is the remains of a collapsed cave and is impressive - you can walk right round it but don't get too close as there is no fence! We passed Round Hole at low tide and so missed what the locals consider a pretty impressive show. The cave is still linked to the sea and at high tide the sea crashes into the bottom of the cave with spectacular results.
The path has no real terrors as we march on past Gunver Head en-route to Stepper Point, where we will swing round through 180o to head south along the Camel estuary and eventually reach Padstow.
We pass two more collapsed caves at Butter Hole and Pepper Hole - they are not as spectacular as Round Hole though. We also pass two men digging a shallow hole in the ground near a stile across the path. They are installing a people counter, presumably to assess the usage and hence the wear and tear on the path.
Shortly after leaving the two fellas to their labour the weather turns nasty. The wind has been gradually picking up and now the rain comes down, not particularly hard, but enough to be uncomfortable.
At Stepper Point we pass an old day mark tower originally built as an aid to Navigation. They served the same purpose as lighthouses, but were unlit. There are several around the coast of Cornwall.
The view up the Camel estuary is quite spectacular, but we do not really enjoy it. The rain has become heavier, the wind is much stronger, and is now blowing into our faces. As we approach Hawkers Cove we see the same two men digging another shallow hole in the ground. They could've offered to take our packs for us!
The final stretch into Padstow is quite unpleasant weatherwise, which is a shame as the view up the Camel [estuary - ed] deserves better. The rain has stopped but as we pass the War Memorial we are treated to the full force of the strong wind straight into our faces. There is one slapstick moment as a woman coming towards us has her brolly turned inside out.
We reach Padstow and promptly adjourn to a chrome and Formica cafe straight out of the early 1960's for a more than welcome cuppa. We must take to the ferry to Rock, but it has closed for lunch! We wander through the town, keeping an eye out for possible last night venues to return to and our own lunch.
It is after 2 o'clock before we are on our way again. The ferry across the Camel is quite pleasant the wind has dropped in the 90 minutes or so we were in Padstow. We don't actually go into Rock [or Kensington sur Mer as it is known to the local estate agents because of the ridiculously high house prices], but set off through the dunes to Polzeath. After about 10 minutes my phone starts ringing and I get a voice mail telling me that Mummy will pick Sarah up at Reading station. This is a bit confusing as I have a daughter called Sarah, but why Mummy would want to go from Tyneside to Reading to meet her off the train is beyond me! A quick phone call sorts out the misunderstandings. [I wonder if Sarah's Mum actually got there in time as she was running late when I called]
The rain returns shortly after this bit of fun and we can tell straight away it is going to be persistent. This is rain with attitude, it makes a statement - you are going to get wet, stay wet, and then get even more wet. We plod on through the dunes and reach the car park at Daymer Beach. We have already decided to abandon the coast path hereabouts to search for digs in Trebetheric or Polzeath. Unfortunately our navigation has let us down and we leave the coast about 2-300 yards too soon. Instead of passing through the built up areas we neatly skirt them. We eventually reach Polzeath where the Tourist information office is shut. The rain is still coming down and we are getting more and more wet and fed up. In the Spar shop William, or Will as he prefers, reckons that there are a couple of B & B's up the hill on the road to Porteath.
We plod up the hill out of town in the pouring rain and pass the first of Will's places with a no vacancy sign out. There is no such discouragement at the second place. We knock at the door of the Sea View Guest House to be greeted by Ken with the words "Sorry, we're full ..... but my you do look like a couple of drowned rats - you'd better come in".
So as our drips gradually flood the kitchen floor Ken starts phoning around. After about the third abortive call Ken's wife comes in and offers coffee - the real stuff not instant. On the seventh call we strike a vacancy, and we are booked in. The only problem is that they are about 7 miles away at a place called Pendoggett, but hold! Ken will take us there in his car! We offer some recompense to our Samaritans and 10 minutes later we are a tenner lighter and rushing through the Cornish lanes to Pendoggett. We cannot believe our good fortune. Ken and his wife have been brilliant and a tenner hardly seems fair recompense for their efforts.
The digs when we get there are superb. They, like Ken's establishment, cater for coast walkers so they have facilities to
dry gear. On top of that the rooms are really comfortable and well appointed with choccies to go with the tea and biscuits.
