Shepherd’s Port to Thornham 18.10.15

Built in the 1720’s by Britain’s first prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall was passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the eighteenth century. The current owners, Lord and Lady Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), are great fans of the American sculptor James Turrell and his explorations into the effects of light. Damian and I have come to see the Lightscape exhibition on a wet day in October. We are also planning to do a walk along the north Norfolk coast. IMG_1997

In the ornamental gardens is a piece by Jeppe Hein, a Danish artist – a delightful confusion of the senses.

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……..and this is a ha ha – the wiki description is precise enough. “A ha-ha is a recessed landscape design element that creates a vertical barrier whilst preserving an uninterrupted view of the landscape beyond. The design includes a turfed incline which slopes downward to a sharply vertical face, typically a masonry retaining wall”. This is how the lords of the manor could keep cattle from trampling their manicured lawns without erecting a fence which would spoil the view – clever.

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So, we start our walk at a hamlet cum holiday park, just west of Snettisham. A few adjustments need to be made before setting off.

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The landscape is particularly featureless but it is not raining – there are a few people out for a Sunday walk.

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It is not long before we reach Heacham Dam which is a sea defence scheme protecting the marshes from the high tides of the Wash.

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As we get closer to Hunstanton, more protection from the sea becomes apparent……

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……and later a strip of seaside holiday entertainment, all looking a bit end of season.

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As we walk along the sea wall I look out to sea and spot a strange looking craft approaching us. It comes closer and closer and it soon becomes apparent that it is heading for the beach – the penny drops. This one is called the Wash Monster and we have one like it in London, the Duck boat (which burst into flames and sank quite recently, leaving terrified tourists with the only option of jumping into the Thames).

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Further investigation by Damian reveals that this one is an ex-military vehicle manufactured in 1967 for use as a landing craft by American forces in Vietnam. The company has two of these strange creatures offering coastal sea tours around the Wash.

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We are now in Hunstanton where we are entitled to take the car to Old Hunstanton as we had walked the few miles between the two yesterday. Leaving the car in a beach car park we have a quick cup of tea and set off along the beach in the direction of Gore Point.

The sea here is miles away although there are small lagoons beside the path. I notice the prints of horses’ hooves – what a great place to go riding, on this vast stretch of sand. As usual I wonder if I could do it now or whether the stiffness and fear of falling off would dampen my enthusiasm.

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After a while we realise that we are a little lost, soon confirmed by a sign in the dunes.

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So back we go through the dunes until we find the sign leading up to a raised path, running parallel with the golf course. From now on it is easy walking along a boardwalk, through Holme Nature Reserve where we meet quite a few groups of birdwatchers, laden down with their equipment. IMG_2031

The raised path continues through the marshes, past small boats stranded in the mud until we come out onto a tarmac road with a sign pointing towards the Lifeboat Inn. We need no further encouragement – inside there is a roaring fire and real ale.

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Distance: 13 miles

 

 

Llanybri to Laugharne 8.10.15

The first bus of the morning to Llanybri takes me to the crossroads under the stern gaze of a massive electricity pylon. IMG_2629

I have become more interested in these structures ever since reading Alain de Botton’s book entitled “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” and its section on what he sees as their inherent glamour and drama – “In different species, I noted varieties of modesty or arrogance, honesty or shiftiness, and in one 150-kilovolt type in ubiquitous use in southern Finland I even detected a coquettish sexuality in the way the central mast held out a delicate hand to its conductor wire”. Wonderful……

Down the hill I go, to then follow the east bank of the River Taff northwards, passing through a farmyard – silent apart from the alarm calls of a flock of geese and over flat soggy ground into a stretch of woodland.

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The path through the wood is very overgrown, the stiles strangled by ivy and brambles.

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As I come out into the light I walk past this elephantine tree trunk………………………….

IMG_1923Where I’m heading is for a few buildings and church ruins labelled as Pilgrims Rest on the map. It is encouraging to know that I am following in the footsteps of pilgrims on their way to St. Davids, although at that time it was possible to cross the estuary on foot or horseback. When I arrive however, the church has been made into a home and all there is to see are ugly farm buildings. A little disillusioned I follow the coastal signs across fields and meadows until I join a minor road.IMG_2628

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A mile or two up the road a large hedge cutter is intent on a short back and sides – the noise of the engine is deafening.

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Coming to a crossroads I decide not to follow the coastal path but take a short cut  following another footpath sign across some fields. I can see it on the map but it takes a little while to find it, the sign is hidden in the hedge and the stile looks like no-one’s used it for a long time.

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Jumping down from the stile I find myself in deep mud, churned up by the hooves of cows. I wonder whether I should turn back but decide to carry on.

At one point the sign points off to the left down a track but I ignore it and carry on into the next field where I am faced with an electric fence barring my way. By this time I have walked so far it would be foolish to turn back so I take off my rucksack, throw it over the fence and then get down to crawl under the wire – in the mud. On I go through a field of disinterested horses and down through another sea of mud where I can now see the sign for the coast path.

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A little later I come out onto a concrete path under the gaze of a herd of cows and calves who are also having problems with the mud.

