The Walking seemed hard again this week, although not like the North coast. Lots of beautiful scenery.
I have been getting the impression that Cornwall is a land on a slant, tilted South. The cliffs in the North coast (from Hartland Point) are very high and so the rivers are small and dig deep gullies to reach the sea. The South coast feels lower and more rolling hills with huge great estuaries. I can’t quite believe how diverse the scenery is on the SW Coast Path.
I saw lots of ponies this week; lots of different types (Dartmoor, Shetland and others) are employed to graze the cliffs. On the whole they do a good job, but the Highways Agent still need to get their strimmer on those paths!
Strange weather again this week. I have even heard Cornishmen exclaiming that they can’t read the weather at the moment.
Unfortunately my heart wasn’t in the walking at the end of this week. I temporarily fell out of love with this country and felt my values diverged from this Nation’s. Considering my aim has always been to see more of the country I love this presented a problem. I’m working through it.
Camping at Jonny and Jane’s farm, near Talland Bay
Sunshine and warmth woke me up, but that soon disappeared once I had packed away.
It was a nice walk along the cliffs, albeit everyone I met warned me the route to Polperro was very up and down. Lantic Beach was particularly stunning. In fact there were several places where it might be nice to go for a swim either off a beach or some rocks.
The cliffs were thick with ferns and greenery, and the path did indeed go up and down. I was surprised to see a small house tucked in the bushes about two thirds of the way down the cliff overlooking Lantivet Bay. I couldn’t resist descending a steep path to investigate. It must be somebody’s holiday cottage; the only way to it was via steep paths, either walking the cliffs or up from a boat.
I met a Cornish fisherman on the rocks. He was fishing for Bass but apparently the water was too “gin clear” and calm for Bass fishing today.
I also met an old man who must have been in his eighties. He had done a short circular cliff walk and finished off with a swim from one of the small coves. What a great start to his day.
There wasn’t much wind so it was another sweaty walk, compensated by great views.
I reached Polperro around lunchtime and it was very busy. It was the last day of their festival week and a band was tuning up on the small stage. This typical fishing village had buildings crammed in everywhere so it was amazing they found a space big enough for a stage.
Unfortunately the tide was in so the Chapel Tidal Pool wasn’t visible at the base of the rocks. Instead I popped into one of the pop-up art galleries for the festival but I didn’t fancy bothering with the model village.
There were lots of cafes and I was very hungry so I popped into one to get a fish finger sandwich and escape the rain that was coming in. By the time I left there was a thick sea mist and it was drizzling. Such a quick change in the weather.
It was a short walk around To Talland Bay, which had a lovely looking beach cafe, with beach huts to sit in to shelter from the weather. There was a big hill to walk up to get to Jonny and Jane’s. Jonny kindly collected me in his landrover.
I had a great afternoon and evening. We drove to East Looe for coffee and cake and then Jane made an excellent curry for dinner. I camped on their farmland, next to the yurt that they were sleeping in. Jane is a food writer, recipe creator and photographer. I got some tips on cafes for the next stretch. She’s got a much better blog than mine http://www.hedgecombers.com.
It rained heavily overnight and didn’t stop until 9am. I wasn’t in the mood for getting up anyway.
I left at 10am in hot sun and with a dry tent. It was funny weather and clouded over almost as soon as I started walking. It continued to be a mix of sunshine and showers all day, and the showers were sharp but over quickly.
Par Sands was difficult to get to as it was obscured by Par Docks. Par was developed as a minerals port in the 1830s and China clay is still shipped from here. There is a China clay trail that follows the old railway lines used for transporting the clay to the docks that looked like it might head up to the white pyramids that stand high above St Austell. These are enormous heaps of China clay that I could see from as far away as Dodman Point yesterday.
I eventually found Par beach and it was full of dog walkers. The sea looked brown, I’d not seen that since the Bristol Channel.
I carried on around to Polkerris, a small beach and activity centre nestled in the cliff. Having not had any breakfast I stopped here for a big seafood spaghetti lunch at Sam’s and watched some people windsurfing.
The wind picked up as I rounded Gribbin Head; the first proper wind I’ve experienced for weeks. It was good for cooling me down, and for blowing the showers away quickly. The views from Gribbin Head were far-reaching, all the way back down The Lizard Peninsula.
The Gribbin Daymark was erected in 1832, enabling sailors to pinpoint the approach to Fowey’s harbour.
Around Gribbin Head I got my first glimpse of the Fowey Estuary, full of sail boats. The entrance was protected by two blockhouse forts and St Catherine’s Castle. The castle was built in 1538 as part of the national defence programme for King Henry VIII. Fowey was beginning to remind me of the Scilly Isles.
Just before Fowey is Polridmouth, a tiny beach at the edge of woodland that leads to Menabilly. Both these places were settings for Daphne Du Maurier novels.