We decide to stay two nights and take advantage of the free taxi service offered to walking guests. Our host is part of a
scheme that includes ferrying luggage to the next B & B as well as taking them to and from Port Isaac. We arrange to be
taken to Port Isaac the next day so we can get the bus into Polzeath to resume where we left off. We'll get picked up in
the evening and then return again the next day to continue towards Tintagel. On top of that the pub in the village does
good food. We have fallen well and truly on our feet.
Polzeath to Port Isaac
After a breakfast that matches the quality of the surroundings we are soon ensconced in our host's rather battered, but perfectly suitable for booted and rucksacked walkers, car as we take the 10 minute drive to Port Isaac.
We are dropped off next to the bus stop and await our charabanc to Polzeath. On arrival we repair to the Spar and provision up for the day before setting off at about 10.30. Our target is Port Isaac, where we will be picked up and taken back to our digs. We set off across the beach to New Polzeath, and the contrast in the weather could not be greater. The persistent rain of the previous afternoon has been replaced by glorious sunshine. Out of the breeze it is very hot indeed!
We leave the beach just before the North end of New Polzeath and then have a not too strenuous up and down section to Pentire Point. This appears to be the highest point for miles and we get some rather pleasant views.
There is very little flat ground hereabouts. This is all in marked contrast to the previous days. We decline the opportunity to visit the Iron Age Cliff Castle on Rumps Point. It looks quite spectacular from a distance with The Mouls off shore as a backdrop.
Before we leave the area we spot a memorial plaque [see picture]. The plaque commemorates the writing of arguably the most spoken single stanza from any poem in the canon of British poetry - Binyon's famous "They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;". The lines are from For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon. He wrote the poem whilst sat on The Rumps in September 1914 to honour the growing number of war dead of that time and in particular the British Expeditionary Force in Northern France and Flanders. Even in the glorious July sunshine the words on the plaque bring a lump to the throat and a shiver down the spine.
The sun has brought some people out, which means we are not alone for long at any stage. Although the sun is out, the previous day's heavy rain has made the ground conditions a bit tricky in places. More than once we agree that we are more than pleased not to be walking this stretch in the rain.
We continue our up and down progress past Carnweather Point and Trevan Point. Along this stretch we meet a large family group heading for one of the cove beaches. As we approach Doyden Point we see another castle, only it's not a "real" castle but an early 19th Century folly.
There is a steady descent into Port Quinn. Port Quinn is a tiny fishing village, without pub or cafe. We are really disappointed by this as the morning has been quite tough. There is a trailer setting up as a mobile cafe which in the circumstances is manna from heaven. It is the proprietors' first day of business. Daddy usually fishes, but is too ill to go to sea, so they are trying the catering trade!
Whilst we laze on the grass between the cliffs, cottages, road and beach we are entertained by a [woman] driver reversing her Mercedes onto the road. After several attempts there is a loud crunch and one [no doubt very expensive] wing mirror is left dangling down the body side by a myriad of wires. All good fun - no risk of damaging your wing mirror when walking!
After about 30 minutes we set off again towards Kellan Head. The initial climb out of Port Quinn is quite steep, but soon eases off. When we reach Kellan Head we are rewarded with some grand views, and can clearly see the Cow and Calf standing like sentinels at the entrance to the beach at Port Quinn. We stop on the relatively steep eastern slope of Kellan Head for a break and meet up with a young woman also taking her ease and reading the papers. She has come from Port Isaac that day and Tinragel in the pouring the day before. She had become as wet as we had and now has a rucksack full of damp clothing.
Apparently the next section up to Tintagel is quite severe, and walking in the rain the previous day meant she had spent a lot of time slip sliding her way to Port Isaac. Given the choice she would have left the path, but "escape routes" were conspicuous by their absence. She did advise that if there were to be more rain the ground would be so slippery in places as to be positively dangerous. We receive this news with mixed feelings. During our morning's walk several of the steeper stretches have been slippery and muddy requiring great care. Steep and "difficult" terrain often has rewarding views, but is no fun if dangerous. The alternative would be a day of road walking - not without its disadvantages. Still that is tomorrow's problem - let us see what the day brings ...
Unfortunately the only comfort we can bring our informant is that there is no where to dry clothes in Port Quinn and we don't know about Polzeath - it hardly seemed a fair exchange of news.
We find the next few miles hard work. There are several steep climbs and descents. Each equally slow to traverse. The climb in and out of Pine Haven between Varley Head and the delightfully named Lobber Point was particularly unwelcome. Again the path was very slippery in places. Once round Lobber Point we could see our goal, the home of TV's Doc Martin, Port Isaac. We are soon in the centre of this picturesque little town with its narrow streets and old buildings.