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I am now approaching St. Clears, I join the road over the river and head into town. I am  very hungry.

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St. Clears is basically one street with two or three cafes and none of them look inviting. I take a few photographs while making up my mind.

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This strange triptych is in memory of the Rebecca Riots of 1839 -1843 when farmers,  struggling with high rents and poor harvests, came out in protest against local business men who had set up unjustly priced tollgates in the area. Dressed as women and with blackened faces (in an attempt to disguise themselves) they destroyed over a hundred of these gates over the years. The name Rebecca is thought to have come from a passage in the Bible where Rebecca talks of the need to ‘possess the gate of those who hate them’ (Genesis XX1V, Verse 60).

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Eventually I plumb for the local arts and crafts centre and resisting the urge to buy yet more clothes for my granddaughter I settle down to a tomato sandwich and a cake. The sandwich is a great disappointment – three slices of tasteless tomato in white sliced bread, smeared with a thin layer of margarine……sigh.

Anyway, from now on it is tarmac all the way on the A4066. There is fortunately not a lot of traffic but it is still a relentless trudge down the long and winding road. Eventually I come to the turn off which takes me out to the river again (on the opposite side) – I am nearly there.

A beautiful lane, lined with young ash trees slopes gently down to the river – the colour of the soil is African. I meet a few dog walkers on the way down.IMG_1960

…………..and at one point I walk past a lovely homestead with its thriving kitchen garden and through the trees to the left of me three pure white ducks waddle across what must be  a purpose built walkway.

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IMG_2631I then walk through a cool bright wood, over a meadow and down into Laugharne. IMG_2633

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I am so taken by the views of where I have walked from, that I walk right past the Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived with his family for the last four years of his life. It is tucked into the cliff and after retracing my steps I take the stairs down to have a look.

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I don’t stay long as I am worried I will miss the last bus back to Carmarthen but I will be back again for my next leg of my journey. Further down the path is the shed where Wales’s most famous poet and playwright did most of his writing – it has a perfect view out over the estuary from its back window but I can’t explore further as it is being repainted.

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I sit in Browns Hotel, one of his regular watering holes, and some of my favourite lines of his come to mind. It is an extract from “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”.

She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said, “Would you like anything to read?”

Distance: 13 miles

 

 

Llangain to Llanybri 7.10.15

I catch the bus from Carmarthen to Llangain and the bus driver lets me off at the very spot where I gave up last time – wet and miserable with badly fitting boots. Today I have my new, very comfortable boots on and it looks like it’s going to be a lovely day.

The road sign at the bus stop catches my eye. The English translation is Smyrna Road, which funnily enough is also the name of the road outside my part-time home in Copenhagen (Smyrnagade). I can see Smyrna Chapel just up the road and research tells me that Smyrna is the ancient Greek name for Izmir and is mentioned in the Bible. So there you go………

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I set off down the main road but quickly turn up a narrow muddy footpath off to the left. After a few squelchy episodes I come out onto a tarmac lane and continue to follow this for quite a while. Summer flowers have disappeared from the hedgerows but the grass and ferns are still a wild neon green.

IMG_1903………….and at high points where there are gaps in the hedge I can see down to the Towey Estuary.IMG_1904

Further on, a coast path sign leads off to the right but I decide to stay on the main road – it is closer to the coast and there is not a lot of traffic. I walk on, maintaining a steady rhythm and marvelling at how comfortable my feet are. Lost in my thoughts I am startled by the sound of a large dog barking on the other side of the road. I freeze and then quicken my pace, murmuring what I hope are friendly, doggy salutations and refusing to look behind me although I can hear panting. Some way up the road I do turn round and catch sight of a very large poodle (no no……..poodles can be big) about 50 yards away. That was a mistake …..I walk on and suddenly sense its presence behind me followed by a large moist nose thrust into the palm of my hand. I have no time to react before it is bounding ahead of me obviously thinking I’m up for a walk. My relief at its friendliness is quickly supplanted by anxiety as the dog races from one side of the road to the other up ahead of me. I don’t know what to do – the dog is now a safety hazard and I hold my breath as cars have to brake to avoid it and then stare accusingly at me, assuming I am the irresponsible owner.

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Feeling a bit silly I phone the police and talk to a very pleasant woman who wants to know everything bar my bra size and as we talk the dog suddenly disappears from view and does not come back. Whew!

By now I can see the outline of Llansteffan Castle up ahead, which is wonderful, as I am in dire need of a cup of tea.

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Walking in to the village I see a sign for the beach off to the left just in front of a strange, whitewashed building which apparently used to be used to house straying sheep (what about stray dogs? I think to myself)

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Then, following directions from a man on a ladder I carry straight on to the postoffice/cafe/shop which seems to be the beating heart of the community.

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A couple of flushed, sweaty cyclists are sitting inside at one of the two tables so I am invited to take the armchair next to the fire. And tea is served……..

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Coming out of the shop I stop to take a photo of a battered old tin tabernacle on the other side of the road, pleading for renovation.

