Portreath to Lelant Saltings 17.6.17

I smell Portreath harbour before I see it – a dark, deep stench of what I’m told is decaying seaweed.

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………….. and following instructions from two old biddies on a bench I make my way down to the beach.

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To my right the path rises up to the lighthouse – but that’s tomorrow’s walk. Today I have the sea on my right as I am staying two nights in a B&B a mile inland from Portreath, walking left on the first day and right on the second.

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It is early but already hot and a few novice surfers are out playing in the gentle waves. At the end of the beach I walk up a tarmac path between rows of expensive looking houses –  the wall on my left is made up of stone slabs encased in wire. I have only ever seen this  once before – running on either side of the Metro in Copenhagen.

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The path rises steeply upwards onto the cliffs and not long after winds its way down to the bottom of the next cove and up again. It is very narrow and exposed here and comes dangerously close to the edge, with precipitous drops down to the rocks below – I try not to look.

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From here on the path rolls gently away into the distance and proves to be an easy stroll for four to five miles along the top of the cliffs, passing beautiful little inaccessible coves with chilling names: two are called Dead Man’s Cove and another Hell’s Mouth. It is here  I start seeing day trippers with ice-creams so I deviate to the cafe.

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………..and here’s the real thing……………………………………………………………………………………

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I now walk through a large area of heathland called The Knavocks and very soon the lighthouse at Godrevy Point comes into view.

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Just before Godrevy Point a sign alerts me to the possibility of seeing seals, so when the path runs close to the top of the next cove I shuffle hesitantly to the edge of the cliff and peer down. Next to me are a young couple who are trying desperately to stop their young collie getting too close to the edge. Suddenly I see the outline of a seal swimming under the water and shout “It’s a seal!” The young couple with the dog give me a look which can only mean two things – either they don’t understand English or they think I’m mad. You can just about see three seal heads in this photo……………………can’t you?

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Turning away from the edge I follow a wide dirt track lined with proper hedgerows – a profusion of wild flowers catch my eye.

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The carpark at the bottom of the lane is packed with cars and some people haven’t even bothered to go down to the beach – they lie basking in the sun on sunbeds next to their cars, windbreaks marking out territory.

I am by now getting a little peckish so I stop to ask a couple of lifeguards lounging in front of their hut whether they knew of a cafe nearby. With an unexpected enthusiasm they point towards a food wagon which I can just about see way over on the next beach – they assure me it makes the best food in the area.

Following their directions I walk up past the information sign and come to a stop behind an old lady with a stick, standing looking out over the sea – from the back she looks just like my mother.

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I can also now see that the next stretch of my walk will be a good two miles of golden sand – I’m looking forward to that.

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But first food, so I head down to the beach and sit down outside the pretty little food wagon to eat a sumptuous tomato and mozzarella salad, washed down with homemade lemonade – seaside food has come a long way since I was a child. As has seaside activities – there were never any surfboards around for us as children.

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Lunch over I follow the track through the rocks at the end of this beach over into the next.

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Here, erosion has meant that slices of the cliff now stand alone on the beach and people have set up camp for the afternoon at the mouths of caves and cavities. There is a joyful atmosphere, created by families, picnicking, playing football, building sandcastles, investigating rock pools – I feel an acute nostalgia for family seaside holidays, almost brings a tear to my eye. I can of course not take any photos of children – that’s another thing that’s changed.

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This is the time to take off my boots and bathe my hot sore feet in the sea – what a feeling!

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The beach gradually empties of people as I head towards Hayle Towans, passing rows of caravans standing to attention above me.

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Finally I reach the estuary and can walk no further on the sand – I reluctantly put on my boots and take the path leading up on to the cliffs again.

This takes me past an area of sand dunes which is home to several pretty holiday cottages, I would like one of these in Denmark.

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…………..and after a half mile or so I find myself down by Hayle Harbour which is showing the first signs of redevelopment. Large areas have been fenced in and gravelled but it must have been some time ago as the original plants have started a rebellion.

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As I walk through the town, a hyperbolic billboard stops me in my tracks but the illustrations perhaps refer to the early nineteenth century. This was when the port at Hayle was extremely important for the export of tin, copper smelting, high pressure steam engines and the manufacture of iron and boat building – all helping to make it a very prosperous place.

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……………..and a little further up the street, another claim to fame.

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By this time I am very tired but only have about a mile to go. Unfortunately this is alongside the main road that crosses the estuary and runs alongside the flat marshland known as the Saltings. Part of the way is along a pedestrian path separated from the cars but this soon peters out and I am left exposed on quite a busy road.

