Cape Cornwall to Pendeen 22.9.16


A cape is a headland separating two bodies of water and at Cape Cornwall it is the Atlantic that splits and flows either into the English or the Bristol Channel. There are only two in the UK, the other is Cape Wrath on the north west coast of Scotland. From the road I take  a picture of the enormous chimney stack, now a navigation aid, rising up from the imposing granite mound that is the headland. I also discover, on this glorious morning, the name of the mansion on the hill………………………………………………………………….


A wiki on Porthledden tells me that it was built by Captain Francis Oats, a local man who at the turn of the nineteenth century, went to South Africa to make his fortune in the diamond mines – he later became chairman of De Beers. Since his death in 1915 the house has been a hotel in the 1920s and 1930s, a gentleman’s club, a girl’s evacuee school during WW2 and a wedding venue. It lay derelict and in a deteriorating state of decay for over twenty years until 2003 when a Grade II listing helped its sale and the subsequent start of an extensive 10 year restoration program.

Following the coast path signs I find myself walking down into a peaceful valley and I suddenly realise just how noisy the sea can be. I normally don’t notice it but when it disappears for a while I am transported  back to all the inland walks I have done over the years. Of course it wasn’t always so – the ruined buildings and chimney stacks bear witness to what once was a thriving tin mining industry, which most certainly would not have been a quiet affair.


The ferns that line the very narrow path as it carves its way through the valley are so tall that I almost tread on this poor little bird – I nudge it gently with my finger and it shudders but doesn’t respond to any further attempts I make to revive it. I carefully move it into the ferns, there’s not much else I can do.


From here on I begin to feel like I’m part of an interactive lesson on the history of Cornish mining.



Even more so when I reach the restored Levant Beam Engine mine where in the 1840’s men, women and children once toiled to extract the tin and copper from beneath the waves.


img_3036All Brexit voters take note of the “substantial grants from the EU”…………..and no that is not the Scottish flag.


A little further on the path opens up into a wide stretch of stony ground where visitors have been inspired to mark their presence – it’s all very Andy Goldsworthy.



By this time I realise that I cannot go on ignoring what is known as a “hot spot” on my right big toe. This is not as exciting as it sounds and usually means the beginnings of a blister. Sitting down on the grass I inspect the damage and slap on a plaster hoping against hope that it won’t bother me for at least an hour. Sadly, by the time I get to Pendeen Lighthouse the huge blister has burst and despite the temptation to walk on in the brilliant sunshine I am forced to admit defeat.


Sitting on a cairn by the side of the road I nurse my foot and consider the options – there are not many. The lighthouse sits at the end of a narrow tarmac road and there are a few cars around, so I could try and hitch back to St.Just and then a bus to Penzance. Otherwise …………well, there is no otherwise. Suddenly I see a little bird of a woman in a headscarf  approaching, camera bouncing wildly from her thin shoulder. “Are you alright ?” she says in a broad Yorkshire accent, reminding me of my stint in Sheffield in the summer,  “is there anything I can do to help?”  Well – now you mention it.

I am constantly amazed by the generosity of ordinary people I meet on my walks. The woman is on holiday with her brother and they drive me all the way back to St. Just where I don’t have long before a bus comes along to take me back to Penzance. After a further dressing of my toe I hobble along the seafront and come across this beautiful lido, closed now for the winter – I am delighted to see signs that this one is alive and kicking.


Distance: 6 miles





Falmouth to Porthallow 13.5.16

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 IMG_2714

………………..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.

IMG_2739My 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






Trewithian to Porthole 11.5.16

Owing to the complications of practically non-existent public transport and the dearth of reasonably priced Bnbs on the coast, I will first be walking east and then west today. I cross the road from Trewithian Farm and after a short walk on the road I set out east on the coast path.

It is early and very misty and I can barely make out the shape of Nare Head in the distance. I walk quickly, aware of the fact that I have a lot of ground to cover if I am to reach Falmouth today, particularly because I have to factor in the timetables of two ferries. To the right the sea is very still as I walk through drifts of wild spring flowers – daisies, harebells, dandelions, celandines, primroses, bluebells and pink campion (thank you Sharon). At one point the path turns right and upwards past what looks like an out of season hotel and then continues on the road, soon dipping down to Pendower Beach.


On the way down I pass another group of shuttered buildings so I ask two dog walkers if they know why. I learn that the building in the photo below used to be a hotel doing great business in the summer until the owners decided to sell up. It was then bought by a city gent with ambitious plans to knock it down and build a MUCH BIGGER hotel but the locals objected – this was 8-10 years ago and it has been empty since. This story reminds me of the building opposite our house which has stood empty for more than 18 years due to a family feud – such a shame.


I skirt Pendower Beach, climb up a few steps and carry on across the top of the cliff.


The next hotel I come to is very much alive – the Nare Hotel overlooking Carne Beach – it looks nice but I can’t afford the time for a cup of tea.


I am now getting close to Nare Head and making good time but the amount of screeching and squawking which reaches my ears stops me in my tracks. It is coming from Gull Island which sits just off the headland – hence its name.




Soon I can see the roofs of Portloe peeking up out of the rocky landscape – I have made it in time to meet my taxi which will take me back to where I started 3 hours ago – I will then start walking west.


