The weather forecast is promising blue skies and sun and it is already hot at 9.30 as I set off from Swanpool Beach in Falmouth – I wish I had remembered my shorts.
I walk up the hill until I reach the turning off left for the coast path – after a while Maenporth comes into view and I am soon down on the beach.
I walk through the troughs made by some heavy vehicle that has ploughed circular shapes into the sand, I wonder why….
On the way up onto the cliff again these rhubarb like plants catch my eye – they have hairy stems which I think can cause rashes on contact with skin (when the sun’s out!). Their cone like flowers are also impressive.
And the sun is now seriously out and I feel the need for a hat and sun cream, neither of which I thought necessary when I was packing. It is a relief to follow the path down and though a patch of woodland with some strangely tortured trees – twenty minutes of welcome shade.
The path then opens up to fields basking in the sun – I am approaching a village called Mawnan, a little way inland – it has a church and its very own Parson’s Beach.
By now I am in need of a cup of tea and a rest, so I am very pleased to reach Durgan where I find a former fish cellar owned by the National Trust, selling ice-cream and tea.
Inside the stone building it is lovely and cool – I sit, change my socks and spend 10 mins or so reading about how Cornish fishermen fished for pilchards. This is what I learnt:
The traditional way of harvesting was seine fishing. A lookout was kept from cliff tops by “huers” who, on sighting the pilchard shoals, would signal by crying ‘hevva’ through a trumpet-shaped megaphone. They would use disturbance on the sea surface and the behaviour of gannets as indicators of the presence of a shoal. The huers would then guide the boats to the shoal by semaphore and provide instruction on where to set the net to entrap it. A boat with three crew members would ‘shoot’ a huge net that could be up to 400 yards long. It had corks at the top and weights at the bottom to form a vertical wall around the shoal.
I find myself wondering if “hue and cry” derives from the name for these lookouts and when, if ever, we could expect to see pilchards on fashionable menus.
I set off up the hill, ignoring the “coast path closed” sign as I had been advised. The path winds up through woodland
………………..past an entrance to Glendurgan Gardens which apparently has a large selection of Epiphytic plants that don’t need soil to grow in, taking the moisture and nutrients they need from rain and the air around them.I would have liked to have alook around but there is a ferry timetable hanging over my head.
As I climb upwards I keep expecting a diversion sign saying that the coast path is closed due to coastal erosion but I see none and everyone I ask tells me that there are no problems with the path ahead – oh well………this is England after all, where it never pays to take information as given.
The walk next to the Helford River is easy and I soon reach the Ferryboat Inn at Helford Passage. The place is crowded, people sitting outside enjoying the sun and I am pleased to find a kiosk on the bank selling tickets.
……………..and it doesn’t take long for the ferry to arrive, complete with two German walkers bearing rucksacks twice the size of mine.
On the other side is the hamlet of Helford where I am hoping to find a sandwich and a drink.
After 10 minutes of research my only bet is the pub, a beautifully restored Cornish hostelry. I give myself 30 minutes to eat an anchovy and feta salad and eavesdrop on a “Noo Yawk” writer and her publisher discussing the the themes of her new book.
I take a photo through the porthole window in one of the pub doors……………………..
Leaving the pub I walk through the village, across a bridge over a ford and walk east alongside the estuary. On the way I pass a sign saying that I am now entering the Bosahan Estate – I love the “free range children”.
Next to the sign is a wooden box on a pole showcasing collections of shells and other indefinable objects in glass bottles – plus a wicker “honesty bowl”. Could the bottles have been found in the river?
I walk on, it is getting late and I have another stretch of water to cross………………………
Just round the corner is an exquisite little cove – Bosahan Cove, wish I could dally.
I am now heading for Gillian Harbour where the Helford Ferryman told me I “should” be able to find a man to take me across the creek. I am a little sceptical but when I arrive at St. Anthony in Meneage, a kindly boat builder directs me to a fishing hut (after correcting my pronunciation of Porthallow) where it appears a small boat can be hired for £5 to take me across the harbour.
I throw in my rucksack and the rickety little craft putt putts its way across the very shallow water and half way across the motor cuts out.
I say nothing, having absolute faith in the young boy, but I then hear his father over the walkie talkie advising his son not to continue in the direction he is heading as that would result in a grounded boat. With a bit of complaint the motor starts up again and we head off a bit further west until we reach a stretch of flat rock covered in green slime where I am meant to get out and walk the rest of the way. I heave my bag on to my back and a little unsteadily climb out of the boat and head for some stone steps which will bring me up safely on to the other side of the creek. I turn round to wave goodbye but the boy is busy manoeuvring the boat back into the shallow water.
On the other side I walk past yet another immaculate Cornish cottage………………………..
On the other side the walking is quite easy and I soon reach the lookout station on Nare Point ( another one).
I am tired now and rounding the headland I cannot see any signs of habitation, just more of the path winding for miles through the gorse. I decide to sit down and rest for 10 mins before tackling the last haul into Porthallow. And at last, sunburnt and weary I head down the road into Porthallow.
My feet are killing me and my map says there is a pub – but it doesn’t open until 6pm! There are no busses to the village where I’m staying tonight and I can’t get a taxi for another hour (and the fare is astronomical anyway). Out of the blue my phone rings – hallelujah! It is my lovely BnB lady who offers to come and get me – she arrives in a whirl of dust and a black Mercedes sports car! Roll over Lucy Jordan………………………………….
Distance: 14 miles