It is another beautiful day in Cornwall as I climb high above Portreath in the direction of the lighthouse on the hill.
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.
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.
A concrete bunker provides a chaffinch (?) with somewhere to perch and enjoy the morning sunshine.
………and enthusiastic graffiti artists have even reached here…….
Unlike yesterday, from here on there are quite a few steep ascents and descents……….
……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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
……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.
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.
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.
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.
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………….
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