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Eventually I reach the turn off to Lelant Saltings where I again meet the friendly station master who shows me a shortcut to the bus which will take me to Camborne and then back to Portreath – I will sleep well tonight.

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Distance: 17 miles (mostly on the flat)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zennor to Lelant Saltings 14.5.17

My room in the pub at Zennor has a window looking out over the village church – I decide to go and take a look inside before setting out. Nowadays, village churches are often locked but I am lucky here – the door is wide open.

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It is a pretty little church with an impressive selection of prayer cushions – here are a few…….

And in the side chapel stands a small bench, one end of which is ornately carved in the shape of a mermaid to celebrate the local legend.

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It is said that two voices can be heard singing down in the cove from time to time………..

Anyway, setting off from Zennor Head I turn right in the direction of St. Ives but coming up out of the cove, the path seems to disappear.

IMG_3171Heading in the general direction I find myself having to scramble over piles of large rocks which although fun to begin with, soon starts to worry me a little.

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Eventually a semblance of a narrow path starts to emerge but then takes me upwards and around a sharp corner where I cannot see any way forward than up a steep bank of rocks reminiscent of the initial ascents on a Scottish mountain…….surely not?

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With relief I notice that the path winds tightly round the next bend and downwards which makes it difficult to see at first……phew…….

From here it is a tough ride up and down small rocky coves. I walk down and up Tregerthen Cliff, rewarded by a wonderful view across to Mussel Point.

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From Mussel Point there are four more points to conquer: Carn Naun, Pen Enys, Hor and Clodgy. I am wilting a little, so after crossing this sweet granite slab bridge I rest a while.

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Just before Hellesvoor Cliff the wonderful people of the National Trust have constructed a solid boardwalk for a short stretch – this makes a change from the narrow stony paths I have been walking on.

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………………and later, some large stones have been laid to take me across boggy ground as I  near the beaches of St.Ives.

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When Damian and I were here two years ago in January, I remember looking west up at the cliffs above Porthmeor Beach thinking next time I see them I will be coming from a different direction – didn’t think it would take this long but that’s life.

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So down I go, thrown suddenly into the noise and bustle of a busy seaside resort on a sunny day.

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It’s all a bit overwhelming after hours of peaceful walking, so after revisiting the cafe in which we had cream teas on that very wet day two years ago, I walk quickly through the town and out the other side.

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………………but not before a difficult navigation through the crowds of the annual Food Fair   held on the beach in front of the station.

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Music from an Ed Sheeran acolyte drifts up from the beach and follows me as I head up beside the railway line, up above the beautiful deserted beach at Carbis Bay.

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Round the headland I can see another golden strip – Port Kidney Sands but I cannot walk on the beach all the way so I take some steps up on to the cliff path again.

 

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The path above the beach is narrow with some steep drops down but some lucky person has found a ledge to build on. In the garden of the house is a perfectly formed wooden wagon – imagine waking up to that view everyday!

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This is a beach to rival any I have seen – including those in Australia (sorry Susan).

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By this time I am beginning to yearn for signs that I am nearing my destination but the path just seems to go on and on. It doesn’t help either that I am now struggling through an area of sand dunes where one step forward means two steps back and I’m away from the cooling sea breeze of late afternoon.

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Finally, I return to the water – not the sea but the south bank of the Hayle River. This cannot be crossed so I am forced to walk on a tarmac road, a little inland from the estuary until I reach Lelant Station where I am hoping against hope I can get a train back into St. Ives.

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In my muddled exhausted state I press the wrong button on the information stand and get a rude awakening in the form of a stern voice asking me whether I need an ambulance, the police or the fire brigade. Realising my mistake I apologise profusely – the woman’s voice at the other end is not amused.

There is no train going anywhere I want to go but I am directed down the road to the station at Lelant Saltings where the loveliest, friendliest station master I have ever had the pleasure to meet, sets me right. I have 10 minutes before the little train arrives to take me back to St. Ives and my bed. It has been a long walk.

Distance: 13 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pendeen to Zennor 13.5.17

So here I am back again at Pendeen Lighthouse – without the huge blister on my big toe.

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It is a beautiful morning and all my apprehensions about whether my back was going to give me gip today, after a cramped 5 hour train journey yesterday, just seem to evaporate into the still clear air.

A little further down the road, I come to Portheras Cove and face the day’s first obstacle  – losing the path. Fortunately a young woman and her daughter are walking their dog on the beach below and I am able to shout for directions. The life belt hanging on the wall of the little hut says Fisherman’s Mission which is the only charity that provides emergency support alongside practical, financial, spiritual and emotional care for fishermen and their families. I somehow don’t think the general public would be so sympathetic towards teachers, but maybe I’m wrong.

