Day 74 – St Ives to Portreath, 11th July 2016

Day 74 – St Ives to Portreath, 11th July 2016

Today (11th) is my birthday, and I have spent it very pleasantly. We left our bags to be picked up from our strangely impersonal accommodation – there was never any interaction with a human, only a key safe and instructions. No breakfast, just a common room with tea and coffee for the morning, which was occupied this morning with a young man who exuded an astonishing level of grumpiness without saying a single word.IMG_0863

We walked down towards the sea front and found a lovely spot for breakfast. We were still feeling food deprived from yesterday so had an enormous bowl of granola with Cornish yoghurt and honey, with fresh fruit, followed by eggs benedict. The waitress looked a bit shocked. ‘Do you really want two breakfasts?’ she asked. Jon and I nodded, but Stephen sheepishly opted just for the eggs benedict.

Whilst we were eating a squall came over and we began to think it might be plastic trouser weather, but it soon cleared. IMG_0866The rest of the day there were odd showers but nothing serious. The walk to Hayle was straightforward, gliding along the cliff edge, but not too steep or narrow. I had definite house envy as we passed some of the cliff top villas. We passed Carbis bay and rounded into the Hayle estuary.

We had a peep into Uny Lelant church – more ancestors, although I couldn’t find any names in the graveyard that I recognised, although there were some fabulous pyramid orchids in the long grass. During the Civil War Lelant held for the King whilst St Ives was for Parliament so inside there was a much treasured transcription, in giant letters, of a missive from a grateful Charles I.

Rounding the estuary we stopped for elevenses and Stephen whipped out three little cup-cakes, one with a candle and an ‘M’ iced on it, together with a small bottle of Moët Chandon. A great way to celebrate my nnth birthday, although the picture makes us look like the three wise monkeys, and I appear to have eaten quite enough cake already!IMG_0904

We went on to Hayle Towans (I assume towans is the equivalent of Welsh tywyn – sands) and the path went up and down the dunes. Stephen left us to meet his daughter and Jon and I ploughed on, passing Gwithian, but on the dunes side, rather than through the town. I wonder how many of my ancestors were conceived on the beautiful beach of Gwithian Towans?!20160711_171343

The path then went onto the cliff tops. Easy walking, with lots of wild flowers – heather, oxe-eye daisies, vetch – yellow and purple, clover of all sorts, thrift and everywhere yarrow in such profusion that you can smell it.

The route was straightforward until a mile out of Portreath, when there was a huge drop into a valley and a steep staircase up the other side. At the top there were a few moorland ponies, then we rounded a bend to see Portreath at the bottom of the slope. It’s a lovely evening, fingers crossed for tomorrow to be sunny.

Day 72 Penzance to Mousehole 9th July 2016

Today is probably going to be the shortest day of the whole walk – a mere 3.3m from Penzance to Mousehole, where I started Day 69 last year.

The walk was simple – along the cob from Penzance to Newlyn. Newlyn was interesting: I enjoyed seeing a real working fishing port rather than the little ports that just seem to run pleasure craft. IMG_0704The warehouses were shabby, and the place does not seem to be very wealthy but there were dozens of ships crowded into the harbour and numerous fish wholesalers lining the streets.  I also came across another of the cycle way signposts – haven’t seen one of those for ages.IMG_0703

Just outside Mousehole there is a memorial garden to the volunteers of the Penlee Life Boat station. Closed now, it performed its last service in 1981, when the Solomon Browne set out in hurricane force winds and 50ft seas to help the Union Star. After initial reports that four men had been saved, contact with the station was dropped and both ships were lost with all hands. Eight men from Mousehole had been in the lifeboat, a very high number for such a tiny village, but within forty-eight hours sufficient volunteers had come forward to form a full crew. The replacement boat, the Mabel Alice, was stationed in Newlyn.IMG_0717

The weather was not much to write home about. The cloud stubbornly refused to lift and the west wind was quite strong.  I reached my destination by 10.45, and caught the bus back to Penzance. My original plan had been to return to Marazion to go into the castle at St Michael’s Mount, but my landlady informed me at breafast that it is closed on Saturdays.

I wish I had taken the chance to go around quickly yesterday. My second thought was the open air theatre at Mynack, which I missed last year through going inland, but the weather was so dull it hardly seemed worth the bother. In the end, I took a bus to Gwithian, a small town in North Cornwall where a branch of my family came from, before emigrating to South Wales in the 1840s. The churchyard was full of Hockins, Cocks, Andrewarthas and Pascoes, all cousins in the 99th degree. A swift bus ride back (First Kernow operate an excellent and comprehensive service) gave me time to go to the Penlee Gallery to look at an exhibition of sea painting.