We are ready for a break and eventually find a pub for the obligatory orange squash. The Town's streets are very narrow, definitely not built for the cars of today, although this does not dissuade some folks. Again we take simple pleasure watching motorists trying to make progress along streets designed for pack mules and horse and carts. After our orange squash all that remains is to climb up to the newer part of town at the top of the cliff, phone our host and await transport back to our digs. There are several difficulties in this - the road is steep and we can't get a signal for our mobile phones. We eventually find a phone box, and in the wait for our host find the local Co-op to stock up for lunch tomorrow.
All in all a rewarding day - but hard work after the relative ease of what has gone before. As we sit in the pub that
evening mulling over the maps we can reach no firm conclusion about what to do on the morrow. If we set out along the
coast there are few routes back to the road should the weather break. As mentioned earlier the ground has been tricky
today, particularly some of the ascents and descents. We certainly would not have wanted to do them if it were raining.
Eventually, we decide to heed the warnings we received earlier and avoid the coast if there is more rain- the weather will
control our destiny!
Port Isaac to Tintagel
The day dawns grey - there appears to have been some rain overnight. It looks like the road has won the vote. After another good breakfast we repair to our host's battered car and are taken back to Port Isaac. We are both a little sad to be leaving this particular B & B, tucked away at the end of a private road at the back of the hamlet called Pendoggett - it has been excellent value, comfortable and the host is geared up for walkers and has been most genial.
It is about 10.00 am when we finally shoulder packs and head off down the road. We both look longingly at the coast path but decide to stick with our analysis and decision. A rather strange debate ensues as we get ready to leave in that I am playing Devil's advocate and thinking we should try the path; whereas Brian is defending our decision to use the road. This is almost a complete reversal of our positions of the previous night!
Within 15 minutes of leaving our decision to take to the road is vindicated as it starts to rain as we are passing Port Gaverne. For the next hour or so we trudge along between the hedgerows getting wet! The road is, thankfully quiet, but there are no views to speak of and, with narrow verges each side, nowhere to rest even if the ground were dry.
We eventually reach the main road and turn left towards Delabole and Tintagel. The roads are still fairly quiet - one benefit of it being Sunday I suppose. We are a little higher here and the hedgerows a little lower so we do get some views across the Cornish countryside , but it ain't the same as being on the coast.
After about an hour the rain stops and the clouds lift. The general perspective remains drab grey. At Delabole we repair to the Bettle & Chisel pub for an orange squash and the chance to sit down. Many of the tables have smooth slate tops, and are very heavy. I think one would go well in my lounge at home, but for some reason Brian is unwilling to put it in his rucksack. I'd use mine but it is full. Apparently a bettle is some sort of quarrying tool, and there is a 600year old slate quarry nearby
Reluctantly we leave the pub and pass a football tournament in a field alongside the road. We make another left turn towards Trebarwith and are soon munching our sandwiches by the roadside. We plod on with little excitement. At one point the road drops steeply into a wooded valley which we follow for a few hundred yards before starting a more gentle climb out on the other side, where we are rewarded by the village of Tremanmett - complete with pub [and of course, orange squash!]
We eventually arrive in Tintagel at about 3.15pm. The clouds have lifted some more, but it remains humid and feels thundery . On the long approach to Tintagel we can look across to the coast on our left. the terrain here does not look severe at all, and we speculate as to whether we have done the right thing in taking to the road - a rather futile debate as we can't go back and do it all again.
Our digs are just about the last house on the dead end street that ends up as a footpath on to Bossiney. Without the instructions given when we booked the previous night I think we may still be looking for them now. They are basic compared to the last one, but comfortable enough. Tintagel is really into tourism and milking the King Arthur legend for every drop it can get. Every other shop; cafe and restaurant - even the laundrette - seems to contrive some Arthurian link!
Tintagel to Boscastle
The last day of our walk dawns peacefully enough. Breakfast is reasonable and we pack up our bags. Whilst this is going on we resume a debate that has been rumbling on for some considerable time - in short where shall we finish this year and where to have our last night binge?
This year we've had no real idea as to how far we would get, and at the start of the week it really didn't exercise our minds. But as we approached Newquay the reality of a decision crept closer to the front of our tiny little minds. So much so that for the last week I've been carrying, courtesy of Western Greyhound, Newquay, 6 or 7 pages of photocopied bus timetables detailing just about all that any one could ever want to know about buses to and from Newquay and its airport.
