Padstow to Looe
The expensive return ticket is worth every penny as I set out again from Padstow mid afternoon. The light is wonderful as I pass Mother Ivy Bay to Trevose Head lighthouse. My parents almost moved to this area when I was 15 and I suspect my life would have been very different as a result, this could have been home. Treyarnon Bay YHA is full of surfers, and I blag my way into a spare bunk having forgotten to book.
The surfers are living frugally as they take their life saver qualifications. They have come from as far as Scotland to take the course. They are a happy bunch full of optimism. I leave early, knowing I have a long 24 mile day ahead, so as to put Newquay behind me. I do not stop as I continue past successions of wide beaches, some with awful commercial developments, some deserted, subject to the availability of public parking. I take lunch at Fistral Bay, on a bench in memory of a British Champion Surfer, who died aged 24. I generally dislike memorial benches, it is like walking through a graveyard, but that bench seemed more deserving than others.
I have timed the tide correctly to cross at Penpol and onto spectacular, quiet and undeveloped beaches leading into Perranporth. The pub on the sand cannot be passed, so I sink a pint and have fish & chips, before investigating the YHA Hostel. As I climb towards it, a hoard of weirdly dressed men descend, clearly on a stag night. They have taken over the Hostel completely! I find a good B&B and rest well after a long day.
The stag celebrations continue on into the night and I fully expect to pass them back up the hill the next morning after breakfast, or at least the groom, chained to a lamppost. I am now entering industrial Cornwall, with evidence of tin mining. The famous Towanroath Engine House is an imposing site, supporting the miners who would tunnel many miles under the sea. Chapel Porth National Trust is wonderful, but it is a shock to arrive into Portreath, with too many empty holiday homes and a heartless seaside promenade. A recently married couple are having their photos taken. I could have suggest a few other locations that would have been more peaceful and romantic. I grab a pie from a roadside van that needs stabilisers, served by a guy who clearly likes his own product. I walk out of town back to the remoteness of the path and Bivouac for the second time this year.
Bright eyes rabbits are replaced by twinkling stars and the sound of crashing waves below the cliffs. I must sleep outside more. I wake before dawn and set off before the world is awake to Godrevy Point. A colony of seals are preoccupied with breeding, a making quite a noise about it. I grab breakfast at a great cafe and then march along a deserted beach before the huge diversion around the estuary at Hayle. St. Ives is busy with tourists and aggressive clever seagulls, stealing pasties, chips and ice creams from the unwary. I wisely take lunch indoors and leave the local patrols to scare the gulls away with trained hawks. The next section to Zennor is wild and dramatic. The local pub is wonderful and worth every penny. I spend the evening with another SWCP walker, the first I have met. He is averaging 25 miles a day and travelling light, but he is more athlete than trail walker.
What’s going on? It’s raining outside and foggy too! After 3 weeks in shorts I have to dig deep into my backpack to find a jacket and trousers. This section is remote, rugged and wild but turns spooky as I pass through the old tin mine works at Geevor. This must have been a harsh industrial landscape in the past. The YHA is closed, so I Bivouac again, this time less comfortably, but I am rewarded with the site of a wet owl, watching me from a tree as dusk settles. He won’t be eating tonight for owls cannot hunt when wet. I skip dinner too.
Breakfast in Sennen Cove, so I wake early and soon catch up with Andrew, a retired Executive now putting his energies into walking and painting. We chat non-stop until we arrive at the surfers cafe. FEB and a Cappuccino are demolished. Andrew has two. We are joined by Roy, another walker I met earlier and it is like a walkers club. We stroll together to Lands End to have photos taken. I chat to the official photographer, who takes my photo against the famous marker post and gives me a secret tour of his hut, which contains the best of the best photos of the LEJOG/JOGLE adventurers. One shows the naked rambler, with girlfriend. Travel light eh!
Commercial Lands End is dreary, but you only have to walk a few metres to see seals and dramatic coastal cliffs, being pounded by the Atlantic swell. A sign warns “Red Route – Able Bodied Only” – to dissuade anyone in flip flops venturing beyond the cafe and car park. I arrive at the Minack Theatre after a rugged walk, with a definite sense that I have turned a corner, the sun now lights my opposite shoulder. I take lunch outdoors to watch the Gannets plunge into the sea for theirs. No one is watching this spectacular natural behaviour from the cafe window, preoccupied with their danish pastries.