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Refreshed, I follow a path down towards the beach and turn right in the direction of the castle on the cliffs above. On the other side of the estuary is Ferryside where I was refused entrance to a cafe and stuffed my old raincoat into a dustbin. It seems so long ago……….

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The sand here is very soft, almost mud, but there are firm patches imprinted with fishermens’ footsteps. There are a few dog walkers out, but I am soon alone as I walk towards Wharley Point in the distance.

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IMG_2600I walk round into the next bay where a large house comes into view, standing in splendid isolation just up from the beach. This is St. Anthony’s Well, with its own cottage and what a place to live.

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As it happens I am due to take a closer look as I soon realise that I should have done my tide tables homework – the tide is coming in and I can walk no further.

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It’s a pity but I know that there is a path starting from the house which will take me where I want to go. Back I go……..through a gate, past the house and up into a lovely patch of woodland.

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IMG_2610Coming out of the woodland, the landscape opens up into heathland, the views are stunning.IMG_2611IMG_2613

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The path comes to an end and I join a narrow country lane that takes me through fields, ending up at a few holiday homes called Pentowen. On the other side of the estuary I can Laugharne, the home of Dylan Thomas, and where I will be heading tomorrow.

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Turning off right I cross a few fields and then follow a narrow path through some woods. The path is very overgrown, obviously little used and at one point it disappears completely and all I can see is the logo of the Welsh coast path popping its little head up from the undergrowth.

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A little later I find myself scrabbling up a bank of torn tree roots and crumbling vegetation to reach the stile ahead.

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Up over yet another stile I find myself in a field with no exit as far as I can see. I wander despondently around and then catch sight of the familiar blue and yellow on a post right up in the top right hand corner of the field. Eventually I find myself back on a country lane which takes me all the way to Llanybri.

 

The road leading up to the village is steep and narrow – two or three cars pass me but only just and only if I flatten myself against the hedge. In the middle of the village are the remains of the old Llanybri Chapel with its leaning tower (I must learn something about perspective) and stone clock.

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What is the point of a clock that doesn’t move? I ask myself, as I settle down on a bench beside the chapel in the late afternoon sun. The sign on a tree just up the road seems to answer my question.

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Distance: 13 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentewan to Hemmick Beach 17.9.15

Following directions from a couple of locals I find the narrow opening which leads to the beginning of the coast path – right bang smack next to the entrance to the caravan site. IMG_2555The path runs parallel to the road but is well camouflaged and I can hardly hear the cars. It’s a steep climb for first thing in the morning so when I get to the top I stop to catch my breath and look back at the golden mile which is Pentewan Beach.IMG_2560The path runs off into the distance and at intervals I am warned of the dangers of badger holes – but they are so big and obvious I cannot imagine anyone accidentally putting a foot wrong down one of these.IMG_2556

IMG_2562It is a lovely morning and I make good progress, the cliffs are steep – ridges of sharp rock plummet down to the sea – I feel very small and vulnerable in their presence. IMG_2564In the distance I can see Mevagissey and before long I am looking down onto its busy harbour.IMG_2563

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IMG_2569I will be staying here tonight so I find my BnB, dump a lot of stuff and head to the nearest T-shirt shop – it is now very hot and I am wearing a thermal top with long sleeves!

More suitably attired I walk along the edge of the harbour and up some stone steps on to the road. I then have to follow the road, through Portmellon, until it turns into a grit track. The turn off to the left appears and I am suddenly plunged into a thicket of ferns following a narrow path out to a promontory of land known as Chapel Point. IMG_2571

IMG_2572Out on the rocks sit a cluster of white houses sparkling in the sunshine. One of these is a five bedroomed house up for sale for nearly three million – not surprising, the views from the house must be amazing and down to the right is a sweet little cove with a sandy beach.

Anyway…………

IMG_2575The path from now on is a bit of a roller coaster as it follows the contours of the coast – I am very glad I have my pole with me as my right knee is starting to grumble. I am reminded  of the wonderful line from Baz Luhrman’s 1999 hit “The Sunscreen Song” – “be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone”.

By this time I am very hungry and pleased to see that I am approaching Gorran Haven, an attractive coastal village with a church dedicated to St.Just – an early Christian saint about which not much is known.

IMG_2576I walk down into the village and end up right in front of a beach cafe. There are not too many people about but enough to provide some entertainment while I sit and munch my sandwich – I also discover that I have no signal on my phone.IMG_2578

IMG_2580Climbing out of the village onto the cliffs again I start what is perhaps the wildest stretch of coast walking that I have done so far. The beaches, cliffs and woods stretch out before me with nothing to break the view – it almost makes me feel dizzy. I meet no one on this stretch apart from another woman walking on her own. It’s always a pleasant surprise to meet another lone female – we stop to exchange bits of information about the path.

“Where have you walked from? I ask “Portloe” she replies. “Oh then you must have walked past Caerhays Castle” I say, “How long will it take from here?” With a bit of effort she manages “two hours” with an uncertain uplift at the end of the words. She then asks me how long it would take to get to Mevagissey, I concentrate and then give up –  “two hours” I say with a grin – we both laugh and turn to go. It is sometimes difficult when you’re walking at a regular uninterrupted pace, to keep track of time……..

