Day 78 – Porthcothan to Padstow, 15 July 2016

Day 78 – Porthcothan to Padstow, 15 July 2016

img_1135Today has been a gentle day, 17.3km (nearly 11 miles) of fairly flat walking, with only one major down and up. We started late after a very convivial breakfast with our host, as the distance was not too great.

Yesterday’s sun had completely disappeared and the sky was overcast. The turquoise water had turned to a rather attractive petrol green. A couple of miles brought us to Treyarnon. Unlike yesterday, there were few surfers about, as, despite the chilly wind, there was no surf. After a coffee in the pub there, we carried on around another couple of coves, and crossed Trevose Head. This is yet another area of coast largely owned by the National Trust. From the tip of it, we could just about see back to St Ives. Because of the lie of the land, from this point onward, St Ives will be out of sight.

Moving north-east, we then skirted Harlyn Bay and eventually arrived at Stepper Point, the headland overlooking the Camel Estuary.  Just on the tip is the Stepper Point Coast Watch station. This is run by a charitable body which notes all (and I mean all) of the movements along the coast with watch points all around the Cornish coast. The public can enter and see the very fancy equipment that tracks vessels. For future reference, we were marked down as soon as we came within sight in the book as ‘1m white shirt (Jon) 1f green blouse (me) + 1m (Stephen).’img_1176

One of the most interesting things in the watch house was a map and list of all the wrecks along the stretch of coast since the early 1600s. It was a fascinating record, ships from Jamaica and Malaysia, Dublin and Falmouth, and even as close as St Ives, many wrecked on Doom Bar, a shifting sand bar across the Camel mouth. Where known, the cargo, the captain and the number of crew lost were noted. The charity is always looking for volunteers, so if you are on the coast, and fancy helping out, make enquiries.

After this, we turned down the Camel estuary. The sun had come out and we decided to make for the tea gardens at Prideaux house, a Tudor mansion where the Prideaux family has lived for 14 generations. Before we got there, we were side tracked by another tea spot, the Rest-a-While, overlooking the estuary. So we did, and watched the rather lovely yachts zipping up and down the Camel as we ate a very satisfactory cream tea.img_1183

It was fortunate we were weak-willed as Prideaux House was closed for filming.

We are now in a very comfy B&B in Padstow. Definitely one of the best of the trip.

Day 77 – Newquay to Portcothan 14th July 2016

Day 77 – Newquay to Portcothan 14th July 2016

Last night’s B&B was run by a lady who never stopped talking. Not loudly but just an endless wittering punctuated by giggles. We heard all about her allotment, her blackcurrants in particular and her new oven: its price, its provenance, its size, the delivery difficulties etc. Jon and I left Stephen being shown the utensil in detail whilst we popped out to fetch Cornish pasties for lunch and rest our ears.IMG_0983

The walk today was glorious. Out of Newquay and over a short headland to a very smart hotel where we had coffee. Like all really good hotels they paid not the slightest attention to our dishevelled state but served us like royalty.

Then over miles of headlands, mainly flat with huge views both north and south. The weather was fantastic. Hot sun, but a stiff breeze, the sea turquoise with flecks of brilliant white. We saw so many peregrine falcons we are becoming quite blasé about them. Twice we saw them hovering almost above us and had a wonderful view as they swooped down.IMG_1063

We stopped for our pasties – very fine, from Warrens, allegedly the oldest pasty makers in Cornwall. Then we had ice cream at Mawgan-in-Pyndar – honeycomb with strawberries & clotted cream. Yum!

We reached Porthcothan around five, and are in a really lovely B&B, set a good mile back from the coast. The village is very small, just a hamlet really, with no shops, other than a beach café, and a pub on the outskirts. IMG_1074We covered a gentle 16.3km (just over 10 miles) on probably one of my top 10 days of the whole walk so far.

Day 76 – Perranporth to Newquay 13th July 2016

Day 76 – Perranporth to Newquay 13th July 2016

Last night’s hotel rather grew on me as the maintenance man came to fix the lock on my door. When he isn’t maintaining he is either surfing or firefighting. He definitely brightened my day! The food was pretty good too.20160713_132459

I had no luck in Perranporth with finding a new memory card for my camera so I had to do a bit of judicious editing which was absolutely essential as there were certainly some fabulous views to take.

The path starts out along the glorious golden sands for nearly a mile (although it was not brilliant weather). Right at the end there were the rather pitiful remains of a whale that beached a few days ago – the pong was pretty fierce, and we were rather boggled at the number of people who seemed to see the poor creature as a tourist attraction.IMG_0962

At the end of the beach you climb up onto the dunes. We didn’t go quite far enough and made heavy weather of climbing up the dunes rather than going up the nice wide stoney track.  The path then skirts along the headlands, dotted with a few Shetland ponies. The wind was fierce, although other than a shower just when we were starting out, the day has been mainly sunny. This morning was cold though. I don’t know what the wind chill factor was, but it felt no more than on 12 or 13 degrees. Not good for mid-July.

Rounding the headland, you come to the little cove of Holywell. At the head of the beach is a pub, where we stopped for coffee and cake, then a stiff climb over dunes.  Always hard going and at one point I thought I had pulled a calf muscle but all seems well now.

Above the dunes we saw a kestrel, and heard what we thought were its chicks. Back out to a headland, and round a second, past what looked like an army training camp, before turning into another narrow bay, with good surf.  We saw another kestrel dive bombing a crow. The crow seemed unconcerned, just ducking as the orangey – brown bird of prey shot over its head, circled and came in again. We assumed the crow was too close to the kestrel’s nest, but we didn’t see any chicks.