Porthcurno B&B’s are geared for Theatre goers so I walk on to Treen, not having booked. I am exhausted. Desperation for a place to stay turns to joy as I pass the Logan Rock Inn, and then knock on a B&B door. My angel has a vacancy! Within 30 minutes I am showered, refreshed and sitting next to a pub fire, with a pint in my hand and steak and chips ordered. The pub cat cuddles up next to me and the landlord walks over to switch on the TV for a Champions League match. I have died and gone to heaven.
The illusion continues, as next day the sun is out and I am back in shorts. I walk past the beautiful remote Penberth and Lamorna coves, through what seems to be a tropical victorian garden, such is the proliferation of wild flowers and plants. After walking through the narrow streets of Mousehole, I arrive at Penlee Point and the memorial to the RNLI crew who lost their lives in 1981. I stop at Newlyn and the seaman’s mission for a cup of tea and the chance to put up a poster for my charity fundraising. The Penlee disaster is still fresh in their minds.
Penzance is a chance to stock up and refresh, staying at the huge YHA with fellow itinerants. I walk across the bay the next morning, with stunning views to St Michaels Mount, a twin of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. Roy and I meet again at Praa Sands cafe before I depart for Porthleven and a bus into Helston. Tonight I have accommodation with friends and agree to meet them at the Blue Anchor, which brews the deceptively strong Spingo beer. Steve is an ex Cornish miner, who enjoys a pint or two. We are both worse for wear the next day as we got caught in a riotous stag/hen night. A true Cornish Ceilidh.
The midday siesta is unusually welcome the next day as I progress to Lizard Point, the most southerly tip of Britain. Choughs, Kernow’s (Cornwall) national bird put on an aerobatic display as I pass Kynance Cove. The YHA, in the converted lighthouse is very comfortable and a chance to refresh and detoxify. I am in no rush to wake as I have an appointment with Ann’s Pasties across the road. The lie-in is welcome as the incessant fog horn and the lighthouse beam shining through my dorm window ceased as the sun rose, keeping me awake for most of the night.
Ann’s Pasties are legendary. I order 2 for myself and 3 to send home by post. My wife and work mates thought I had lost my marbles on receiving theirs. But one taste and you will understand what a proper Pasty tastes like. I stop at Bass Point, beneath a National Coastwatch Institute (NCI) lookout, to watch a Basking Shark lollop in the sea. Time to eat my pastie. Then on to Coverack Hostel, which is a stereotypical marvellous YHA, I have a huge bay window dorm to myself with views out to sea. The fellow hostellers are all 50+ (it is a youth hostel after all) and we chat late into the evening, sharing many common interests over a wonderful meal.
The next morning I am almost run over by a builders lorry. It’s Steve! He has come to join me for a days walking rather than work on a patio. We natter away for the day, meeting his wife Tina, for a late afternoon meal before I cross the Helford River to a room I have blagged for the night. I miss their good company.
The next day is 20 miles, to Portscatho, with an unscheduled detour by bus and a 6 mile walk via Zone Point, as the ferry isn’t running from St Mawes, although I have crossed from Falmouth. I saw a Cuckoo for the first time as compensation. The B&B is awful, so I leave quickly to a strenuous 16 miles to Gorran Haven. The path is very quiet and the remote beaches are wonderful. A strong easterly hampers progress and means I have to run the gauntlet at Portmellon as a high tide and huge waves soak the road. I get a big cheer from the locals in the pub as I time my run to perfection. The B&B is cosy, and plenty of pub options for the evening meal.
Day 31 is hot. Shorts, again. I wisely carry more water as this is like a summers day, but in May. Superb walking as I enter Charlestown, where 3 Tall Ships are in the dock, with film crews everywhere for some documentary or costume drama. A good 18 miles today is rewarded with a long soak in a deep cast iron bath in a very special B&B. An early ferry crossing and yomp into Looe along some of the best stretches on the southern Cornish coast. Sheltered bays and shimmering seas repeat until I catch sight of Banjo Pier. After fish and chips, the branch line takes me to Liskeard and back on the InterCity 125 towards London to mark the end of Part 2. I have a wedding to attend to and a body to rest.