Arriving in Fowey I came across signs for The Saints Way, an ancient route between the North and South coasts, from Padstow to Fowey.
Once in Fowey I wandered through the town and ducked into a tea shop to escape yet another shower. What a find – The Dwelling House At Fowey is possibly the best tea room I’ve ever visited. Bold statement I know. I was almost cheered up by a delicious cream tea served on proper old fashioned china.
Fowey started out as a fishing village, expanded into a port exporting China clay, and now looks like it’s home to the sailing fraternity. The sound of the racing hooter was audible all afternoon and sail boats were constantly to-ing and fro-ing.
I caught the ferry across the River Fowey to Polruan. We weaved in and out of the moored dingies and halfway across we picked up a couple of sailors thumbing a taxi-ride to the shore.
Polruan is thought to be an older settlement than Fowey. I climbed up the steep hill to St Saviour’s Chapel ruins atop The Bound, a grassy cliff top that has been an important lookout for centuries.
The chapel was thought to have been built in the 8th or 9th Century and is a landmark for Mariners. It was also a pilgrimage for sailors to give thanks for their homecoming.
The campsite was at the top of the hill and had good views over the sea. It was quite windy as I pitched my tent but it died down later. I couldn’t be bothered to walk back down the hill so just had snacks for dinner. I walked back to The Bound late in the evening to look at the view.
It was raining this morning and everyone was glued to the television watching the results of the EU Referendum over breakfast. The rain fitted my mood. I found it very hard to motivate myself to walk today.
I set off as the rain eased at about 9.30am. There was no one about as I headed along to Dodman Point. The grey mist was starting to burn off and the views from Dodman Point covered such a wide area, possibly from Lizard to the Devon border. The Dodman Cross dominated the Point and was erected in 1896 “in the firm hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ”. I thought that might be a good thing today.
The Dodman Point promontary seemed like a good site for an Iron Age fort and remnants of the ditch surrounding it were still visible.
Approaching Gorran Haven the sea suddenly took on an amazing bright blue hue. It looked incredible.
Gorran Haven was quite large but seemed rather small as it had tiny streets and a small water frontage with not much beach. Some big houses on the edges though.
I headed straight through Gorran Haven, around the small headland at Turbot Point and into Mevagissey Bay. Chapel Point looked rather splendid, and rather Mediterranean, with its whitewashed chapel and buildings.
Portmellon blended into Mevagissey, not even the cliff top between them really separating them anymore. Portmellon seemed to have newer, bigger houses and Mevagissey was the quaint fishing town. It was also a tourist Mecca.
I wandered around the narrow streets and the harbour, trying to weave in and out of all the tourists. I popped into the museum, which had some interesting exhibits about life in the town through the ages. I found a cafe that wasn’t too busy and stopped for a break. The Lost Gardens of Heligan were only a couple of miles inland but I didn’t have the time (or the inclination today) to visit.
It was 3 o’clock before I left Mevagissey and I had quite a way still to go. The weather was strange: hot and sunny one minute and then sharp showers the next.
I was pleased to leave the hubbub of Mevagissey and continue around, past the huge caravan park that dominated Pentewan Beach, and around to Black Head. The Pentewan Valley walk looked nice, heading inland through the woods.
There was quite a bit of up and down as I made my way around Black Head, through muddy woods, and on to Porthpean and Charlestown.
I was on the outskirts of St Austell (pronounced “Snarzell” in Cornish). For a while now I’d been able to see the large sprawl of houses and the large ‘white pyramids’ of China clay that dominated the view inland.
The cliffs here had lots of trees on the top and weaved in and out, rather than up and down. There were a few small beaches, like the one at Porthpean.
Charlestown had an old, small, harbour, the entrance to which was once protected by the Crinnis Cliff Battery. Charles Rashleigh had built the battery in 1793 to protect the new Charlestown Harbour. It seemed suspended in time as the only ships in it were old schooners that might have belonged to the Charlestown Shipwreck and Heritage Centre.
It was almost 6pm when I made it to Carlyon Bay and the campsite just beyond the railway line. It was hot and sunny when I pitched so I headed straight back to the beach for a quick dip. A significant amount of money was being spent to build facilities at the back of the beach but, in the meantime, there were a couple of pop-up cafes in the middle of the beach. A quick swim followed by dressed crab and a beer on the beach, almost perfect on any other day.
I had only just made it back to the campsite when another heavy shower came overhead. Good timing. Fortunately there was a covered area where I could sit while I did some laundry and then settled for an early night as heavy rain set in.
The sun woke me up, shining into my tent. The ground was quite wet but I packed away anyway and headed off, through Portscatho and around to Porthcurnick Beach.
The sea looked lovely, the sun was shining and the highly recommended Hidden Hut cafe didn’t open until 10am.
