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!

Day 61 – Plymouth to Downerry – 10th July, 2015

Today has been a great day, although, at just over 20 miles, a bit too long. We were lucky to get here at all as yesterday there was both a tube and a rail strike and our planned train was cancelled. The only way to get here was to walk from King’s cross to Paddington, in my case, and Finsbury Park to Paddington, in Rachel’s, then make a run for the Plymouth train as soon as it was announced to try to get ahead of the two trainloads of people crammed into a single train with fewer carriages than usual. There were some very unhappy punters!

In the end, all worked out well and we got to our charming little guest house on the outskirts of Plymouth just before midnight. Following a very substantial breakfast, we took the bus into the city centre, and picked up the coast path not far from where I left it with Vicki nearly two years ago (can’t believe it is that long since I was on this side of the country!)

We walked along the Hoe, pausing to take in the enormous memorial to the fallen of the Royal Navy in both World Wars, and then past the lovely eighteenth century housing. IMG_9737There is still a very large and elegant stone barracks to admire. We caught the 11.15 Cremyll ferry across Plymouth Sound, which was full of pleasure craft as well as more serious looking boats, to Mount Edgcumbe. We stopped for a coffee in the very attractive Edgecumbe Arms pub, then followed the path though the really beautiful woodlands that fringe the estate on the seaward side, pausing to admire the view, and the multifarious follies.

Mount Edgecumbe is home to one of the biggest camellia collections in the country, but, sadly, they have all finished blooming now. The day was perfect – sunny, clear, with a light warm breeze, but not too hot. Unfortunately my pack is too heavy…I have not carried a pack for a 12 day trip, and although I have pared it down and can still fit it into 26 litres, it seemed weighty. It has been a while since either of us has done much walking – my last coast walk joint was back in February although I had a couple of days in the Lake District recently, and Rachel has dished her knee, so we took it pretty gently.IMG_9768

The sea glistened to our left as the path gently undulated through woods and on the edge of fields.

Our first landmark was the tiny chapel at Rame Head, visible for miles in both directions, and mentioned in the shanty, ‘Spanish Ladies’ as one of the places the sailors recognise on their return home. IMG_9807I had to double black to find my camera case which I had dropped, and caught Rachel up to find her listening to the Wimbledon men’s semi-final. After a short, not entirely intentional detour to the Rame Head life boat station, and a very confused scramble through a field full of brambles, the whole thing became fairly plain sailing. The path is broad, and easy at this point, and we ambled long, the silence punctuated by Rachel giving me updates from the tennis – apparently one of the best matches ever played by Federer. On one of the few narrow points, we ran into some Dartmoor ponies, who completely blocked the path, and refused to move, even when nudged by the end of Rachel’s walking pole. Eventually, we had to climb past them, hoping they wouldn’t take fright and kick.

The path led throughout the firing range at Tregantle, where we were thrilled to see a stoat actually mesmerising a small bird. We watched as the two creatures stared at each other, wondering why the bird didn’t just fly away. The stoat got closer, but I’m afraid we interfered with the course of nature by making a noise. The bird immediately came to its senses and flew off. There was nothing else to be seen at the barracks other than a rather good looking young man emptying the water out of an inflatable dinghy and pulling determinedly on the outboard. As the boat was at least half a mile from the sea, and not even on a trailer, I couldn’t really see the point of running the engine. Perhaps it was to confuse the enemy…

We thought a detour to a fish and chip shop in Port Wrinkle would be a good plan, as it was getting quite late and we were starving, but unfortunately the only café was closed. Downderry was a further 2.5 miles up the steepest slope of the day. A sudden squall meant a scramble for waterproofs – no sooner on than the sun was shining. Rachel’s knee was causing a bit of bother, so mindful of the fact that the pub might stop serving food at nine, I raced on ahead to get our orders in – not a moment too soon. We are staying at the Inn on the Shore and I am just heading to bed after an excellent supper.