From the maps we deduced that once past Padstow places ain't too big and are unlikely to sport the sort of hostelry we would be looking for. This has been born out as we have walked our way along the coast. We've considered getting the bus back to Padstow, or returning to Newquay or visiting places such as Wadebridge etc etc etc. Tintagel was on our list at one time, but the previous night we didn't really find anywhere suitable so we crossed it off our list.
So what should we do? Brian has expressed a desire to explore the castle. We both feel we should do some walking, otherwise we will feel as though we've missed out on something - but not too much, after all we do not want to be too tired this evening. So a decision of sorts is reached. It is a compromise - we'll go to the castle; walk round the headland to the North side of town where a footpath leads back to our digs, the town and buses to Cornwall's finest. It suits me because I am feeling pretty tired, but I think Brian would prefer to walk further. Also if we spend a lot of time at the castle we may not have time for much more.
In the event things turn out somewhat differently. We go to the shops & get some sandwiches; walk down to the castle and watch the video in the visitor centre. We have a bit of a prowl around the outside of the castle but chose not to pay the entry fee and explore inside. The castle has an impressive location on a large mound, almost an island really. It is approached by a path down the cliff and across a narrow neck of land. It was well worth the visit.
After our fill of the castle we head back to the mainland and follow the path round Barras Nose and on towards Willapark and Bossiney. By the time we are passing above Bossiney Haven I am getting into the walking lark again and Brian is waxing almost lyrical about going to Boscastle. Unfortunately we only have about a litre of water between us because we were getting the bus out of Tintagel .....
Fortunately the Caravan Park near Rocky Valley comes to our rescue. Caravan Park means caravans means people means water. We cross Rocky Valley and when on the other side we scramble up the grassy slope into the park. We meet a man taking his small water barrel for a walk and follow him to a tap. Water bottles replenished we continue on our way to Boscastle.
The remainder of the walk is very pleasant with a series of climbs and descents that are not too severe. We don't go into the village of Boscastle, which sits on a hill, but enter the harbour area that sits where a stream runs out to the sea. This steep sided and narrow valley, where three streams meet a few hundred yards from the small harbour, was the scene of a devastating flood in 2004.
It is 1.00pm and we have time to explore a little. We soon identify a couple of places that would be suitable for a last night repast and swiftly satisfy two other essentials - is there a B & B and can we get back to the airport on time in the morning. A further 10 minutes research and searching satisfies these essentials and the result is we are staying. This is very satisfying as last nights always seem to be better in the town we finally stop walking.
The B & B also satisfies one of Brian's lustings. He's been yearning for a cream tea ever since we hit the Devon border five years ago, and now all [or most - ed] of his needs will be satisfied as the B & B doubles up as a cafe that serves cream teas. So after a bit of a rest and a clean up we are sat outside in the afternoon sun munching on scones and jam and thick cream, all swilled down with an excellent pot of tea - very civilised.
After that we wander around and confirm our restaurant of choice for the evening whilst marvelling at the clean up that has been done since the great flood. We can barely conceive of the volume of water needed to fill this valley no matter how briefly to a height several feet above our heads if the wall plaques are anything to go by. Remedial and preventative work was still going on whilst we were there.
We enjoy our last night celebrations, but rather take things to excess after leaving the restaurant - well I do. We end up in a pub across the road and I notice that they serve cheese and biscuits. Well I am a sucker for cheese and cannot resist, Brian who also likes his cheese is able to exert the sort of self control I need at this time and declines my offer to indulge. Net result I end up feeling uncomfortably bloated on "Our Special Selection of Cornish and Continental Cheeses" as the large blackboard opposite the bar persuasively puts it.
Our journey home by bus, plane and taxi passes fairly uneventfully. There is some evidence that the airline is having a bad hair day though. The check-in staff assure us that there is a change to the schedules and we will have to change planes at Bristol with our plane going to Manchester instead of Leeds.
After take off the driver comes on the intercom to welcome us to the Air South West flight to Leeds, passengers to Manchester change at Bristol. All very confusing. In the event our flight does go to Leeds. When we get back we can't be bothered to cook a meal so we repair to the local Indian restaurant feeling tired but content. Once again Cornwall has been very interesting - and it's been worth the effort.