St. Bees to Harrington 20.11.17

This was the walk we did on our way up to Gretna Green to get married – it rained all day and I have precisely 4 photographs – 1 outdoors and three inside our hotel. It is also a very long time since I laced up my walking boots.Why? well Christmas, granddaughter in Denmark, work and last but not least a gammy leg (or knee to be precise) which I’m trying to get sorted.

So, strangely enough we arrive at the hotel right in the middle of a wedding trade fair and we take the opportunity to send off a few photos to friends – a juicy bit of fake news.

IMG_4778

IMG_4779

The next morning we wake to rain and an overcast sky – well it is November after all. Trying to convince myself that it will clear up we walk carefully up the slippery path towards St. Bees Head. From here I look back at the village which is dominated by a large caravan park.

From the head it’s an easy walk up to the lighthouse which is unmanned – we continue to walk along the top of the cliffs. At one point we walk past a quarry and stop to read an information board where we learn that the sandstone excavated here was used to build the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

IMG_4784

And from now on there are no photographs, not even of Whitehaven which would look lovely in the sunshine with its newly refurbished harbour and beacon. One gory detail about the town was that in 2010 it was the scene of a shooting spree. After killing his twin brother and the family solicitor, taxi driver Derrick Bird began the spree in Whitehaven, shooting several people on the streets and at the taxi rank where he worked, killing one.

After Whitehaven it is an easy walk through Parton, which reminds me of towns in South Wales, with its grey terraced houses creeping up the hill. And on into Harrington where we end up in a small, neglected pub that seems to have escaped the no smoking rules – we drink quickly and leave.

Distance: 12 miles

 

 

Newquay to Perranporth 19.7.17

It is very overcast as I head up through the town towards Towan Head and Fistral Beach, one of Newquay’s many beaches.

IMG_3338

Here, the surfers are already out – two things catch my attention – this jolly shower and an inscription on a bench.

IMG_3342

IMG_3340

There are steps on the other side of the beach which take me up the cliff – I look down on a  series of rock pools fringed with algae – they remind me of rock oysters.

IMG_3343

Up on top I head west through an area called Pentire where I am told I can find a ferry to take me across the River Gannel which runs through Crantock Beach.

IMG_3344

I am looking forward to a short trip in a boat but as it happens, when I climb down the concrete steps to the landing stage I see that the tide is so far out that there is no need for a ferry – I can just walk down the boardwalk and across the sand.

IMG_3345

IMG_3346

This is the boat I could have taken otherwise……..

IMG_3347

And these are the houses and gardens clinging to the cliff above the river……………………

IMG_3349

At the other end of Crantock beach, a lifeguard directs me to the coastal path and I walk up onto the cliffs following a sign to Holywell Beach.IMG_3352

From here the landscape flattens out, the path running through an area of sand dunes and round a bay known as Porth Joke (for some reason)

 

IMG_3356

On the other side of the bay the path narrows again, taking me up to Kelsey Head, from where the elegant sweep of Holywell Beach can be seen fading into the distance.

IMG_3362

Here, instead of walking on the sand I decide to stick to the path marked on the map, which takes me through the sand dunes behind the beach. It’s not that I enjoy trudging through loose sand, it’s just I am often not sure whether I can later get back up on the cliffs again.

IMG_3365

A while later I am back on firm ground, heading towards Penhale Camp – I walk past some strange structures with warnings about non-ionising radiation – I walk a bit faster.

IMG_3370

They are obviously military as I am now moving past the camp. I always find it eerie walking past/through deserted military areas and this one is no exception.

IMG_3371The path allows me to walk close to the perimeter fence and I peer in but despite two parked cars I see no signs of life.

IMG_3372

Relieved to be out of the military zone I am surprised to catch sight of a beautifully restored stone cottage, perched on a hill off to the left.

IMG_3375

It sits uncomfortably with the camp below it, although from the top windows on the other side the view over Perran Beach must be stunning.