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At one point I see a large house off to the right, standing guard over the coast – what a place to live……

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This is their view…….anyway……….

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By now the wind is freshening and dark clouds have appeared on the horizon. I am approaching Dodman Point with its iconic cross, erected in 1899 as a guide for shipping. Coming down the path towards me are a couple, a little older than me, who warn me that it is very windy on the point – “bit exposed” says the man. I start to feel a little apprehensive. When someone says “exposed” it takes me back to the few times Damian has managed to get me up a Monroe in Scotland and ended up talking me through some scary moments.

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As it happens, there is no narrow path carved into a vertical cliff face with the prospect of being blown off in a high wind, but it is nevertheless a bit eerie. The large granite cross has an inscription that makes me think it was erected not so much as a navigational aid for shipping but rather for the second coming.

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Coming off the point the wind lessens and after a few dips and climbs I arrive at Hemmick Beach. I am now tired and can see that Caerhays Castle, which is where I am heading, is still two bays away. Another problem is that I have no signal on my phone and have been told that there will be none at the castle. My only hope of calling a taxi is if the beach cafe is open and as I have no signal I cannot check. As I stand on the sand dithering, a family walks by and I ask them whether they know about the beach cafe’s opening hours. We start chatting and they soon come to the conclusion that I should stop my walk and come with them in the car to the Lost Gardens of Heligan, where I can get a cup of tea and a short bus ride to Mevagissey. Again, the kindness of strangers makes me want to cry.

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The Lost Gardens are beautiful but I don’t have enough time to do them justice – here are a few shots. I will come back.

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…..the wonderful Mud Maiden……

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Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polkerris to Pentewan 16.9.15

As is so often the case the coast path has crumbled at Polkerris so I head out of town on a narrow road with no pavements. Fortunately I soon discover a footpath sign peeping up above the hedge and a stile which I cross over into rolling fields. The stile is marked with a Celtic cross, a sign used for the “Saints Way”, a 27 mile path from Padstow to Fowey. From the top of the field I have a great view all the way to Par Sands but after a while I lose sight of the markers and find myself heading down in the general direction of Par but coming up against barbed wire fences. IMG_2506 IMG_2508 After the third twirl around the green I get fed up and start thinking about climbing the fence, but it is pretty high. Suddenly I spy a stretch of wire that has been pushed down – someone who has obviously been in the same dilemma as me. Hoora! I climb over easily and back onto the path.IMG_2509 In the car park at Par Sands, quite a few dogs are milling around barking excitedly -impatient to get onto the beach. This is one of the beaches that is not a hot tourist destination (the next photo tells you why) so they are allowed to run free.  One beautiful greyhound is speeding over the wet sand in all directions chasing flying geese!   IMG_2513 At the end of the beach and in front of the industrial buildings is the river, which I cannot cross, so I am led away off to the right, through some parkland and into the town. At one point a path leads off to the left and I see three swans gliding gently by. When they see me they change direction and move towards the slipway, which makes me think someone must be feeding them. I was a regular feeder of swans as a child – we had a lake in the town I grew up in – but the story goes that one day the swan not only snapped up the piece of stale bread I was so trustingly offering but also a bit of my finger. I cannot remember the incident myself and now there’s no-one to ask. Isn’t that always the way?.IMG_2516 Turning left through the town I walk past the back of the industrial complex at the end of the beach – I am told it is a China Clay works and just before a tunnel is a sign pointing off left to Carlyon.IMG_2517 IMG_2518The lane is narrow, muddy and garnished with piles of dog poo. I walk past silent derelict buildings telling of past glories – it is slightly eerie and I am very pleased when I reach the water again, coming out in front of a timeworn slipway that looks like a beached whale.IMG_2519 IMG_2520 IMG_2521 IMG_2523 At this point I turn right and walk along the edge of a golf course for a looooong time.IMG_2524 At one point I pass a lone fisherman lost in his thoughts ………..IMG_2525 ……..as I am too but at one point I look up and on the horizon I think I see a pyramid! I am to see quite a few of these on my walk today and tomorrow – they are apparently Cornwall’s equivalent of slag heaps, not coal waste but the result of china clay excavations.IMG_2526 Eventually I reach what must be Carlyon Bay, a long stretch of sand now due for development. The bay used to be the site of the Cornwall Coliseum Building, which during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s was a popular venue for concerts, bringing in many of the leading musicians of the time including Procol Harum, Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath and Simple Minds. What a great place for a concert venue – I believe the new plan is to strengthen the sea defences and build holiday lets. Shame…..IMG_2527 IMG_2529 The path now winds along the top of the cliffs, past a lookout station and then down into Charlestown where I will be staying tonight.IMG_2532 Charlestown has a beautiful harbour and some very pretty houses. There are three tall ships in the harbour and quite a lot of German tourists.IMG_2533 IMG_2535 IMG_2536 IMG_2537 IMG_2538 IMG_2540 IMG_2541I check into my hotel, unload half of the contents of my rucksack and treat myself to a cream tea. I then head on up the path and past the ruins of a gun battery, which I don’t stop to investigate.IMG_2543 Below me is Duporth Beach which is one of the UK’s two thousand private beaches. Some of these allow public access as long as you’re not planning a rave, but some definitely do not. Personally I hate the thought of people owning a beach but as always money talks and although there were rumblings in 2006 about strengthening the “right to roam” I haven’t been able to find any information about any other initiatives to prevent wealthy landowners from banning the great unwashed from their beaches.IMG_2544 Up on high are bushes of lace cap hydrangea – a wonderful shade of blue.IMG_2545 ….and then the path dips down some stairs onto another beach where some school children have just finished kayaking. I walk behind them up the road at the other end of the  beach, listening to their excited high pitched voices – I am tired now but their chatter revives my spirits. IMG_2546 ………..and on I go, some steep climbs and toe stubbing descents. IMG_2547 IMG_2548 At one point I climb over a stile into a stretch of woodland – an iron has been tied to one of the posts – why?IMG_2549 Scrambling up a slope in the forest these plants catch my eye as they look so much like a sweet little house plant that I have just discovered the name of – Pilea Peperomioides or Chinese money plant. Cuttings of these plants were brought from China to Norway by Agnar Espegren in 1906 and from there they spread throughout Scandinavia. A gift from a friend in London who didn’t know the name of the plant, I came across it in a flower shop in Copenhagen and the mystery was solved. IMG_1858Eventually I arrive at Black Head, a promontory of land which was the site of an Iron Age fort and then I get a bit lost. My sense of direction leaves me for a while and I find myself heading up the track to the fort, then retracing my steps and taking a narrow path down the side of the cliff and finally realising where I had gone wrong. IMG_1859Back on track I nearly tread on a lovely little caterpillar and then come across a huge mushroom.IMG_1866