Time for a swim. There were already 5 families on this tiny beach and a couple of people swimming. The water was lovely and clear. I dried off in the sun and hung my wet towel and costume over the cafe railings. Breakfast was coffee and a pasty. What a perfect morning.
I eventually tore myself away and headed around the rest of Gerrans Bay, to Nare Head. I popped into the Lookout Station just North of Portscatho. There wasn’t much going on in the Bay today, just kayakers and small boats.
The walk around Gerrans Bay was beautiful, and the sea was wonderfully clear with lots of sand visible under the water and nice beaches.
I met a man who was scouring the Bay for divers; apparently this bay is a favourite over-wintering spot for black- and red- throated divers. He monitors them annually and a few were still hanging around. I thought I saw one but it was most likely a cormorant.
From Nare Head I could see all the way back to Nare Point, with St Anthony Head breaking up the two bays, Falmouth and Gerrans.
Nare Head had a bunker on it, the sister to one at Nare Point. Both were part of the network of Starfish sites during WW2; decoy sites using special effects to lure enemy bombers away from populated and significant areas such as Falmouth.
In 1962 an atomic early warning bunker was built underground. It was a survival unit designed for 3 men to live for 3 weeks monitoring radioactive fallout following a nuclear attack. It closed in 1991 but has been restored and is occasionally open to the public.
I left cheerful Nare Head and carried on along the stunning cliff walk to Portloe. What a picturesque little town nestled in the crook of the cliffs. All the houses looked pristine and I wasn’t surprised to see the town had twice won Cornwall’s best-kept.
The sun had been hot today and I needed a break. What luck, Portloe has a posh hotel. The Lugger Hotel welcomed me in, I relaxed on a sofa, read their newspapers and drank lots of tea while I dried out. It was a quiet and blissful hour.
It was 4pm when I left Portloe and I still had a couple of hours of walking around Veryan Bay. It was just as hilly and just as spectacular as Gerrans Bay.
There wasn’t much to West and East Portholland, but then I arrived at Porthluney Cove. Set back beyond the beach, surrounded by woods and parkland, was Caerhays Castle. It was rather imposing.
Boswinger is at the top of a steep climb up from Hemmick Beach. I was glad to arrive at the Youth Hostel. I ate a very nice dinner in the hostel, which unusually was home-cooked by the staff. I then spent the evening in the company of 2 guys who had arrived early for a weekend away at the hostel as part of a larger, all male, group. They were seriously camp, and the 3 of us and the 2 female staff had a hilarious evening. Thanks to Wilson for all the prosecco!
Wendy cooked me a lovely breakfast to send me on my way. It had rained during the night but was dry when I left.
I had 2 ferries to catch and only a few miles to walk as there aren’t that many campsites on the Roseland Peninsula. I had a few chores to do in town so wandered through Falmouth a second time and stopped for a coffee at Discovery Quay, the relatively new development.
I caught the St Mawes Ferry at 11.30am. I had no idea that St Mawes was so affluent and a sometime Royal holiday destination.
I walked up to the castle, the 2nd of King Henry VIII Fal Estuary fortifications. As expected, the views across the Carrick Roads were excellent.
I caught the Place Ferry (just a tiny boat) across the Percuil River to St Anthony. (So many rivers!)
I couldn’t see anything much as I made my way around St Anthony Head to Zone Point. Here was the coastal artillery fort, St Anthony Battery, the third of the Fal Estuary protective forts. Unfortunately, I had no view through the thick mist and drizzle. I could hardly see the St Anthony Head Lighthouse, but I could hear it!
There were a couple of nice looking beaches at the base of the cliffs as I walked along to Portscatho.
I was camped just before the town and, when I arrived, the lovely owner made me a cup of tea while I pitched my tent. Although it was no longer raining the air was very damp.
I walked to the local pub for yet more food and the chance to charge my phone and update my blog.
After breakfast I caught the bus back to Helford Passage and walked back down the steep hill to the Helford River.
Within a mile I had walked past two spectacular gardens that one can pay to enter: Trebah and Glendurgan. Both backed into the Helford River and there were lots of little coves, often with small boats moored.
At one cove I took a wrong turning (I swear I followed the signpost) and headed inland through a lovely wood. It took me a while to twig I was going wrong because often the path heads slightly inland and greenery obscures the view. Anyway, I ended up in Mawnan Smith, adding at least a mile to my walk.
I made it back to the coast by the church at Mawnan and headed around Rosemullion Head.
I arrived at Maenporth and stopped for a spot of lunch, a warm mackerel sandwich. There were lots of kids in the water undertaking various activities from paddleboarding to kayaking and sailing. At all times, all views included at least one large tanker as well as lots of small yachts.