IMG_3376

There are also signs of building activity on the ruin next door………………

IMG_3377

I sit on a bench nearby, retrieve a battered sandwich and contemplate the gorgeous view.

IMG_3378

After this short rest I consult the map which seems to indicate that the official coast path  runs either on the beach or through the dunes behind. I know the tide is coming in but have no idea how far up it will come or whether I will be able to get back up onto the cliffs at the end of the beach (you may perhaps have heard this before?)

I decide to walk down onto the beach, take a photo of a pretty little cave and then change my mind and walk back the track again!

IMG_3379

Fortunately, as I stand “humming and harring” I hear the noise of an engine and turning round I see a lifeguard on a four wheeled motorbike racing up the beach. Like a real damsel in distress I wave and he screeches to a halt, gets off the bike, takes off his helmet and strolls over the sand towards me. My knight in armour turns out to be a super friendly Aussie who puts me on the right track, telling me that the tide will not get any higher and that there are metal stairs at the other end of the beach to take me up onto the cliff. Before I get time to take a proper photo, he is back on his bike and taking off down the beach.

IMG_3380

Relieved, I take off my boots and socks and start walking close to the sea where the sand is dampest. At regular intervals clouds of sand flies swarm around washed up jelly fish, frantically burying themselves in the sand when they sense my approach. I test the reaction several times as I walk, enjoying the onset of furious activity and then the calm as they hide themselves from me.

I also enjoy the sudden sighting of  group of sanderlings scuttling along by the water’s edge, reminding me of the Norfolk beaches where I saw them first.

 

IMG_3383

Eventually, I reach the metal spiral staircase next to the lifeguard station at the end of the beach. I love the sign……

IMG_3384

From the top of the cliff I can see Perranporth, which really doesn’t look any better than when I saw it last, but at least I now know where the bus stop is to take me back to Newquay. It has been a wonderful walk.

Distance: 12 miles

NB – to any readers – if you want to see the map that always comes at the end of a blog post, you need to click on the link at the bottom of the page which will open the post in a browser and there you can see it.

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Cornwall to Pendeen 22.9.16

img_3012

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………………………………………………………………….

img_3011

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.

img_3018

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.

img_3023

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

img_3026

img_3027img_3032

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_3033

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

img_3034

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.

img_3040

img_3039

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.

img_3046

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.

img_3047

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.

IMG_2699

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.

IMG_2700

IMG_2701

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.

 

IMG_2703

IMG_2704

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.

IMG_2707

IMG_2708

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.

IMG_2709

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.

IMG_2712

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.

IMG_2713

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.

IMG_2717

……………..and it doesn’t take long for the ferry to arrive, complete with two German walkers bearing rucksacks twice the size of mine.

IMG_2964

On the other side is the hamlet of Helford where I am hoping to find a sandwich and a drink.

IMG_2718

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.

IMG_2719

I take a photo through the porthole window in one of the pub doors……………………..

IMG_2721

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”.

IMG_2726

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?

IMG_2725

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.

IMG_2727

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.

IMG_2729

IMG_2732

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.

IMG_2735

On the other side I walk past yet another immaculate Cornish cottage………………………..

IMG_2736

On the other side the walking is quite easy and I soon reach the lookout station on Nare Point ( another one).

IMG_2738

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………………………………….

IMG_2741

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.

IMG_2655

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.

IMG_2658

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

IMG_2657

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.

IMG_2661

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.

IMG_2662

 

IMG_2666

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.

IMG_2668

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.

IMG_2669

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.

IMG_2670

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

IMG_2671

IMG_2673

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.

IMG_2675

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

IMG_2677

………..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.

IMG_2682

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.

IMG_2683

IMG_2684

IMG_2685

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).

IMG_2687

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?)

IMG_2686

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

IMG_2688

IMG_2689

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.

IMG_2691

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_2692

IMG_2694

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.

P1030063

a-plaque-marks-wales-coast-path-284627635-2512521

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.

P1030109

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.

P1030093

P1030075

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.

P1030089

P1030086

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.

P1030105

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