Right outside my window the Cawsand ferry awaits in the morning mist – I walk down the ramp in a gentle drizzle.The Barbican looks menacing on this grey day and the sight of the two ferrymen bent over the engine of the small boat is a bit of a worry.….but all is well, the ferry leaves on time and we soon leave Plymouth behind.I am the only passenger so I find a dry place to sit on a bench just inside the cabin. As we leave the shelter of the harbour the sea gets choppy and when I stand up to take a photo of Drake’s Island I nearly lose my balance. Not wanting to embarrass myself in front of the two young men manning the boat, I identify a good handhold and hang on trying to look as unmoved as possible by the rocking of the boat. Eventually I sit down and watch one of the men calmly swabbing the decks, perfectly poised against the rolling of the waves. The crossing takes 30 minutes and as we approach Cawsand I notice one of the men starting to take off his trousers – I look pointedly in the other direction. When I turn round I see he has changed into swimming shorts and is standing at the front of the boat ready to jump off into the shallows, run up the beach and fetch the metal passenger ramp. Two seconds later I hear a moan of dismay as he realises that just where he is planning to hop off there is a deep hole in the seabed. There is no way around it so he jumps and wades in, up to his knees in cold water – the captain chuckles.
Leaving the ferry behind I walk up into the village looking for a shop as I know there will not be many watering holes for a while. I pass some very pretty houses a lot of them painted in the fashionable muted colours of the middle classes – even the public toilets are decorated with vases of dried flowers and prints on the walls.The path out of the village winds up through some lovely woodland and as I stand deliberating at a fork in the road two young girls come bouncing past and put me on the right track to Rame Head.At one point I pass a huge stone with patterns inscribed on its surface, which puts me in mind of the modern runic stones of Christiania where I used to live. And a little later it all goes horribly wrong……..I have no idea how it happened and I’m not going to blame it on the German family who gave me directions, but all of a sudden I realise that I have strayed from the coast path and am now on a minor road which would cut out Rame Head altogether. I stand at a crossroads, undecided, my iPhone has no service so I can’t track my position and the paper map is not precise enough. So I follow my nose and backtrack up the tarmac to another crossroads, where I take what I feel is a road in the right direction. All of this has wasted a lot of time and the mist has got thicker, compounding my sense of disorientation.
I eventually arrive at the look out station on Rame Head and pop my head in to ask how to pick up the path again. A friendly looking Scotsman answers my query with a twinkle in his eye “The path, och aye that’s just over there” he says, pointing towards a bank of thick fog. I am not convinced until he takes me a few steps forward and tries to get me to see the outline of a stone wall in the distance, adding that I’d be alright if I just kept to the left of it. What to do? I set off with my heart in my mouth, his parting remark ringing in my ears “Not too many cliffs to fall over that way” Ha ha.
From now on there will be very few photos, the rain starts in earnest and although I can hear the sea I can’t see it, in fact I can’t see further than fifty yards ahead of me. On I go following the narrow path which twists and turns, through prickly bushes and dripping ferns. I try singing to keep my spirits up, but as I was planning to learn the words for our choir’s concert when I came back from walking, I content myself with some humming.
Eventually the path leads up to the road and as I am in dire need of sustenance I decide to abandon the path and walk along the road to the next village where I am sure there will be somewhere for a cup of tea. Just in front of me a couple cross the road to their car and offer me a lift – I decline “I’m afraid it’s not in the rules” – they laugh. A minute later they pass me, slow down and ask me again and when I explain that I was hoping to get to Freathy for lunch they laugh again, point to a narrow opening on the other side of the road with a sign pointing down the bank. “There’s your pitstop right behind you” says the woman with a friendly smile – I had not seen the sign in the mist and rain.
And here it is, the wonderful Cliff Top Cafe on a sunny day……. I walk gratefully into the steaming fug of the wooden building, peel off my sodden clothes and order scrambled eggs on toast with a mug of tea – heaven.
It does not take long for my clothes to dry so I soon drag myself away from the warm sanctuary and go out into the rain again. This time I take the path which takes me past small enclaves of wooden summerhouses that fringe Whitsand Bay – just like the ones in Denmark.Here they are – The Whitsanders – I want to be one………………………..A little later the path dips down to the left and I am faced with the entrance to Tregantle Fort which can only be accessed at weekends and public holidays, according to the Internet. Today is Tuesday but I see no red flag flying and after a bit of deliberation I decide to chance it – surely nobody can shoot in this weather?
Walking down the tarmac road I do not see the fort until it looms up out of the mist to the right of me. There is an eerie silence, the only sound is that of my boots hitting the tarmac, the deep set windows like eyes following my progress. The road then crosses a wide open meadow bordered with signs bearing stern warnings not to stray from the path.Coming out of MOD territory the landscape opens up and I get to see the sea again, sharp, jagged rocks are lined up on the beach like ships ready to do battle. The rest of the walk is gentle, the grassy path eventually crossing a golf course and then a steep road down into Periwinkle. I am still very damp and the rain today has confirmed that my leather boots of six years standing have now reached the end of their days. I am really looking forward to a hot bath and I hope the weather will be better tomorrow.
Distance: 11 miles