Day 71 – Porth Leven to Penzance 8 July 2016

IMG_0582Today was a perfect day to get me back in the swing of walking – not too hard, not too easy, ideal walking weather and the right sort of distance – just under 15 miles, plus nearly two to get to the start point.

I took the train to Penzance yesterday lunchtime, and it was no more than averagely late, getting in just before six. The weather was poor. It began to spit just as I was popping into a pub for supper, and by the time I came out it was of plastic trouser proportions. Last year the walk up to the youth hostel from the town centre seemed endless, even though Chris carried my bag, but this year the nearly two miles were no problem, especially as the rain eased off, although it was dreadfully muggy. It’s a good youth hostel (Castle Horneck) and despite being in a dorm with four others I got a good night’s sleep – no snorers, and although it was fiendishly hot, as they always are, I managed to grab the bunk by the window.

I was able to drop my bag off early at tonight’s B&B so was just walking with a day pack – so much better! The bus dropped me at Porth Leven where I finished day 68. The path climbs up the headland, but none of it was too steep, and the weather, which started poor with a low sea fret, cleared around eleven, to give a mix of sun and cloud. Absolutely ideal.IMG_0603

This is the start of the tin mining area and there are a number of old wheals dotting the landscapes. In our trip to Geevor mine last year, Chris and I found out all about the mines – absolutely fascinating. They were copper and tin, and many of the shafts can go more than a mile out under the sea. I cannot imagine how terrifying that must have been. If a mine collapsed inland you might have some hope of rescue, but not in these.

I reached the gorgeous Praa sands around 11.30 and had my first paddle. Icey! I stopped on beach cafe for coffee and a square of lemon drizzle cake that would have fed a family.

IMG_0631Another couple of hours of gentle up and down on a good path brought me in sight of St Michael’s Mount.  It can be seen for several miles before you actually reach the town of Marazion. It is a quite remarkable construction, inaccessible on its headland other than when the tide is low enough to reveal the causeway.

I didn’t have time to look at the castle before I needed either to turn back or miss the tide, so I shall go tomorrow afternoon – it should only take a couple of hours for me to go from Penzance to the point in Mousehole where I started day 69. Originally a monastery, a priory of the IMG_0688Norman abbey of Mont St Michel, it was captured by the Earl of Oxford in 1473 and held for Lancaster against the prevailing Yorkist dynasty for nearly six months. After the dissolution, it was held by the Crown until it was granted to Sir Robert Cecil, later Marquess of Salisbury. It was sold to the Bassets, a prominent Cornish family, who supported the King during the Civil War. It eventually came into the hands of another old Cornish family, the St Aubyns, who are still in residence, although the place is managed by the National Trust.

I walked a long way across the beach toward Penzance. I am not generally a fan of sand walking it is very hard on the legs, but this sand was firm. The last couple of miles into Penzance are on a cycle track parallel to the railway, so easy going. A very fine day indeed.

Day 70 18th July 2015

Day 70 18th July 2015

IMG_0075I am glad to say that I have discovered the cause of my low satisfaction level. My pack is too heavy. I am not sure what it weighs, probably about 9-10 kg, including its own weight and water. It is difficult to slim down more – I could perhaps lose one sweater and two very light weight tops, but not sure that would make a noticeable difference. It is less than 10% of my body weight.

Depressed by the screaming of my knees yesterday, and having heard that today would be rainy and the path steep, I decided to send the majority of my kit on to my next hotel.  Elegantly decanted into a black plastic bin liner, my dirty laundry and spare shoes travelled in state in their own taxi, rolling up at the front door of the Treloyan Manor Hotel as Chris and I toiled up the coast path. My only physical complaint today is the horse-fly bite I got above Portloe. It has swollen up into a hard yellow lump, the size of a 2 pound coin.IMG_0095

In fact, divested of my pack, I was practically dancing along the path. The weather turned out to be absolutely fabulous – hot, sunny, with the odd breeze.

Today’s route was fascinating. Through the old tin mining territory north of Land’s End. I was particularly interested because my grandfather’s grandparents and all their ancestors back into the mists of time came from the villages around here – Gwithean, Morvah, St Just and Camborne. I haven’t had time today to look, but next time I come, I will spend a few hours investigating the local church yards.

The mines looked very romantic, set in the green bracken, with the bright blue sky and the purple CornisIMG_0100h heather setting them off. Almost all of them closed around the turn of the 20th century, apart from Greevor, which only closed in the 1980s. We are planning to do the guided tour of it tomorrow morning. We met a very informative couple who told us all about the mines – apparently most of the mining took place in long latitudinal shafts that went as far as a mile or so under the sea. Apparently, when sinking parallel shafts, they did not allow for the fact that magnetic north changes over time, and major disasters were caused by new shafts running into old ones that were not being pumped.

