Padstow to Port Isaac 13.9.17

Padstow is gently waking up as I arrive. Stripped of the blanket cover of tourists you can see it for what it is – not Rick Steinsville but a Cornish fishing port.

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I stand and wait for the ferry to take me to the other side of the estuary – there is a small patch of blue sky ahead.

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………………and here it is………….I love a ferry in the same way I love stepping stones.

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On the way across I ask the ferryman about cafes on the other side – he grins and tells me there is one but you’d have to mortgage your house to get breakfast in Rock. I decide to wait for my morning coffee.

On the ferry are a Dutch couple who I chat with for a while. They tell me they come every year to do a section of the South West Coast Path – sleeping in tents. The woman tells me she is suffering from a lack of sleep due to the recent storms and that tonight they are treating themselves to a BnB – hardcore.

On landing at Rock I set off at a fast pace not wanting to chat all the way to Port Quin but I needn’t have worried. When I look round to take a photo of Padstow I see that the poor woman is struggling to keep up with her partner who keeps having to wait for her.

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The path from Rock crosses an area of dunes and passes some beautiful stretches of golden sand, which I think was where Damian and I went for a swim many years ago on a weekend break with his sister and husband.

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IMG_3502A piece of beach art catches my eye……………..

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At Trebetherick the shore becomes rocky until I come to Hayle Bay, the surfing beach at Polzeath. I do wish surfing had been part of my childhood, although I hate to say it I think I may be too old to learn now.

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Here, I find myself a cup of coffee and bun which will help me on my way up to Pentire Point and around the headland.

Walking out of Hayle Bay I pass a patch of succulent plants that I recognise from a visit to  the coast of Portugal. Anybody recognise them?

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It is a lovely walk up and around the headland and down along the edge of Port Quin Bay.

 

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Rumps Point with its spiky spine stretches out into the sea……………………………

 

 

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A mile to two later I come to what the map calls Lundy Hole, where a narrow wooden bridge has been constructed to take walkers over a steep ravine into which the waves  heave and smack against the rocks.

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The path now becomes a little more challenging, steep and uneven, I walk past disused mining shafts, fenced in with flat stones – they look a little mystical.

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I am now heading for Doydon Point where the landscape opens up to a wide stretch of green, overlooked by a grand house.

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And opposite the house, perched on the cliff is what looks a little castle – even though I have to leave the path to investigate I am curious as what it might be.

This is Doydon Castle, which is locked and let out for short term breaks. It is a very isolated spot, and taking the full brunt of the strong wind from the sea. You would have to stock up well, there is no twenty four hour corner shop.

By the way, the coloured bubbles from the top window are just reflections on the camera lens – quite pretty though.

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From here it looks like there are two paths to Port Quin – I take the low road which winds down, joins the high road and follows the bank of the inlet down into the hamlet. There is no refreshment to be had here and I am now quite hungry. There is also no phone signal – what to do? Keep walking.

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The next three miles are quite strenuous and I have very little energy left. In desperation I search all the small corners of my rucksack and find a small wrapped biscuit which must have been an unwanted accompaniment to a coffee in a more satiated moment – I gobble it down.

This lovely little calf is unfazed by my pitiful condition………………..

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And at last I top the last hill and look down on the Garden of Eden ………………….

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Port Isaac…..

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From here I check the buses – there is one in 40 minutes which will take me back to my Bnb. I make straight for the nearest pub where I claim a corner seat overlooking the harbour, two packets of crisps and a pint of Proper Job – heaven!

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Distance: 12 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trevone to Padstow 12.9.17

Arriving on the Newquay plane today means I can manage a half day of walking. I’m staying at the place I finished last time, a crumbling family hotel with board games, quiz nights and an ancient labrador. On the beach a couple of good citizens are picking up litter – wish there were a few of those where I live (including myself of course).

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I haven’t been walking for about six weeks and I can feel it in my legs on the steep pull up out of the bay. The sky is overcast but there’s no mention of rain in the forecast.

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Down in the valley I cross a little wooden bridge and then up the other side from where I can see what looks like a lighthouse on Stepper Point. From here it looks all downhill on the map into Padstow – but more of that later.

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One of the stiles is offering refreshments but it is much too early – I have to earn them.

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I walk high up above a cove called Butter Hole – must be the colour of the sand?

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…..and later the sky starts to darken ………..here we go again. Off to the left is a tall grey brick chimney and as the rain starts to get heavy I head towards it to see if it can provide any shelter – the wind picks up, practically throwing me through the arched entrance.

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Inside it is fairly dry and I prepare myself for a wait. There are two arched windows looking out to the sea – maybe this was a look out tower.