IMG_1867And not before time I stumble wearily down through some neat residential gardens and down into Pentewan which has more to offer than a massive spread of caravans. The village has a pond, a decent beach and a pub. it is only 4.30 but people are on holiday and allowed a few pints in the afternoon. The atmosphere is very congenial and I sink gratefully into a corner seat with a pint of Proper Job and wait for my taxi back to Charlestown. IMG_1871

Jawbone says 11 miles

 

 

 

 

 

Fowey to Polkerris 15.9.15

I have left London very early this morning to get to Fowey in time to walk to Polkerris before sunset. My legs take a while to shake off the stiffness of a long train journey but I soon fall into the regular pace of road walking, through Readymoney Cove and up onto the cliffs –  bypassing St. Catherine’s Castle as I am conscious of the late start.IMG_1845After a while the path opens up into rolling green fields – it is not a bad day considering the weather forecast had promised heavy rain showers and gale force winds! I pass through several gates and one leads into a field of cows with a few calves, I avert my eyes and walk quietly past them.IMG_2486There are not many walkers about but I have been conscious of a group of people behind me for a while. A group of three, a man my age, a younger man and a young woman. I have also been aware of the fact that the young man keeps breaking away from the group  and marching ahead, obviously impatient with the pace. I meet these three later in the pub in Polkerris and discover that the young man had run the West Highland Way in 25 hours! It took Damian and I ten days to walk it……..

After a few more quite strenuous climbs I reach Polridmouth Cove and its wonderful “cottage” that is now a summer let. The cottage and boat house are part of the Rashleigh Estate with the grand house “Menabilly” hidden behind woodland a little further inland. This is Du Maurier country, having discovered the house one day when out walking, Daphne asked the Rashleigh family if she could rent it and then lived in it for over 20 years – it is said to be the inspiration for “Manderley” in the novel “Rebecca”.

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IMG_2489During WW2 the beach was mined and the man-made lake was lit up and used as a decoy for Fowey harbour.

A few stepping stones keep the hoi polloi off the neatly trimmed grass………IMG_2490Up on a hill above the cove is a cheery red and white striped tower, a crowd is gathered around the information board and I don’t want to wait but I later find out that it was used for day navigation to distinguish Gribben Head from Dodman Point, a little further down the coast. IMG_2496From now on the path leads me along the top of the cliffs, one kissing gate after another (and no-one to kiss!) through fields and eventually a lovely stretch of woodland. A stone wall catches my eye – I haven’t seen that many where flat stones are placed vertically.IMG_2497……….and then down to the beach at Polkerris which gives me a better welcome than the dogs.  I have made good time and it’s a respectable hour to sit down with a pint.

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Distance: 5 miles

Peterstone Wentlooge to Cardiff Bay 12.9.15

A family event has taken Damian and I to South Wales and there is just enough time for a short walk up the west bank of the Severn Estuary.