Rain hadn’t been forecast but not long after leaving Maenporth the heavens opened. I sheltered under some trees for a while and then ran towards Swanpool Beach and the cafe there. The kids in the sea were unaffected.
It was ridiculously close and sweaty when the rain finally passed. I had reached Falmouth and made my way along the coast road to Pendennis Point.
The 1.5 mile Castle Drive circuit around Pendennis Point was the scene of the first motorcycle races to be held on public roads in Britain, 1931-37. A stone commemorated the fact.
Pendennis Castle (built 1645, just before the Civil War) stands atop the hill, commanding the entrance to the Carrick Roads, the huge stretch I water fed by the rivers Fal, Truro, Tresillian and Carnon. At Pendennis Point itself is “Little Dennis” Blockhouse, built in 1539 by King Henry VIII to protect the Fal Estuary. There are other fortifications that were built and manned in both World Wars.
It was a lovely walk around Pendennis Point, which is quite wooded but has great views across the Carrick Roads to the Roseland Peninsula.
I popped out of the woods to find myself overlooking Falmouth Docks, built in 1860. What an impressive sight. The Pendennis Shipyard is the first one and makes luxury super yachts.
The biggest dry dock was The Queen Elizabeth dock, which holds 128 million litres of water and takes 3 hours to empty.
The Port of Falmouth sits at the gateway to the Western Approaches, close to the world’s busiest shipping lanes. It is an international bunkering (refuelling) port, a Port of Refuge, and regarded as the “first and last port” for ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Falmouth really was built on the shipping industry. Alas, most of the industry has disappeared and now the Cornwall’s first university is the town’s biggest employer.
From the 17th to the 19th Century Falmouth was also the landing place for packet ships carrying news to and from Britain and her colonies and allies. This was where news of Nelson’s victory in the Battle of Trafalgar first reached British shores.
I wandered through the town centre and back to Wendy and Brian’s house for a lovely roast dinner. I already felt at home.
It was still raining when I left the youth hostel but it was easing. Still, it was a wet and slippery walk over rocks, through mud and undergrowth as I made my way to Lowland Point. I had to negotiate not only the terrain but also find a way past the cows and ponies.
Just around the point I found myself along a section with small towns and Gabbro rock quarries. As a consequence the path weaved inland around Manacle Point, near The Manacles, the cause of too many shipwrecks.
There was a very steep road descent into, and ascent out of, Porthoustock. A tiny village tucked in the hillside.
As I walked along the tiny country roads it began to dry up a little, although it remained damp and very muggy. I saw a sign for Fat Apples Cafe so thought I ought to investigate and dry out a bit over a coffee. The owner took pity on my soggy state and gave me an extra large slice of cake.
It was only a short walk down the hill into Porthallow. I was surprised to find a marker highlighting this town as the official mid-point of the SW Coast Path.
Rounding Nare Point all of a sudden the Helford River and the coast around Falmouth Bay came into view. There were boats everywhere, particularly sail boats.
I stopped at the Coast Watch Station on Nare Point. There were 8 big tankers visible, all ‘bunkering’ between Falmouth and Lizard. Apparently lots will remain at anchor for a while, awaiting orders.
During WW2, Nare Point was transformed into a “fake Falmouth” by Ealing Film Studios. I couldn’t see any obvious bomb craters so I don’t know whether it worked or not.
I made it to Gillan Harbour an hour after low tide and just about got across the stepping stones, which were mostly at water level and very sloppy. It saved a 2 mile walk around the roads, or alternatively a paddle. St Anthony-in-Meneage seemed like it might be the first of many quaint little ‘boaty’ villages. There was a nice walk around Dennis Head, with great views on the right day.
Helford was incredibly picturesque. There seem to be quite a lot of thatched cottages on this side of Cornwall, and Helford was no exception. Such a beautiful village means lots of tourists.
I popped into the excellent village stores and bought a delicious homemade flapjack, then walked to the quayside and opened the wooden sign that signals the ferry boatman.
Overhead views of the Helford River look rather spectacular, but I had no intention of walking around every creek in South Cornwall. I like ferries.
As there was no accommodation anywhere nearby I had already decided the best option was to catch the bus to Falmouth. Here I was invited to stay with Wendy and Brian. Luckily for me they were happy to put up with me for 2 nights.
Unfortunately I had misread the bus timetable and thought there was a 3.15 bus to Falmouth, I missed the small print that this bus only runs in school holidays. So, I alighted the ferry at Helford Passage, walked straight past The Ferryboat Inn (which I’m told is really nice) and bust a gut to get up a very steep hill in double quick time. It was only when I was sweating at the top that I realised my error and had to wait 1 hour 15 minutes for the next bus. I wished I’d spent that spare time in the pub!
I had a lovely evening with Wendy and Brian, and got to wash all my kit. Bliss.