The next bay is the Gannel estuary. The sun had come out and it was full of children and dogs enjoying the waves. I took my boots off to walk over the Crantock Bay sands which are very fine.20160713_143045

Unfortunately, at some point, I managed to lose yet another water bottle. Very annoying. It is only possible to cross the long inlet by ferry or going quite far inland to cross a footbridge. We were in time for the little ferry, which cost us the astonishing sum of 60 pence each as we only needed to take it halfway.20160713_163636

With the tide low, the ferryman came to a little platform half-way across. On the far side, there was a little shop with live lobsters and crabs, waiting to be chosen and sent on their way to the local dinner tables. The hotel at the top gave us our first cream tea of the trip. Around another headland, on top of which there was a mediaeval huer platform (where someone was posted to watch for the pilchard shoals) and then along the path above the beach at Fistral, past Rick Stein’s fish restaurant. Don’t think we’ll be eating there!

Day 75 – Portreath to Perranporth 12th July 2016

Day 75 – Portreath to Perranporth 12th July 2016

IMG_0931Sitting in a grim hotel in Perranporth which I shan’t name, further than to say it ain’t the accommodation highlight of the trip! Distinct pong of damp dog, and the door won’t lock from the inside.

We left our very pleasant little B&B in Portreath at 8.45, rather a record this trip. Unfortunately, owing to oven issues there was no cooked breakfast, but a good selection of fruit and pastries staved off the worst pangs of hunger. As it was necessary to go up and down two very stiff slopes to get into the village yesterday, so the same pertained on the other side, but we were rewarded with excellent views back toward St Ives and forward to St Agnes’ Head. An hour and a half brought us into Porth Towans where we had truly excellent bacon sandwiches in the beach café.

The weather was bright, although not very warm, hut the sea was again a superb turquoise with darker patches.IMG_0944 The vivid purple heather makes a wonderful contrast, especially with the myriad rock colours red, orange, white and even occasionally verdigris where the copper is close to the surface. IMG_0956There is plenty more evidence of copper mining here. Portreath used to ship the ore direct to the smelting works in South Wales. It may have been on one of those very ships that my ancestors left Cornwall to head for Newport.

A long pull up from Porth Towans, then a good bit of flat cliff top before an evil slope down into St Agnes that played the devil with my knees, which so far this trip have been fairly quiescent. IMG_0935We stopped for a welcome drink in the Driftwood pub before hauling ourselves up the other side of the valley. Another double dip, and then we were on to a long flattish stretch.

Towards Perranporth, the path, which is very poorly signposted as usual, gets rather lost amongst what may be old airfield buildings or mining works.  It then clings rather precipitously to the edge of the cliff.  I had my eyes firmly inland at that point.

We arrived around 5pm having done about 11.5 miles.  I have used all of my camera card and am struggling to find a new one. The good news, is that there is a camera shop here, the bad news is that it is closed and won’t open before 10.30 tomorrow.

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 73 – Pendeen to St Ives 10th July 2016

Day 73 – Pendeen to St Ives 10th July 2016

Lolling on my bed in a very pleasant B&B, completely exhausted. I had heard that the Pendeen to St Ives stretch is the hardest on the whole South West coast path, and whilst I would not say it was harder than the murderous Mousehole to Lands End leg, it is certainly up there.

I took an early bus from Penzance to meet Jon and Stephen at their pub in Pendeen – the vey spot where Chris and I finished last year. We had arranged for the baggage people to collect our gear from there, and I am very thankful we did. Not sure I could have made it today with a big pack.

The weather was excellent all day. Plenty of sun to make the sea a wonderful turquoise, but also breezy enough to be the right temperature in a t-shirt.

The first point of interest was the Pendeen Watch lighthouse, a landmark which we could see behind for miles as we progressed north-east. IMG_0765For the first time, I now have the sun generally on my right arm with the sea on my left. So far, as I have walked clockwise I have had a burnt left arm, and a burnt right arm as I have walked anti-clockwise. There won’t be any much sun on the left side until I start west again along the coast of South Wales.

The path dipped and swooped, climbing up and dropping down. It was nowhere as steep as some of the parts of Devon, but it was always narrower and closer to the cliffs. At some angles, the wind was blowing off the land, which is quite disconcerting when there is a steep drop to the side.IMG_0798

As always in Cornwall, the path is very poorly sign posted, and although you might think it can’t be that difficult, there are often tracks and sheep-trods to confuse the unwary.

There are numerous old mine shafts and wheal houses still dotting the countryside. After last year’s trip to Geevor mine I could imagine the shafts going out a mile or so under the waves. A lot of the stone had the greens tinge of copper ore.IMG_0820

The various interpretations boards (none today) promise choughs and kittiwakes, but so far only herring gulls and ordinary crows have materialised.

We did, however see a kestrel from above, hovering golden in the sun-light, before it swooped down and grabbed a small creature.

We had toyed with the idea of turning inland at Zennor to go to the well-known Tinners’ Arms for lunch, but we were making such slow progress that we decided not to add the additional mile or so each way. I can normally take or leave lunch when walking, being quite happy with an apple and some chocolate, but today to was so strenuous (although only 14.6 miles) that I was really struggling by the end and chomping on my dark chocolate with no thought of anything but shovelling in energy. We eventually crawled into St Ives at about 6pm, found the nearest restaurant and stuffed our faces. We were on a terrace, and so cold from hunger and exhaustion that we sat huddled in our fleeces and extra blankets whilst people on the next able were in shorts and t-shirts.

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.