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Half way through the remains of my ham sandwich, I am startled by the sudden appearance of a young girl in the entrance. She is dressed unsuitably in a skimpy top and long gypsy skirt, a handbag over her shoulder. Both her hair and clothes are drenched.

“Just my luck” she says in a strong Cornish accent, “always happens on my day off”. I shrug and mumble something about it soon clearing up, wondering how else I can continue this conversation in such a confined space. There is a few minutes of silence.

“Ah well, no peace for the wicked” she says over her shoulder and lowering her head into the driving wind and rain, disappears. I am left with a feeling I have just witnessed a visitation from another century.

It looks like the rain has set in so resigned to my fate I too set out to rejoin the path which leads me down the side of the estuary into Padstow but there is still a way to go.

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Across the bay I can see what must be Rock where I will be starting my walk tomorrow.

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I pass the coastguard station and a little hamlet called Hawkers Cove. Here, I mistakenly walk some way up a minor road thinking it would lead to Padstow but a quick look at my online mapping app tells me I’m wrong…………..sigh. I turn round and find the path again which leads to the edge of an area of dunes – and then get lost again.  This time it is really not my fault – I consider the options, look at my map and cannot see where I should be heading unless it’s right into the middle of a copse of drowned trees. Panicking only slightly I try walking up a narrow tarmac lane and there it is – the sign! In completely the wrong place………I will write a letter……………..

After all this excitement I arrive at the war memorial which marks St. Saviour’s Point.

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….and from here on it IS downhill into Padstow……………………………

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Distance: 6 miles

 

 

Constantine Bay to Trevone 22.7.17

It is a better day today as I set off in the opposite direction from yesterday, heading for a wooden stairway at the end of the beach which leads up into the dunes.

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The path runs inland a little, passes the golf course and then on to Trevose Head.

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From the cliffs I can see two men standing on a rock looking out to sea, I wonder how they got there as I can see no obvious path.

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…….I also wonder why almost all the lighthouses I pass use the exact same bright green colour for their doors and window frames – is this dictated by the National Trust? It reminds me of the houses I saw on Lanzarote many years ago. Here there are tight building restrictions to prevent the kind of overdevelopment seen on sister islands like Gran Canaria and Tenerife and even the colour of the houses is tightly controlled. All buildings are painted white, with green shutters in the countryside (for farmers) and blue by the sea (for the fishermen).

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I walk around the headland and back down the other side where the path now takes me past fields.

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The path narrows and right beside it I come across this memorial – it is a strange place to scatter ashes as it has no real sense of “place” – the view of the sea is obscured and behind the plaque is just an anonymous field. Perhaps the landscape has changed since 1986 – I do hope the sleep of a labouring man IS sweet.

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The path now winds its way down, past a lifeboat station and into Mother Ivey’s Bay (I wonder who she was?)

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Here, the cliffs are crumbling into the sea (like so many other places on the coast) and there is a diversion which leads me into a large sprawling campsite.

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I ask for directions to the campsite toilet and a mother and her two small daughters show me the way. They have been collecting mussels and I am just about to tell my mussel poisoning story when I think better of it. The campsite facilities are immaculate, enough to make me think about taking up camping again, but not quite.

After what seems like an eternity trying to find the way out of the site I am directed towards a gate and back on to the cliff path.

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From here I walk down to the beach and take a few photos of what had been obscured by the high hedge of the camping site. I love the colours of the different rock strata.

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Around the next headland is Harlyn Bay – I am tempted to stop but I don’t want to miss the bus at Trevone (would have to wait two hours for the next one) and the skies are darkening.

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I practically run up onto the cliff path and round to Trevone Bay but I am not quick enough – soaked. Fortunately, I have plenty of time for the bus so I pop into a hotel in the village and lick my wounds over a shandy (it is still quite early in the day).

 

It is a strange coincidence that I finally have found time to write this blog just before I discover the podcast of Claire Balding reporting on the same walk in her Radio 4 series “Ramblings”. I will listen to it later.

Distance: 6 miles

 

 

 

 

 

Constantine Bay to Porthcothan 21.7.17

I wake up to the sound of rain and my heart sinks – a quick look at the forecast confirms my fears, heavy rain for the next few hours. A new plan is needed so I decide to go to the cinema in Newquay and try for a shorter walk later. The lovely couple who run the BnB offer me a lift – it’s a 20 minute drive. Waving goodbye I head into the cinema only to be told that the film is sold out – there is only one cinema in the town and every holidaymaker in the area is hiding from the rain – oh well……..

Dispirited I walk back through the town and duck into a cafe to make another plan. The rain actually looks like it might be easing but it’s a 45 minute bus ride to where I could start my walk – oh well….