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Leaving the cove behind, the path climb steeply upwards but then levels out at the top allowing me to catch my breath. I make good progress walking on a wide flat path along the edge of the cliffs until I reach another enchanting little cove at the bottom of which is a wooden bridge to take me over the stream.

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Walking out of the valley the path is lined with bluebells and daisies and I stop to take  a photo of a foxglove as I have just succeeded in getting them to grow in my garden.

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On top of the cliffs again I am treated to some wonderful views with Gunnard’s Head in the distance – this is not far from where I will be staying tonight.

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The path now becomes extremely boggy and I’m forced to keep my eyes on my boots for quite a while. Absorbed in hopping from rock to rock I am a little shocked to be suddenly faced with another walker almost right in front of me. It is a woman on her own which I always find heartening – she tells me that the path ahead is worse………oh well.

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IMG_3134 Away from the bog the path gets very close to the edge of the cliffs – there are some very steep drops down if you dare to look.

 

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…….and up ahead cows, unusual saddleback cows known as Belted Galloways. A wiki search tells me that this is apparently a polled breed (naturally without horns, lucky for me), with a thick hairy coat, bred through generational selection over a number of years. Although there are numerous colours, each Belted Galloway cow features a white stripe around its middle. The beef sourced from this breed is finished within 30 months and is usually very marbled. The cow is generally well suited for rough grazing land and is long lived.

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They don’t take a blind bit of notice of me even though the path takes me almost through the middle of them.

A little further on I come to a sign which tells me I am in an area known as Bosigran and if I had gone a little closer to the edge I would have seen Commando Ridge which is an extremely steep granite sea cliff, a favourite with rock climbers and the site of training exercises during the second world war – but I didn’t.

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Down into another valley I cross a perfect little stream on a huge slab of granite. How did they get it there?

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Gunard’s Head is getting closer ……………….

 

 

 

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…….but first I have to walk through a field of horses, which I do, holding my breath. My horse was my closest friend when I was child but then we knew each other.

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Out the other end and I walk past large tufts of these pretty little flowers – if anybody recognises them?

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……and at last Gunard’s Head, so named because it is supposed to look like the fish with the same name, which apparently is ugly – maybe from the other side?

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After Gunnard’s Head I still have a way to go to Zennor where I am staying tonight and I can feel I am flagging. Dipping deep into my rucksack I find a fruit bar and some mints – it’s amazing what a bit of sugar can do to your energy levels. I sit down for a while and spend a few minutes contemplating what it must be like to live in the house nestled in what must be Portglaze Cove – wonderful in the summer but if the gales I experienced last December in Cornwall are anything to go by, very difficult in the winter.

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Energised I trip past the “extensive and hidden dangers” of the next section of the walk and soon arrive at Pendour Cove, where a very steep staircase takes my weary legs up to Zennor Head.

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From here it’s a short walk along a country lane into Zennor where the local chapel has been converted into a cafe. As it’s late in the afternoon I decide to have a cream tea instead of lunch – well that’s my excuse anyway.

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I have finished my walk quite early and toy with the idea of walking a few miles more, but just as I come out of the cafe it starts to rain, so I decide to call it a day and head for the pub where I’ll be staying tonight.

Distance: 10 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lytham St.Annes to Fleetwood 21.4.17

There is no other way to get to the toilets on the pier at Lytham St. Annes than straight through the mayhem of the amusement arcade. I brace myself for the noise and bright lights but at this time in the morning it’s not too bad – I even find myself lingering at the penny drop machine (which is now a 2 pence coin).

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Down on the beach a kitesurfer is making the most of the stiff breeze, skimming along on the surface of the water at a cracking pace.

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Trucks transporting sand up the beach are perhaps part of a dune management programme although the mounds are full of debris.

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I’m hoping that our walk today will be mostly on sand, as long as it remains firm but as we approach the first signs of Blackpool we decide to move up onto the sea wall to investigate what this iconic seaside resort has to offer.

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Quite a lot actually………………………….and all part of a 100 million pound regeneration project that took seven years to complete.

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As we pass Blackpool “Pleasure” Beach a chorus of screams goes up from this ride which I’m told is called “The Big One” – the scariest of five other Big Dippers and Rollercoasters. The “beach” is surrounded by residential buildings and I find myself wondering what it must be like to live within earshot of all that terror/ecstasy……….

Up til now the walk into Blackpool has been interesting but we now hit a stretch that is best forgotten – a long strip of gaudy fast food joints, tired amusement arcades and shops selling tacky seaside paraphernalia.