For those who are not aware of it, the Severn Estuary has the second highest rising tide in the world (the first is in Canada), a fact that was drummed into me by my father when I was a child. We lived in Penarth and often used to walk across the causeway to Sully Island, making sure that we got back before the tide turned. One day I took my little sister out to the island and for some reason my father’s warnings went unheeded – we had to be rescued by the lifeboat. I was never allowed to forget it……

Anyway, here we are up on the sea wall opposite a little village called Peterstone Wentlooge, approximately half way between Newport and Cardiff. The weather looks unreliable and indeed as soon as we start walking a sudden squall sends me scrambling for my waterproofs, but it doesn’t last long. IMG_1798The walk is straightforward, we pass fields of riding school horses on our right and to our left the quagmire of the estuary. IMG_1811After a mile or two a sign brings us up short, sending us off to the right. This deviation is to allow for flood defence work on the sea wall – there are diggers and cranes remoulding  the bank.IMG_1800The deviation takes us past another field of horses where Damian stops for a chat.IMG_1803We follow the path around the edge of a few fields, over a newly constructed bridge and then back onto the sea bank. IMG_1808On the way we pass large areas of rushes, their purple fronds shimmer as they sway in the wind. IMG_1809

IMG_1812We walk for a while on the breakwater and then turn off left on to a path which follows the east bank of a small inlet. The sun comes out, a couple of swans glide silently past – it is very peaceful.IMG_1815 IMG_1842We come across knots of people blackberrying – one of my mother’s favourite pursuits.

Coming to the end of the water we are forced to turn on to the very busy A4232 but thankfully not for long. A path leads off to the left and up the side of the Rhymney River – another low tide mudscape.IMG_1817 A lone horse stands tethered, and then another – the small one doesn’t really have such short legs, the photo was taken from above looking down.IMG_1819

IMG_1820They look like gypsy horses put out to graze and true to form we soon find ourselves stumbling over piles of rubbish and metal on blackened burnt out ground – there is an ominous barking of angry dogs. As we creep past past the motley collection of mobile homes and caravans we find out that it is not only the dogs who are angry. A terrific crash sends an enclosure full of grubby geese a’squawking and a tirade of angry abuse rings out across the encampment, swiftly followed by a women’s voice screeching in retaliation. We scuttle past, coming face to face with a disgruntled bulldog, (on a chain fortunately) and then up a steep bank and away. Not a pleasant experience.

The next part of the walk is a wonderful antidote. Some effort has been made to landscape the area encircling a water treatment plant. Rows of buddleia have been planted and there are a couple of information boards. Bushes with tight clusters of bright orange berries line the path – any ideas? Not for eating methinks.IMG_1823Gradually industrial buildings and machinery begin to dominate and soon there is nothing but cars and tarmac. We follow the road on a wide pavement through quite a pleasant  area of light industry up through East Moors and on to Atlantic Wharf where a few boys are fishing in the stagnant water.IMG_1825

IMG_1827………..and my new boots are not hurting my feet!

Distance: 8 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carmarthen to Llangain 25.8.15

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I wake up to a much nicer day and head down to the footbridge with the coracle memorial.  Closer up I see that it was put up in memory of a young boy, Cameron Comey, who was swept away by the river last February. Ribbons and football shirts adorn the railings – it’s all a bit sad.

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Retracing my steps past the fiery Welsh dragon at the other end, I follow the path that runs alongside the river on the west bank, under a road bridge and later a striking rail bridge defaced by the usual mindless tags.

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After the bridge the landscape opens up into a stretch of parkland where I see horses grazing freely. I watch a man and his fretting dog walk through them with no trouble so I steel myself to do the same. When I was a child my parents arranged to look after pony trekking horses over the winter, so for two years running I spent all my free time riding and taking care of them. At that time I knew my horses well and was almost never nervous but strange horses are different.  IMG_2475

I walk quickly past the horses and although the small white one starts to follow me, he soon gives up and goes back to grazing. I walk on, meeting no-one on the path, until it ends in a metal gate and the back wall of a leisure centre.

Sadly, even after such a short walk, my new cheap boots have given me a blister. I cannot believe my feet and I have no plasters left. Trying not to lose heart I drop in to the leisure centre and ask for a plaster – the lovely girl I talk to rushes off to get one.

Setting off again I follow the ambiguous Welsh coast path sign the wrong way and end up having to clamber over a five bar gate with a big private sign on it – but at least I am now on the right road to Llangain. From now on the walking is on the main road and pretty unpleasant it is. At one point I nearly get run over trying to avoid two huge noisy Alsatian dogs hemmed in by a none too high fence at the side of the road. As I pass they repeatedly hurl themselves at the wire fence – it should not be allowed……

Eventually, when the barking dogs were out of earshot I catch sight of a footpath sign off to the right – this is not marked as the coast path but I am so desperate to get off the road I climb over the stile and into a lovely patch of woodland. The welly sign is a warning of mud ahead but I really don’t care …… IMG_2477

The silence of the wood soothes my ears, still ringing from the sound of cars roaring past at  fifty miles an hour and I am pleased to see that a very thoughtful person has laid out a raised wooden walkway to keep us out of the worst of the muddy ground.IMG_2478

Soon the path rises steeply and coming to an unmarked crossroads I am lucky enough to run into a young man who gives me directions. Coming out of the wood I walk down a wide grassy area and am immediately accosted by an overfriendly pit bull, who despite feeble protestations from his owner, jumps up at me leaving traces of mud and slobber all over the front of my trousers – nice. Muttering silent oaths I come out onto a main road which I follow until the coast path sign becomes apparent on the right hand side of the road.

