Day 83 – Bude to Philham 17 October 2016

Day 83 – Bude to Philham 17 October 2016

Today has been pretty hardcore. Not the very hardest day I have ever done, but definitely in the top five, perhaps even the top three!

We managed to start a bit earlier today. Rachel had a bus to catch to get back to London for work tomorrow, so we had an earlyish breakfast and set off a few minutes before nine, fortified with an excellent meal including including Cornish pudding –  a sort of sausage but very peppery.

I slipped a Cornish pasty and some lemon cake into my rucksack. I was so full from last night and breakfast that I contemplated not taking lunch but everyone warned it would be a long tough day. The weather was blustery as we set out, blowing foam like confetti onto the land. img_1605The wind has been strong all day but although a few squalls crossed onto land, they were behind us, just giving us the odd shower. Not enough to get really wet.

What has been so tough are the relentless ups and dens. At least twelve times we climbed down steep slopes or staircases from the top of the cliffs to sea level, and up the other side. Absolutely exhausting, especially as the wind was fierce at times, although blowing us onto the coast rather than off.

We could see Lundy getting and at the end of the day it was plain visible whenever the clouds rolled back, although it frequently was obscured by clouds.

Around 2pm, we finally left Cornwall and crossed back into Devon. The Cornish coast has taken me twenty-three days to complete – definitely the longest county coast so far.img_1684

Above the long valley leading into Welcombe Mouth beach, we came to the writing hut of Ronald Duncan. I had never heard of him before, but Duncan was an important playwright and poet from the mid-twentieth century. Duncan was a pacifist and a conscientious objector, who, before the Second World War worked with Benjamin Britten, and is best known for writing the libretto to Britten’s ‘Rape of Lucretia’.  During the war, he began a co-operative farm near Welcombe Mouth, although not with conspicuous success. His little hut, which must have taken huge grit to complete, as all of the stone would have had to be dragged up or down a precipitous slope, made a welcome retreat from the wind.img_1694

Unfortunately we could not book anywhere to stay in Hartland Quay (the nearest settlement to the path), so had to go several miles inland to find one. It was getting dark and we were exhausted, so my navigational error that took us nearly a mile out of our way was not my finest hour. I must say,  Jon and Chris were very forgiving!

Pleasingly, we have a little suite to ourselves, and my bathroom has an enormous bath and numerous fluffy towels. Our hosts gave us a lift to and from the pub, for a rather indifferent meal.  I am now about to plunge into the aforementioned tub.



Day 81 – Tintagel to Crackington Haven 15th October 2016

Day 81 – Tintagel to Crackington Haven 15th October 2016

img_1387Another bad journey down from Paddington yesterday. This time the trains were delayed for two hours because someone had been hit by a train at West Ealing. With nothing to do but wait we whiled away the time in the pub.

Two glasses of wine and a Cornish pasty, later we got on the packed train – along with all the other passengers from delayed trains. Including a dog, named Daisy. The dog was fine but its owner talked to it incessantly. At one point it made a break for freedom, Jon guessed in search of the quiet carriage.

It was noticeable how much shorter the journey was than the last one down to Penzance – progress measured in train journey times!

We managed to rearrange our lift from Bodmin and got to Tintagel around seven. Sadly too late to go to the headland, although there was a splendid moon.

This morning were delayed in setting off because the luggage people hadn’t confirmed the pick-up. We mooched around the village before concluding that we would leave cash with our B & B to send the bags on by taxi, if they weren’t collected. We also collected some pasties for lunch. We finally set out around 9.40, down the lane to meet the coast path just to the north east of the village.

Today is marked as strenuous in the book.  There were lots of ups and downs and, although no single one was as fierce as the days before Tintagel, there were fewer long flat bits. All the way, looking back, we could see the vast Victorian Hotel, the Camelot Castle, out on the headland. It never seemed to get much further away. Whilst the weather started sunny, by the time we got to Boscastle – the place almost washed away by floods a few years ago, it was beginning to spit.img_1417

We stopped in a very nice tea shop for coffee and cake, and as we ate the rain began to come down in stair rods. A vote was held to delay setting out for half an hour to see if it cleared. But it didn’t. So we left around 1.45, suitably plasticked up. It poured for another forty five minutes.

Strangely, it is easier to walk on a soaking path, than a damp one. Damp paths are far more slippery than wet ones. The views were tremendous – the autumn colours looking very dramatic against the grey sky. img_1428 The rain stopped and the sky turned bright blue, the water turquoise and calm, and the last couple of hours were gorgeous.

Now in the pub at Crackington Haven in what would be a nice room if the window were not nailed shut. We had an excellent dinner – I tried some Cornish gin very good indeed! Quite herby. We covered a pleasant 12.5 miles.

The moon was full so Rachel and I had a brief walk down to the sea front it was gorgeous in the moonlight apart from a very disconcerting shadow that looked like Quasimodo beating someone with a club.




Day 80 – Port Isaac to Tintagel 17 July 2016

Day 80 – Port Isaac to Tintagel 17 July 2016

img_1326We’re all aboard the 16.18 from Bodmin Parkway to Paddington.

We made a fairly early start, by our standards, leaving our very modern B & B at Three Gates Meadow at 8.30. The day is marked as ‘severe’ in the book, same as the Pendeen to St Ives stretch, but only 14.8km rather than 23.5 (that is less than 10 miles).

We decided not to walk back to the cliff edge at Port Isaac but to go along the road for a mile to avoid the first big drop, and we were very glad to have done so. We cut back to the coast and after about a quarter of a mile, the land fell away into one of the steepest valleys of the route so far – ie since setting out from London Bridge! Going down was horrible. My knees have been pretty good this trip, with no heavy bag to carry and shorter distances but this was evil and they were protesting severely. Up the other side, I was almost on all fours – generally up hill is less troublesome to me butimg_1350 this was a killer.