That said our approach to Blackpool Tower is heralded by some strangely attractive pod like structures that sway gently in the wind – another sign of the regeneration of the seafront.

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The tower itself is not as impressive as I imagined it would be and seems almost sedate compared to its frenzied neighbours.

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In front is the 2,200mwork of art known as the Comedy Carpet which contains over 160,000 granite letters embedded into concrete and whatever your taste in comedy, it is a remarkable homage to those who have made the nation laugh. We spend a few minutes reading some of the familiar songs, jokes and catchphrases, coined in an age before political correctness – I find myself chuckling guiltily at some of them.

Having past the South and Central Pier we are now nearing the North Pier where we again are treated to more marine sculpture – this one serves as shelter from the wind.

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Gradually the shops and entertainment disappear and we are left with a very long featureless concrete path flanked by banks of undulating brown concrete that I’ve only ever seen before in a zoo.

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And so we walk, and walk some more until we are forced off the “promenade” onto the other side of the road which is even less interesting.

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Eventually we reach Clevelys where things start to look up. There is a lot of regeneration going on with new sea defences in honeycomb concrete and poetic seaside sculpture.

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………….and lo and behold down on the beach, is a very intriguing piece of metal sculpture.

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Further research reveals that the sculpture is known as “Mary’s Shell” after the heroine of The Sea Swallow, a book written by children’s author Gareth Thompson. Lines from the book are etched on the inside surface of the shell. The whole structure is rooted into a concrete foundation stone and just about disappears under the surface of the water at high tide.

By now our feet are getting sore and we still have another 3 miles to go – time to take a break on the sand and engage the locals in conversation.

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Walking into Fleetwood was not an experience I would like to repeat ……………….

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……but as we approach the small port and the ferry across to Knott End on Sea (this will be another day) the town opens up and reveals an attractive seafront, some pretty landscaped gardens and well maintained art deco buildings.

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One of the Fleetwood landmarks is the imposing North Euston Hotel built in the mid 19th century by a local landowner, whose ambition was to provide a resting place for travellers from London to Scotland. As there was no railway through the Lake District at the time, the idea was that passengers would disembark at Fleetwood before taking the boat to Scotland.

Unfortunately, by 1850 a direct line from London to Scotland had been established and the town’s tourist industry gradually declined. It is now a listed building and still used as a hotel.

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We had to hurry to catch the tram back to Blackpool, otherwise I would have liked to take a look around.

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It has been a long but interesting walk – always nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Distance: 13 miles

Carnforth to Morecambe 20.4.17

Having laid Damian’s mother to rest in the Highlands of Scotland we head south to Lancashire to visit my sister and family. On the way we have just enough time to fit in a short walk starting in Carnforth railway station, famous for David Lean’s romantic drama Brief Encounter, a British film set in the 40’s and based on Noel Coward’s play Still Life.

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We walk north out of the station, turning left to follow the River Keer to join the Lancashire Coast Path.

The marshes to the right stretch out for miles and the path sometimes disappears, forcing us to navigate through soft ground and rocks.

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It is overcast and the air is still but the quiffed vegetation leaves in no doubt the strength of the prevailing wind when it does blow.

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After a few miles of crunching through marine litter and hopping over pools and streams ………..IMG_2595

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…….we see the welcoming sign of a teashop in the distance.

Red bank Farm is supplementing its income with a cafe, farm shop and collection of farm animals to entertain the children from the nearby campsite. The giant rabbits are a huge draw.

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Dragging Damian away from the goats, we stop for a moment’s reflection on the life of an eel. The information board describes the devices put in place around Morecambe Bay to help young eels (elvers) negotiate the existing tidal gates which, it was discovered, were preventing the elver migrating upstream to mature. This rite of passage was essential for their later return journey to the Sargasso Sea as grown up eels. The Sargasso Sea, I later find out is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded by four currents, that together form a circulating ocean stream called a gyre. Despite all this activity the sea is unusually calm and famous for the deep blue colour and exceptional clarity of its waters.

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From here we decide to leave the shore and walk along the sands but we soon find ourselves trudging through horrible black sticky mud as we approach Morecambe. Climbing up onto the road we pass the mother and child sculpture (its real name is Venus and Cupid) that was created to honour the memory of the 24 cocklers who lost their lives in 2004 in Morecambe Bay. The physical impossibility of the posture makes my stomach muscles ache.

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From now on its a long boring tramp into Morecambe and when we finally arrive, both of us cannot wait to get out. I can honestly say that despite the grandeur of the views across the bay, I have never experienced such an ugly, run down, depressing place in my life and quite understand why Eric Morecambe feels the need to force a smile.