I am sure that when they were being worked they looked dirty, ugly and dangerous, but now they are beautiful. This is also the area where the recent Poldark series was filmed. My ears pricked up at that, and I scanned the horizon for the gorgeous Ross Poldark, sadly, I have been informed he is off on another job.

We stopped at Cape Cornwall, which is about 5 miles north by east of Lands End. There was a natural swimming pool in the rocks that Chris took advantage of, plunging in entirely. I confined myself to dangling my feet in. It was cold, but fabulous. We then sat in the sun and had Cornish pasties and ice cream.

We walked as far as Pendeen. Chris set up his tent in a campsite there, and I hopped on a bus up to St Ives to join my black bin liner.

Day 69 – Mousehole to Land’s End 18th July 2015

Last night, I was feeling pretty ropey. My feet are outrageously painful, although I’m not sure why. I don’t have any injuries, but my knees hurt and my feet are like balls of fire. I suggested to Chris that we get a bus to Land’s End, drop our bags and walk back and return by bus. This morning, however, things seemed better, so we took a bus to Mousehole (pro. MAW- zl). This will leave me with the Porthleven to Mousehole stretch to do, which is about 10 miles of mainly road. It seemed a bit mean to drag Chris all the way here just IMG_0038for road-bashing.

Mousehole is a delightful village. Much more real than some of the others, with proper fishing boats and actual residents, not just holiday homes. The sign posting of the route is as poor as ever.

The path is tough at this point. There is some scrambling round rocks at the end of the various headlands, I am glad to have done them in good weather – it was a beautiful day. It took a couple of hours to get the 2.5 miles to Lamorna, so we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cake. There was then another tough section, lots of exposed cliff, with suggestive names, such as Coffin Rock. IMG_0053We met various people coming towards us, including a Swedish couple, both 72 who do this section off the path every year. Startlingly, she was in a bikini. And only just in that. She was busy tucking herself into the top when she heard us coming. It is hard to imagine members of the Ramblers Association being quite so free and easy!

By the time we reached Porth Berth, another 5 miles, I was completely exhausted. I really don’t know what has got into me – I am never normally tired. I hope I am not sickening for something. As we rested, we chatted to some very fit looking ladies who said that the next sections were very up and down with some scrambles. I knew I couldn’t do it. We debated the merits of pub and taxi, then decided on a cross country route, flatter, across the fields. It took almost as long, as the path was frequently hidden under crops, which necessitated endless stops to look at the map but it was easier. Annoyingly, I left my large water bottle in the pub where we ate last night, so I only had a small bottle of water, which I had refilled at Lamorna. We took several false turns. Eventually, we arrived at Land’s End. IMG_0058The weather was still fabulous. We had a good meal, and Chris has gone off to his b & b (he’s come prepared to camp, but there are no pitches available. The receptionist here is fantastic. She found Chris a room , and has organised a taxi to collect my bag in the morning and ferry it to my hotel for tomorrow. I cannot contemplate walking with a full pack any more, especially as the forecast is for rain, which will make for slippery surfaces. My knees are shockingly painful as I go down steps. Hopefully, with just my wet weather gear, sweater, money and phone, I’ll be able to manage.IMG_0071

I am in the superb conservatory at the hotel, but it is already clouding over, and the sunset I was hoping for has not materialised. It is, nevertheless, rather a red-letter day, as I have reached the westernmost point in mainland Britain. I have now done the most easterly (Lowestoft), the south-eastern point (South Foreland),  and the most southerly (The Lizard the day before yesterday). Only the northern points to do – should be a doddle (!)

Day 68 – The Lizard to Porthleven 17th July 2015

I slept in and caught the 9.41 bus back to The Lizard. Sitting up the top, I got chatting to two other walkers – an American lady, Elaine, who was doing day walks, and a chap who stays down here periodically with his partner and does a lot of local walks. He was a mine of information. He was going back to Kennack Sands where I had tea yesterday, but she was going to Porthleven, same as me. Elaine and I walked from the bus stop to Lizard point, but her speed was quite unmatchable for me. I am never fast, and with a back pack, am quite slow. She, however, despite probably being 15 to 20 years older than me, was a power walker. She took some pictures of me at Lizard Point, then hared off. I could see her striding over the track ahead for about an hour, then I lost her.IMG_9984

Today was absolutely glorious, weather-wise. The sky was blue, and there wasn’t much wind, just a nice breeze. Within an hour, despite having factor 50 on, I had to cover up my arms and legs. The walk was along stretches of a cliff top that was so flat it was like someone had taken a knife and just sliced through the land. From time to time, there was a steep up and down into a valley. IMG_0001Even the cows were docile. I negotiated a herd of them strewn across the path by leaping into the bracken to avoid getting between calf and mother, but all seemed well.

