Newquay to Perranporth 19.7.17

It is very overcast as I head up through the town towards Towan Head and Fistral Beach, one of Newquay’s many beaches.

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Here, the surfers are already out – two things catch my attention – this jolly shower and an inscription on a bench.

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There are steps on the other side of the beach which take me up the cliff – I look down on a  series of rock pools fringed with algae – they remind me of rock oysters.

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Up on top I head west through an area called Pentire where I am told I can find a ferry to take me across the River Gannel which runs through Crantock Beach.

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I am looking forward to a short trip in a boat but as it happens, when I climb down the concrete steps to the landing stage I see that the tide is so far out that there is no need for a ferry – I can just walk down the boardwalk and across the sand.

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This is the boat I could have taken otherwise……..

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And these are the houses and gardens clinging to the cliff above the river……………………

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At the other end of Crantock beach, a lifeguard directs me to the coastal path and I walk up onto the cliffs following a sign to Holywell Beach.IMG_3352

From here the landscape flattens out, the path running through an area of sand dunes and round a bay known as Porth Joke (for some reason)

 

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On the other side of the bay the path narrows again, taking me up to Kelsey Head, from where the elegant sweep of Holywell Beach can be seen fading into the distance.

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Here, instead of walking on the sand I decide to stick to the path marked on the map, which takes me through the sand dunes behind the beach. It’s not that I enjoy trudging through loose sand, it’s just I am often not sure whether I can later get back up on the cliffs again.

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A while later I am back on firm ground, heading towards Penhale Camp – I walk past some strange structures with warnings about non-ionising radiation – I walk a bit faster.

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They are obviously military as I am now moving past the camp. I always find it eerie walking past/through deserted military areas and this one is no exception.

IMG_3371The path allows me to walk close to the perimeter fence and I peer in but despite two parked cars I see no signs of life.

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Relieved to be out of the military zone I am surprised to catch sight of a beautifully restored stone cottage, perched on a hill off to the left.

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It sits uncomfortably with the camp below it, although from the top windows on the other side the view over Perran Beach must be stunning.

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There are also signs of building activity on the ruin next door………………

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I sit on a bench nearby, retrieve a battered sandwich and contemplate the gorgeous view.

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After this short rest I consult the map which seems to indicate that the official coast path  runs either on the beach or through the dunes behind. I know the tide is coming in but have no idea how far up it will come or whether I will be able to get back up onto the cliffs at the end of the beach (you may perhaps have heard this before?)

I decide to walk down onto the beach, take a photo of a pretty little cave and then change my mind and walk back the track again!

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Fortunately, as I stand “humming and harring” I hear the noise of an engine and turning round I see a lifeguard on a four wheeled motorbike racing up the beach. Like a real damsel in distress I wave and he screeches to a halt, gets off the bike, takes off his helmet and strolls over the sand towards me. My knight in armour turns out to be a super friendly Aussie who puts me on the right track, telling me that the tide will not get any higher and that there are metal stairs at the other end of the beach to take me up onto the cliff. Before I get time to take a proper photo, he is back on his bike and taking off down the beach.

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Relieved, I take off my boots and socks and start walking close to the sea where the sand is dampest. At regular intervals clouds of sand flies swarm around washed up jelly fish, frantically burying themselves in the sand when they sense my approach. I test the reaction several times as I walk, enjoying the onset of furious activity and then the calm as they hide themselves from me.

I also enjoy the sudden sighting of  group of sanderlings scuttling along by the water’s edge, reminding me of the Norfolk beaches where I saw them first.

 

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Eventually, I reach the metal spiral staircase next to the lifeguard station at the end of the beach. I love the sign……

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From the top of the cliff I can see Perranporth, which really doesn’t look any better than when I saw it last, but at least I now know where the bus stop is to take me back to Newquay. It has been a wonderful walk.

Distance: 12 miles

NB – to any readers – if you want to see the map that always comes at the end of a blog post, you need to click on the link at the bottom of the page which will open the post in a browser and there you can see it.

 

 

 

 

 

Portreath to Perranporth 18.6.17

It is another beautiful day in Cornwall as I climb high above Portreath in the direction of the lighthouse on the hill.

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A little later the sign on the fence makes me smile – “Keep to the Footpath” and what do people do? They create their own footpath, which bypasses the gate.

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I have seen this “subversive” behaviour many times on my walks and even in our very own Brockwell Park, where people have made their own executive decisions about which way to walk – and others follow.