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However, there were obviously times when life in Morecambe was more appealing………

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Eventually we get the train back to Carnforth and cheer ourselves up with a look around the railway museum.

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……and have a go at playing star-crossed lovers – didn’t really work.

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Distance: 7 miles

Scarborough to Ravenscar 14.4.17

Scarborough is a surprise! Grand hotels, a castle, donkey rides, a funicular, fish and chips on the seafront, amusement arcades and a miniature railway – everything you need for a seaside holiday and today the sun is trying to shine.

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We set out from our more modest accommodation to roll down the hill to the South Bay seafront. We stop to say hello to the donkeys, standing in a resigned line on the beach.

IMG_2465IMG_2467From here the path leads us past the harbour, around Castle Cliff and on to North Bay,

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where we come across this dour gentleman …………………….Freddie Gilroy.

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This giant steel structure “Freddie Gilroy and the Belsen Stragglers”, was made by Ray Lonsdale, an artist and sculptor from Durham, but is now on permanent display in Scarborough thanks to the generosity of a local resident. The sculpture is based on a retired miner Lonsdale became friends with, who turned out to be one of the first soldiers to relieve the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of World War II.

We read that “this piece of art is not just about Freddie Gilroy but represents all the normal people that were pulled out of an ordinary life and forced into a very extraordinary and dangerous one during the World Wars.” It is a very powerful piece.

From here the path leads up onto the cliffs and we finally leave Scarborough behind. On our right is the promontory of Scalby Ness – the signposts tell us that we are on the Cleveland Way.

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From here the path rolls on over the cliffs past fields of bright yellow rapeseed. The colour almost stings my eyes but the honeyed, musky smell is heavenly.

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A mile or so up the path a couple join us, presumably from a carpark off to the left, which I can see on the map. They have no bags, the man is wearing a suit and despite her dress and kitten heels, his companion is almost skipping along the path. I find myself wondering how far they were intending to go, as according to the map there seem to be no tracks off the path for quite a while. Anyway, we follow them at a distance until they suddenly disappear from view – no idea where or how.

By the time we reach Hayburn Wyke I am getting tired and hungry and in need of a cup of tea. Unfortunately, there seems to be no friendly hostelry in the area so we make do with a rest, a banana and a piece of chocolate.

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It’s a relief to escape the onshore wind into the quiet hush of this lovely patch of woodland – bunches of primroses decorate the path.

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……and here I am decorating the landscape.

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But we dilly dally too long in the wood and a brief consultation of the map and iPhone reveals that we have far longer to go than we thought – it looks like we will not make Robin Hood’s Bay today. Ravenscar is only 2 miles short but my very muddy boots will not take me any further than a pint in the Raven Hall Hotel.

Distance: 11 miles

Angle Point to Pembroke 1.1.17

Angle Point, on the first day of 2017 is wet, grey and cold – but it is January after all………

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As we step out of the car the wind picks up and pushes us firmly down the path running along the expanse of mud and sand that makes up Angle Bay. It starts to rain, heavily, and for the umpteenth time I find myself thinking “What the hell are you doing this for? ” But I always come back for more.

Across the bay is the oil refinery, so wonderfully lit up last night…………

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At one point the path leaves the estuary and runs through fields of sodden vegetables –  inspired by his Danish Christmas dinner, Damian decides to help himself to a red cabbage.

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The path curves round in front of the massive brooding structures of the oil refinery.  On the tarmac some brave souls are setting up for a spot of wind surfing  – I can think of nicer places to do it.

We are now walking on a narrow tarmac road leading to Popton Point with its Victorian stone fort built to protect the industries of Milford Haven. It is now owned by Texaco and closed to the public. A long jetty extends out into the estuary where a couple of large ships are docked.

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We follow the Welsh Coast Path signs off right, round the back of the oil refinery and through a pleasant stretch of woodland which allows us glimpses of moored ships.

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Leaving the power station at Pwllcrochan behind we find ourselves walking through the middle of a farmyard. Battered caravans, wrecked cars and rusty agricultural machinery are strewn around the yard and it is eerily quiet. I keep expecting a wild man with his mad dog to rush out and demand to know what we’re doing – it’s all a bit Deliverance.

Eventually, after a few dead ends and tense discussions Damian finds a battered sign pointing to the path – thank goodness.

From now on there are no photos as it starts to rain and anyway the path is on the road for a while until we turn off left back to the coast, past the sewage works and back on to the road that takes us through Monkton and into Pembroke. Not the best walk of my life.

Distance: 14 miles