Back on the top the path was flat for no more than a quarter mile before dropping away again, not quite so severely but bad enough. Up again, and along (through a herd of young stirks who hovered near the stile, of course). A flat bit and then down the dip we’ve christened Big Bertha for obvious reasons. We met a man and his daughter who are doing the whole South West Coast Path, – camping!  Ugh!  They were bowed under the weight of the kit. Rather them than me, but they seemed pretty jaunty. Bet they didn’t enjoy Big Bertha.

From the map, it looked as though the worst were over, but no.  Dropping down into Trebarthwith sands was an almost vertical staircase.  A quick ice-cream as reward, then up the other side and a final 2 miles into Tintagel, where we cut across the fields to the church before collapsing into a pub for lunch. We had made it with just 20 minutes to spare to bolt some food before picked up by our taxi.img_1364

The weather today was a fascinating mix. There was a heavy sea mist when we set out, which cleared off the tops, leaving bright sunshine above, with thick mist over the sea – very atmospheric.

The temperature has now soared. It must be around 28 degrees, but fortunately, our train is air conditioned and Jon and Stephen were very happy whilst waiting for it, as a steam train pulled in, to be ooh’d and aah’d over by admiring crowds.20160717_153626

Goodbye to another part of the great adventure, although I am feeling as though I have barely scratched the surface yet…

In theory, I have now done 20% having broken through the 1,300 mile point today – assuming the 6,500 guestimate is close enough to the reality.

Day 79 – Padstow to Port Isaac 16 July 2016

Day 79 – Padstow to Port Isaac 16 July 2016

Today was another glorious day. I really do love North Cornwall. I think it has overtaken Dorset in my favourite English counties. But definitely North Cornwall, rather than South which I didn’t especially like – although that might have been the bag carrying…

Last night we walked into Padstow from our excellent B&B (called ‘Tamarisk’ and run by Betty – definite recommend). We decided that we: a) would not eat in the most expensive place – meals here are equal or more than London prices, and it can’t be transport or staff  as they all claim to serve local produce and wages are low; b) would not eat in one of Rick Stein’s numerous places – not that we object to Mr Stein but after a day’s walking even following a shower and change we don’t really look the part, and c) we would not eat outside. The wind was very sharp and we had spent all day outside. So we went to Rick Stein’s Bistro, ate in the garden and paid a very fine price! But it was an excellent meal.

In the morning, we took recommendations from Bimg_1208etty on pasty shops and waited for 20 minutes for a gluten free batch to be finished for Jon.  We then hung around Padstow harbour waiting for the ferry across the Camel.

The first section of the walk was easy, from Rock on the east of the estuary to Polzeath where we had coffee. The weather was very fine, quite hot in fact and copious applications of factor 30 were required. Stephen, after feeling rather tired yesterday was full of beans today and in full snipping mode. I can’t remember whether I have mentioned that as an act of selfless public good, Stephen walks with a handy pair of small secateurs and clips over-exuberant brambles from the path.  It is a treat to walk in his wake with nothing catching at hair or legs.img_1296

From Polzeath the route became progressively more difficult, with a number of ups and downs. We reached Pentire Head around 1pm and stopped to eat our pasties, still slightly warm inside mmmm. The views were absolutely superb, particularly at the eastern side of the headland. Apparently, it is possible to see Tintagel Head, and possibly even Bude, but it was not clear enough for that.

Port Quin a very narrow inlet, also owned by the National Trust, was impossible to see until you were on it. We had promised ourselves ice cream when we reached it, but there was only a tea van with a very grumpy lady in it, who shut up shop promptly at 4pm.

From Port Quin to Port Isaac is somewhat over 3 miles, and a very steep three miles at that. The path drops and rises precipitately, with steps cut into the cliff that look as though they will drop right down into the sea at various points. img_1314We toiled and moiled slowly along, reaching Port Isaac, which is delightful, except for the stony beach. After being turned away by several restaurants (they claimed they were full, but I fear they thought we would lower the tone), we had an excellent meal in the Golden Lion pub, before ascending yet another hill to our B&B.  Today’s distance was 12 miles (20km).

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 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.

I haven’t gone away!

For anyone who thought I might have given up – I am still here. It is hard to believe that a year has passed since my last walk, but in the meantime I have been busy with my new business and I am also writing a book. So weekends have been a bit hectic. Nevertheless I have managed to squeeze in 10 days back in Cornwall, this time in the company of friends Jon and Stephen. Jon is working on an end to end project and wanted to start from Land’s End. That works perfectly for me, because I can pick up the bits I missed last summer – Porth Leven to Mousehole on Friday and Saturday, and meet the others at the pub in Pendeen where Chris and I finished last year.

On the final day last year, instead of walking on from Pendeen, we spent the day at the Geevor tin-mine. The weather was absolutely appalling – quite different from the previous day, and my boots were slipperier than ever, so we thought the tin-mine would be a good option. And it was – absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend to anyone with the slightest interest in history, mining, industrial archaeology, industrial relations, systems, engineering, or just about anything.

Since then, no plans have actually come to anything, so I am absolutely delighted to be off again. I hope the weather is as good as last year!

The advantage to going with friends, is that we are clubbing together for a bag transport service. After the miseries of last year, I’ll welcome it, as it is fair to say fitness levels are slipping with the current very sedentary projects.

I’ve bought new boots too. I went for Zamerlan again because they are so comfortable. Just hoping that the first pair had faulty soles, rather then the whole design being poor. Fingers (and toes) crossed!

Train at 12.05 from Paddington tomorrow and a whole 10 days of Cornish Pasties and cream teas ahead.