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I jump over the stile and down into a dank forest – I walk gingerly downwards on the muddy path, it is very peaceful. At the bottom there is a hand carved bench where I stop to investigate the blisters.

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I am by now quite tired and it is starting to look like rain again. Out of the wood the path directs me into a field where over in the top left corner is a herd of cows which look up expectantly as I walk towards them. Not only is it a herd of cows (and bullocks) there is also a huge brown bull with a ring in his nose – I grant him a second’s worth of appreciation for his strong shoulders and tight blond curls before the anxiety kicks in. Fortunately for my nerves I can see that the herd is hemmed in by an electric fence (far too low in my opinion!)  although some of the bullocks are playing “see how far I can go without getting a shock” – some of them do and then bound way snorting indignantly. I stride past the herd, trying not to run, and mercifully quickly the stile appears. By the time I have gathered my wits to take a photograph, the herd has gathered around the bull obscuring my view.

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On the other side of the fence is a pretty grey pony munching away at tree foliage – I take a moment to have a chat and calm down.

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And then the rain starts in earnest – I scrabble around for my rainwear, wobble around for  a while trying to get it on and then walk up the road to Llangain church. Thinking I might find shelter in the church I try the door but it’s locked, so after fifteen minutes of road walking I squelch into the bus shelter on the main road from LLangain to Carmarthen. The timetable says a bus in 20 minutes – it doesn’t take long for me to decide to call it a day, go back to the hotel and curl up with a good book. Tomorrow is another day……

Distance: 5 miles

Kidwelly to Carmarthen 24.8.15

What follows is one and a half days of pain and frustration caused by rain, new boots, menacing cattle and nasty dogs.

The friendly taxi driver and his wife drop me in Kidwelly outside the sparsely stocked village shop. It is pouring with rain. Taking advantage of the shelter in the shop I pull on my waterproof jacket and trousers and take all the necessary precautions for walking in the rain. iPhone and camera are put into small plastic bags and tucked deeply into my rucksack along with the sandwich and chocolate. I stare gloomily out of the glass door, it is not going to get better, might as well get on with it.

Following directions I head up the hill on the road to Ferryside, there are no photos, I dare not take out my camera. After a mile or two the road forks and I head down to the left which takes me closer to the mouth of the River Towey – the Welsh coast path veers off inland but I decide to take the minor road closer to the water. At one point the view opens up and the rain gets lighter – I stop to take a photo across the marshland to my left.IMG_1664 I now follow the tarmac road for quite a while giving me plenty of time to notice the “hot spots” developing on my left foot. I have spanking new boots on, their maiden voyage and they are starting to give me jip. Pretending not to notice the pain, I stride purposefully onwards, “they have to give at some point”, I reason miserably, “they were fine in the shop”………………

The narrow road winds on, I mince from the left to the right hand side of the road, trying to avoid being run over by the surprisingly heavy traffic on this grey Monday morning. Where are they all coming and going from? I soon have my answer.

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I am by now limping so I force myself to sit down on the wet verge and find the blister plasters. These work for a while……….and then not………..and then it starts to rain again.

By the time I get to Ferryside station (where there used to be a ferry over the river) my “waterproof jacket” of 6 years standing has sealed its own fate and my boots are going back to the shop. Dripping from all surfaces I burst into the railway cafe to get a cup of tea only to be turned away as they are too busy to serve people who just want drinks – I summon my best withering look and hobble out the door. Fortunately I spy a pub on the other side of the road which though closed, the landlady takes pity on me and lets me in to a small bar where some locals are quietly breaking the law over a few pints – she makes me tea.

Ferryside developed from being a landing stage on a ferry route to a fishing village and does in fact have a sandy beach. I am not in a position to go exploring and this is the only shot I get before catching the train to Carmarthen to go and sort out some new boots and a new jacket – I leave the old one in a dustbin on the platform – what a pitiful end for an old friend.

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It is too early to give up my walk so after a rapid cull of the two outdoor shops in Carmarthen, which leave a few sales assistants blinking nervously in my wake, I manage to find a jacket on sale and a cheap pair of boots. Suitably armoured I head back to the railway station and after 20 minutes find myself in Ferryside again from where I follow a path next to the railway line until it branches off to the right, winding through fields and past isolated farms. By now the sun has come out and although the new boots are heavy and too big, at least they are not pinching. I settle down into an easy pace on the tarmac but the peace is soon to be broken.

Rounding a corner I am pulled up by the sight and sound of three golden retrievers and a small terrier running directly at me barking furiously. I freeze inside but then notice that the retrievers are wagging their tails – I try the “good boy, I’m not at all frightened approach” and it seems to work for them but the terrier is not having any of it. It continues to bark at me, running round me in ever decreasing circles, I raise my walking pole as if to hit it and to my relief it scuttles off and I take the opportunity to turn up a side track and walk rapidly away from the scene, my heart beating furiously.

When I have recovered from the incident I am pleased to see that my deviation is not serious and that I will soon be on the right track again. It is now late afternoon and the light throws long shadows – the landscape looks like it could have been made of fuzzy felt.