My mood improved exponentially from yesterday, until, then, in front of me, was a black bullock, right on the path. Pleasingly, there were people coming the other way, so I thought there would be no problem. Unfortunately, something about them upset the bullock, so he called to his mates, who appeared out of nowhere and trotted smartly towards the path. The oncoming man waved his arms about and the bullock moved off. Towards me. Great. I now had five of them facing me up the path. They then turned and began to climb the narrow path ahead, which I had to follow. The lady, who despite probably being well into her 60s was exceptionally good looking, offered to go with me up the path – exceptionally kind, too. The man just rolled his eyes. She hated them, too, she said. Especially after she had been followed and shoved by a herd of twenty of them – a story she told in nerve-racking detail as she accompanied me to the stile. I hasten to add that she was armed with a pair of walking poles – I did not send her unarmed back through the bullocks to join her toe-tapping husband.

I carried on, past Mullion Cove, to Poldhu, where I had a cream tea on the beach. Poldhu is the location of the first transatlantic wireless station, which transmitted a signal (repetition of the Morse code letter ‘s’) repeatedly on 12th December, 1901, reaching Marconi in Newfoundland.IMG_0025

The weather was beginning to turn. On then to Porthleven. It wasn’t especially hard going, although more up and down than in the morning. The map showed a long beach walk, but actually the path was above the sands, which was fortunate, as the tide was in and right up to the cliffs.

I could see black clouds and ominous rumbles of thunder cracked out to sea. A squall came over, and I dived for my waterproof, but it only lasted ten minutes.IMG_0036I reached the bus stop at Porthleven around 6pm, to see the 17.54 to Penzance trundle up the hill away from me. The sun had come out again, so I sat and waited for the next bus.IMG_0037 It came in time. The whole way to Penzance (some 25 mins) was punctuated by a large lady, with flowers festooning her hair, singing folk songs. The first few songs were great: the next, pretty pleasant. After the fifteenth repetition the other passengers were getting restive, but were all too polite to say a word. I fell into conversation with a young man whose accent was so thick, I barely understood a word (except for f…, which appeared with some frequency).

Chris met me at the bus station and kindly carried my pack up to the Youth Hostel, where I thought I had a room booked, only, unfortunately, I hadn’t. I had managed , which I must say was quite a feat of internet cock-up, to book a slot in the male dorm in the YMCA instead. Fortunately, the extremely helpful receptionist at the YHA managed to sort it out, and find me a berth, before I actually panicked. The room was the usual YHA offering – hotter than hell, but fairly low grade snoring this time.

Day 67 – Porthallow to The Lizard 16th July 2015

I am sitting in the Angel Hotel, Helston. Suffice to say, that, had I been guessing, I wouldn’t have come up with that name.

I’m sorry to say that I haven’t been enjoying this trip as much as I usually do. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve tried to cover too much ground, or because the weather has been pretty miserable the last three days, or because my boots have lost their grip and I am worried about falling, or even that I’ve had one too many cow traumas…

Nevertheless, today was pretty good. I had an excellent breakfast, and only had to repack my rucksack twice as I remembered various important items such as ibuprofen and ball-of-the-foot pads were at the bottom.IMG_9950

I left around 8.20 and made good time to Porthoustock, and then Coverack, where I should have reached yesterday. The first bit was easy, and, had there been a possibility of accommodation at Porthoustock, I would have gone that far, but I am glad I didn’t attempt Coverack yesterday. Despite yesterday evening having been bright and sunny, it was mizzling again this morning and everything was slippery.

The terrain was easier than the first couple of days, although the path hugged the cliffs, and when the cloud lifted, I had some good views. There weren’t so many steep ups and downs, but my average pace was still only just 2 miles per hour. I met various walkers coming toward me, but no-one going my way – suggesting I am neither slower nor faster than most people. The coast had some interesting rock formations, including an archway. IMG_9966I reached Kennack Sands, a lovely silvery beach around 2.30 and had a very satisfactory Cornish pasty from the café. Much of this area of coast is National Trust land, and I was delighted to discover that the path is managed in this area for glow-worms. Apparently, they like long cover, so the grass is not cut back.IMG_9967

I was in two minds as to whether to press on all the way to the Lizard, or stop at the previous cove. In the event I did continue and by then I seem to have got more into my usual stride.  I covered 16 miles by 5pm, into the little settlement above the Lizard, just to see the bus to Helston sailing past me.

A rather tedious wait at the bus stop, then a white-knuckle ride through very narrow lanes, at top speed, I was sitting upstairs front and frequently had the urge to duck as we slammed into overhanging branches.

I had high hopes for Helston. It is the town that Mary Yelland comes from in Jamaica Inn and longs to return to, comparing its gentle greenness to the bleakness of Dartmoor. I guess it’s changed a bit since her day!