Now walking with the sea on my left I reach Porthbean Beach where my boots touch sand briefly but are then directed up the cliff.


From here I follow a narrow winding path which opens out onto a flat broad stretch of land and a look out post complete with coastguard.


Beyond Porthkurnick Beach I can now see Portscatho in the distance and my mind turns to lunch.



On reaching the village I walk down to the harbour and find a pit stop with sausage rolls and a tray of “Pata de Nata” (Cornwall has come a long way). The coffee is good but the whole experience is somewhat marred by a disturbingly loud and persistent noise coming from a generator powering an algae removal machine. The man behind the counter explains that this has to be done because STUPID PEOPLE cannot read the notices that tell them not to walk on the slipway and then do so and have accidents. His venom has such force that I feel very happy I am not one of these people.

Up on the cliff again I check my watch, worried that I am not going to make the last ferry from St. Anthony’s Head to St. Mawes – missing it would be a very long walk back with no guarantee of a room at the inn at the end of it. I quicken my pace, stopping briefly to investigate a strange wooden pole standing on its own.


The plaque underneath tells me that it is a Wreck Pole erected by the coastguard services and constructed to look like a ship’s mast. It was once used in training exercises where a rocket and line would be fired from a ship and be attached to the pole. From there a breeches buoy would be used to practise winching people out of sinking ships.

I hurry past through swathes of pretty thrift (thank you Helen)……………IMG_2676


………..until I reach the “cairn” of St. Anthony Head. By now I am very hot and bothered – it is getting late and I still have about an hour’s walk up the estuary to a place called Place (yes really) where I can get the ferry. I march on, which is something I don’t like to do,  past some enchanting little coves which I would have liked to have stopped to enjoy – but not today.


Eventually I come to a sign directing me to the ferry and a sweet little church with its own medieval coffin, discovered during recent excavations – it is lined with thick moss and looks very comfortable.




Just around the corner is the sign for the ferry but I am still not in the right place! Where I’m standing is the high water landing – I need to walk another half a mile to the low water  slipway (sigh).


The path takes me upwards and around a very grand house and gardens and eventually to a break in the trees with steps leading down to a pontoon. There is a sign at the top which confuses me – is the last ferry 16.45 or 17.45? I ring the mobile number and get no reply and in a slight panic ring the office number where I eventually get through to a gentleman who assures me that the ferry is on its way but that I am still not standing in the right place! I am then directed right over some rocks and down a narrow, very slippery slipway covered in algae (am I now one of those STUPID PEOPLE and is that why its called a slipway I wonder?)


……………….and here it comes, oh what a relief………………………..



I clamber aboard and sit back and enjoy the view. St. Mawes looks lovely and I find myself wishing I had planned to stay here especially as by now I am really tired.


But all I have to do now is enjoy a swift half outside the pub on the harbour and wait for the last ferry to Falmouth. And I don’t have to wait long ……………………………………..



IMG_2695The Tamar Belle sails me past the warships in Falmouth Docks – I am really looking forward to supper and bed.

Distance: 17 miles









Southerndown to Llantwit Major 6.07.13

A visit to my mother in South Wales allows me a day to do some walking along the south coast. The weather is perfect, a sea mist which will blow away by 10 o’clock, the bus driver assures me – and he’s right. Memories of family holidays come floating through the window of the bus, the smell of sheep and warm grass, the sand dunes where I played with my cousins. Round the corner the lane down to the beach at Southerndown, where early birds are staking their claims with windbreaks and brightly coloured towels.



The coastal path winds steeply up the cliff and from the top I have a wonderful view of the wild sweep of Dunraven Bay (originally Dyndryfan) – vast beaches of golden sand, separated by craggy headlands and behind me, lolling in the sunshine, a herd of cows.


Walking along the top of the cliffs I soon come to my first stile, fashioned from stone and concrete with a pretty yellow, white and blue plaque set into the stone – this is the logo of the Wales Coast Path. I am to come across quite a few of these lovely stiles, some of them with perfectly placed stone handles for the weary legged.

After a while the path leaves the cliff edge and dives into a lush green forest, the bright purples, pinks and yellows of wild flowers, nodding in the pools of sunlight – I try a photograph but neither the camera nor myself are up to the job. Another pretty stile leads me out of the cool shade of the forest where I stand blinking in the sun – to my left ancient cliffs of layered limestone and shale lord over a deserted beach.



Walking on in the hot sun I come to a battered old shed which serves as a family run tea house, Nanny and Grandad settled in white plastic chairs, the one supervising proceedings the other glued to the rugby on the small TV. Coy grandchildren serve me a mug of strong tea which I take with me to the edge of the cliff to lie down for a rest. The faint sound of a bell from the sea puzzles me until I’m told it’s the buoy marking the entrance to the Bristol Channel.



I walk on and just up the path is Nash Lighthouse, standing proud against the bright blue blue sky, its fog horn making me jump as I walk past. From now on it’s plain sailing along the cliff path down into another wood and following the happy shrieks of children playing in the sea I walk down concrete steps to the beach below the fortress of St. Donats. I am by now so hot and sweaty I tear off my clothes and hurl myself into the waves.  Refreshed I walk on to Llantwit Major, stopping to admire the line up of motorcycles and scooters outside the beach cafe.


Twenty minutes later I’m sitting in a bus that will take me back to Cardiff and the train home.