I am now entering an area which once was an airbase, later the site of a chemicals plant and now empty apart from a remote radar head protected by a golfball dome. At one point in the 1950’s the nerve gas Sarin was produced here and the story goes that several people who worked here later died as a result of exposure to the gas.

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A concrete bunker provides a chaffinch (?) with somewhere to perch and enjoy the morning sunshine.

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………and enthusiastic graffiti artists have even reached here…….

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Unlike yesterday, from here on there are quite a few steep ascents and descents……….

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……until just before Porthtowan I am rewarded with a long flat stretch running past a huge chimney and several disused industrial buildings, one of which has been restored (minus the roof) using a lovely creamy concrete  – it reminds me of buildings I’ve seen in Morocco and Oman.

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I later discover that it dates from the 1920’s and was used as the counting house for the Wheal Tye tin mines. A little further down the track I see a strange construction which I  find out later has been built to mark the entrance to a mine shaft and deter any potentially dangerous exploration. Heather and other vegetation will eventually cover these wire pyramids, helping to seal off the shafts.

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Around the next corner the path takes me very close to the edge of the cliffs where looking down I spy something floating in the sea. Not having my long distance glasses on ( I must soon come to terms with those pesky varifocals) I first think it’s a kayak but when I squint, I see it is somebody in a wet suit on a surfboard, way out to sea and all on his/her own. To make matters worse, there is only a rocky inlet at the bottom of the cliffs for him/her to wash up on.

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Parked 50 yards up the track is a motorbike with a surfboard strapped to it and a man standing staring at the surfer down below. “Is he alright?” I ask. The man, without turning to look at me, growls ” Oh yeah, he’s just playing” They are really too cool for school these surfers, I even wonder how he can bear having an L plate on his motorbike.

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So, after all this excitement I feel the need to sit down with a cup of coffee and a cake and fortunately that is just what I find in lovely Porthtowan, where the surfers are supervised and there are life boats on standby.

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Suitably refreshed and armed with a new bottle of suncream I start on the long and winding road up the other side of the bay. it is by now very very hot – I am so glad I remembered to bring my hat.

Even the birds are looking for shade and need it so much that it overcomes their nervousness around human beings. No matter how close I got, this pigeon was not going to move.

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The next beach I come to is called Chapel Porth and here I almost went for a dip, but I find it difficult to leave valuables unattended even in such a seemingly benign spot – I later think I should have asked the lifeguard.

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And up the hill again, past the now familiar landmarks of the copper and tin industry until I get to St. Agnes Head and its lookout station.

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The view from up here is stunning – dramatic cliffs, dark caves, the bright blue sea and in the distance the golden sands of Perranporth which is my destination today.

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……and the colours are just incredible – pink sandstone cliffs like joints of roast beef, set against the milky white limestone and the bright green and purple of the heath.

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Suddenly, out of the blue (as it were) I hear the buzz of an engine – up above me is what I recognise as a microlight, which tells me I must be getting close to Perranporth Airport. I remember gifting a ride in one of these to Damian and him commenting on how loud they are in flight. It is quite noisy for me on the ground so it must be deafening for anyone flying them.

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For quite a long time I have been feeling an irritating stinging sensation from the backs of my legs without realising what it is. My the time I get to Cligga Head my heat locked brain translates the sting into sunburn so I whip out my scarf and tie it round me like a long skirt. Along with the straw hat, the heat and the walking stick, I fall into a reverie which involves myself as an aristocratic British lady visiting the antiquities of the colonies.

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This illusion is then reinforced by the sudden appearance of a young black, bare chested teenage boy in jeans who appears from behind the hill. His head is wrapped in a brightly coloured scarf and as I gawp from a distance, two tousled haired young children of the same ilk appear beside him. They have no bags and the children are wearing flip flops. Where have they come from? And where are they going?

By this time I have no idea where I’m going either as the path suddenly splits into two so approaching the strange little family I ask for directions. The boy tells me that I will have to retrace my steps for a while or take a very steep narrow shortcut off to the left. “I think you’ll be OK going down there” he says, with a trace of doubt in his voice. “I’ll stay and watch in case anything happens” I am touched by his concern but looking at the steep incline, strewn with small stones I back off.  He then walks with me to make sure I take the right path – his children watch me warily. What a strange experience……….

Anyway, off I go, down what turns out to be a very exposed narrow path which slowly winds down to Perranporth.

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From a distance the beach looks lovely but getting closer I see that this is a very popular, very touristic town and that it is about to get worse………….

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Nevertheless I am pleased to find a pub selling ice cold lager and a bus that will (eventually) take me back to Portreath.

Distance: 13 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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