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Eventually I arrive in the pretty village of Croesyceliog where the bus shelter catches my eye.

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……….and not too long afterwards I arrive in Carmarthen, past the station and over the bridge. Halfway across is a memorial coracle to a young boy swept away by the river – I will investigate tomorrow, my feet are still hurting.IMG_1686

Distance: 13 miles

Talland Bay to Fowey 16.7.15

My taxi drops me at Talland Bay where I finished yesterday and I head up the path which rises steeply up onto the cliffs. Both my boots and I are praying that it will not rain today as the cracks in the leather are now widening – it is misty at the moment but will clear up later I hope. After a couple of miles the path starts winding down and a pretty little village comes into view. This is Pollperro, which sounds Italian rather than Cornish and in fact it could be anywhere judging by the languages I hear spoken in its streets. This is the entrance to the cove where it looks like some lucky person is having a house built.IMG_2434…..and here is the village…IMG_2439IMG_2437As I walk down the steep narrow street into the village it dawns on me that every other house I walk past is a summer let and closed and shuttered at that. The atmosphere is eerie, tourists laden with cameras stroll quietly, almost reverently, through the streets, necks craned to catch the sights, staring into the windows of small shops selling fudge and pasties – it’s all rather cheerless. I see no-one recognisable as a local.

As I peer round corners trying to spot signs for the path I am accosted by two cheery chaps from somewhere up north who ask first if I know where the path is, then whether I was intending to walk on it and lastly whether I was walking alone – their loud strongly accented voices bounce off the stone walls of the village square making heads turn in our direction. With as much politeness as I can muster I reply in the negative to the first question and make short work of the last two. “You know it’s pretty hard going from now on, don’t you?” one of them says – is he offering me a piggy back? I think. Anyway, I let them go, waiting for 10 minutes to make sure they are well ahead of me – I’m not generally Miss Misanthrope but I do like to walk on my own.IMG_2443So, finding the path hidden behind a small house I climb back up onto the cliffs again and follow the path as it dips up, down and around the curves of the coast. IMG_2445There are indeed some very steep climbs which leave me gasping but none as trying as those just after Durdle Door on that fateful day when I twisted my ankle.

At one point I walk past what looks like a chimney from far away but as I get closer I realise it has no recognisable features – no hole at the top, no windows, no plaque. I have since looked it up and discovered that it was used as a navigation aid for sailors (and smugglers no doubt as by the mid eighteenth century 50-60% of all alcohol consumed had been illegally brought in by ship via the Devonshire and Cornish coast.)IMG_2447Up until this point the path has been quite well marked but here I am faced with a choice of down or up. I decide to take what looks like the easy option (usually not the best idea) but after 10 minutes walking it peters out into grass and stone and I can see no way forward. Turning around I see a woman of my age and her daughter stopped and hesitating behind me and I realise that they probably thought I knew the way. We stop to talk – they are German and the mother looks exhausted. Her daughter on the other hand is bright as a button and sets the pace back to the fork and on up into the craggy stones. I follow, keeping a respectable distance, but have to keep stopping as Mutter seems to be having trouble keeping up. IMG_2452Round the next bend I am treated to the most wonderful view of Lantivet Bay, which from up here looks like a tropical beach.IMG_2453It is now very hot and I am sorely tempted to go for a swim despite the thought of the long heave back up to the path. As I stand deliberating a man and his family squeeze past me and ask whether I’m thinking of going down to the beach. I tell them why I am in two minds but he manages to persuade me and 10 minutes later I am being tossed around in what turns out to be quite chilly water on what also turns out to be quite a stoney beach – how deceptive appearances can be. Despite these slight disappointments the swim is  invigorating and I give myself 15 minutes to dry off and enjoy the sun – I also make a friend.IMG_1510Back up on the cliff top it doesn’t take long before I see signs of civilisation – the outskirts of Polruan – what a view the people who own this house have.IMG_2458Walking down into the village I suddenly become aware of a rustling in the bushes to the left of me – a rabbit is sat there calmy nibbling away at the grass. It looks a little battered and I suppose it must be poorly as it makes no attempt to run away…….do we still have rabbits with myxomatosis? IMG_2457Anyway, I leave it alone and continue down into the village where I can get a ferry over the river to Fowey.IMG_2459Polruan feels like an authentic Cornish town, it has a working dock and solid buildings – there are also a lot more Cornish accents to be heard. I pop into the local pub for a swift half while waiting for the ferry and am tempted to ask the publican what type of steroids he was using for his window boxes. IMG_1514The ferry arrives and as we leave to cross the river we pass a beautiful wooden sailing ship. IMG_2466

IMG_2462Halfway across, another traditional looking sailing boat crosses our path – someone is suspended from the front mast. Research tells me that this is a boat owned by a company that offers sailing holidays. It is called a pilot cutter and I think the mast extended from the front is called a bowsprit. The trip is from Brixham to Fowey and is open to beginners…..I wonder. IMG_2468I check into a pub in the harbour and later eat the best scallops I have ever tasted – a fitting end to three days walking.

Distance: 10 miles