By the time I arrive at Constantine Bay the owners of the beach cafe are tipping up the seats to let the rain run off and there is the occasional glimpse of weak sunshine. I fortify myself with a cup of very good coffee and start walking south along the beach (Porthcothan Bridge is undergoing repairs and no busses are running in the area – this means I will do a circular walk, coming back on the road)

IMG_3448At the end of the beach is a beautiful house with what the Scots call a “sitootery” overlooking the beach……………

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……and further up the hill another dream house…………………………………………………………………

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I am now crossing a wide flat area, fenced off in places and this is why……………………………..

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…………..evidence of recent rainfall…………………………………………………………………………………………..

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I then walk along the top of the cliffs and down into Porthcothan.

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By this time I am getting  little peckish so before I set out on the road back to the bus stop in Clementine Bay I stop for a cream tea – one of the many Cornish delights. This has been a short walk but I’m glad the weather didn’t keep me in all day.

Distance: 3 miles (and 3 miles back)

Newquay to Porthcothan 20.7.17

Almost two months has passed since I was in Cornwall last and I can barely remember the details of the next three walks so they will be short.

I’m up bright and early this morning and certainly not the only one. Large groups of young children and teenagers are being herded across the beaches leading out of Newquay (how many beaches can a coastal town have?). Rallying cries fill the air for kayaking, surfing and sandcastle competitions – screams of excitement follow me up the road.

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……..and a little later on the cliffs need shoring up ……………………………………………………………..

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…………another beautiful beach…………still not out of Newquay yet………………………………………

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…..but all is not perfect in paradise – what the hell CAN you do?!!

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Eventually I feel I’m out of Newquay and on my way to somewhere else…………I walk out to the head, round it and back down to yet another beach (am I beginning to sound weary?)

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I am now looking back at Tregurrian Beach, – a glorious sweep of golden sand leading up to the village of Mawgan Porth. I haven’t been able to walk on the sand as it’s difficult to climb back up the cliffs at the northern end but instead taken the path across the top of the cliffs.

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The path now winds up and down passing through Fox Hole, around Stem and Griffen Point followed by the more prosaic Berryl’s Point.

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A plane from Newquay Airport appears in the sky, breaking the silence…………………………

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…………and a throne for some ancient Celtic King …………………………………

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…………….and in the distance, the coastal village of Mawgan Porth where I hope to get some lunch.

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Finding a cafe I am joined by someone equally hungry who, despite my protestations  continues to glare enviously at my sandwich. I remember the recent story of a little boy losing his ice-cream to a seagull.

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Leaving Mawgan Porth I head up onto the cliffs – for such a beautiful day, the path is strangely deserted. Sea stacks tower above the waves.

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It is an easy walk along the top of the cliffs until I reach Parc Head……………………………….

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This beautiful herringbone wall catches my eye and I meet walkers for the first time.

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From the top of the next descent I see a group of people busily re-arranging stones on a grassy mound raised up from the beach – I am curious.

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As I get closer I realise it is a stage for small cairns that people have built………………………

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It’s a small sculpture park – some of them are quite ingenious………………………………………

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I add my own…………………

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Like sentries guarding the cove – what a lovely idea…………………………………………………………..

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I am by now getting a little tired but I don’t have that far to go – I pass a collection of large black rocks, the waves blasting the tops of them and cascading down ………………..it is mesmerising.

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……..and around the next corner is Porthcothan Beach, my destination, and where the real trouble starts.

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After a well-earned ice-cream in the only cafe on the beach I pay my 20p for the toilet and head up the road to where I believe I can get a bus to take me back to my BnB six miles away.

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At the top of the hill (strange no-one waiting at the bus stop?) I am told that because the bridge at Porthcothan has collapsed there are no buses and I have no signal on my phone to call a taxi.

Soooooooo……what to do? As luck would have it, there is a car parked nearby whose owner now returns and asks if I would like a lift! This lovely young girl is an aspiring marine biologist who goes out of her way to drive me back to Mawgan Porth where I believe I can get another bus to take me home.  Arriving back in the village I walk back and forth between two bus stops, neither of which convince me that there is a bus at all and after a few fruitless enquiries I am beginning to feel a little despondent. But lo and behold I am rescued again when a black 4×4 pulls up and a woman jumps out asking if I would like a lift. She had apparently been watching my progress and taken pity on me. Hurrah! I spend the journey learning about surfing from her chatty (pretty unusual) teenage son and daughter.

All’s well that ends well……

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Portreath to Perranporth 18.6.17

It is another beautiful day in Cornwall as I climb high above Portreath in the direction of the lighthouse on the hill.

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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.

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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.

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A concrete bunker provides a chaffinch (?) with somewhere to perch and enjoy the morning sunshine.

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………and enthusiastic graffiti artists have even reached here…….

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Unlike yesterday, from here on there are quite a few steep ascents and descents……….

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……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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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……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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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………….

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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